Discover the very best things to do and places to see in Iceland in October. With everything you need to know about what the weather's like in Iceland in October, how to get around, what to pack, and even what events are going on, this really is the ultimate guide to visiting Iceland in October. Find out more about visiting and start planning your trip.
October is a fantastic time to visit Iceland. The rush of the summer months is over, but temperatures haven't quite yet reached the lows they reach in the depths of winter.
In fact, October is one of the quietest months for visiting Iceland. There are far fewer tourists at this time of year than there can be during the height of summer, for example.
This slowdown means that visitors can enjoy the best that the country has to offer without having to deal with hordes of people—and without paying exorbitant peak-season prices!
October days are long enough for you to fill with activities, while the nights are dark enough that you should have a good chance of seeing the northern lights. The majority of roads are still accessible, and incredible locations such as the Westfjords remain open to visitors.
It truly is a great time to visit.
If you're planning a trip to Iceland in October, you'll want to know all about the best things to do and places to go, as well as what to pack. Luckily, we're here to help.
But before we look at what to do and where to go, let's answer an important question: What's the weather like in Iceland in October?
Iceland's weather varies from season to season, month to month, and day to day. It can be raining one minute, sunny the next, and hailing or snowing just a few minutes later.
The weather in October in Iceland is also this erratic. Temperatures in Reykjavik during October have been known to range from 19 F (-7.2 C) to 59 F (15 C). If there's one thing you can predict about Iceland's weather in October, it's that it's highly unpredictable.
On average, however, the temperature in Reykjavik in October is around 41 F (4.8 C). This is slightly below the average yearly temperature of 42 F (5.4 C). Outside of Reykjavik, temperatures can be even colder, particularly in remote areas like the Highlands or the Westfjords.
While September is mostly considered relatively balmy (for Iceland, at least!), October is technically the beginning of Iceland's winter, so it can get very cold. Low-pressure systems station themselves staunchly over the country, causing high winds and heavy rains. Those elements, in tandem with cold fronts, make October a tumultuous month.
The sharp autumn winds funnel between mountain passes and buildings, lowering the average temperature and making it impossible to hold onto an umbrella. These strong, focused winds can easily push you over, so you'll want to take extra care while you're out and about.
On average, the wind at the beginning of October is 11.5 miles per hour (around 5 meters per second); this picks up slightly to 12.5 miles per hour (5.5 meters per second) by the latter half of the month.
The average precipitation in Iceland in October is about 3 inches (77 millimeters). This is slightly higher than the annual monthly average of 2.8 inches (73 millimeters)—in fact, October is the wettest month of the year in Iceland, so be sure to pack your waterproofs.
October doesn't usually see heavy snow in Iceland (particularly in Reykjavik and the south of the country), but it is possible. If you're planning to visit the north of the country or the Highlands, you might encounter some snow and ice.
September and October both tend to have roughly 12 hours of sunlight per day. On October 1, the sun rises at 7:37 a.m. and sets at 6:56 p.m. By the end of the month, daylight hours have reduced; on October 31, the sun rises at 9:08 a.m. and sets at 5:13 p.m.
Because of the variability of the weather in Iceland, it's a good idea to pack a variety of clothes—something to keep you nice and warm on cold days, but also layers that you can remove if it's a little warmer.
If you're visiting Iceland at any time of year, it's essential to bring warm clothes. Temperatures can drop quickly and without warning. If you're out exploring ice caves or hiking on glaciers, you can bet you'll be freezing if you aren't dressed properly!
So bring your winter wear, including a warm (ideally waterproof) coat, waterproof pants, and thermal underlayers. You should also bring warm sweaters that you can wear during the day and if you're going out for a meal somewhere nice. Choose natural fibers like merino wool, as these are lighter to carry but will also keep you lovely and warm.
