Iceland in October: Things to See & Do

October 7th, 2021

Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois

7 min read

Excited to start planning your October adventure to Iceland? Or maybe you’re just wondering if it’s a good time to visit? Our local experts have put this useful guide together to help you plan and make the most of your October trip.

Read quick facts about the weather to know what to expect in Iceland in October, as well as our top reasons to visit at this time of year. Just in case you needed more convincing!

We’ve also put together the best Iceland things to do in October, including the best places to visit and top activities to try. Read on to make your next vacation the best one yet…

Vatnajokull glacier, the largest ice cap in Iceland

Should I visit Iceland in October?

Let’s start with the big question: Is it worth visiting Iceland in October? We say yes! The Land of Fire and Ice is truly spectacular all year long, so you can’t go wrong. 

That said, October is a great month if you want a taste of winter with better road and weather conditions, and not too much snow.

In October there’s so much going on too! You can still go whale watching and swimming in hot springs, but you could also go on thrilling excursions in the snow. The landscapes start to get enveloped in a layer of frost and the Northern Lights season is upon us.

Sound good? We think so too!

If you need even more convincing, here are the top 5 reasons to visit Iceland in October:

  • Quieter travel season than in summer 
  • More time for sightseeing with longer daylight hours than in the middle of winter
  • Darker and longer nights so more possibilities to see the Northern Lights
  • Start of the winter sports season, with ice caving, glacier hiking, and more
  • A packed calendar full of cultural highlights

Skogafoss waterfall. Iceland. Winter view

Best things to do in Iceland in October

October is a fantastic month to visit Iceland because you could combine exploring stunning natural wonders with enjoying the lively Reykjavík nightlife. Whether you’re looking for leisurely exploration or exciting adventures, you’ll have tons of choices to pick from at this time of year.

In October, you could get up to the following:

  • Walk along striking black sand beaches
  • Go to an international festival in Reykjavík
  • Dip in hot springs nestled in the countryside
  • Hunt for the Northern Lights at night
  • Discover splendid blue ice caves
  • Take a whale-watching tour
  • Drive around the entire Ring Road
  • Stroll through pristine national parks
  • Go glacier hiking along Europe’s largest ice cap

Events in Iceland in October

While cultural events aren’t as plentiful as in the summer, there’s still plenty to do in October. Mark your calendar for the following events:

The Reykjavík International Film Festival – If you’re a movie buff, why not attend a screening or two at RIFF? This festival attracts filmmakers from around the world and is hosted from the end of September to mid-October.

The lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower – Yes, there is a memorial to John Lennon in Iceland. Created by Yoko Ono, it is lit up every year on his birthday, 9 October, and sends an impressive beam of light into the heavens. 

You’ll find the Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey island near Reykjavík.

Best things to see and places to visit in Iceland in October

Visiting Iceland during the winter month of October doesn’t mean all the cool summer stuff is off-limits. In fact, you might find you have even more to see thanks to winter excursions opening up at this time of year.

Add the following must-sees to your October vacation:

  • Frosted waterfalls with giant icicles
  • Wild national parks
  • Unique ice caves and vast glaciers
  • Active volcanoes covered in a dusting of snow
  • Geysers spurting seething water
  • Warming hot springs
  • Glacial lagoons with newborn icebergs
  • And much more!

Ice cave in Iceland in sunrise

But maybe your bucket list already includes all the Icelandic top sights, like waterfalls and volcanoes. What’s the best place to see them? Where should you visit in October?

The majority of the country is still easily accessible in October, so you can take your pick from the different regions. Read on for the top places to visit in Iceland in October and why.  

1. Reykjavík

Location: Southwestern coast, near Keflavík International Airport.

Why visit? You won’t miss Iceland’s capital city as it is the starting point of most trips here. That said, it is also perfect for a culture-filled city break. Swing by festivals, visit renowned museums, enjoy the nightlife, dip in swimming pools like the locals, and sink your teeth into delicious food.

And you can also book a wide variety of day tours and excursions from the capital. This way you won’t miss the natural highlights of the countryside.

Don’t miss: Eating at local food halls, visiting the interactive Perlan, and grabbing ice cream from Valdís.

A wintry Reykjavík with the snowy Esja mountain in the background.

2. Reykjanes peninsula

Location: Southwest of Iceland, south of Reykjavík.  

Why visit? Another one you won’t miss, as this is where you’re likely to land at Keflavík Airport. Most people hotfoot it to Reykjavík after their flight, but the peninsula has so much to offer!

This is a land rich in geothermal energy – doesn’t sound that exciting? Well, the vast lava fields, active volcano at Fagradalsfjall, and world-famous Blue Lagoon spa would say otherwise. The beauty of this region is that it’s super accessible on a shorter trip to Iceland.

Don’t miss: Hiking to an active volcano, relaxing in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon, and exploring small fishing villages.

3. Snæfellsnes peninsula

Location: Just northeast of Reykjavík.

Why visit? This peninsula is ideally located within driving distance of the capital and offers the full range of Icelandic sights. It’s actually nicknamed “Iceland in miniature” thanks to its lava fields, waterfalls, rugged cliffs, steep mountains, and glaciers. Here you’ll find a little bit of everything that makes Iceland so special!

Don’t miss: Exploring the Snæfellsjökull National Park and taking an obligatory photo of Kirkjufell mountain for your Insta.

Road through the mountains and fjords in Snaefellsnes peninsula Iceland

4. Golden Circle

Location: Southwest, inland from the capital city.

