Iceland in September: Things to See & Do

July 15th, 2021

Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois

8 min read

So you’re interested in touring Iceland in September? Wondering if it’s a good idea?  Seeking inspiration? Or maybe you’ve visited Iceland in September before, want to return, and are looking for new things to do? You’re in the right place!

Below you’ll find out all the details you’ll need to visit the Land of Fire and Ice at this time of year. Our travel experts compiled the top reasons to travel to Iceland in September, the best things to do and see, as well as a useful weather and packing guide.

Discover how to make the most of your September vacation.

South Iceland, romantic moss landscape at sunset

Is September a good time to visit Iceland?

Yes! September is an excellent month to visit Iceland. You’ll find yourself straddling the end of summer and the start of the quieter traveling season.

Imagine going for a whale-watching cruise during the day, then admiring misty waterfalls and peaks along the south coast, and possibly spotting Northern Lights at night. Does that sound good? We think so too!

And if you’re not convinced yet, we’ve compiled the top 10 reasons to visit Iceland in September:

  • Quieter travel season than in June, July or August
  • Ample daylight hours for sightseeing
  • Good time to go whale watching
  • Colorful autumnal landscape
  • Plenty of thrilling excursions available
  • Excellent road conditions
  • One of the oldest cultural tradition takes place
  • Mild weather, which is ideal for hiking
  • The best of both worlds, between summer and winter
  • Possibility of seeing the Northern Lights
Skogafoss waterfall with rainbow

Best things to see in Iceland in September

In September, the natural world of Iceland is your oyster. You’ll be able to get to many of the regions of Iceland and it’s a great time to check sights and activities off your bucket list.

The best things to see during your September vacation include:

  • Waterfalls, of all shapes and sizes
  • Volcanoes and craters, active (!) and dormant
  • Spurting geysers
  • Stark lava fields covered in moss
  • Deep canyons and impressive rock formations
  • Europe’s largest ice caps and glaciers
  • Steaming hot springs
  • Bobbing icebergs and glacial lagoons
  • Volcanic black sand beaches
  • Icelandic horses roaming the countryside
  • Whales peeking up from the deep waters

And much more!

Eruption-of-Geysir-geyser-in-Southern-Iceland-aerial-view-scaled

Best things to do in Iceland in September

You know the best sights to see now, but what about activities? What could you get up to during your Icelandic vacation?

Here are the best activities accessible in September:

  • Go hiking in national parks
  • Dip in natural hot springs or heated swimming pools
  • Meet fluffy Icelandic horses
  • Snowmobile atop a glacier
  • Take a whale-watching tour
  • Journey around the Ring Road
  • Snorkel between the tectonic plates
  • Hunt for the Northern Lights
  • Walk inside a lava tunnel or an ice cave
  • Go on a glacier walk
  • Step inside a volcano or hike to see an active one
  • Kayak in glacial waters
  • Visit a spa to warm up and relax

Pick your favorite one (or more!) to fill your days with adventure and make lasting memories.

Whale watching and sunset, Iceland

Events in Iceland in September

Attending an international festival in Reykjavík or a cultural event in the countryside is a great way to delve into the traditions and heritage of Iceland. You’ll also get to meet the locals and experience a more authentic side of the country.

After the full cultural calendar of summer, September is a quieter month. That said, you should still mark your diary with the following events, festivals, and activities.

The Reykjavík Jazz Festival extends from the end of August until early September. This means that if you visit in the early days of this month, you could attend an event or two.

One of the best film festivals around is hosted in Reykjavík at the end of September each year. RIFF (Reykjavík International Film Festival) brings together filmmakers and fans from around the world.

The yearly Réttir

We had to include a special place for one of the biggest cultural activities of the country, Réttir. This is the annual rounding up of sheep and horses that all roam freely during the summer.

Réttir is one of the country’s oldest traditions. Every September, farmers, along with friends, family, and sometimes even strangers, journey across the plateau and herd all the sheep back to the sorting pens.

In Skagafjörður, known for its rich heritage of horse breeding, September also marks the time when they round up horses that roam freely across the region.

Best places to visit in Iceland in September

Like we’ve previously mentioned, during your September trip you could see top sights like waterfalls and volcanoes. You could also tour the Ring Road, go off the beaten path, and hike in the countryside.

Below, we’ve included our favorite spots, towns, and regions you should include in your itinerary, and why.  

1. Reykjavík

Location: The southwest coast, near Keflavík International Airport.

Why visit? Reykjavík is ideal for a Nordic city break. It’s for you if you enjoy cultural activities, museums, and international cuisine. Plenty of day trips and excursions are available from the capital so you won’t miss out.

Don’t miss: A walk down Laugavegur shopping street and visit the interactive Perlan museum and FlyOver Iceland.

Aerial view of Reykjavik, Iceland

2. Westman Islands

Location: Just off the south coast near Holt. 

Why visit? With magnificent coastal scenery, the main island of Heimaey is a must see. It’s an ideal day tour to add to your itinerary to discover more of its natural habitat and volcanic history.

Don’t miss: A visit to the location of the 1973 volcanic eruption and see the half-buried houses under lava.

Heimaey town aerial view from Eldfell volcano. Westman Islands in Iceland

3. The Golden Circle

Location: The southwest, just outside the capital city, Reykjavík.

Why visit? This short itinerary includes some of the most famous sights in Iceland. It is a great day trip from Reykjavík if you’re staying on a city break, or easily added to any road trip around the country.

Don’t miss: The 3 main spots of the route: Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park.

4. Snæfellsnes peninsula

Location: West Iceland, around 2 hours’ drive north of Reykjavík.

Why visit? To get a taste of Iceland as it is often called “Iceland in miniature.” See vast lava fields, grand waterfalls, scenic cliffs, and tranquil fishing villages.