You'll also want to bring a warm winter hat, a good pair of gloves, and a scarf for extra warmth. But while you're packing for wintry weather, make sure you don't forget your swimwear, a towel, and a pair of sunglasses!
In addition to lots of layers, you'll obviously need to bring regular clothes with you too: jeans or pants, t-shirts, and long-sleeved tops are all a good idea. Bring comfortable shoes that you can wear when sightseeing, too.
Plus, don't forget to bring sturdy hiking shoes for any outdoor adventures you're planning!
Because of the drop in temperature and the higher probability of heavy rain, strong winds, dense fog, snowfall, and ice, many travelers to Iceland in October choose to forgo renting a car.
Accidents on Iceland’s roads often occur because visitors aren't used to driving in such hazardous conditions, especially on the gravel tracks and unlit roads that lead into the Icelandic countryside.
If you do choose to rent a car, we highly recommend booking one equipped with a four-wheel drive. It's also essential that you check the weather website and road website before any journey so you know the conditions you might be facing and can avoid roads that are impassable ("offaerd").
It's also worth remembering that floods and avalanches aren't uncommon in October. Never, ever drive on a road that's cordoned off. This is absolutely essential for your safety.
In October, almost all of Iceland should be accessible unless unseasonable weather, flooding, or an avalanche blocks a section of the Ring Road. This openness means that you should be free to reach the main attractions with relative ease, either by taking tours or driving yourself.
The Ring Road is usually cleared of any snow and ice fairly regularly, so it should be possible (and fairly safe) to drive this circular route of the country.
However, it's a good idea to hire a 4X4, even if your planned route doesn't veer from the main road. Conditions can change quickly, especially in North Iceland. Just because you're on the main road doesn't mean you're guaranteed an easy journey!
If you're nervous about driving in poor conditions, it's a good idea to stick to the southern parts of the country instead of heading north. Here, you're less likely to encounter any difficult patches.
October is a great time to visit Iceland because it's usually possible to enjoy both summer and winter tours. Many summer tours run until snow blocks the roads—in most parts of Iceland, that happens in November or December. Meanwhile, many winter tours only require a little darkness to operate, so they tend to kick off the season in September.
Since October is a perfect crossover between winter and summer, there are several tour options available to tourists and travelers. It's the best of both worlds!
The aurora borealis can only be seen when it's dark enough and the sky is clear enough. From May to September, they're impossible to catch because of the midnight sun.
But by the time October arrives, the chances of seeing the northern lights increase.
There are many ways to capture this awe-inspiring phenomenon, but the best methods involve leaving the light pollution of the city center. Any ambient light works against the northern lights' intensity, so even if you can already see them well from your window in Reykjavik, you're bound to get a better view from the countryside.
There are a few exceptions to this; the area around the Grotta Lighthouse in the capital is usually dark enough to see the lights, and city parks like Klambratun and Laugardalur offer better views than you'd get from your hotel or property's backyard. There's also a tour that will take you to Videy Island, just outside of Reykjavik—this can be a great place to see the lights.
That said, if you stay in one place, a few stray clouds could block your view. By taking a northern lights tour out of Reykjavik, your expert guides will be able to find areas with the clearest skies because they know the lay of the land and the changeable nature of the lights.
Northern lights tours from Reykjavik can be conducted on a bus or a super jeep, depending on where you'd like to go. Bus tours tend to be more affordable, but super jeeps can take you to less accessible places—over rivers and down dusty trails—meaning there'll be less light pollution and a greater chance of a good view.
You can also take a northern lights cruise out into Faxafloi Bay, which will give you nearly complete darkness. If you're in the north of Iceland, you can take a cruise from the town of Akureyri into the Eyjafjordur fjord.
Of course, if you don't want to take an organized tour, it's also possible to go northern lights chasing by yourself in a rental car.
If you decide to do this, you'll increase your chances of success by consulting the cloud forecast and the aurora forecast. You'll want to head out to areas with little to no cloud cover when the aurora forecast is ranked at three or above.
