What is there to see and do in Iceland in March? What will the weather be like? What do you need to pack for traveling to Iceland in March? Can you still take the most popular tours, and are the Northern Lights visible? What about the effects of COVID-19? 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.
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, therefore, an excellent time to visit the country.
Even now, during this time of COVID-19, you can enjoy all of the winter tours in peace and still have plenty of opportunities to see the Northern Lights.
Iceland is currently open to visitors and is one of the world’s safest countries to visit. Contact tracing and testing have made it possible for most of the tours, activities, and attractions the country has to offer—especially those found in the island’s unique nature—to remain accessible to you.
Of course, in the early months of 2021, COVID-19 remains an issue that will temporarily affect your travels in some ways. You can get all the most up-to-date details about how the virus will impact your journey to the country at our COVID-19 information page, but here are some common questions about traveling to Iceland in March.
How will COVID-19 impact my trip to Iceland in March?
As a traveler, the border will be the place that COVID-19 will most affect your trip. You’ll want to pre-register online up to 72 hours before your arrival. You’ll then be required to take two COVID-19 tests with a five-day quarantine between them to enter the country. You can also skip quarantine if you’re from an EU/EFTA country and can present a certificate verifying you have contracted COVID-19, completed your quarantine, and now have antibodies.
While these measures are very specific and require additional planning, the result will provide you with a low-risk country full of wonders to explore.
Are March tours still safe in Iceland during COVID-19?
The traditional highlights of March activities in Iceland are as accessible now as they always have been: glacier hiking, ice caving, Northern Lights hunting—each of them happen outdoors where you can have as much room as you’re comfortable with.
Local tour operators will thoroughly disinfect any vehicles or equipment you may need and will make sure tour groups are the appropriate size, socially distanced, and wearing masks as needed. Local health guidelines may temporarily impact some tour services, but you can check on tour availability during your travel time by selecting a date.
So whether you’ve come to seek out the Northern Lights or catch the whales as they return to local waters, Iceland in March can be an unforgettable and safe experience.
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, 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.
The electric blue ice caves in Vatnajökull glacier are among Iceland’s most incredible attractions; pictures and videos of them draw guests worldwide.
They are only open for a few months of the year, and thankfully March is one of them.
Several spectacular cave tours are running in the southeast, and most excursions that leave from Reykjavík go over two or three days and stop by popular sites like Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
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 to go ice-caving.
You must not explore one alone because it is hazardous to navigate the glaciers without a trained guide.
This 2-day tour is available through March and takes you to the South Coast and Jökulsárlón with Ice Caving and Northern Lights hunting
"See the Northern Lights" is on the bucket list of 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 capture the lights is by taking a Northern Lights tour, and there are plenty of options if you're coming from Reykjavik.
You can even take a boat tour out into Faxafloi bay, departing from Reykjavik harbor.
Staying in Reykjavík 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 cruise to Videy 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 should, of course, only be hunting in the dark hours, seen below.
See also: Understanding Time in Iceland
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 is a great year-round activity in Iceland. However, in March, the great whales begin to return from their summer breeding grounds.
Even in the depths of winter, you can often spot pods of white-beaked dolphins and harbor porpoises.
Humpback whales and minke whales are the most active, but you can also spot orca, fin, and blue whales. Beaked, pilot, and sperm whales also sometimes make an appearance.
Whale watching is only available in three places in March. Most tours leave from the capital city in a standard whale-watching boat as the weather is too volatile for smaller RIB boat vessels. You can, however, choose to combine your whale watching trip with a Northern Lights cruise.
There are whale watching tours that depart from Grundarfjörður harbor on the north side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Other tours will 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 have ventured North, you can take a whale-watching tour from Akureyri.
Photo from Dry Suit Diving Tour at Silfra
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 meters.
Even though the water is 2°C (35.6°F), snorkeling in Iceland is a truly thrilling activity you should not miss. Indeed, it is growing in popularity among travelers.
Please do note that to be able to snorkel or dive in Iceland, you must meet the following conditions:
Snorkeling is usually done in a drysuit for added protection, but the daring may choose to snorkel in a wetsuit. Scuba diving tours are always conducted in a drysuit. Furthermore, 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.
All tours are led by experienced divemasters who will ensure you are 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. After all, Iceland's glaciers are melting by 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.
Sólheimajökull 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.
The other most common glacier to hike in Iceland in March is Svinafellsjökull.
Glacier hiking tours of Svinafellsjokull leave from the Skaftafell Nature Reserve in the Southwest of Iceland. This a veritable hiker’s paradise and a must-see destination for those who want to immerse themselves in Icelandic nature.
See also: The Ultimate Guide To Glacier Tours in Iceland
Snowmobiling is also an extremely popular activity in Iceland.
Many choose to snowmobile on Langjokull glacier, though another popular option is to go snowmobiling on Vatnajokull glacier. For the former, you can join a tour that departs from Reykjavík or Gullfoss.
Travelers often choose to include snowmobiling as part of a Golden Circle tour.
It is also possible to take a day tour to an ice tunnel while in Iceland.
It is also possible to take a day tour to an ice tunnel while in Iceland.
These ice tunnels, unlike ice caves, are human-made, making them accessible throughout the year.
They provide an excellent opportunity to see the inside of an ice cap without trekking across the South Coast.
Photo from Raufarhólshellir | Standard Lava Tunnel Tour
Caving tours are an excellent option when traveling to Iceland in March as the lava tubes’ insides are, more often than not, decorated with beautiful ice formations.
Icicles dangle from the ceiling, and the ice stalagmites and stalactites make the tunnels feel like they are part of a fairytale grotto.
However, the daring could choose to take a tour of Leiðarendi cave, which requires a degree of sliding, crawling, and clambering to get through.
Horseback riding is a popular activity among Icelanders and travelers alike, regardless of the season.
Riding an Icelandic horse is an authentically Icelandic experience, reflecting the history and culture of the nation.
Icelandic horses are remarkable creatures. They are powerful and social while showing resilience in challenging weather.
They are also playful and intelligent and will likely demonstrate this during your time together. The horses are famous abroad for their dressage skills because they have five gaits (including the "tölt," which is unique to Icelandic horses).
If you would like to ride a horse while in Iceland, there are many options available.
Even though Icelandic horses are incredibly sturdy and resilient to the weather, the heavy snow in East and North Iceland means you will find few riding tours are outside of the capital.
There are plenty of festivals in Iceland in March. Easter activities sometimes bleed into March, and many locals will have several days off to celebrate.
The Food and Fun Festival is a self-described ‘culinary circus’ that occurs around March’s first weekend.
Chefs worldwide collaborate with Icelandic restaurants to produce groundbreaking new cuisine with local ingredients, creating exciting new menus that promise to be a surefire delight for the taste buds.
Experts judge all the meals, so you know you're getting the best of the best.
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 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.
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Icelandic Bands
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.
To learn more about this festival, one of our local bloggers shares their experience of attending the 2017 Reykjavik Folk 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 ever more renowned globally, particularly in how it combines unusual patterns and materials for unexpected, contemporary results.
In many other countries, November is nicknamed ‘Movember’ or 'No-Shave November,' and it has become traditional for men to grow out their mustaches 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 out to fit in with the beardy crowd.
There is a wealth of things to see in Iceland in March. Though the weather can be somewhat tumultuous, every region but the Highlands should be at least partially accessible, except in the event of flooding, heavy snowfall, or unexpected avalanches.
The Icelandic Ring Road, or Route 1 (or 'hringbraut'), fully circles the country and can usually be completed during March.
Going counterclockwise on this route 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 North Iceland. These areas are sparsely populated, and the roads are less well maintained, so heavy snowfall could impede your journey.
The South Coast of Iceland is one of its most popular regions. It is renowned for hosting many of the 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 the 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.
Sadly, these waves have resulted in some tourist deaths in recent years, so please don’t stray too close to the forceful waters.
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 traveling this route, it's easy to detour and see sites like Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, Deildartunguhver hot spring, and the Vatnsnes Peninsula, the best seal-watching spot in the country.
When properly in the North, the Ring Road will take you safely to the Lake Mývatn region.
The various sites and landscapes around here will mesmerize any visitor, but Game of Thrones fans, in particular, are in for a treat.
Mývatn is the actual 'North of the Wall,' where Mance Rayder’s troops camp. In this area, there are plenty of other filming locations from the Game of Thrones series.
Iceland’s most popular tourist trail is the Golden Circle. On any trip to Iceland, it is undoubtedly worth visiting.
Thingvellir 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.
The national park 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,' the name of a hot spring geyser in Iceland.
Remarkably, the English language would pick up this natural feature's name 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 meters. Hot springs, steam vents, and mud-pots dot the surrounding area.
The final site on the circle is Gullfoss waterfall, perhaps the best-known waterfall in the country. Ancient and iconic, it is even more beautiful when the rocks around it are encrusted with ice, and the surrounding area is buried deep in snow.
While traversing the Golden Circle, there are plenty of detours you could take to discover more of the natural beauty nearby.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is accessible all-year-round and continues to attract ever more 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 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, as well as the mountain Kirkjufell, 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 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 many of the coastal routes.
As will be discussed further below, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential if you plan to drive through the Westfjords yourself in March.
If you plan to travel to Iceland in March, you must be aware of a few critical things to make your trip as comfortable and safe as possible.
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, which predominantly falls as rain, though it is not unusual to have snow.
The warmest recorded temperature in Reykjavík in March over the past two decades is 12.4° C (54°F), and the coldest is -12.5°C (9.5°F). To be prepared for cold weather, it is essential that you dress in layers.
The weather can change quickly, so even if the weather seems pleasant in the morning, don't forget your waterproofs and warm layers as you leave your accommodation.
Warm winter clothing, complete with thermal underwear, windproof and waterproof outerwear, is essential for visiting 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 for planning purposes. Compared to the darker winter months, storms are less common in March, but they still happen. High winds often accompany them, so it's good practice to check for weather warnings.
See also: Weather in Iceland & Best Time to Visit
You may be considering renting a car in Iceland. Driving in Iceland undoubtedly gives you more freedom. However, it also means that you may have to contend with icy roads, darker winter nights, 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 drivers who are accustomed to driving in cold weather, and it must be stressed that you should only drive in Iceland in a four-wheel-drive vehicle during the winter months.
All vehicles will have winter tires in March, but you can request studded tires for a better grip if you want to be extra careful (until April).
If there's a lot of snow, keep an eye out for road markings under the snow, and be careful where you park because towing services are not included in most insurance packages and can be very expensive. Exercising caution in sandy or muddy areas is also advised.
When driving in Iceland, you need to be aware not just of the weather but of the road conditions, too. 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.
Before setting out on the road, check the weather and road information.
When visiting Iceland in March, it is reasonable to assume that you're hoping to enjoy authentic Icelandic experiences.
These would include seeing the Northern Lights, exploring an ice cave, and witnessing spectacular winter landscapes.
There are several ways you can enjoy these activities on your holiday in Iceland.
It's possible to book a guided vacation package, in which all of your accommodation, transfers, and tours are taken care of before arrival.
On the other hand, it may suit you better to book a self-drive tour, in which you navigate the country yourself, with a car rental and all accommodation pre-organized for you, based on an arranged 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.
There are several options available to you, and it is worth browsing and using the filter options to find the best tour package for you.
March in Iceland is truly wonderful. It is an excellent time to visit if you're seeking 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.