Updated: Oct 4
October is technically mid-fall, we waved the summer crowds goodbye and say hello to colder weather. Still, October in Iceland is still a great time to visit the island. In this article, we delve into everything that you can expect from this transition month.
Do you still wish to take part in some of the winter activities the island has to offer? Traveling to Iceland in October is a great idea if you find yourself on a tight budget. But deciding whether spending October in Iceland is right for you remains a personal choice based on your specific needs and requirements.
The Pros and Cons of Spending October in Iceland
To help you make your decision, we’ve compiled an overview of all the pros and cons visiting Iceland in October has:
The peak season summer crowds have gone, so you can rest assured that you won’t feel like you’re drowning in an ocean of tourists at attractions or venues.
Another perk of peak season having ended is that prices will be considerably lower.
You can still get all the summer benefits, with most summer attractions and activities still being open and available. This also includes roads and routes that are closed during winter. All the downsides of the summer months (overcrowding and overpricing) have come to an end.
There’s still more than enough daylight hours to have a jam-packed itinerary, but also enough darkness to finally see the Northern Lights again.
Temperatures still have not hit those all-time lows.
You’ll need to double-check operating hours. Now that the peak season crowds have left, many attractions, activities, and venues slowly transition to off-peak season operating hours. If you’re not careful, you might make a trip only to be met by a closed door.
Since daylight hours have become shorter, you won’t get to experience a midnight sun. If that’s on your Iceland bucket list, you’ll need to plan your trip for the summer months.
Temperatures might not have hit those all-time lows, but the weather has definitely turned. So. you can expect (at least) strong winds and rain on your trip.
What You Can Expect From the Weather When Visiting Iceland in October
As we have already mentioned, October is a transition month and unlike September, it’s pretty apparent. Not only is the temperature dropping, but the legendary Icelandic winds and rainfall are really making themselves known. October is actually one of the wettest months in Iceland.
In terms of temperature, you are looking at averages ranging between 2-7 degrees Celsius. That is not as cold as the winter months yet, but it may feel colder due to the wet conditions. Reykjavík in October may feel slightly warmer, but don’t be fooled. It’s only because the buildings offer a certain amount of shelter against the elements.
But it’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to the October weather in Iceland. Iceland’s daylight hours in October have dwindled to about 12 hours a day. That gives you more than enough time to still lock in many sights and activities. Instead, the increased hours of darkness almost guarantee you a sighting of the Northern Lights in Iceland in October.
The weather during October is actually the reason why there are certain activities available during fall in Iceland. Things such as exploring ice caves and hiking glaciers need these lower temperatures to ensure your safety during these excursions.
Packing List When Traveling to Iceland in October
October is a transition month. This can be fairly confusing to someone visiting the island for the first time. We’ve then compiled this handy packing list that you can use as a guide:
Long waterproof winter coat
Woolen sweater (pack one or two and then purchase authentic Iceland sweaters once you’ve arrived – super comfy and very warm!)
Waterproof hiking boots (it’s got nothing to do with whether you’re planning on going hiking or not and has everything to do with wet conditions)
Warm woolen socks
T-shirts & long-sleeved shirts
Casual pants (for the days you’re out and about in the city)
Warm hat (beanies work really well)
Bathing suit (for visits to the hot springs)
Quick drying towel (because you don’t want to be schlepping around cold, wet things)
Flip-flops (to use at the hot springs and any public ablution facilities)
Water bottle (the island’s water is of such high quality that you only need to top up along your travels)
Toiletries & medications
Electronics: adaptor, power bank, chargers, cables, etc.
Things to Do When Spending October in Iceland
As we touched on earlier, there are plenty of things to do during October in Iceland, and some are only made possible due to the colder weather conditions. If you need some help with your upcoming trip’s itinerary, here are a few things you might want to consider adding to your to-do list:
Things might be cooling down, but camping is still a viable option - especially if you’re on a budget and would like to extend your trip for as long as possible.
Accommodation prices may have decreased from peak season tariffs, but it’s still one of the most expensive parts of an Iceland trip. Going the camping route will help you save on accommodation costs. If you get the Camping Card (especially if you’re a traveling family), you’ll slash prices even further!
Just to give you a general idea: campsites charge about $10 per person per night. The Camping Card costs just €159 for an entire family consisting of 2 adults and up to 4 children. The card will provide access to numerous campsites around the island for a stay of up to 28 nights!
If you want to make your budget stretch even further without having to gear for the cold and hassles of setting up and packing up camp, then rent a campervan in Reykjavik once you arrive at the island. Some of the must-visit camping spots include:
In our opinion, there is no better way to explore the island than by making a road trip out of it. You can still grab the opportunity in October since most routes are still open before closing for winter. If this is something you’re considering, then renting a campervan in Reykjavik might also be a good idea.
This will, yet again, keep accommodation costs at a minimum. It will also set you free from time constraints that accommodation bookings at certain places and at specific times will place on you.
Just keep in mind that the “four seasons in one day” thing and the volatile October weather still play a role. So, keep an eye on the Iceland weather as well as the Iceland road conditions before you find yourself in a “dead end” with unexpected road closures. Some of the best routes to drive are:
Other Things to Do on Your October Trip to Iceland
Whilst camping and taking a road trip is a good start in terms of things to do around the island, October in Iceland has much more to offer visitors. Here are some other things you might want to add to the itinerary:
Take a dip in one of Iceland’s natural hot springs
Take a Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon boat tour
Explore an ice cave
Hike one of Iceland’s glaciers
Watch some whales
Attend some festivals and events such as the Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF)
Take a walk on one of Iceland’s black sand beaches
Admire the Norse architecture
Stuff your face and explore the capital by joining the Reykjavik Food Walk
Visit a few Iceland waterfalls (some of these may actually have started freezing in certain places already, especially if you’re visiting Iceland in late October, which is quite an interesting sight)
Take an Icelandic hike (if you’re going to visit some waterfalls short hikes might be included anyway)
See the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower if you’re here on the 9th of October (which is John Lennon’s birthday)
Shop ‘till you drop in Reykjavík’s Laugavegur Street
Helpful Tips When Spending October in Iceland
If you are planning on traveling to Iceland in October, these are a few helpful tips that will make your life easier on the island:
Dress in layers
This tip is not really just October in Iceland-related. Remember the saying about the four seasons in a day? Well, the only way to manage the situation is to be prepared for every possible weather occasion.
That means when it’s overcast and cold, you have your sweater underneath your jacket underneath your winter coat. When the sun comes out, and you feel like things are starting to heat up to uncomfortable levels, simply take off whichever top layers. You can put it back on when your body heat temperature requires it.
Always keep waterproof items close by
Our advice on our packing list is to bring along a waterproof winter coat, waterproof jacket, pants, etc. But not everyone has the funds to splash out (no pun intended) on a new waterproof wardrobe for their Iceland trip. In these cases, we highly recommend that you pack whatever waterproof items you can. At least ensure that a raincoat is always within arm’s length during your trip.
This will definitely help you in terms of the “four seasons in one day” when it suddenly starts pouring down. However, the thing most visitors underestimate is our waterfalls! There are plenty of Instagram posts of tourists looking like drenched cats at Seljalandsfoss. Simply because they never even gave the mist and the spray coming off of these powerful waterfalls a second thought.
Don’t forget to prep for Halloween
If you are someone who celebrates the holiday and will be visiting Iceland at the end of October, you should prep. Icelanders are a festive nation, and you don’t need to ask them twice when it comes to fun celebrations.
So, you can rest assured that Halloween is also celebrated on the island. But that means prep. Whether it’s prepping your budget for pulling something together on arrival or actually bringing a costume and accessories along is entirely up to you. As long as you don’t miss out on the fun.
Chat to your rental agent about your routes
It’s all fair and well keeping an eye on the weather forecast and road conditions. However, if you haven’t got the right vehicle in the first place, you’re going to end up in a world of trouble. Especially when you consider that there are many roads and routes in Iceland that cannot be accessed if you don’t have a 4x4 vehicle.
Since your rental agency will consist of locals, they will easily be able to provide detailed information. Such as if the areas you would like to travel to are suitable for certain vehicles or not, and aid in picking the right car for you.
Also, remember that campervans and motorhomes come in 4x4 versions as well, so just because you’re essentially driving your home around you doesn’t exclude you from certain areas and attractions on the island.
October in Iceland Has it All!
Whether you are looking forward to some South Coast highlights along your road tripping route, riding the adrenaline rush of a Zodiac cruising at top speed over a glacier lagoon, or just want to marvel at some of the country’s most historical moments inside a museum – October in Iceland has all of this and more waiting for you. Use this guide to plan your trip and itinerary, and hopefully, we’ll be seeing you soon!