Be mindful that the cloud forecast displays all three layers of clouds, and all three will need to be clear to see the lights.
There's no guarantee of seeing the northern lights at any time of year in Iceland, but it is certainly possible during October. Plan accordingly and cross your fingers for a clear night's sky!
October comes just after the end of the summer, meaning that most migratory animals are now on their way out of the country; this includes the humpback whales that feed in Iceland’s waters and the puffins that nest on its cliffs.
Even so, over 20 species of cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) live off of Iceland's coasts, and you can usually see all of them well into October. With a little luck, you could see orcas, blue whales, and beaked whales. Although the great whales are fewer in number, there will always be a few stragglers.
From Akureyri, in North Iceland, tours head into the Eyjafjordur fjord. Here, the most common species seen are humpbacks, but belugas and even narwhals are also spotted from time to time. These tours can be conducted in standard or high-speed boats.
However, the best whale-watching destination, not just in Iceland but arguably in all of Europe, is Husavik. Its waters are teeming with whales and other incredible sea creatures, and you should have an excellent chance of seeing them, even during October. Take a whale-watching tour into Skjalfandi Bay for a chance to see an incredible wealth of life.
Another destination for whale watching in October is the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The Breidafjordur fjord, on the northern side of the peninsula, is a rich herring ground that attracts dolphins, seals, and orcas.
Iceland's glaciers are one of its most precious assets—and one of its most popular attractions. They cover 10% of the country's surface, and various tours run both atop and within them in October.
Glacier hiking is an incredible thing to do during your trip to Iceland. Seeing the world from the top of an ice cap will be an unforgettable experience, with breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Take a glacier hiking tour with a qualified guide; they'll give you the gear you need to keep safe, but will also teach you about the country's geological and volcanic history. It's fun but also fascinating!
Solheimajokull glacier is one of the country's most popular glaciers for hiking. This tour to its peak leaves from Reykjavik and includes some of the South Coast's features, such as the famous and majestic Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls.
Those in Southeast Iceland can ascend the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull, for an exciting trek. It's also possible to visit Svinafellsjokull glacier, which is set within a hiker’s paradise, the Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
If you're not much of a hiker, you can take an exhilarating snowmobile ride over glaciers instead. You'll have to have a valid driver’s license to operate a snowmobile, but guests as young as six can join as a passenger. This experience mixes sightseeing with adrenaline and can be experienced on many of the country’s ice caps.
Taking a snowmobile tour on Vatnajokull glacier is great for thrill-seekers in Southeast Iceland, but those based in Reykjavik might find it easier to take an excursion to Langjokull glacier, which is much closer to the capital.
If you're planning to tour Langjokull glacier by snowmobile, it might also be worth combining the trip with a visit to the glacier’s ice tunnels, which were specifically carved out to facilitate tours. You can also visit the glacier without traveling on a snowmobile.
The natural ice caves in Vatnajokull glacier are usually only available from November until March, but some operators start running tours here from the middle of October. It all depends on the weather conditions that year.
Riding an Icelandic horse is a quintessential Icelandic experience. These beautiful purebred creatures are the pride and joy of the nation. They've been separated from their mainland companions for a millennium, and as a result, they've developed many unique traits.
Fans of equestrian sports will be able to tell you that the Icelandic horse has a unique gait called a ‘tolt.’ It's said that when riding a horse in tolt, you can drink a glass of water without spilling a drop. The horses are also known as being intelligent, curious, and very friendly.
Horse riding is very popular among both Icelanders and visitors, and there are several ways to enjoy this activity in October. From Reykjavik, you could take a tour over the dramatic lava fields while you imagine Vikings' experiences in the Settlement Age. You could also ride a horse into Reykjadalur Valley, where you'll find hot springs and a geothermal river (that, yes, you can bathe in).
There are similar tours around the country. In the north, for example, you can take this horseback riding excursion from Akureyri.
Photo from Whale Watching and Snorkelling Excursion
It might be surprising to visitors who are a bit nervous about the cold, but snorkeling and diving are popular activities all year round in Iceland.
The best place to try it for yourself is Silfra Fissure. This trench is between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, in Thingvellir National Park. The fissure has filled with spring water that traveled through the porous lava rock. Its waters are crystal clear, with visibility exceeding 325 feet (about 100 meters). No matter what time of year you go, the water temperature should be around 35 F (around 2 C).
Though the temperature may sound daunting, the equipment provided is very protective. For dives and most snorkeling trips, you wear drysuits that keep the water off and insulating suits as an additional layer of warmth. The braver can wear wetsuits instead on snorkeling tours—these allow water in, so it's not for the faint-hearted!
Taking a drysuit snorkeling or diving tour in October is a lot more comfortable than in the depths of winter. The park’s temperature should be above freezing, so you probably won’t have to deal with any icy equipment when you’re getting undressed, and you should warm up pretty quickly once you're out of the water.
Photo from Diving Silfra and Horseback Riding Tour
While snorkeling and diving tours are as safe as possible, conducted with group size limits under the supervision of professionals, you can only partake if you meet the following requirements:
The Golden Circle is Iceland's most popular tourist route, and it should be high on your list of things to do during your trip to Iceland in October.
The 186-mile (300-kilometer) round-trip route consists of three beautiful attractions:
Gullfoss waterfall is one of the most famous falls in Iceland. Its waters tumble in two tiers down more than 100 feet (about 30 meters).
Around 6 miles (10 kilometers) away is the spectacular Geysir geothermal area. This spectacular zone is full of hot springs and, as its name suggests, geysers. Don't miss your chance to see some of Iceland's most famous geysers erupt—you shouldn't have to wait too long, as Strokkur shoots out its waters every five to 10 minutes!
Thingvellir National Park is one of three national parks in Iceland. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a beautiful place to explore and is full of incredible sights: waterfalls, mountains, volcanoes, gorges… It's truly breathtaking.
It's possible to see all three of these spectacular sights in one day, whether you're driving the Golden Circle in a rental car or you're visiting with an organized Golden Circle tour. Most tourists visit the route from Reykjavik, as most of the tours to the attractions depart from and return to here.
However, it's also possible to spend the night near the Golden Circle if you'd prefer to take your time and beat the crowds.
Another great thing to do in Iceland at any time of year (including October) is to enjoy the country's numerous hot springs, hot pots, and swimming pools. Soaking in a geothermal pool is a wonderful way to unwind after a busy few days of sightseeing.
Icelanders love relaxing and chatting in hot springs and swimming pools. There are hundreds of swimming pools all over the country, with 17 in Reykjavik alone. Swimming and relaxing in pools are incredibly popular, and tourists should definitely take part during their trip to Iceland. Most are geothermally heated, so it's a lovely way to warm up.
If you're more into chilling out than swimming, why not visit a hot spring or two instead of a pool? There are natural and man-made springs in all parts of Iceland. Settling in for a relaxing soak is a classic Icelandic pastime and an absolute must-do while you're visiting.
If you're keen on the idea of visiting several hot springs and pools, you can take a hot spring tour, or simply make sure to visit the local spring wherever you're staying.
By far Iceland's most famous geothermal area is the Blue Lagoon. You'll find it very close to Keflavik Airport, so many visitors to Iceland make it the first or last stop on their trip. It's also easy to reach the lagoon from Reykjavik.
The Blue Lagoon spa is open all year round, so it's definitely possible to visit in October. In fact, it might be a great time to visit because October usually sees fewer tourists than other months, so you might have more chance of getting in without a booking!
However, this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole country, so it's a good idea to book your entry to the spa well in advance.
Its striking blue waters are thought to have healing properties, so a relaxing soak here will definitely do you some good! Reserve your place at the end of your trip so you can unwind after a busy week of sightseeing. Heaven!
Hiking and taking super jeeps into the Highlands of Iceland or up mountaintops are usually regarded as summer tours. But October just about counts as the very end of the summer season, so you'll be able to enjoy these brilliant outdoor activities during your stay too.
Most multi-day hikes aren't available from the end of September onward, as it's simply too cold to spend the night camping, but there are many single-day trips into the country’s remarkable interior.
For example, the forested ‘Valley of Thor’, Thorsmork, can be visited and hiked on a day tour in October, allowing you to see this mesmerizing land in its autumnal colors.
Landmannalaugar, an iconic Highland region of rhyolite mountains and natural hot springs, can also be accessed and explored on tours; this super jeep tour also introduces you to the notorious Mount Hekla volcano. Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork mark either end of the famous Laugavegur trail, the most popular multi-day hiking trek in summer. You might not be able to do the whole trek, but you can still visit these gorgeous locations.
East Iceland becomes more difficult to traverse in October, but it's not entirely out of the question. Day hikes up its incredible mountains are usually still running.
In this area, it's possible to take a tour of Mount Snaefell, the highest freestanding mountain in the country. You can also take a hike up Mount Dyrfjoll, renowned for the huge gap, or door, that divides it down the middle. The nearby Mount Storurd is one of Iceland’s hidden gems, and it's possible to trek across it during October.
Boat tours of the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon are most popular in summer but are still available until the end of October.
Put simply, Jokulsarlon is an enormous lake. It's the deepest in the country and is littered with icebergs that have broken off of a distant glacier tongue. They cruise slowly across the lagoon, churning and rotating towards the ocean. It's quite a sight to see.
Wildlife lovers will love a trip to the lagoon, as many seals call this area home. It's actually one of the most reliable places to spot them.
To tour the lagoon, you can hop aboard an amphibious vessel that will take you from land into the waters, bringing you to the very center of the lagoon, where surreal ice sculptures will surround you.
Alternatively, you can take a zodiac tour in an inflatable boat with an outboard motor for a slightly more expensive but more intimate experience.
The glacier lagoon is particularly beautiful in October, as the changing light refracts off the ice.
Depending on the weather conditions at the time of your visit, you may or may not be able to reach the Westfjords in October.
The Westfjords are an incredibly remote part of Iceland, tucked away in the northwest corner. Many tourists don't visit the area because it's less well known than other parts of the country, but there are some truly gorgeous sights here if you're able to visit.
The area is home to the spectacular Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, one of the least populated zones in the whole country. The total area of the reserve measures a whopping 220 square miles (about 580 square kilometers), all made up of cliffs, tundra, green fields, and (of course) ice.
Another wonderful part of the Westfjords is the Latrabjarg bird cliffs, home to millions of birds. Measuring 9 miles (14 kilometers) in length, it's the largest bird cliff in Europe and is a real haven for bird watchers. It's one of the best places in Iceland for spotting Arctic Puffins.
Another great sight in the Westfjords is the enormous Dynjandi waterfall. This is one of the mightiest and most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland and is definitely worth seeing if you're visiting the Westfjords.
The main difficulty with visiting this area is one of accessibility. Even in the height of summer, it's practically impossible to arrive here without a 4X4, as there aren't really any paved roads in the area. You can't visit the Westfjords during winter because the snow and ice will make driving conditions far too dangerous.
But in October, especially in early October, you may be lucky enough that the road conditions are safe for travel. If so, you're in for a treat!
As the vibrant capital of Iceland, Reykjavik is open to tourists, visitors, and locals all year, October included.
With plenty of sightseeing attractions, including several art galleries and museums, plus excellent nightlife, there really are so many things to do in Reykjavik. It's worth spending at least a few days in Reykjavik during your time in Iceland so you can really make the most of what's on offer.
It's a friendly and welcoming city, and the center is small enough that it's easy to get around on foot. Roam the main shopping streets of Laugavegur, Bankastraeti, and Austurstraeti, or go bar hopping in the city's numerous pubs, bars, and venues.
Pay a visit to Harpa Concert Hall and admire its striking architectural design, or go for a stroll and see the famous Sun Voyager statue. Plus, don't miss a trip to Hallgrimskirkja church, the largest in all of Iceland.
If driving conditions allow, it should be possible to reach North Iceland in October. Wonderful attractions such as the Hvitserkur rock formation and the Vatnsnes Peninsula are usually easy to reach, and towns such as Reykjahlid and Husavik still have most of their services open to visitors this time of year.
The Lake Myvatn area is spectacular and diverse, and if it's covered in snow, it will delight Game of Thrones fans, as many scenes ‘north of the Wall’ were shot here.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula should also be entirely accessible this time of year. Barring very unseasonable conditions, you should be able to loop around the peninsula and cross its mountain passes, letting you see all the features that earned this area the name ‘Iceland in Miniature’.
You might also be able to travel to the Highlands for one last look in October. Two roads that join the north and the south through the interior—the Kjolur Highland Road and Sprengisandur—should both still be open, and the panoramas alongside each are spectacular.
Expect glacier and volcano views, vast expanses of lava and black sands, hot springs, and enormous mountain ranges. It's beautiful.
October is somewhat quieter than other months, but it's not without its fair share of events.
Celebrating Halloween is pretty new to Iceland. It's generally thought of as an extension of Oskudagur (Ash Wednesday), in March, when Icelandic children dress up and sing songs in exchange for candy.
In addition to its obvious relation to the religious holiday, Ash Wednesday also became a sort of extra Valentine's Day. It became customary for young girls to give young boys a small bag full of ashes to make their love interest known.
This tradition has pretty much disappeared now, and in its stead came Hrekkjavaka, which more closely resembles traditional North American Halloween celebrations.
If you're visiting Reykjavik in late October, you'll be able to spot club-goers in Halloween costumes throughout the city. Get dressed up and join them for a drink!
The Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) is the largest in the country. It kicks off each year at the end of September and runs into the first week of October.
Films of all genres from over 40 countries are screened during the festival, emphasizing up-and-coming, independent filmmakers.
Concerts, meetings, and exhibitions crop up all across the city during the RIFF, allowing industry professionals to build their knowledge and network.
So, if you're visiting Reykjavik in early October, why not catch a movie?
Photo from Imagine Peace Tower Tour
The Imagine Peace Tower is a memorial to John Lennon, created by Yoko Ono. With ‘Imagine Peace’ written on the base in 24 languages, it encapsulates the couple’s message of unity, harmony, healing, and joy.
When lit, it shoots a 4000-meter-high pillar of light up into the sky, and October is a perfect time to see it. The tower is lit each year on October 9, John Lennon's birthday, and remains switched on until December 9, the anniversary of his death.
Since October is a bit of a crossover month between winter and summer, there's plenty to do. Here we have some proposed itineraries to maximize your chances of seeing everything you want to see during your October trip to Iceland.
If you're planning to rent a car and drive yourself around the country, there are several excellent self-drive tours. This express seven-day self-drive tour and this 11-day tour focus on the summer attractions. This 12-day northern lights winter tour might be better suited to tourists arriving in late October when the weather might have worsened.
You might also want to set a few days aside to enjoy a five-day exploration of the South and West Iceland, or this three-day self-drive tour around just the west that focuses on sniffing out hot springs.
If you don’t want to drive yourself around but want to see the entire Ring Road, you can book a seven-day guided trip around the island or a more immersive ten-day tour. If you don’t have time for such a long adventure, there are four- and five-day guided packages that can show you the south and west.
Have you been to Iceland in October? How was your trip? We'd love to hear about it, so let us know in the comments box below.