Updated: Oct 17
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
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!
So, you better be prepared for everything. On the plus side, 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.
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)
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:
Okay, honestly, by this time, camping is only done by those traveling on a really limited budget. Those who wanted to have the best seat in the house when it comes to the Northern Lights and those Bear Grylls types. The rest of us will just stare incredulously at. When planning on going camping during November in Iceland, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
Firstly, many of the campsites close during the fall and winter. And, secondly, it’s going to be cold! You must be properly prepped for this experience, as you will be way more exposed to the elements than those sitting in their Reykjavík hotel. If looking for a more comfortable and even more budget-friendly, then rent a campervan in Reykjavík upon arrival on the island.
Consider purchasing a Camping Card (especially if you’re traveling as a family). This card is only €159 and will grant 2 adults and 4 kids access to 28 campsites across the island. Luckily, you’ll find at least a few open during the colder seasons.
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!
A Few Other Things to Do During November in Iceland
Camping and driving are not the only things on the agenda when traveling to Iceland in November. Here are a few things that you might wish to add to your itinerary:
Take a dip in a hot spring
Go glacier hiking
Explore an ice cave
Dance the night away at the annual Iceland Airwaves
Watch some whales
Take a walk on an Icelandic black sand beach
Go dog sledding
Go waterfall chasing (since many of these will start to freeze over, it really does make for quite a unique spectacle)
Explore a lava tube
Go horse riding and experience the legendary tölt gait
Visit some museums
Go diving/snorkeling the Silfra Fissure
Go shopping in the capital
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 we’ll see you in November!