Iceland in spring: what to expect

Iceland in spring

Read my guide on visiting Iceland in spring for tips on what to expect, what to pack, and why it’s a really great time to visit.

I recently visited Iceland in spring and it was amazing.

But I had a LOT of questions before my trip…

What is the weather like? What should I pack? And even, will it look as pretty in the springtime? I love bleak, wintery landscapes and part of me wondered if everything would look more beautiful with a layer of snow.

And then there’s the whole conversation about the northern lights, of course. Can you see the northern lights at this time of year? Or can you only spot them in winter? Like I said, a lot of questions!

Let’s get on to answering some of them…

Iceland in spring

Is spring a good time to visit Iceland?

Well, having visited Iceland at the end of April slash the beginning of May, I came to a clear conclusion during my trip:

Spring is 100% a great time to visit Iceland.

In this blog, I’ll talk about what you can expect from Iceland in spring, what the good things are about visiting Iceland in spring (extra stops on the Golden Circle tour, hello!), and what you should pack for your trip.

Let’s get started with the weather…

When is spring in Iceland?

Spring in Iceland runs between March and May roughly.

Iceland weather in spring

The temperature in spring varies between 0 and 9°C.

It’s significantly warmer in spring than in the winter months, where temperatures can go down to between 5 and -10°C. January is the coldest month in Iceland, with averages of -1°C. However, the wind chill will also make it feel a lot colder than it says on the scale.

When you’re visiting locations on the tours you’ll be exposed to ALL the elements and it can feel very cold, even in the milder months. Two words: Gullfoss Waterfall. Despite the weather being bright, sunny and pretty mild actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold as I was there.

Iceland in spring

Iceland in spring = more daylight hours

In mid-summer in Iceland, you get 24 hours of light a day. In spring in Iceland, you don’t quite hit that mark but the days feel l-o-n-g. At the beginning of May when we visited you get around 13 hours of daylight and that extends to over 16 hours by the end of the month.

In winter in Iceland, you can get as little as four or five hours of daylight, which is crazy – and this is coming from someone in Scotland. It must make such a difference when you’re going out on all-day tours, which I’ll cover in more detail in my next point.

Here’s what you can expect from the spring months…

MonthAverage temperature °CAverage temperature FHours of daylight
March0°C32F10-13.5 hours
April3°C37F13.5-16.75 hours
May6°C43F16.75-20 hours

Is Iceland cold in spring?

Yes, it’s still cold. Even to a Scottish person! I would bring all the stuff that you would bring on a winter trip as well as lighter layers that you can add and remove because you just don’t know what to expect.

When we were there it was as warm as Iceland in July one day, according to our tour guide, and the sun was out most of the day. But it could have just as easily been terrible.

Plus, July in Iceland isn’t exactly shorts and t-shirt weather. RIGHT?

Iceland in spring

Is spring a good time to visit Iceland?

Yes! The snow is melting and you can see the landscape emerging from its snowy winter blanket. You can make the most of the longer days and really make the most of your time there. Plus, all the outdoor activities are probably less likely to leave you diving for the bus and the warmth – you can enjoy being outside without it being too cold.

Can you see the Northern Lights in spring in Iceland?

The million-dollar question.  Heads-up, I didn’t see the Northern Lights during my trip to Iceland at the very beginning of May. The reason that there’s less chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in spring and summer is because of the long daylight hours.

It simply isn’t dark enough a lot of the time for the aurora borealis to be visible. However, I saw there were people posting about seeing them only a couple of weeks before we were there, so you really never know. I wouldn’t write it off if you’re visiting Iceland in spring.

5 things you need to know about travelling to Iceland in spring

1. You get more value from the tours

More daylight hours also equals more exploring time.

When you go on a tour in Iceland in winter you’re having to cram all of the stops on the tour into a pretty short window, before it gets dark. I can imagine it feels like a bit of a rush trying to get everywhere in time.

In the summer, there are no such concerns. We got plenty of time to explore each of the locations on the tour without feeling like we were clock-watching the whole time. They even threw in a couple of extra stops that there just wouldn’t be time for in the peak of winter.

2. It can still get really cold

When we first arrived in Iceland it was bright sunshine and it got us wondering if we actually needed all our heavy-duty clothing.

Well, unsurprisingly, we did. The weather is very changeable in Iceland. It’s a bit like Scotland in the sense that you can get four seasons in one day pretty much, so you need to have clothing for every occasion.

In particular, when we were visiting the Gullfoss Waterfall it was absolutely freezing. But later, when we visited the Kerid Crater it was so mild I could barely feel a breeze. As most of the recommendations state, pack lots of layers if you’re visiting Iceland in spring.

3. You can go and see puffins!

Want to do some birdwatching when you’re in Iceland? Why not do the puffin cruise? There are around 30,000 puffins close to Reykjavik and they are at their most active in the springtime when a lot of them nest on an island a 15-minute cruise from the capital. This trip is also significantly cheaper than the whale spotting cruise, another reason we picked it.

I’m going to caveat by saying that it was pretty early on in the season when we did the puffin cruise – it was very early May. So, there weren’t exactly hundreds of puffins, at least not that I could see. However, I think if you did the cruise a little later there would be a lot more to see.

Plus, it was lovely to be out on the water in the sun!

4. The waterfalls are insane

If you love beautiful waterfalls then visiting Iceland in spring will be a win-win for you. It felt like a tour of beautiful waterfalls at times.

Even better, all the melting snow in Iceland at this time of year ‘feeds’ the waterfalls which means they will be even more powerful than usual. They go from a trickle to turbo-charged!

Of course, it must be cool to see the waterfalls when they’re frozen in winter, too. That’s not something I’ve seen before. However, having experienced how cold seeing the Gullfoss Waterfall was I’m not sure I’d fancy it in the middle of winter. As much as it was seriously impressive, I was desperate to get back into the warmth afterwards.

Iceland in spring

5. You can see baby lambs

Remember how I mentioned you can make a few extra stops on the Golden Circle tour when you visit Iceland in spring? One of the amazing things we got to do on our tour was stop by a farm where we were able to say hello to all the lovely farm animals.

First up were the Icelandic horses who were absolutely beautiful and made me, for the millionth time, wish I had booked a horse riding experience. We also got to go inside and see some of the baby lambs who were only a few days old. They were so sweet! So much so that it completely put me off having any traditional meat soup on the trip.

What to pack for Iceland in spring

Deciding what to pack was the thing I stressed about the most!

We were travelling at the very end of April, going into May, so it felt like everything I researched didn’t have an exact answer. I think I have a bit of a weird cognitive block in that I just can’t tell if what I have will be suitable until I’m actually there experiencing it.

I ummed and ahhed about whether I would be too cold, whether I should pack a duvet coat, whether a waterproof coat was really going to be enough, and so on. In the end, what I had was perfect for the weather during the trip – which was unusually mild, to be fair.

Here are my dos and don’ts of what to pack for Iceland in spring…

Iceland in spring

Do… pack a waterproof coat

Pretty much every blog I read as research for the trip said to pack a waterproof coat as your outer layer and have a warm layer underneath. I bought a waterproof coat on this basis – a lot of people say that it does rain frequently in Iceland although we lucked out there.

We did get caught in a hailstorm when we were visiting the ice cave AND it was really useful when trying to get a photograph of the waterfalls when there was a lot of spray, so I’d recommend it. No one wants to cut around Iceland feeling a little bit damp, do they?

Do… pack waterproof trousers

One thing that caught me out is waterproof trousers. I had some ‘allegedly’ waterproof trousers from ASOS that I’d got for walking the dog. I’d barely worn them so I was excited to finally give them an outing. However, you guessed it, they weren’t waterproof – something I only realised when standing in front of a waterfall and getting caught in all the spray.  

Don’t… forget hiking boots

Another key thing is hiking boots. We did the ice cave tour one day, which involves trudging through the snow to get to this amazing ice cave in the glacier. You’d think most people would wear hiking boots because they wouldn’t want to wreck their trainers or get wet feet… nope! I saw someone in white trainers and someone else was in Converse!

Do… pack layers

Pretty much every blog I read said to pack layers and it really was true. I had a high-neck running top then a fleece then a waterproof jacket on top. I also wore leggings with waterproof trousers over them for a bit more of a wind barrier/warmer. I felt like lots of layers was a better way to go in spring as it did get a bit warm on occasion!

Iceland in spring

Don’t… forget a reusable water bottle!

A reusable water bottle is also a really good idea. You probably already know that Iceland is pretty expensive and so anywhere we could save money, we were in. Plus, it was better than buying single-use plastic over the whole trip. We didn’t buy any water when we were there – we simply filled our water bottles from the sink in the hotel bathroom.

Do… pack a battery charger

Imagine rocking up to the Blue Lagoon and not having any charge left on your phone? Or visiting an ice cave in a glacier and your phone dying? Having no charge on your phone could mean missing out on capturing some of those one-in-a-lifetime experiences. That’s why you need a battery pack so you can charge your phone throughout the day.

Here’s a quick packing list…

  • Waterproof coat
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Light down jacket
  • Fleece or another warm layer
  • Hat, scarf, and gloves
  • Chunky socks
  • Hiking boots
  • Swimwear for the Blue Lagoon
  • Re-useable water bottle

You might also be interested in the following posts:

That was my guide to Iceland in spring! I hope you enjoyed it.  

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