Why visit? This famous route is a must for anyone who visits Iceland. It’s easily doable even with just a long weekend in Reykjavík.

The 3 top sights of the Golden Circle are some of the most scenic and popular highlights in the country. They are: the geysers of Haukadalur, the multi-tiered Gullfoss waterfall, and the UNESCO-listed Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park.

Don’t miss: Lunch at the Friðheimar greenhouse cultivation center, where they grow vegetables with geothermal power.

5. South coast of Iceland

Location: Well…

Why visit? Okay, the whole south coast isn’t very specific, we know! But there are so many wonderful sights to visit along this region that we had to include it as a whole. The south coast is a stunning stretch of Iceland that shouldn’t be missed.

From small villages to high-and-mighty glaciers, there’s much to see here! Travel east from Reykjavík and you’ll hit the Golden Circle first, before passing through quaint towns, national parks full of hiking trails, and scenic waterfalls. 

As you arrive toward East Iceland, expect glacial lagoons, beaches strewn with chunks of glistening ice, and long fjords. How could we narrow that down?

Don’t miss: The stunning waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, as well as the magnificent Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and nearby Breiðamerkursandur (AKA Diamond Beach). For the quintessential black sand beach, go for a stroll along Reynisfjara.

Northern Lights over plane wreckage in Iceland

6. Diamond Circle

Location: North Iceland, along the Ring Road and branching off to the northern coast.

Why visit? Another circle? Why yes, this is another route full of breathtaking sights that are worth including in your itinerary. This is for you if you enjoy sweeping landscapes full of waterfalls, scenic seaside towns, haunting rock formations, and bubbling geothermal sights.

The Diamond Circle spans from Akureyri, the “Capital of the North” north to Húsavík. Then across to Ásbyrgi and back along the moon-like landscape of the Lake Mývatn area. 

Don’t miss: All the highlights of this scenic circuit! Especially make sure to take in the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, and go on a whale-watching cruise from Húsavík, the whale-watching capital of Iceland!

7. Westfjords

Location: Western peninsula located in northwest Iceland. 

Why visit? October is the final month when the Westfjords are easily accessible to visitors, so don’t miss them! This is truly the place to go if you like to go off the beaten path and enjoy quiet time in nature. With endless fjords, tall sea cliffs, and rugged mountains, this is a haven if you’re a nature and wildlife enthusiast.  

Don’t miss: Visit Ísafjörður, the unofficial capital of the Westfjords, stop by the Dynjandi waterfall, and bathe in the hot tubs in Drangsnes.

Isafjordur town, West Fjords in Iceland

How’s the weather in Iceland in October?

October is the beginning of winter in Iceland, so for that reason you can expect changing conditions and dropping temperatures. On average, there are highs of 7°C (45°F) and lows of 3°C (37°F).

It’s also good to keep in mind that October can be a wet month and be quite windy, which adds a chill factor.

Does it snow in Iceland in October?

It’s not unusual for Iceland to experience its first snowfall in September or October, but it doesn’t settle. The mountaintops might start being snow-blanketed, but it’ll just add a cool element to your photos!

How many hours of daylight are there in Iceland in October?

From September to December, the days get shorter and shorter as we approach the winter solstice, the point of the year where the days start getting longer again. That said, you’ll still enjoy plenty of daylight during your trip in October, with 8-11 hours of daylight throughout the month.  

Early in the month, the sun rises around 7:30 a.m. and sets by 6:45 p.m. By the end of October, it’ll be closer to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The bonus of these daylight hours is that you still have plenty of time to sightsee during the day and go on Northern Lights tours at night.

Northern-Light-Aurora-borealis-at-Kirkjufell-in-Iceland

Can I see the Northern Lights in Iceland in October?

Yes! As we’ve just mentioned, the daylight hours in Iceland at this time of year mean you have longer nights to go hunting for the Aurora Borealis. 

Your chances are higher from October to March when the nights are longer and darker than in summer. This is because you need darkness to spot the colorful ribbons in the sky.

Because the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, we can’t promise you will see them on our tours. If the conditions are clear, you might be lucky enough to witness this spectacular light show in person!

What to wear and what to pack for a trip to Iceland in October?

October is the beginning of the winter season, so you’ll want to be prepared for cooler, windier, and wetter conditions. Bring plenty of layers to feel comfortable so you won’t miss any of the action, whatever the day’s weather.

Here is a packing guide for your winter trip:

  • Fleece or lightweight wool sweaters
  • Insulated and waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof (and potentially snow) trousers
  • Warm gloves, scarf, and hat
  • Sturdy walking or hiking boots with good socks
  • Thermal underwear (long johns) and socks
  • Swimwear and towel for the spa or hot springs

You can read more about preparing for a winter trip with our blog tips for Iceland in winter – weather and packing guide.

Planning your trip to Iceland in October

After all this, our best advice is to pick what you want to see most and build your trip around it. Whether that’s seeing the Northern Lights, glacier walking, or even just enjoying some time in the northernmost capital city in the world, we can help. 

With Iceland Tours, it’s as easy as planning a trip should be. You first pick your preferred travel styles, from multi-day itineraries from Reykjavík, self-drive packages around Iceland, or guided tours with a private guide

Then you can choose a specific tour that fits you based on how long you want to stay. You can also add optional activities to fill your days with even more adventures. Simply book online and our team in Iceland will take care of the rest.

Your October vacation to Iceland awaits!

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Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois