The Iceland Weather

  • If you plan a holiday in Iceland it is a good idea to study the weather
May 7 2017

The weather is one of the most unpredictable factors people live with and need to accept in Iceland. This applies both visitors and citizens all year round, independent of seasons.  Although the Meteorological Office in Iceland issues a daily and weekly forecasts the weather often behaves differently. Most people who live in Iceland have a built in factor where they always expect the worst weather but gladly accept anything better than expectations.  This attitude refers to all seasons, and good weather is a relative term in Iceland.  But one thing is clear, the winters are cold, and summers are warmer than winter. Another fact about the Icelandic weather, contrary to what a lot of people think, is the relatively narrow spectrum of temperature between winter and summer.  The winter is rarely extremely cold, and summer is seldom very warm.

Calm weather with no wind is our best wish for good weather

Lake Myvatn on a good day

The wind factor

But although the temperature is seldom very cold, at least by the coast and in most towns and villages as well as in Reykjavik, it can be much colder than it seems.  One reason is the wind.  Iceland has strong winds and bad storms, especially during winter.  The wind always makes a cold day colder as it magnifies the temperature.  So if we have a day during winter with minus 3 or 6 on Celsius it can feel like a day that is minus 13 or 16 on Celsius.

A confused tourist caught up in the unexpected cold on a winter day in Iceland

A confused tourist caught up in the unexpected cold on a winter day in Iceland

The altitude factor

If you are traveling in Iceland or plan to take a trip, it 's nice to know that the higher you go and deeper into the mountains the colder it is.  Although you can only travel to the mountains during summer, you need to be prepared for cold weather if you go into the Highland.  As a general rule, you would always take warm clothing with you when traveling into the mountains and the inland.  In winter you don’t go there without people who have professional knowledge of how to travel the Highland in winter.

The higher you go the colder it gets

The higher you go the colder it gets

The daylight factor

One of the factors affecting the weather in Iceland is the daylight.  Since Iceland is located near the Arctic Circle in the northern half of planet earth daylight is only available for a few hours during winter, but around the clock in summer.  So during winter, there is limited time to enjoy the sun and the warmth it brings but a very long time during summer that you can enjoy the sun. Often when the sky is clear this can have considerable influence on the weather.

At midnight you can experience and enjoy the sun

At midnight you can experience and enjoy the sun 

The psychological factor

These are some of the reasons Icelander's favorite topic of discussion is the weather. Many Icelanders are constantly affected by the weather.  The weather often sets the mood for the day and Icelanders are often gloomy in bad weather but overwhelmed with happiness and joy on a good and warm summer day.  If you ever experience a quiet and embarrassing moment with an Icelander, the best thing to get them going in conversation is to ask about the weather.  Better yet, just say “the weather has been terrible” or “the weather has been great, ” and you have a conversation.

Taking advantage of the weather as a tourist or a visitor

If you are planning to travel to Iceland, it is a good and solid reason to be aware of the weather factor and the different seasons.  You might want to read our article about the best and the worst time to visit Iceland.   You might want to plan a visit in accordance with your goal and see if they are attainable in the time you plan to visit.  Visiting Iceland in winter and summer is a huge difference. Even visiting Iceland in spring is a considerable difference compared to summer.  So if you are planning a trip to Iceland, you can not ignore the weather. 

To learn about the weather in Iceland here is the link to the Icelandic Med Office