Updated: Aug 25
November in Iceland may be getting colder, but this month actually holds plenty of benefits. Know that it can be beneficial for both your budget and your itinerary if you want to come and visit.
The summer crowds have gone, they have left for the winter. So, you can rest assured that you won’t find yourself in a tourist sandwich when visiting the landmarks and attractions on the island. Along with the summer crowds, the peak summer season prices have also disappeared. You’ll get more bang for your buck when traveling to Iceland in November!
And even though the Iceland weather in November has started making a beeline for winter, it’s the weather that actually makes it the perfect time for certain events and activities. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about visiting Iceland in November.
Pros and Cons of November in Iceland
Before we really dig into the details, here’s a quick overview of all the pros and cons of visiting Iceland in November:
The summer tourist masses have left, so overcrowding is a thing of the past.
With the summer peak season in the rearview mirror, you can also wave those sky-high peak season prices goodbye.
You are almost guaranteed to see the Northern Lights.
It’s colder and the weather is a bit more tumultuous.
Certain roads and routes are closed due to the weather.
You cannot experience the midnight sun.
Weather in November
The temperature in November is much colder compared to the summer months. However, the average temperature in November keeps pretty steady at around 1-4 degrees Celsius.
November daylight hours have dwindled to just under 8 hours a day. If you are visiting Iceland in late November, it will already be an average of just over 5 hours.
Iceland officially turning into a winter wonderland is just around the corner. So, it should not come as a surprise that November (technically part of fall in Iceland) tends to be on the chilly side. The local saying that “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland” still rings true. May that be with sunshine, rain, snow, misty and windy conditions making their appearance even within a matter of hours!
But whilst these daylight hours are clearly not going to give you a midnight sun experience, it is guaranteed to give you a Northern Lights experience to remember! Just remember that, if you want to go Northern Lights hunting in Iceland in November, you’ll need to get out of the bright city lights.
For obvious reasons, lights can only be seen in the darkness. You’ll have a rather underwhelming experience if you try to view the Northern Lights from underneath the glare of streetlights.
Packing List for Iceland in November
To make your Iceland trip in November a little easier, we’ve compiled this nifty packing list so you don’t leave any essentials behind when visiting:
Long waterproof winter coat
Waterproof hiking boots (it doesn’t matter whether you’re planning on going hiking or not)
Warm hat (beanies work wonders)
Fleece tops and woolen sweaters. Take our advice and only bring along one or two and buy authentic Icelandic woolen sweaters. Not only are they incredibly cute, but the warmth of the high-quality wool is next level!)
Informal long pants (when making your way around the cities)
Bathing suit (cold weather makes perfect hot spring conditions)
Quick drying towel (you do not want to be stuck with wet towels on your travels)
A water bottle (the quality of the water in Iceland is incredibly high so all you need to do is top up along the way)
Flashlight (this can become handy with the fewer daylight hours – especially in more remote areas of the island)
Toiletries & medications
Electric devices: adapter, power bank, cables, chargers, etc.
Backpack (suitable for hikes as well as day outings)
Driving in Iceland in November
This is also why renting a campervan on arrival in Reykjavík is a good idea. We strongly believe that the best way to discover the island is by making a road trip out of it. And by using a campervan to do so, you won’t be tied down to pre-booked accommodation dates and times. The one drawback of a road trip in the colder months is that there are certain roads and routes that are closed during the colder seasons.
Also, because of the frivolity of the Iceland weather, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the Iceland road conditions. It is essential to not have made a trip in vain or end up stranded somewhere. But if you are all geared, check out some of these popular road trip routes of the colder seasons, such as the Ring Road. Do remember to stop at all the exciting attractions along the way!
Things to Do During November in Iceland
There is plenty to do when traveling to Iceland in November, and many of these are due to the colder weather making certain activities possible. Here’s what you can look forward to on your trip:
1. Take a Dip in a Hot Spring
This might sound counterintuitive to do in the cold months, but having a relaxing soak in a hot spring is one of the best things to do in Iceland in November. The reason why it’s such a much-loved activity during the cold is because of the contrast between the warm water and the cold outside. The island is full of hot springs due to the volcanic activity on the island heating up the underground water supply.
And whilst you’ll still find plenty of these hot springs in their natural and original form, others have been used to create geothermal pools. But whether you want to sit in a natural hot spring and look over the vast Icelandic landscape or take a dip in a geothermal pool with a drink in one hand and a spa treatment booked for later, visiting a hot spring during your November trip is an absolute must.
2. Visit Our Waterfalls
Well, maybe don’t try to visit all of them during your trip since there are 10,000 in Iceland! But there are a few that are considered to be some of the best places to visit in Iceland in November. Once again, visiting a big body of water might sound strange for the colder fall season in Iceland, but our waterfalls become quite magical during the colder months here on the island.
