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The Cheapest Time to Go to Iceland

The Cheapest Time to Go to Iceland

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Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik

When is the cheapest time to go to Iceland? What is the best time to fly to Iceland? Are there any times of the year where the country’s services become more expensive? Continue reading for the ultimate guide on the cheapest time to go to Iceland.

Iceland, a sought after destination due to its natural and cultural wonders, is a notoriously pricey country. Food, drink, accommodation, tours and car rentals do not come cheap, especially when compared to many other European destinations. To many, this makes the country seem totally inaccessible for those on a tight budget.

This, however, need not be the case. With some consideration of the time of year and knowledge about flights to Iceland, it is possible to organise a holiday that allows you to marvel at the country’s beauty without breaking the bank. 

A display of Aurora Borealis above Jokulsarlon glacier lagoonThe Northern lights draw many visitors to Iceland

Car rentals that overstretch your budget in June, for example, may not do so in February; flights that are extortionate over Christmas may be much more reasonable in January.

Thousands across the world see Iceland as a must-visit destination, with its untouched landscapes, unique culture, and phenomena such as the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun. Just because you are short on money, saving, or simply cautious about overspending does not mean you should be excluded from the marvels that the Land of Ice and Fire has to offer. 

The Cheapest Time of Year in Iceland

Northern Lights above Kirkjufell mountain on the Snaefellsnes peninsulaThe Northern lights are sometimes visible in the cheaper off-season

Put simply, the cheapest time of year in Iceland is during its off-peak season; this covers September to November and January to May. Visiting Iceland in Autumn or Spring will be kind to your wallet and allow you to visit popular destinations without them being crowded, a win-win!

Due to school holidays, a more temperate climate and the Midnight Sun, June to August are the most popular - and thus most expensive - months to visit Iceland. Christmas in Iceland is also a pricey time for travellers; thousands flock over because of the country’s reputation as a winter wonderland and the gusto with which the people embrace the festivities.

New Year's Eve fireworks in ReykjavikMany visit Iceland over the Winter holidays

Trvelling outside of these peak months will save you money on tours, car rentals, souvenirs and, in some cases, meals and nights out. That is not to say, however, that your experience itself will be cheapened. The reasons that the peak months are so popular are limited to the factors mentioned above, and have nothing to do with the country’s allure and beauty the rest of the year.

Coming between September and April provides guests with the once in a lifetime opportunity to seek the Northern Lights; the more free-spending summer travellers will have no such luck. In some of the most off-peak months, November, February and March, you’ll have an opportunity to marvel at the ice caves of Vatnajökull, which are only open and safe to visit in Winter.

A man wields an ice axe in a blue ice caveIce caves are popular attractions in the Winter off-season

On the edges of the winter season, you can still partake in a wealth of summer tours. Highland hikes, for example, often run until October, whereas adventures such as river rafting start in May. Those travelling to Iceland to see its incredible migratory wildlife, such as the great whales and puffins, can easily do so in September.

In many cases, therefore, you can actually find a wider range of activities on offer if you plan your trip to during the cheaper times. You’ll also find much less competition for spaces on tours, and thus are likely to have more personalised interactions with your guides. Furthermore, the natural sites should be much less crowded, particularly if you are travelling to more remote regions such as the north, the Eastfjords and the Westfjords.

Isafjordur fjord at twilightThere will be fewer visitors in the Westfjords in the off-season

It is even arguable, therefore, that the best time to go to Iceland may also be the cheapest.

If you are determined to see Iceland under the Midnight Sun and to embrace its full range of summer activities while saving money, it is recommended to book a trip for early June. This is because most schools will not have broken up for the year yet, and some airlines, rental companies and tour operators may not have raised their prices yet.

The Cheapest Time to Fly to Iceland

Reykjavik city in the evening sunFlights to Reykjavik vary in price throughout the year

Travellers from Europe and even North America will often find incredibly cheap flights to Iceland using websites such as Skyscanner, throughout the year. These comparison sites will sift through all the airlines that frequent Keflavík International Airport to get you the best deal. 

For travellers from further afield, such as Asia, the Pacific, Africa and South America, it is not quite so simple. Iceland’s distance from such regions means that flights will usually be expensive, even if they are part of a great deal.

A deserted house in IcelandAn abandoned house in Iceland

Regardless of where you’re coming from, the cheapest time to go to Iceland is usually February and March. The festive season is over, and though the Northern Lights are on full display, the months are cold, dark, icy, and thus less popular with the vast majority of tourists. Airlines usually lower their standard seat prices and offer better deals over this time to make the journey to and from the country worth their while.

