The Northern Lights dancing over Jökulsárlón.

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

Iceland is reaching the end of its winter in March; by the closing of the month, there will be more hours of sunlight than darkness, and the stubborn snow that has settled across the country will be starting to subside. Even so, winter opportunities, such as ice caving, are still available to visitors.

One of the ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier.

Nestled between the Christmas season and summer season, it is also one of the nation’s least busy times. The popular sites and city streets will be much quieter than at other points in the year, allowing you to enjoy Iceland without all of the crowds. You will also have more freedom to join tours or stay a night somewhere impromptu. 

It is thus an excellent time to visit the country. You can enjoy all of the winter tours and accessible places in peace, for longer under the light, 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

Although most places in the Northern Hemisphere consider March to be the start of spring, Iceland only really recognises two seasons: winter and summer. March is considered still part of the winter, and 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 a wealth of other activities can also be enjoyed by travellers.

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 thankfully, March is one of them.

Many tours run that will allow you to explore these spectacular caves while you have the opportunity. As they are on the far side of the country, in the south-east, most excursions that leave from Reykjavík go over two- to three-days, and will allow you to also see popular sites such as Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

Ice caves under Vatnajökull are only open from November to March

If you are already in the south-east, it is possible to take a tour that leaves from Jökulsárlón to reach them. 

You will need sturdy hiking boots, warm, waterproof clothing and an experienced guide to go ice-caving. Due to the fact the inexperienced cannot tell if one is structurally sound, and they require some tumultuous driving to reach, it is imperative you do not try to explore one alone.

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 auroras dancing.

The number one thing on most people’s ‘Bucket Lists’ is to see the aurora borealis. In Iceland in March, you have an excellent chance to do just this. Whenever the sky is dark and clear, and there is 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 from Reykjavík, there are many options as to which form this could take. You could join a standard bus tour for affordability, and be driven out of the city for a good show, or else hop onto a super jeep tour for a more personal experience deeper in nature. 

The Northern Lights over Þingvellir National Park

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

Staying in Reykjavík to see the Northern Lights is not recommended because the light pollution will block, or at least severely dim, the display before you. If you don’t want to go far from the city, you could take a cruise to Viðey Island to try and see them.

Of course, you could 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 2nd06.4820.1613 hr 27 mins

 

The Northern Lights over Buðír church, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula



Renting a car in Iceland in March is a little risky considering the snow and ice still cladding most of the country. Read more about the precautions you should take with this is 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. That being said, it starts to get even better in March, as the great whales begin to return from their summer breeding grounds.

Humpback whales and minke whales start to be regularly sighted once again during this month; other baleen whales which have also be seen include the mighty fin and blue whales. Orcas have been sighted in March just from Reykjavík, and it is not unheard of for creatures such as beaked, pilot and sperm whales to emerge from the deep.

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 RIBs. 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.

The final place you can take a whale watching tour from in March is the capital of the North, Akureyri.



Snorkelling and Diving in Iceland in March

A Scuba Diver in Silfra FissurePhoto from Diving Silfra Day Tour

Snorkelling and diving in Iceland in March is all done in Silfra fissure. This ravine, which opened within Þingvellir National Park, is also a freshwater spring and has some of the best naturally occurring visibility in the world: over one hundred metres. 

In spite of the 2° Celsius temperature of the water, the spectacular sights and the thrill of these activities means they are ever-increasing in popularity.

To be able to snorkel or dive in Iceland, you must not be pregnant and will need a waiver if over sixty, over forty-five and a heavy drinker or pipe smoker, or 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 diver OR 
 Be 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 well used to the equipment and temperature.



Glacier Tours in Iceland in March

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

Iceland’s glaciers cover ten percent of the country’s surface, and many come on their holidays seeking to see as much of them as possible; after all, with rising temperatures, they are receding quickly, and some will be gone or else heavily depleted in decades. Thankfully, glacier hiking and snowmobiling tours allow you to make the most of them while they are still here.



Most glacier hikes from Reykjavík go upon 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 which erupted in 2010.

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

You can take a tour to this glacier independently, or combine it with a better exploration of the South, where you can see these sites closer as well as locations such as 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 south-west, a hiker’s paradise and must-see destination for those who want to immerse themselves in Iceland’s wild nature. 



Snowmobiling on LangjökullPhoto from Express Snowmobile Tour on Langjokull Glacier

Snowmobiling tours are almost exclusively conducted on Langjökull glacier, although there are a few running on Vatnajökull (you cannot join these from Reykjavík, however). 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, were constructed by hand into the most sturdy part of the glacier, making them accessible throughout the year. They are the only ones of their kind around the world that are open to visitors and 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 snowmobiling as well.



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 formations across the ground make the tunnels feel like they are part of some fairytale grotto. Many caves are accessible in March.

For an easier, more comfortable trip, you could elect to enter Viðgelmir or Raufarhólshellir, both of which have paved paths throughout and are wide open to make them accessible to as many as possible. The daring could choose to enter Leiðarendi, which requires a degree of sliding, crawling and clambering to get through.



Horse Riding in Iceland in March

Icelandic horses are well adapted to the snow

Horse riding is a popular activity amongst Icelanders and travellers no matter the season. To ride an Icelandic horse is a beautiful experience that authentically reflects the history and culture of the nation.

Icelandic horses are special creatures. Descendants of the best horses of Norwegian Jarls as they emigrated to Iceland, they are notably sociable, curious, playful and intelligent. They are popular abroad for their skills in dressage, having five styles of walking (more than any other breed), and domestically for their charm.