Depending on which waterfall you visit, you can find a waterfall that seems like it's completely frozen in time, covered in a thick snow blanket. Or you’ll find a gushing waterfall with long, icy tentacles creeping over the cliff edges. Some of the Waterfalls that need to be on your trip itinerary are:
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – a waterfall where you can actually walk behind its veil of water
Svartifoss Waterfall – a waterfall with a dramatic backdrop of black hexagonal basalt columns
Skogafoss Waterfall – not only is this an incredibly impressive waterfall, but it’s also a must-visit site for those who love the cinema since it was one of the locations for scenes from Thor, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and many more popular movies
Dettifoss Waterfall – the most powerful waterfall in Europe
Godafoss Waterfall – where it is believed that a symbolic gesture signified the official conversion of Iceland to Christianity3. Go Camping
Once again, this seems like an activity that’s counterintuitive to the season, but you’ll find many campsites open throughout the colder months here on the island.
And whilst we highly recommend that you keep your inner Bear Grylls in check and not try to take on the start of winter with a little tent and your sleeping bag, there are other ways to camp in comfort. By renting a campervan, you don’t need to worry too much about the colder weather conditions.
And you’ll not only have taken care of both your transport and accommodation in one single move, but you can save a ton on accommodation costs. If you want to save even more, you can get yourself the Camping Card for just €179.
This card will give a family of 2 adults and up to 4 children access to various campsites throughout the country for 28 nights. Just to give you an idea of the type of savings you’re looking at; a campsite generally charges between $10-$20 per person per night, so €179 compared to the normal starting price of €280 for 28 nights for just one person, is definitely not something to scoff at.
4. Explore the Ice Caves
Exploring the ice caves in Iceland is one of the things that the colder weather makes possible. Most of the ice caves are closed throughout the rest of the year due to safety concerns (ice melts in warmer weather, remember?).
Whichever ice cave you choose to visit during your trip, it remains one of the top things to do in Iceland in November, since walking through glossy, bright blue walls streaked with the black ash of past eruptions is an indescribable experience.
5. Turn Yourself Into a Viking
If you’ve ever wanted to be a Viking, but lacked the lineage, Iceland is the place to realize that dream. Get dressed up in traditional garb and gear at Mink Studios and have your Viking portrait taken by one of the most renowned photographers in the world who used to work on the set of Game of Thrones. Or go sailing on an authentic Viking ship. Or go shopping in a Viking village where you can even join in a real Viking feast at the local restaurant.
6. Go Skiing
Many don’t know that Iceland is actually a big player on the international skiing scene, playing host to many internationally renowned skiing events and competitions such as Blafjallagangan. But you don’t need to be a pro to enjoy skiing in Iceland; our slopes cater to all ages and all skill levels. Some of our most popular ski resorts during the colder months here on the island include:
7. Snorkel or Dive the Silfra Fissure
Snorkeling or diving the Silfra Fissure is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can be done all year round. Since you’ll be wearing a dry suit, this activity isn’t really influenced by the seasons unless you’re dealing with extreme weather elements such as a blizzard, rainstorm, or our legendary Icelandic winds that can reach speeds of up to 35 kilometers an hour.
The Silfra Fissure is a tear (fissure) in the earth where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates push apart. This tear has filled up with the clearest of glacial water, allowing those who dive or snorkel there, underwater visibility of up to 120 meters!
But it’s not just the visibility that makes this such a popular activity, diving or snorkeling the Silfra means that you can literally lie suspended between two continents! This is definitely not something that many can say that they have experienced in their lifetime.
8. Visit Our Museums
If there’s one thing we can advise you, it’s to set out at least a couple of days in your trip itinerary to visit our local museums. Many make the mistake of keeping this for days that the weather turns on them, and you’ll soon realize that this will never give you enough time for all the interesting museums we have on the island.
A few of the best places to visit in Iceland in November are:
9. Take a Stroll on a Black Sand Beach
Our infamous black sand beaches are another result of all the volcanic activity on the island. What we see as black sand today, once was lava flowing across the Icelandic landscape only to be cooled down by the cold air and the ocean, and turned into a big black mass of volcanic sediment.
This sediment was then eroded by the weather elements, the crashing waves, and just time in general till the only thing left was millions of grains of black sand. Some of our most famous black sand beaches in Iceland are Reynisfjara and Diamond Beach.
Reynisfjara allows you to walk for many kilometers on its outstretched beach whilst Diamond Beach got its name from the hundreds of pieces of ice that wash onto its shore and reminds one of diamonds when they glisten in the sunlight.
10.Hit Laugavegur Street
Laugavegur Street is our famous shopping street, and you’ll need some serious restraint not to max out your credit cards here. In these shops, you can find anything from clothes and souvenirs to outdoor gear and home appliances.
You can even take a couple of quick breaks in between your shopping spree to reenergize at one of the local cafés. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland in November, especially when the weather turns your trip itinerary plans upside down.
11.Go on a Whale Watching Tour
November in Iceland might not be our official whale season here on the island, but you’ll find whales all along the Icelandic coast all year round. If going on a whale watching tour to get up close and personal with these gentle giants of the ocean is something you’d like to do during your trip, we highly recommend that your first stop be Husavik (the so-called whale capital of Iceland). The other places most famous for their whale watching tours are Reykjavik and Akureyri.