April and May are also usually cheap times to fly to Iceland, compared to the summer months. But you can expect to pay a little more for a plane ticket in April and May than over winter, considering the weather is markedly better in these months.

The Diamond BeachMany attractions, like the Diamond Beach, are accessible all year long

As June, July and August coincide with the school holidays for children in the Northern Hemisphere, flights will be much more expensive in these months from all operators. Even though September through to November is a part of the quiet season, it’s still a popular time of the year to travel, so you can also expect pricier tickets.

As noted, December is a particularly expensive time to visit Iceland due to the seasonal festivities. Flights over this month will naturally reflect this.

If you are travelling from the United States to another European destination (or vice versa) with Icelandair, it is often possible to organise a short stopover in Iceland without any additional charge.

The Worst Time to Visit Iceland

The Icelandic HighlandsSome hard to reach areas are only accessible in the summer months 

For those with a reasonable budget, there is no worst time to visit Iceland. Each month has its own magic, whether you want to indulge in the festivities of December, the arts and music festivals of June or the beginning of the Northern Lights season in September. 

Those with tighter purse strings, however, will find that there are times where prices for a range of services and goods will be much higher than the rest of the year.

Christmas, as touched upon, is the worst time to visit Iceland for those on a budget. Many restaurants will alternate to more indulgent festive menus; bars and breweries will often do the same with their choice in beverages; and shops will tick up the prices on standard souvenirs, knowing that the demand is there. 

Traditional Icelandic Christmas meal of smoked meatChristmas is a popular time to visit Iceland

Over this season there are a number of public holidays, which occur on the 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st of December, and the 1st of January. Because of this, services and tours that are still running may charge more to accommodate the staff’s holiday.

The weather in Iceland is also particularly fickle during this time and it’s more likely that your tours will get cancelled or rescheduled in Winter. This can derail the whole trip for those who’ve been frugal with their tour bookings.

The other worst time to visit Iceland in terms of expense is the ‘high season’, when most tourists flock to the country. As stated, this coincides with the summer holidays of the Northern Hemisphere: June, July and August. Car rentals and other such services often operate differently during these months, hitching up prices as demand increases. 

While the prices of shops, restaurants and bars will usually stay consistent throughout summer, those who want to explore Iceland’s spectacular nature and not just stay in Reykjavík should look to visit outside of these months.

Other Ways to Save Money in Iceland

Northern Lights above GullfossRenting a car is a good way to see Iceland, but it can be expensive

There are plenty of other ways to save money outside of choosing the best time to go to Iceland, the most important of which are outlined within this article, which lists 19 tips and tricks. Some are as simple as eating in; others are tricks known only to locals, such as spots where you can find coffee for cheap or free, and how to track the Happy Hours of Reykjavík’s bars.

Of course, you can also save money by tailoring your holiday to a lower budget. Traveling the Ring Road around Iceland can get pricey, so if you don’t leave the city, you’ll save on tours and car rentals. 

Reykjavík is a great place to enjoy a city vacation, it has excellent cuisine, nightlife, an art scene and many cultural attractions. However, if the city isn’t enough for you, many affordable day tours to popular destinations such as the Golden Circle leave from Reykjavík.

Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik at sunsetA city break in Reykjavik is a cheap way to visit Iceland

There is even great nature around the capital accessible by city bus, such as Mount Esjan, the Reykjanes Peninsula, and the Blue Mountains.

If you’re only planning to take a few trips further out, you’ll find cheap bus tours a great alternative to more pricey private tours. However, if you plan to see the whole country, you can do so by renting a car and making your own plans, rather than purchasing multiple excursions.

There are a range of budget self-drive tours on offer for the cost-averse traveller, and in summer, camping is a great and cheap alternative to booking hotels.

Vik village on the South CoastVik village in South Iceland

If you want the holiday of a lifetime, booking a vacation package or combo tour is a great way to shave down prices without missing out on a second of adventure.

While a holiday to Iceland is no doubt an investment, it need not be a bank-busting one for the savvy traveller. Visiting Iceland in its off-peak season, when you can catch the cheapest flights, can allow guests of all budgets to immerse themselves in the spectacular Land of Ice and Fire.

What do you think the best time to go to Iceland is? Did you find any ways to save money on flights to Iceland? How cheap did you find off-peak travel in Iceland? Let us know in the comment section below!

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