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 or whale-watching

Even though Icelandic horses are incredibly sturdy and resilient to the weather, the amount of snow still 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; four large ones are going on in Reykjavík, which appeal to a diverse crowd. It should be noted that Easter activities also sometimes bleed into March, but will not in 2018 due to Easter Sunday being on April 1st. 

To learn more about the quirky traditions Iceland has over this time, 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 delight for the tastebuds. 

All the meals are judged by experts, so by participating in the festival, you know that you are dining on the very best that the very best could produce.



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, consisting of members who are residents of Iceland between the ages of 13 and 25. Several rounds are displayed publicly, allowing for a great showcase of talent, before a winner is decided.

The IME has produced many a success story. Perhaps most notably, the band Of Monsters and Men won the competition in 2010, and in seven years have risen to international fame.



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. All music genres have popularity and success in Iceland, but folk is particularly dear to many people, having its roots in the rhyming sagas of the Old Norse and bleeding into the works of contemporary artists such as Ásgeir.



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’, and it has become traditional for men to grow out their moustaches to raise awareness of men's health. In Iceland, this is done in March, committed to by huge swathes of the male population, and instead seeks to raise awareness and funds for all cancer research. Even the city buses have moustaches stuck on their fronts.

If coming to Iceland in this month, consider growing one out. 



What to see in Iceland in March

Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle

There are a wealth of incredible landscapes and features to see in March. Though the weather will be somewhat of an impediment, every region but the Highlands should be at least somewhat accessible, barring events such as flooding, heavy snowfall, or unexpected avalanches.

The Ring-Road of Iceland

The ring-road near Vík

The Icelandic ring-road, or Route 1, fully encircles the majority of the country, and can usually be completed throughout 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 onto 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 taking a guided tour, therefore, the best places to visit along the ring-road are the south up to Höfn, and the west and north up to 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 can be seen and approached right from Route 1. Of these are spectacular waterfalls, such as 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 encircling Seljalandsfoss for safety. Furthermore, if admiring Reynisdrangar from the black sand beach Reynisfjara, be incredibly careful of the sneaker waves and stay far from the edge of the ocean.

The Diamond Beach, by Jökulsárlón

The South Coast culminates in Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is as majestic in March as it is throughout the rest of the year. Seeing this site in the different lighting conditions you get throughout the days of this month, and even beneath the Northern Lights, provides it with an ever-changing beauty.



The part of the ring-road between Reykjavík and Akureyri goes through the country’s verdant western region. When travelling this route, it is very easy to detour and see sites such as Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, the highest-flowing hot-spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver, and the Vatnsnes Peninsula, 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 especially those who are fans of the HBO Series Game of Thrones. This is the area where scenes North of the Wall, such as those in Mance Rayder’s camp, are shot; under a blanket of snow, you will almost be able to see the wildlings and wights.



The Golden Circle

Strokkur erupting on the Golden Circle

Iceland’s most popular tourist trail is well-worth visiting, and easy to traverse, throughout 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 earned its spot by being the original site of the Alþing, which is now considered to be the world’s oldest extant parliament. It is located right between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, leading to some incredible geology, such as the aforementioned Silfra ravine.

Silfra in winter from above.

The Geysir Geothermal Area has its own claim to fame; the largest geyser here, called Geysir, leant all others around the world its name. Though this particular feature is inactive, 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 falls 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 attracting more and more visitors as word has spread regarding just how many features the 90-kilometre stretch can hold. 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 even if opened), you can still drive along both sides of the peninsula, and encircle its headland.

Such a 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 just a few features.



The Westfjords

The auroras in the Westfjords

If the weather and 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 is essential if you plan on attempting 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 regarding how 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° Celsius (28° Fahrenheit) and average high temperatures of 3.3° Celsius (38° Fahrenheit). There is an average of 84mm precipitation throughout the month, predominantly falling as rain.

The warmest Reykjavík has reached since the turn of the millennium is 12.4° Celsius (54° Fahrenheit) and the coldest is -12.5° Celsius (9.5° Fahrenheit) so there is little need to pack for any eventuality other than it being cold.

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 packing for Iceland in March. You should check the weather forecast each day to plan for the conditions you will be facing.



Goðafoss, caked in ice

Driving in Iceland in March

The second issue regards whether or not to rent a car when travelling over here. While one would give you more freedom, driving yourself means you have to contend with icy, dark roads; snowdrifts; heavy precipitation; high winds; and other drivers who may have less experience with all these things than you.

Renting a car in Iceland in March is only, therefore, recommended to confident, adept drivers who are used to cold weather conditions, and only then if you rent a four-wheel-drive

If driving in Iceland, you need to be aware not just of the weather, but the road conditions of where you are going. 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 coming to Iceland in March, it is reasonable to assume that you seek natural, authentic Icelandic experiences, such as seeing the Northern Lights, exploring an ice cave, and witnessing spectacular winter landscapes. 

There are several ways you can enjoy all of these on your holiday in Iceland. It is 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 is also possible to stay in Reykjavík and take day tours out to see the sites, such as those discussed above.

A hot spring near Lake Mývatn

If looking into packages, there are a wealth that will allow you to see the vast majority of the country and even encircle it. 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 and enjoy all of these sites on a twelve-day one.

If you have less time but are still eager to see as much as possible, then you could 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 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 take this five-day option instead. Also in five days, you could elect to explore the north, focussing on Lake Mývatn.



If 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 explore an ice cave and Jökulsárlón. If you are more interested in seeing sites such as the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, there is a five-day self-drive that will immerse you in the West.

Jökulsárlón, dyed by the colours in the sky



To conclude, March is an excellent time to visit Iceland if you seek winter landscapes, few crowds, and days long enough to fill with activities. So long as you dress appropriately and make responsible choices regarding driving and tours, you are sure to have an incredible visit to this spectacular nation.