12.Explore Our National Parks
Iceland has three national parks; Thingvellir National Park, Snæfellsnes National Park, and Vatnajökull National Park (which is the biggest of them all). These parks offer visitors absolutely breathtaking views and a wide range of interesting attractions and activities, which includes a myriad of hiking trails suitable for various ages and skill levels.
Just remember to keep a close eye on the weather forecast and keep the number of daylight hours in mind when planning a hike in one of the national parks.
13.Admire Our Architecture
Icelanders are known as one of the most creative nations in the world. Combine this with our country’s rich history, and it’s no surprise that we boast some of the most impressive architecture you’ve ever seen.
Visiting some of our famous architectural sites is one of the top things to do in Iceland in November. Some places that are not to be missed include:
14.Explore the Island on Horseback
This is not only one of the best things to do in Iceland in November, but one of the best ways to take the "road less traveled" and see what many visitors won’t be able to see driving in their cars. What makes exploring the island on horseback even more special is the fact that you will be doing it on the back of an Icelandic Horse. This is the island’s own breed of horse, and they are incredible creatures.
Despite being fully grown, they have a pony-like stature. They are known for being extremely friendly and they’re famous for being able to perform an extra gait called the tölt. If you’re going horseback riding in Iceland during the month of November, you’ll also see that they sport a thick, fluffy coat to protect them against the cold and harsher weather elements during the wintertime.
15.Try to Take a Snap of an Erupting Geyser
This can be quite a feat. A geyser is essentially like a mini volcano that sends liters of boiling hot water instead of lava shooting into the air when it erupts.
Whilst this is quite an impressive sight (and an almost impossible task to photograph at the right time and without it being blurry), the most impressive part of the geyser called Geysir here on the island is that it was the very first geyser discovered in Europe and the very reason why we refer to them as geysers. Although Geysir is no longer active, a short walk will take you to its sister geyser, Stokkur, which still erupts all throughout the day.
Some Helpful Tips When Visiting Iceland in November
For those who have never spent November in Iceland before, here are a few helpful tips:
Dress in layers
Remember those four seasons in one day? Well, that’s why the layers. Sometimes you are constantly taking things off and putting things on throughout the day here in Iceland. Dressing in layers will ensure that you don’t get caught having to sweat it out or rubbing the life back into freezing limbs.
Snow is not a given, so keep expectations realistic
One of the perks of visiting Iceland in November is that the temperature has not yet reached the winter wonderland stage. That means that, although there is always a chance of snow, it is definitely not guaranteed. If a snowy Iceland landscape is on your bucket list, then we suggest you rather postpone your trip ‘till it’s the proper winter season.
Take a Northern Lights tour
We’ve had so often that a visitor complains about not being able to spot the Northern Lights. As a natural phenomenon, the lights appear under the right conditions. Only the locals will be able to tell you exactly where the best places to view the Northern Lights are and when is the best time to go.
That’s why we often advise visitors who really have their hearts set on seeing this light spectacle to rather keep the energy and effort for other activities and events. Hand over the responsibility of the Northern Lights to a pro. The odds of you seeing the lights on a Northern Lights tour are much higher than with you driving around aimlessly all over the island.
Take wind warnings seriously
For those who are not from the island, it can seem a bit underwhelming to receive a wind warning in Iceland without the term “cyclone” or “hurricane” attached to it. Especially if the only 41 knots you know about are the ones you have in your stomach before going on a stage. But the Icelandic winds are legendary – and for good reason. If you’ve never felt what it feels like when an invisible driver takes over your car, driving in extreme Icelandic winds will do it.
Remember your license when going diving!
It’s not going to matter how long you tearfully promise that you are indeed a certified diver. If you don’t have your license with you, you’re going to have to fall in with the snorkeling crowd.
The nightlife in the capital only starts much later
If you hit the city around 21:00, it will seem like the nightlife in Reykjavík is practically non-existent. But come 23:00/00:00 and things will be lit. So, plan your big night out accordingly.
Do your hot spring research
The colder seasons are the perfect time to lounge around a hot spring or geothermal pool. But, even though they are open throughout, you better research your Iceland hot springs well before taking that dip. You might be in for a nasty surprise.
The hot springs all over the island vary in temperature. That’s the biggest reason for the geothermal pools in the first place – to moderate the boiling hot temperature of some hot spring sources with cold water sources. But the opposite is also true. Some hot springs might not be that hot – especially not for the colder Iceland months.
Keep daylight hours in mind when planning your itinerary
It’s easy to forget that daylight hours are limited during November when excitedly planning your itinerary. For example, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed when visiting Iceland in late November if you expect long sunny days.
Whilst your planned itinerary says that you’re visiting Gulfoss, you find that darkness has already fallen before even reaching your destination. You can still have a jam-packed itinerary by merely moving certain outdoor vs. indoor things around.
Don’t Knock it ‘Till You’ve Tried it
As you can see, you should not be so quick to knock on November in Iceland. The weather is still not as cold as during the mid-winter months, there are fewer crowds, and a dramatic decrease in prices.
The weather actually makes it the perfect time to do certain activities and be in awe of the beautiful Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights). All that’s left to do is to get planning, book those flights, and rent your motorhome and we’ll see you in November!