Find out everything you need to know about visiting Iceland in March. Learn more about what activities are available during this time such as ice caving and seeing the northern lights. Get some expert tips on what to pack and what to expect of the weather.
Towards the end of March, winter finally begins to lift, and there are more hours of sunlight than darkness. The stubborn snow that has settled across the country starts to melt.
Being in between the Christmas season and the summer season, March is one of Iceland's least busy times, allowing you the perfect opportunity to experience its sights without the crowds.
There are also some unique Icelandic festivals and events that take place in March, and some winter activities, such as ice caving and northern lights hunting, are still possible.
Here are some great things to do in Iceland in March to get you started.
Is March a good time to visit Iceland? Absolutely!
You can still enjoy winter tours and activities like visiting ice caves and chasing the northern lights, but it’s the off-season, making it less crowded. However, there are things to keep in mind if you're thinking of visiting at this time of year.
You may be considering renting a car in Iceland. Driving gives you more freedom, but it also means that you may have to deal with icy roads, dark winter nights, snowdrifts, heavy precipitation, high winds, and other drivers who may have less experience than you.
Therefore, renting a car in Iceland in March is only recommended for confident drivers used to driving in cold weather. And during the winter months, you should only drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle in Iceland.
In March, all vehicles use winter tires, but you can request studded tires for a better grip if you want to be extra careful (until April).
If there's heavy weather, keep an eye out for road markings that might be under the snow, and be careful where you park because towing services are not included in most insurance packages and can be very expensive. Being cautious in sandy or muddy areas is also advised.
When driving in March, you need to be aware not just of the weather but of the road conditions in Iceland too. Avalanches and floods are not unheard of in March, so you need to be sure there is no risk of them on your travels. Always check the weather and road information before setting out on the road.
For more information, make sure to read our tips on driving safely in Iceland.
The old Icelandic calendar ("gamla dagatalid") was very sensibly divided into six winter months and six summer months with unique names and an "extra week" of summer.
According to this calendar, March is part of the winter. That means tours such as ice caving and northern lights hunting are still running. However, the longer days and slightly increasing temperatures mean that you're not limited to winter activities.
Here are some of the best things to do in Iceland in March.
The electric blue ice caves in the Vatnajokull glacier are among Iceland’s most incredible attractions. By just looking at a few pictures and videos, you'll understand why they draw travelers from around the world. However, they’re only open for a few months of the year, and thankfully March is one of them.
Several spectacular cave tours run in Southeast Iceland, and most excursions leave from Reykjavik. A great option is this three-day South Coast and Golden Circle ice caving and glacier hiking tour, which stops by popular sites like the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
If you're already in the southeast, you could take the Vatnajokull glacier ice cave tour starting from the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
You'll need sturdy hiking boots and warm, waterproof clothing. Navigating the glaciers without a trained guide is dangerous, so it’s necessary to join a tour.
This 2-day South Coast and Jokulsarlon lagoon tour is available throughout March and takes you ice caving and northern lights hunting.
Seeing the northern lights is at the top of their list for many people traveling to Iceland. Thankfully, it's still possible to see them in March.
Whenever the sky is dark and clear, and there's the right amount of solar activity, you have a great chance of spotting them.
The best way to find the lights is by taking a northern lights tour, and there are plenty of options if you're coming from Reykjavik.
You could join an affordable northern lights minibus tour or hop onto this super jeep northern lights tour with a photographer guide for a more personal experience.
You could even take a northern lights boat cruise out into Faxafloi Bay, which departs from Reykjavik harbor.
Staying in Reykjavik is not recommended if you want to see the northern lights because of light pollution. If you don’t want to go far from the city, you can take a ferry to Videy island to try and see them.
Another option is to rent a car and search for the aurora yourself using Iceland's northern lights forecast and cloud cover forecast as your guides. You should, of course, only be hunting in the dark hours.
You can see how the daylight hours change during March here:
Renting a car in Iceland in March is a little risky because the roads can still have snow and ice. However, it can be a great way to explore the country as long as you are comfortable driving in Iceland.
Whale watching in Iceland is a great activity all year round. Even in the depths of winter, you can often spot pods of white-beaked dolphins and harbor porpoises. However, in March, the great whales begin to return from their breeding grounds.
If you decide to take a whale watching tour, you have the best chance of seeing humpback whales and minke whales, but you can also spot orca, fin, and blue whales. Beaked, pilot, and sperm whales also sometimes make an appearance.
Photo from Akureyri whale watching tour
Many tours set off from the capital city in a standard whale-watching boat, as the weather can be too volatile for smaller RIB boat vessels.
There are also whale watching tours departing from Grundarfjordur harbor on the north side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Other tours set sail from Breidafjordur, a renowned herring ground. This area provides you with your best chance of seeing orcas in the country.
For those who've ventured North, you can take a whale watching tour from Akureyri. This journey also takes you along the longest glacial fjord in all of Iceland.
If you want to make the most of your time, you can also choose to combine activities by taking a whale watching and northern lights cruise.
Photo from Diving Tour at Silfra
Yes, you can snorkel and dive in Iceland in March! The best and most popular destination is the Silfra fissure. This ravine in Thingvellir National Park is also a freshwater spring and has visibility of over 300 feet (100 meters).
Even though the water is 35.6 F (2 C), snorkeling in Iceland is a truly thrilling activity you shouldn't miss. This activity is growing in popularity among travelers thanks to Iceland's unique underwater sights.
Note that you must meet the following conditions to snorkel in Iceland:
Snorkeling is usually done in a drysuit for added protection, but the daring may choose to snorkel in a wetsuit. For scuba diving tours, a drysuit is always required. Additionally, you cannot dive or snorkel while pregnant, and you will need a waiver if you:
All tours are led by experienced divemasters who will ensure you’re confident with the equipment and temperatures before setting out.
Iceland’s glaciers cover 10% of the country’s surface, and many people travel to Iceland to see them. Sadly, Iceland's glaciers are melting by 3.3 feet (one meter) per year, and many will be gone within the next century.
Responsibly conducted glacier hiking and snowmobiling are two activities that allow you to witness the wonder of the ice caps without damaging them.
Two fantastic ways to experience Iceland's glaciers are the Solheimajokull glacier hiking tour and the 10-hour super jeep tour to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and glacier, where you can also see the Solheimasandur DC plane wreck.
The other most common glacier to hike in Iceland in March is the Svinafellsjokull glacier.
Glacier hiking tours of the Svinafellsjokull glacier leave from the Skaftafell Nature Reserve in Southwest Iceland. This is a hiker’s paradise and a must-see destination for those who want to immerse themselves in Iceland's natural beauty.
Snowmobiling in Iceland is another extremely fun and popular activity to do.
Many people choose to snowmobile on the Langjokull glacier, though another popular option is snowmobiling on the Vatnajokull glacier. For the former, you can join a tour that departs from Reykjavik or Gullfoss waterfall.
Travelers often choose to include snowmobiling as part of a Golden Circle tour.
If snowmobiling isn't your thing, you could take a day tour to one of Iceland's ice tunnels. These ice tunnels, unlike ice caves, are man-made, making them accessible throughout the year. They're a great way to see the inside of an ice cap without trekking across the South Coast.
Photo from Raufarholshellir | Standard Lava Tunnel Tour
Caving tours are an excellent option when traveling to Iceland in March as the lava tubes are still decorated with beautiful ice formations.
Icicles dangle from the ceiling, and the ice stalagmites and stalactites make the tunnels feel like they’re part of a fairytale grotto.
For an accessible and easy-going trip, you could take the family-friendly Vidgelmir lava cave tour or the Raufarholshellir lave tunnel cave tour, which has paved paths throughout.
However, if you're feeling more adventurous, you could choose to take a tour of Leidarendi cave, which you'll need to climb through in places.
Horseback riding is a popular activity among Icelanders and travelers alike, regardless of the season.
Riding an Icelandic horse is an authentic Icelandic experience, as they're part of the country's history and culture.
Icelandic horses are remarkable creatures. They’re powerful and resilient in the face of challenging weather. But they’re also playful, social, and intelligent, so you're sure to make friends if you meet one.
Icelandic horses are famous abroad for their dressage skills because they have five gaits, including the "tolt," which is unique to them.
If you'd like to go horse riding in Iceland, there are many options available.
If you'd prefer a full day trip, why not combine horse riding with a Golden Circle tour or take a wildlife tour including both whale watching and horse riding?
Even though Icelandic horses are incredibly sturdy and resilient to the weather, the heavy snow in East and North Iceland means few riding tours take place there.
Iceland offers a wealth of incredible things to see in March. Every region except the Highlands should be at least partially accessible. Be aware that the weather can be unpredictable, though. There can occasionally be flooding, heavy snowfall, or unexpected avalanches.
The Icelandic Ring Road, or Route 1 ("hringbraut"), circles the entire country and can usually be completed during March.
Going counterclockwise on this route takes you along the South Coast, through the Eastfjords, across North Iceland, and down the west (without turning into the Westfjords or the Snaefellsnes Peninsula).
The roads are generally well maintained. The only places you may experience problems are in the Eastfjords and the eastern side of North Iceland. These areas are less populated, and the roads are more rural, so heavy snowfall could affect your journey.
The South Coast of Iceland is one of its most popular regions. It hosts many of the most famous sites that are accessible from Route 1.
These sights should be accessible in March, though it may not be possible to take a walk around the Seljalandsfoss waterfall due to icy conditions.
You should also be careful if admiring the Reynisdrangar sea-stacks from Reynisfjara black sand beach. Sadly, sneaker waves along the shore have resulted in some traveler deaths in recent years, so please don’t stray too far out into the forceful waters.
The South Coast section of the Ring Road ends at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, which is as majestic in March as it is the rest of the year.
The next section of the Ring Road, between Reykjavik and Akureyri, goes through the country’s greener western region.
When traveling this route, you'll be tempted to detour and see sites like the Hraunfossar region, Barnafoss waterfalls, the Deildartunguhver hot spring, and the Vatnsnes Peninsula, the best seal-watching spot in the country.
When it arrives in the north of the country, the Ring Road will take you to the Lake Myvatn region.
The landscapes here will mesmerize any visitor, but Game of Thrones fans especially are in for a treat. Many of the Game of Thrones filming locations in Iceland are in this region. For instance, the Myvatn area is the "North of the Wall," where Mance Rayder’s troops camp.
Iceland’s most popular tourist trail is the Golden Circle. It's definitely worth including in any visit to Iceland.
It's easy to follow the route all year round, even throughout March. The trail will bring you to three of Iceland’s most famous sites: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall.
The Thingvellir National Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Icelandic mainland. It's the site of the Althingi, which is one of the world’s oldest parliamentary assemblies.
The national park is located both in North America and Europe because it sits over the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This is what gives it such incredible geology, like the Silfra ravine.
The Geysir Geothermal Area has its own claim to fame. The English word "geyser" comes from the Icelandic word "Geysir," the name of Iceland's most famous hot spring geyser. It's remarkable that the English language would pick up this word since English only has 80 loan words from Icelandic.
Though Geysir is no longer active, its sister, Strokkur geyser, erupts every five to ten minutes and can blast water higher than 66 feet (20 meters). The surrounding area is also filled with hot springs, steam vents, and mud-pots.
The final site on the Golden Circle trail is Gullfoss waterfall, perhaps the best-known waterfall in the country. The waterfall is even more magical when the rocks around it are covered with glimmering ice and the surrounding area is buried deep in snow. So, March isn't a bad time to visit.
As well as the main sights, there are plenty of worthwhile detours along the Golden Circle with more natural beauty to discover.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is accessible year-round and continues to attract many visitors. Due to the diversity of its landscapes, this area is often nicknamed "Iceland in Miniature."
Though the mountain passes are likely to be closed (and really should be avoided in March even if open), you can still drive along both sides of the peninsula.
The route will introduce you to places like Ytri Tunga beach, which is famous for its seals. There are also the Londrangar basalt cliffs, Snaefellsjokull glacier and volcano, the fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar, and the Kirkjufell mountain to name a few.
There’s so much to see here that we’ve condensed the main sites into our guide of the top tips for places to visit on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
If weather conditions allow, it may be possible to explore some of the Westfjords in March.
While snow will block many of the roads, particularly the mountain passes, you should still be able to navigate most of the coastal routes.
As mentioned earlier, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential if you plan to drive through the Westfjords yourself in March.
Reykjavik in March is a busy time. Many of the festivals in Iceland in March take place in the capital. Easter activities also sometimes cross over into March, and many locals will have several days off to celebrate.
Iceland has plenty of unique traditions that take place over this period. Taking part in "Bun Day," "Explosion Day," or "Ash Day" could add some extra fun to your visit and help you to experience local culture.
Iceland’s Battle of the Bands, otherwise called the Icelandic Music Experiment or IME, is a competition between up-and-coming bands from Iceland with members between 13 and 25 years old.
The IME has produced many success stories. Perhaps most notably, the band Of Monsters and Men won the competition in 2010 and rose to fame on the international stage in less than a decade.
November is nicknamed "Movember" or "No-Shave November" in many other countries. It has become traditional for men to grow out their mustaches during this month to raise awareness around men's health issues.
But Icelanders prefer to grow out their facial hair in March and seek to raise awareness and funds for a broad cross-section of cancer research. They call the occasion "Mustache March." Even the city buses have mustaches stuck on their fronts.
If you're coming to Iceland in March, consider growing your mustache to fit in with the beardy crowd!
How cold is Iceland in March? The average low temperature is 28 F (-2.2 C), and the average high temperature is 38 F (3.3 C), making it relatively frosty.
The weather in Reykjavik in March tends to be warmer, but even the warmest recorded temperature over the past two decades was only 54 F (12.4 C). And the coldest was 9.5 F (-12.5 C). So even if you’re only visiting the capital, don’t underestimate the weather in Reykjavik in March.
There's an average of 3.3 inches (84 millimeters) of precipitation per day throughout the month, which predominantly falls as rain, though it's not unusual to have snow.
If you are traveling to Iceland in March, be prepared for cold and potentially wet weather. The weather in March in Iceland can change quickly, so it might still rain even if the weather seems pleasant in the morning. So don't forget your waterproofs and warm layers as you leave your accommodation.
Warm winter clothing, complete with thermal underwear and windproof outerwear, is essential for visiting Iceland in March. A hat and a good pair of gloves are also required for exploring the outdoors. Here is a list of essentials to pack for your Iceland winter trip.
You should check the weather forecast each day to plan ahead. Compared to the darker winter months, storms are less common in March, but they can still happen. High winds often accompany them, so be sure to check for weather warnings.
Many tours in Iceland in March include must-see attractions and authentic experiences such as chasing the northern lights, exploring ice caves, and witnessing spectacular winter landscapes.
There are several ways you can enjoy these activities on your holiday in Iceland.
You can book a guided tour package, in which all of your accommodation, transfers, and tours are taken care of before arrival.
Or it may suit you better to book a self-drive winter tour. This means you'll navigate the country yourself with a car rental but have your itinerary and your accommodation pre-organized for you.
With so many options available to you, it's worth spending some time browsing and researching to find the best tour package for you.
March in Iceland is truly remarkable. It's an excellent time to visit if you seek the wintry landscapes, sparse crowds, and longer spring days to fill with activities. As long as you dress appropriately and make responsible choices regarding driving and tours, you're sure to have a great visit to this country.
Have we answered your questions on what Iceland is like in March? Did you find out what to do in Iceland? Did any of the festivals and events in Reykjavik in March catch your eye? Let us know which tour or event you’re most intrigued by in the comments.