Are you thinking about visiting Iceland in September? What is the weather like and what can you do? Read on and discover everything you need to know about Iceland in September.
September is a fantastic month to visit Iceland. The Icelandic autumn slowly and softly rolls in, and the colours of the Arctic foliage gradually change, turning the leaves from luscious green to shades of red, orange and yellow.
- See also: Weather in Iceland & Best Time to Visit
The days grow colder, but winter has yet to settle in, so it is likely that the only snow you’ll witness will be high up in the mountains. In fact, the warmth of the Icelandic summer extends well into September's last days, which means that the roads will all still be open, making even some of the most remote regions of the tranquil Westfjords easily reachable.
- Find Westfjords Tours here
In fact, most of your favourite summer attractions are still accessible in September. Some might close during the second or third week of the month, however, so some planning is needed if you want to travel to the most secluded areas. Iceland still boasts the same fantastic landscapes, only now they will be less crowded and cloaked in the beautiful, vibrant colours of autumn.
- Find the cheapest Rental Cars in Iceland here
Things to do in Iceland in September
No matter what time of the year, there are some essential Icelandic sights and experiences you should not miss, such as traversing the Golden Circle sightseeing route, going on a whale watching tour, taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon, and seeing what the capital city, Reykjavík, has to offer. There are, however, a few things those visiting in September should add to their itinerary.
- Find extensive information on Reykjavík here
Go on Northern Lights Tours
The best time to see the Northern Lights is between September and April, as you need darkness to see them and Iceland only has daylight during the summer months.
- See also: Midnight Sun in Iceland
Witnessing them can require something as simple as looking out the window of your accommodation in Iceland, but it is always best to drive away from the city's light pollution on a clear night and into the darkened countryside. Once in awhile, the northern lights do appear in the sky above Reykjavík, but the easiest and most reliable way to catch a glimpse of this celestial display is on a guided northern lights tour.
On these tours, a professional guide will lead you away from the light pollution and into the unspoilt nature where you can fully appreciate the glory and grandeur of the Aurora Borealis as they dance and flicker in the dark sky.
Those travelling in September can, therefore, enjoy the best of both worlds as they’ll be able to hunt for the northern lights, and take advantage of the tours that are only operational in the summertime.
Visit the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Volcanoes
One of Iceland's most popular sightseeing routes is the road that runs along Iceland’s South Coast. Just off the highway are some of the most famous and unique attractions in the country, such as the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, and the black sand beach of Reynisfjara.
Those travelling the south coast in should not pass by the stunning Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, as September is the last month in which you can take a boat ride on the lagoon for a dramatic, up close view of the enormous icebergs that float on the freezing water.
The final days of September and mid-October also mark the end of many volcano tours in Iceland. After the autumn, you’ll have to wait until spring to visit the warm waters of Askja Crater lake, descend into the empty magma chamber of Þríhnúkagígur volcano and take a Volcano Tour to the Westman Islands.
- Find more Volcano Tours here and learn about the Volcanoes of Iceland here
- Read more about the Westman Islands here
Travel around Iceland
If you are driving yourself, you could head on up to the rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar where you can take a dip in a naturally heated hot spring. For a chance to get to know the Highlands in depth, you'd do well to go on a guided tour. Some of these tours are operated on a superjeep, a large custom vehicle built to go off the beaten track to some of Iceland’s hidden gems.
- Read more about the Icelandic Highlands here
The roads to one of the most beautiful but least visited place in Iceland, the Westfjords, are all accessible via a small car in the summer, but only the main roads are open during the wintertime. And even then you are advised to drive a 4WD with good winter tires. So in September, you should still be able to reach Dynjandi waterfall before the roads leading to this beautiful cascade close.
- Learn everything about driving in Iceland with The Ultimate Guide to Driving in Iceland
- Read more about Waterfalls in Iceland here
Of course, the famous ring road is open all year round (unless there is a massive snowstorm) but as Iceland descends into winter, traversing the highway becomes more and more difficult.
The Icelandic cultural calendar begins to fill up in the autumn with art, music and film festivals throughout the country. In September, you can find a fair few around the city and one just a short drive away on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Ljosanott - Night of Lights Festival
Firework display on Night of Lights 2016 photo from Reykjanesbær
As the bright days of summer give away to the dark nights of autumn, the citizens of Reykjanesbær hold a festival celebrating the darkness. Ljósanótt or The Night of Lights Festival is an annual event offering guests a taste of the very best of the local culture.
Artists show their work around town and galleries and private studios will be open to visitors. A variety of musicians perform at venues around the area and guests can enjoy a tasty traditional Kjötsúpa meat soup, check out a collection of classic cars, and ride around on carnival rides.
The main event is at dusk on Saturday evening when the people of Reykjanesbær turn on the lights that illuminate Bergið, the cliffs overlooking the town, and end the night with an amazing firework display.
Reykjavík International Film Festival - RIFF
Held annually at the end of September, Reykjavík Film Festival (or RIFF) shows roughly a hundred films from over forty countries in just eleven days.
The festival shows a wide range of dramas and non-fiction films, paying special attention to up-and-coming filmmakers with the category ‘New Vision’ which is exclusively limited to a director's first or second feature-length film.
Other categories include ‘A Different Tomorrow’, showing films that help to make us better citizens of the world; ‘Icelandic Panorama’ which shows films from many of the most talented filmmakers in Iceland; and ‘Focus On’ which shines a spotlight on a single nation’s cinematic history.
Swim-in Cinema. Photo from Reykjavik International Film Festival
Screenings are mostly held in the arthouse cinema Bíó Paradís, but special events are held all over Reykjavík city. You could catch a film concert at Harpa Concert Hall or check out the swim-in cinema in the heated indoor swimming pool of Sundhöll Reykjavíkur.
Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held every year in Munich. The festival attracts millions of people and has inspired numerous events around the world that use the name ‘Oktoberfest’. This folk-festival is usually associated with beer, and therefore one is held in Iceland (of course).
The Icelandic Oktoberfest or Oktoberfest SHÍ originally started as a small group gathering amongst students studying German at the University of Iceland. The students would set up a tent on campus, drink beer and listene to Bavarian music. When the group graduated, the student council took over and the festival grew.
- Find out here what The Best Bars for Craft Beer in Reykjavik are
Around 20,000 beers are consumed at the new-and-improved Oktoberfest each year. The festival lasts from Thursday to Saturday and is visited by about 2,000 people, most of whom are students.
The traditional Bavarian music has been replaced by some of Iceland’s top bands and artists, such as Retro Stefson, AmabAdamA, and Paul Oscar who perform in large tents to the roaring crowds of drunk students.
The weird and wonderful Icelandic landscape has shaped most of the country’s culture—and September brings some of the country’s oldest traditions: ‘Berjamó’ and ‘Réttir’.
One of Icelander's favourite pastime in September is picking berries, or going to ‘berjamó’. This time-honoured tradition is where families or individuals head out of the city to pick the wild, pesticide-free berries that grow all around the country.
There is a certain stillness in the act, and it can be very relaxing. You sit out in the unspoilt nature, hearing nothing but the muffled sound of berries dropping into your container and perhaps a raven cawing in the distance.
Growing wild in the moss-covered lava are crowberries, the most common type of berries found in Icelandic nature. These fresh but slightly bitter berries have been used in Icelandic desserts and juices for centuries. Other types of berries found here are bilberries, juicy blue-coloured berries popular with the Icelandic Skyr, and blueberries.
From the spoils of the day Icelanders make various jams, cakes, juices, and wine. If you are only visiting for a short while, and you don’t have the means to make your own jam, you can add the fresh berries to vanilla skyr or just eat them as a snack.
- Want to know where you can find Skyr? Check out this article on Shopping for Groceries in Iceland
Photo by Jórunn Sjöfn Guðlaugsdóttir
In September, the puffins have gone for the year, but the Iceland Gull returns mid-month from its breeding region in Canada and Greenland. Around the same time, a number of Icelanders head on out to the countryside to take part in one of the country’s oldest traditions, the annual round-up of sheep, ‘Réttir’.