Don’t miss: Snæfellsjökull National Park and Kirkjufell mountain.

Kirkjufell, Iceland

5. Reykjanes peninsula

Location: The southwest of Iceland.  

Why visit? This corner of Iceland is where you’ll surely land during your visit. It is often overlooked as people head straight to Reykjavik and beyond from here. But stay a while longer and you could explore a land rich in heritage and stunning natural wonders.

Don’t miss: Crossing the Bridge Between Continents to experience the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Hike to Iceland’s newest volcano, Fagradalsfjall. Or relax at the world-famous Blue Lagoon spa.

crowds around the lava field of Fagradalsfjall volcano

6. Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss

Location: The south coast.

Why visit? These are two memorable waterfalls easily accessible on the southwest coast. Skógafoss is renowned for its rainbows created by the mist and at Seljalandsfoss you could walk behind the curtain of water. They will make for fun photo opportunities.

Don’t miss: The nearby Kvernufoss, for even more waterfall beauty.

7. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach

Location: The southeast coast, an hour south of Höfn.

Why visit? These two natural sights, located across the road from each other, are iconic and featured in many photos of Iceland. It’s no wonder with the stunning icebergs and chunks of glistening ice you could see here.

Don’t miss: A boat tour along the lagoon to admire the icebergs from up close.

8. Westfjords

Location: A peninsula located in northwest Iceland. 

Why visit? Add this region to your itinerary if you want to head off the beaten path. This way, you could see an area of outstanding natural beauty with flat-topped mountains, fjords, and bird cliffs.

Don’t miss: Ísafjörður, the unofficial capital of the Westfjords, the Dynjandi waterfall, and Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, for sweeping sea views and hiking trails.

9. Húsavík

Location: The north coast along Skjálfandi bay, around one hour from Akureyri. 

Why visit? If you’re a wildlife enthusiast and want to see whales during your time in Iceland, Húsavík is the place to visit. This quaint fishing town is, in fact, nicknamed the capital of whale watching in Iceland.

Don’t miss: A whale-watching cruise, of course! Nearby, you could also pop by Akureyri, the “Capital of the North.” Or drive east to go visit the lush Ásbyrgi canyon and Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

Town of Husavik, the whale capital of Iceland at sunset

10. Lake Mývatn area

Location: Northeast Iceland along the Ring Road.

Why visit? Immerse yourself in the otherworldly landscapes of Lake Mývatn to experience the power of Iceland and see why it’s nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice. This area is full of impressive natural sights to explore.

Don’t miss: The Dimmborgir lava formation, pseudo-craters of Skútustaðir, and Solfataras of Námaskarð. You could also stop for a warming dip at the Mývatn Nature Baths.

What about the central highlands?

Did you hear about the fantastic hiking trails located in this remote area of Iceland? If that’s something you’re interested in, visit in July or August. The roads into the highlands open depending on the weather and are usually only accessible at this time of year.

Weather and daylight hours in Iceland in September

Hopefully the above inspired you to look into a September vacation to Iceland. You’ll be able to experience so much of the country and make the most of your trip. But what about that famous Icelandic weather? We highlight it all below and even include a handy packing guide.

People standing on top of Gatklettur-Arch Rock in Snaefellsnes peninsula, Iceland

Weather in September

September is the transitional month between summer and winter and so you can expect changeable, autumnal weather. That means some wind, rain, and mild average temperatures ranging between 6°C (43°F) and 10°C (50°F).

Daylight hours in September

In September, days are slowly becoming shorter, but you can still enjoy plenty of daytime brightness. On average, there are between 11 and 14 hours of daylight at this time of year. This is ideal to sightsee at your heart’s content.

Early in the month, the sun rises around 6 a.m. and sets by 8:45 p.m. By late September, expect daylight between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Can I see the Northern Lights in Iceland in September?

The summer months are not recommended to see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland. You’ll need proper darkness to spot Northern Lights in the sky and so daylight hours matter.

Thankfully, September is on the cusp with nights growing longer. You may be lucky enough to see them late at night during your vacation.

If you’re planning a specific Northern Lights tour, we recommend you travel to Iceland in winter. Those are quieter months with longer nights, giving you more opportunities to see the famous Aurora Borealis.

Northern Lights in Iceland

Packing guide for September

Because Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, you should pack and be ready for all possibilities. In September you might still enjoy some warmer temperatures but could experience cooler nights as winter approaches. You should bring plenty of layers with you, allowing you to adapt to the day’s weather.  

Ever heard the Nordic saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”? Keep that in mind and you won’t miss out on any of the fun excursions and days out you have planned.

Here is a list of packing essentials for your trip to Iceland in September:

  • Short-sleeved shirts and lightweight layers
  • Fleece or lightweight wool sweaters
  • A waterproof and windproof jacket or shell layers
  • Insulated jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Gloves, scarf, and warm hat
  • Cap and sunglasses
  • Sturdy walking or hiking boots with good socks
  • Thermal underwear and socks
  • Binoculars for wildlife watchers
  • Swimwear, flip flops, and towel to go for a dip

Planning your trip to Iceland in September

We answered the first question: Is it worth visiting Iceland in September? Big yes! Now, with all the inspiration and tips you got from this article, all that’s left to do is narrow down what you want to see and do most.

Once you have that figured out, why not make your dream September vacation a reality? With Iceland Tours, it’s really easy. Pick your favorite way to travel whether that’s camping trips, city breaks, self-drive tours, or privately guided packages, and then choose your ideal itinerary.

From there you have the option to add activities, and the type of car and accommodation you prefer, all based on your preferences and budget. The local travel experts at Iceland Tours will then organize it all for you before you arrive. You’ll prepare, arrive and travel in good hands with our support.

See you in September!

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Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois