One of the ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier.

What is there to see and do in Iceland in March? What will the weather be like? What do you need to bring with you to Iceland in March? Can you still take the most popular tours, and are the Northern Lights visible? Continue reading to find out all you need to know about Iceland in March. 



Toward the end of March, winter is finally lifting and there will be more hours of sunlight than darkness. The stubborn snow that has settled across the country has started to melt. Even so, winter opportunities, such as ice caving and Northern Lights hunting, are still available to visitors.

The Northern Lights dancing in purple, pink, and green colours over Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Nestled between the Christmas season and the summer season, March is one of the nation’s least busy times, allowing you to enjoy Iceland without the crowds. It is thus an excellent time to visit the country. You can enjoy all of the winter tours  in peace and still have plenty of opportunities to see the Northern Lights.

What to do in Iceland in March

Glacier hikers in IcelandPhoto from 2 Day Tour to Jokulsarlon

The old Icelandic calendar ("gamla dagatalið") was very sensibly divided into six winter months and six summer months with unique names, with an "extra week" of summer. March is a part of the winter according to this calendar, and according to almost any Icelander you ask nowadays--thus tours such as ice-caving and northern lights hunting are still in full swing. 

Even so, the longer days and slightly increasing temperatures mean that you're not limited to winter activities.

Ice Caves in Iceland in March

The ice caves have a vivid colouration

The electric blue ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier are one of Iceland’s greatest attractions; pictures and videos of them draw guests from around the world. They are only open for a few months of the year, and March is one of them.

There are a number of spectacular cave tours running in the southeast, and most excursions that leave from Reykjavík go over two or three days, and stopby popular sites like Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

Ice caves under Vatnajökull are only open from November to March

If you are already in the southeast, you can take a tour from Jökulsárlón to reach them. 

You'll need sturdy hiking boots, warm, waterproof clothing and an experienced guide in order to go ice-caving. It is imperative you do not try to explore one alone because it will likely result in death or serious injury.

This 2-day tour is available through March and takes you to the South Coast and Jökulsárlón with Ice Caving and Northern Lights hunting



Northern Lights in Iceland in March

The Northern Lights over Buðír church, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

 "See the Northern Lights" was first on my bucket list when I first moved to Iceland. And 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 at spotting them.

The best way to capture the lights is by taking a Northern Lights tour, and there are a plethora of options if you're coming from Reykjavik. You can join a standard bus tour for affordability or hop onto a super jeep tour for a more personal experience in nature. 

The Northern Lights over Þingvellir National Park

You can even take a cruise out into Faxafloi bay. Northern lights cruises also leave from ‘the capital of the North’, Akureyri.

We don't recommend staying in  Reykjavík 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 cruise to Viðey Island to try and see them.

Of course, you can also rent a car, and search for the Northern Lights yourself using the aurora forecast and cloud cover forecast as your guides. You, of course, should only be hunting in the dark hours, which can be seen below.

 Sunrise timeSunset timeHours of Daylight
March 1st08.3418.4610 hr 11 mins
March 31st06.4820.1613 hr 27 mins

 



Renting a car in Iceland in March is a little risky because of snow and ice. Read more about the precautions you should take in ‘What to know about Iceland in March’.



Whale Watching in Iceland in March

A breaching Humpback WhalePhoto from Whale Watching Tour

Whale watching is great year-round in Iceland; even in the depths of winter, you can see pods of white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises quite reliably. In March, the great whales begin to return from their summer breeding grounds.

Humpback whales and minke whales are the most active, but orcas and fin and blue whales have also been spotted. Beaked, pilot and sperm whales also sometimes make an appearance.

A Humpback Whale feeding.Photo from Akureyri Whale Watching

Whale-watching is only available in three places in March. Most tours leave from the capital city, in a standard whale-watching boat; the weather is too volatile for smaller vessels such as RIB boats. It can, however, be combined with a Northern Lights cruise.

Another location is on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, leaving from Grundarfjörður harbour on the north side. This tour takes you into Breiðafjörður fjord, a renowned herring-ground, and provides you with your best chance of seeing orcas in the country.

You can also take a whale watching tour from Akureyri. 



Snorkelling and Diving in Iceland in March

A Scuba Diver in Silfra FissurePhoto from Diving Silfra Day Tour

Yes, you can snorkel and dive in Iceland in March. Your most likely destination is the Silfra fissure. This ravine, which opened up within Þingvellir National Park, is also a freshwater spring and has visibility of over one hundred metres. 

Even though the water is 2°C (35.6°F), these thrilling activities are eternally growing in popularity. 

To be able to snorkel or dive in Iceland, you must not be pregnant and will need a waiver if you're (i) over sixty, (ii) over forty-five and a heavy drinker or pipe smoker, or (iii) if you have a history of respiratory, circulatory, or neurological problems.

A snorkeller enjoying SilfraPhoto from Silfra and the Golden Circle

Furthermore, you must meet the following conditions:

 Drysuit SnorkelWetsuit SnorkelDrysuit Dive
Min Age161618
Max Age606060
Min Height145 cm150 cm150 cm
Min Weight45 kg50 kg45 kg
Experience
needed
 Must be a swimmer  Must be a swimmer  At least 10 logged 
drysuit diving hours OR 
a certified dry- 
suit diver 

Snorkelling is usually done in a drysuit for added protection, but the daring may partake in a wetsuit. Scuba diving tours are always conducted in a drysuit. All tours are led by experienced divemasters who are used to the equipment and temperatures. 



Glacier Tours in Iceland in March

Sólheimajökull is dramatic and ancientPhoto from South Coast & Glacier Hike on Solheimajokull

Iceland’s glaciers cover 10% of the country’s surface, and many come to Iceland to see them. After all, in Iceland, the glaciers are melting by one metre per year, and many will be gone within the next century. Responsibly conducted glacier hiking and snowmobiling are two 'extinction tourism' activities that allow you to witness the wonder of the ice caps without damaging them. 



Most glacier hikes from Reykjavík go to Sólheimajökull, a tongue of Mýrdalsjökull on the South Coast. It is just a few hours drive from the capital, on a route that passes Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that stopped air traffic in Europe in 2010.

An ice climber on SólheimajokullPhoto from Solheimajokull Ice Climbing and Glacier Hike

You can take a single tour of the glacier, or combine it with a better exploration of the South, where you can see these sites and other interesting attractions, like the plane wreckage on Sólheimasandur.

The other most common glacier to hike in Iceland in March is Svinafellsjökull. These tours leave from the Skaftafell Nature Reserve in the southwest, a veritable hiker’s paradise and must-see destination for those who want to immerse themselves in Icelandic nature. 



Snowmobiling on LangjökullPhoto from Express Snowmobile Tour on Langjokull Glacier

Snowmobiling tours are almost exclusively conducted on Langjökull glacier, although a few run on Vatnajökull (you cannot join these from Reykjavík). For the former, you can join a tour that departs from Reykjavík or Gullfoss, or else join a combination excursion that also allows you to see the Golden Circle or the ice tunnels.

These ice tunnels, unlike ice caves, are manmade, making them accessible throughout the year. They provide an excellent opportunity to see the inside of an ice cap without schlepping all the way across the South Coast.

It is possible to take a tour to them without the snowmobile. 



Caving Tours in Iceland in March

Snow pouring into a icy lava cavePhoto from Winter Caving Tour to Lake Myvatn from Akureyri

Caving tours in March are excellent, as the insides of the lava tubes are, more often than not, decorated with beautiful ice. Icicles dangle from the ceiling, and the ice stalagmites and stalactites make the tunnels feel like they are part of a fairytale grotto. Many caves are accessible in March.

For an easier, more comfortable trip, you can visit Viðgelmir or Raufarhólshellir, both of which have paved paths throughout. The daring could choose to enter Leiðarendi, which requires a degree of sliding, crawling, and clambering to get through. 



Horseback Riding in Iceland in March

Icelandic horses are well adapted to the snow

Horseback riding is a popular activity among Icelanders and travellers regardless of the season. Riding an  Icelandic horse is a breathtaking experience that authentically reflects the history and culture of the nation.

Icelandic horses are very special creatures. They are particularly strong, resilient in difficult weather, and sociable—not to mention playful and intelligent. They're popular abroad for their skills in dressage, because they have five gaits (including the "tölt" which is entirely unique to Icelandic horses).

Riding Icelandic horses through the snowPhoto from 3 Hours Horse Riding | Lunch and Geothermal Pool

Horse riding tours from Reykjavík can be done across lava fields, through geothermal areas to hot springs, and in combination with other excursions, such as sightseeing on the Golden Circle and whale-watching

Even though Icelandic horses are incredibly sturdy and resilient to the weather, the amount of snow in the east and north mean that there are few riding tours to be found outside the capital. 



Festivals in Iceland in March

Reykjavík is a festival city

March is a great time to come to Iceland for festivals; Easter activities sometimes bleed into March and many locals will have several days off.

To learn more about the quirky traditions Iceland has over this time period, you can reference the article ‘Bun Day, Explosion Day, and Ash Day in Iceland’.



Food and Fun

The Food and Fun Festival is a self-described ‘culinary circus’ that occurs around the first weekend of March. Chefs from around the world collaborate with Icelandic restaurants to produce groundbreaking new cuisine with local ingredients, creating exciting new menus and a surefire delight for the taste buds. 

All the meals are judged by experts, so you know you're getting the best of the best of the best. 



Battle of the Bands

Iceland’s Battle of the Bands, otherwise called the Icelandic Music Experiment or IME, is a competition between up to fifty up-and-coming bands from Iceland with members between 13 and 25 years old. 

The IME has produced many a success story. 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. 



Reykjavík Folk Festival

The Reykjavík Folk Festival is a three-day festival held in Kex Hostel, and as its name suggests, showcases the best of Icelandic folk music. Folk music is very popular in Iceland. 



Reykjavík Fashion Festival

The Reykjavík Fashion Festival, or RIFF, is an annual showcase of Icelandic design. Up-and-coming fashionistas inspired by this nation’s nature reveal their collections over several days in Harpa Concert Hall to audiences of experts and observers. Icelandic design is becoming more and more renowned around the world, particularly in the way that it combines unusual patterns and materials for unexpected, contemporary results. 



Moustache March

Raising awareness for cancer, one moustache at a time.

In many other countries, November is nicknamed ‘Movember’ or 'No-Shave November,' and it has become traditional for men to grow out their moustaches 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 large cross-section cancer research. Even the city buses have moustaches stuck on their fronts.

If you're coming to Iceland in this month, consider growing yours out to fit in with the beardy crowd. 



What to see in Iceland in March

Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle

There are a wealth of things to see in Iceland in March. Though the weather can eb somewhat tumultuous, every region but the Highlands should be at least somewhat accessible, barring events such as flooding, heavy snowfall, or unexpected avalanches.

Driving the Ring Road in March

The ring-road near Vík

The Icelandic Ring Road, or Route 1 (or hringbraut), fully circles the country, and can usually be completed during March. This route, going counter-clockwise, takes you along the South Coast, through the East Fjords, across the northern region, and down the west (without turning into the Westfjords or the Snæfellsnes Peninsula).

The only places you may experience problems are in the East Fjords and the eastern side of the North; these areas are sparsely populated, and the roads less maintained, so heavy snowfall could impede your journey. Unless you're taking a guided tour, therefore, the best places to visit along the Ring Road are Höfn,  Akureyri, and Mývatn.

Vestrahorn, near Höfn.

The South Coast of Iceland is one of its most popular regions. It is renowned for the many sites that are accessible from Route 1. You can see waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, glaciers such as Eyjafjallajökull and Sólheimajökull, and coastal features such as the Dyrhólaey rock arch, and Reynisdrangar sea stacks.

All of these should be approachable in March, though it will most likely not be possible to take a walk around Seljalandsfoss due to icy conditions. Furthermore, if admiring Reynisdrangar from the black sand beach Reynisfjara, be incredibly careful of the sneaker waves and stay far, far away from the edge of the ocean so that you are not pulled in.

The Diamond Beach, by Jökulsárlón

The South Coast quarter of Iceland ends at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is as majestic in March as it is throughout the rest of the year. 



The section of the Ring Road between Reykjavík and Akureyri goes through the country’s verdant western region. When travelling this route, it's very easy to detour and see sites like Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls,  Deildartunguhver hot spring, and the Vatnsnes Peninsula, which is the best seal-watching spot in the country.

Goðafoss waterfall sits between Akureyri and Mývatn.

When properly in the North, the ring-road will take you safely to the Lake Mývatn region. The diverse sites and landscapes around here will mesmerise any visitor, but Game of Thrones fans will go gaga. This is the actual North of the Wall, where Mance Rayder’s troops camp. 



The Golden Circle

Strokkur erupting on the Golden Circle

Iceland’s most popular tourist trail is definitely worth visiting, and easy to traverse, throughout the month March. This route will bring you to three famous sites: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

Þingvellir is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Icelandic mainland. It is the site of the Alþing, which is one of the world’s oldest parliamentary assemblies. It is located both in North America and Europe because it straddles the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, leading to some incredible geology, such as the Silfra ravine.

The Geysir Geothermal Area has its own claim to fame; the English word 'geyser' comes from the Icelandic word 'geysir', which is this hot spring's name. It's pretty remarkable that English would pick up the name of this formation in particular since English only has 80 loan words from Icelandic. Though Geysir is no longer active, its sister Strokkur erupts every five to ten minutes and can blast water higher than twenty metres. The surrounding area is dotted with hot springs, steam vents, and mud-pots.

The final site on the circle is Gullfoss, perhaps the best-known waterfall in the country. Ancient and iconic, it is even more beautiful when the rocks around it are crusted in ice, and the surrounding area is buried deep in snow. 



The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Mount Kirkjufell in the depths of winter

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is accessible around the year and attracts more and more visitors. Due to its diversity, 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 opened), you can still drive along both sides of the peninsula.

That route will introduce you to Ytri Tunga beach, famous for its seals, the Lóndrangar basalt stacks, Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano, the fishing villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar, and the mountain Kirkjufell, to name a few. 



The Westfjords

The Westfjords are magical any time of year.

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 many of the coastal routes.

This will allow you to see settlements such as Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður, the latter of which is the largest town in the region. You should also be able to visit Dynjandi waterfall, a mesmerising sight. As will be discussed further below, a four-wheel drive vehicle is essential if you plan to drive through the Westfjords yourself in March. 



What to know about Iceland in March              

The Northern Lights over Grótta

If coming to Iceland in March, it is essential to know a few things to make your trip as comfortable and safe as possible.

Weather in Iceland in March

Iceland in March sees average low temperatures of -2.2°C (28°F) and average high temperatures of 3.3°C (38°F). There is an average of 84mm precipitation throughout the month, predominantly falling as rain.

The warmest Reykjavík has reached in March in the past two decades is 12.4° C (54°F) and the coldest is -12.5°C (9.5°F). Be prepared for cold weather and dress in layers. The weather can change quickly, so even if the morning seems pleasant, don't forget your waterproofs.

If it is cold enough for ice caves, it's pretty cold.

Warm winter clothing, complete with thermal underwear and windproof and waterproof outerwear, is essential for Iceland in March. A hat and a good pair of gloves are also indispensable for exploring the outdoors.

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 do still happen; they are often accompanied by high winds so it's good practice to check for weather warnings. 



Godafoss, caked in ice

Driving in Iceland in March

You may be considering renting a car in Iceland. Driving yourself would give you more freedom, but it also means you have to contend with icy dark roads, snowdrifts, heavy precipitation, high winds, and other drivers who may have less experience than you.

Renting a car in Iceland in March is only, therefore, recommended for confident, adept drivers who are accustomed to driving in cold weather, and only in a four-wheel drive vehicle. All vehicles will have winter tires in March, but if you would like to be extra careful, you can request studded tires for better grip (until April).

If there's a lot of snow, watch where you park because towing services are not included in most insurance packages and can be very expensive. Caution in sandy or muddy areas is also advised.

When driving in Iceland, you need to be aware not just of the weather, but the road conditions. Avalanches and floods are not unheard of in March, so you need to be sure that they pose no threat to you on your travels. 



Suggested Itineraries for Iceland in March

Jökulsárlón in twilight

When visiting Iceland in March, it is reasonable to assume that you're hoping for authentic Icelandic experiences, like seeing the Northern Lights, exploring an ice cave, and witnessing spectacular winter landscapes. 

There are several ways you can enjoy these on your holiday in Iceland. It's possible to book guided packages, in which all your accommodation, transfers and tours are taken care of before arrival; it is also possible to book a self-drive tour, in which you navigate the country yourself, with accommodation pre-organised for you based on a loose itinerary.

Of course, it's also possible to stay in Reykjavík and take day tours to see the sites, returning each evening to the northernmost capital in the world.

A hot spring near Lake Mývatn

There are a number of packages that will allow you to see the vast majority of the country in one go. To complete the full Ring Road, the shortest package takes eight days; you can throw in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula with this ten-day package, and take your time to enjoy all of these sites on a twelve-day tour.

If you have less time but are still eager to see as much as possible, then you can take a half-circle tour, which finishes in a flight back to Reykjavík. These can go over six or seven days and will allow you to see the Golden Circle, South Coast, East Fjords, and the North. 

All of these packages will provide plenty of opportunities to see the Northern Lights, and all come with the option of exploring an ice cave, which you can add when booking.

Many packages have an ice caving option in March

If you're on an even tighter schedule, there are shorter packages that will allow you to explore certain areas in depth. A four-day package, for example, will allow you to visit an ice cave and Jökulsárlón; the Golden Circle can be added if you have an extra day and want to take this five-day option instead. In five days, you can elect to explore the north, focusing on Lake Mývatn. 



If you're driving yourself around Iceland, the shortest self-drive that will cover the whole Ring Road is this ten-day tour. If you also wish to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you will need to take twelve days

Again, you can take shorter tours to fully immerse yourself in certain areas without overstretching yourself. In anything from two days to six days, you can head to the south-west to eplore an ice cave and Jökulsárlón. If you want to familiarise yourself with the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, there is a five-day self-drive around 'Iceland in Miniature'. 

Jökulsárlón, dyed by the colours in the sky



March is an excellent time to visit Iceland if you're seeking wintry landscapes, sparse crowds, and substantial 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 an incredible visit to this country.