The Icelandic sheep roam free around the countryside the whole summer, grazing on fresh grass and herbs in the wilderness. Every September, farmers invite their family, friends and sometimes strangers to help out with herding the sheep from the plateaus.
Shepherds, walk or ride on horseback, to round up the sheep from the pastures, often with the help of the Icelandic sheepdog. Then they herd them back to the sorting fold which is where the sorting, and the fun, begins. Lambs are carefully marked in the spring, so that come September, they can be reclaimed by their owner.
- Read about Wildlife and Animals in Iceland here
In Northern Iceland, there is a rich tradition of horse breeding and horse training, and Skagafjörður is the only county in Iceland where horses outnumber people. At the end of September or beginning of October, horse round-up begins where horses that have been roaming wild around the mountains are gathered.
The animal round-up is a part of a very ancient custom. Before roads were built, families were scattered around the country with little or no ways of communication. Réttir was one of the few times of year when farming families gathered in one place.
It was used as a mean to trade horses or sheep, settle disputes between farmers (sometimes with fists), and it is where young men could try to impress young girls by wrestling unruly horses. Nowadays things are a little different but it is still a time of celebration. Horses are still traded and young men continue to try to impress young women.
- Read everything there is to know about The Icelandic Horse here
- Then check out these Horse Riding Tours
Gathering of friends and families in Iceland often leads to singing (and the passing of the flask) and Réttir is no exception. After a long day of herding sheep or horses, a well-deserved party, or Réttarball, is often held for the participants.
So if you are driving around the countryside in September, be sure to keep an eye out for large herds of sheep or horses on the road, and if you are lucky, perhaps you’ll be invited to the Réttarball.
- Find articles about Icelandic Culture here
Things to know about Iceland in September
In September, visitors can enjoy many of the same outdoor activities popular in summer, including glacier-hiking, horseback riding, snorkelling, and snowmobiling. And things like the weather or prices will not get in the way.
Weather in September
Photo by Nanna Gunnarsdóttir
As the days pass, the chances of rain increase. However, the Icelandic weather is famous for being fickle, so you should always expect rain, regardless of the season.
The average high temperature in September is 11°C, and the average low is 6°C, making snowfall unlikely. But this is Iceland, so you would be well advised to always expect the unexpected. Be prepared for anything, both freezing winds and a heat wave (although the former is more likely).
So remember to pack warm layers to ensure that you can enjoy the beautiful Icelandic nature no matter what the weather is like.
- See also: What to pack for travel in Iceland
Daylight in September
The night returns to Iceland in September. The days are still bright and long, so you’ll get to witness both fantastic sunsets and sunrises, but as each night brings more and more darkness, the chances to see the elusive Northern Lights increase.
- Find Northern Lights Tours here
Prices and Crowds
Photo by Jórunn Sjöfn Guðlaugsdóttir
If you are planning a visit in September, you might be able to save a buck as September is considered off season. So you could find that prices of flights are considerably lower than in the summer months. Not only that, off-season means also that your favourite places are a less crowded, giving you a better chance to immerse yourself in the wild Icelandic nature.
- Find out how you travel around Iceland on a Budget here
If you enjoy breathtaking nature, get busy planning your September visit today. Not only can you see glaciers, volcanoes, geysers and waterfalls, but you could also visit the Westfjords, the Highlands, and see the Northern Lights.
You can explore the country on your own terms by getting a car and doing the driving yourself. Iceland’s Route no. 1, the Ring Road, completely circles the island, making it the perfect way to see what Iceland is like in September.
Those who wish to visit some of the more remote areas of the country could check out this 10-day Self-drive of the country with a visit to the Westfjords or this 6-day Camping Self Drive of the Highlands.
If you are planning on staying a short time in Iceland, you could still get the essential Icelandic experience. This 4-day tour package will take you around the Golden Circle and all the way to Reynisfjara black sand beach in search of the dancing Aurora Borealis. You’ll also get to take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon Spa, and adventure seekers could add a snowmobile or a snorkelling tour to this excursion.
Would you consider visiting Iceland in September? What would you like to do? Visit the Highlands, hunt for the Northern Lights or just pick berries?