Harsh but charming Iceland welcomes curious travelers
Trying to discover the common factors of Iceland weather you will come to conclusion that… it’s almost impossible as climate here is one of the most unpredictable in the world: in August, the temperature can drop to 2 Celsius above zero with snow and, in winter, the sun will shine at plus 10 degrees Celsius. However, this is only a probability.
Features of climate in Iceland
Iceland is a country of contrasts, and this becomes clear when you look at its natural landscapes: majestic glaciers and active volcanoes, waterfalls and hot springs, mysterious caves, green meadows with lush grass and rivers full of fish. These contrasts are observed in the local climatic features, as well.
Much of the land is covered by glaciers. Iceland could be a harsh subarctic country if not the Gulf Stream – the warm current of the Atlantic gave this land not too cold, but very windy winters and short cool summers. Though the strong winds blow over the island the year round, the climate is considered to be healthy. No wonder the average life expectancy of Icelanders is 79.5 years.
Contrary to other Scandinavian countries, for instance, Norway, Iceland is known for two important natural phenomena: the wind and the length of daylight, everything else is of secondary effect. In the regions along the northern and eastern shores, the climate is slightly cooler as here there is the cold East Greenland Current and tons of drifting Arctic ice. Average daily temperatures are lower only by 3-5 degrees. In the central regions of Iceland, continental type of climate rules, with hard frosts in winter and lowest summer temperatures in the country. On the mountain slopes, it is cold at any time of the year; on the tops, there is snow even in summer. Another feature of the Iceland climate are strong winds regardless of the season and frequently changing weather. Sun, clouds, rain, storm – all this is quite possible to observe during a single day because of frequent cyclones from the Atlantic Ocean.
The warmest month in Iceland is July with temperatures in coastal areas at daytime up to 13-15 degrees above zero and at night drop to 8 … 10 degrees. The coldest month is January. On the coast, in January it is about plus 2 degrees Celsius, and at night 3 degrees below zero. The temperature along the entire coast is almost the same: in the northern and eastern coastal areas, it is just 1-2 degrees lower than in the southern and western. The central part of the island has a continental climate. Here in winter, the minimum temperature can reach 20 degrees below zero, and in summer the highest temperature can rise only up to 7 degrees above zero.
The lowest temperature of -38 ° C was registered in the town Grimsstadir in 1918. The year of 1939 was the warmest in the history of Iceland. June 22 Teigarhorn thermometers showed +30.5 ° C.
Average monthly temperatures in major Iceland cities
On the western coast, the annual precipitation can reach 1000-1300 mm, on the southern – 2000 mm, on the northern and eastern it is about 750 mm, on the southern slopes of the central highlands the amount of precipitation reaches about 4,000 mm. The major precipitation falls in autumn and winter, the wettest month is October. The least precipitation occurs in May. It rains frequently but not long, especially in the southern part of the country. Often a strong wind blows, so rain and snow do not fall to the ground, as usual, but go horizontally or with the wind.
Seasons in Iceland
Though there is no large drop in temperature at different seasons, each of them has its own specifics.
Iceland Summer is the season of Polar Day, which falls exactly on all three months. In the south of the peninsula the daylight lasts for about 20 hours a day, it only starts to get dark at midnight. On the northern part of the country, in the region Nordyurland-Eystra, located within the Arctic Circle, the sun shines a little longer. The average temperature on the island varies at around +11 ... +14 Celsius at days; and at night – from +4 to +9 Celsius. On the south coast, the air can warm up to +15 ... +19 degrees Celsius, at the same time here a considerable amount of precipitation falls.
There are few trees in Iceland, but there is a lot of greenery in large greenhouses that are heated with the underground heat. One of them is the park Eden, a popular place for walking among tourists and Icelanders. Despite sparse vegetation, the island is inhabited by rare species of birds that always come back here with the arrival of summer.
Early September is a still pretty good time for a trip to the country as the thermometer lower, in average, for only 4 degrees. However, with the last days of the month the precipitation across the country begins to increase, and in October, torrential rains come to the island. In mid-autumn in Iceland, it is not very comfortable as significant cooling is accompanied by strong winds at night are mostly zero temperatures. In mountainous areas, it snows at this time. In the northern, as well as central parts of Iceland, the roads are usually closed because of icing and snow drifts.
In Iceland, there is no polar night, but the sun is very low from mid-November to early February. In winter, you can see here the northern lights. In addition, giant glaciers, active volcanoes and bewitching beauty of the fjords, where in summer not always sunlight is able to get, make travelers admire this mysterious part of the earth.
In winter, the entire territory of the country there are cold strong winds. In December, in Iceland, the darkest time comes when daylight lasts no more than five hours. In general, the winter weather in Iceland is mild and windy. The coldest month of the winter season is January, at this time on the coastal temperature ranges from zero to two degrees Celsius in days, and it is three or four Celsius below zero at night.
In the early spring, in the north and east of Iceland, the process of drifting Arctic ice accumulation continues. So it is still cold enough here. In the capital of the country, in Reykjavik, it is not much warmer. It’s still raining. In April and May, in Iceland, it is getting warmer, and the temperatures rises up to 7-10 degrees above zero. The end of the spring in the southern and south-western coasts is marked by dry weather. In the north, it's time to active melting of glaciers, so some of the roads can be washed out.
The best time to go to Iceland
Most tourist prefer travelling to Iceland in the summer, and this is quite explainable: at this time especially warm (by local standards) and dry weather is set. The perfect time to visit the country, when you can see the largest number of natural attractions, is from mid-June to early September.
Low season begins in Iceland very early, by European standards. In mid-September half of the hotels are closed, the weather conditions worsen, and buses run rarer. But those hotels that continue to operate in the winter, offer beneficial prices – with up to 30% - 40% discount. Travel to Iceland in the late autumn and winter deserves special attention. Christmas and New Year Tours is an exciting addition to the northern romance and another opportunity to see a unique natural phenomenon, which produces a very strong impression, Aurora Borealis.
Going to Iceland not in season, you can enjoy the trip, as well, if you plan it carefully.
- From April to early October, it is a great time to observe the humpback whales. To do this you should go into the bays of Faxafloi and Hervey.
- Fishing enthusiasts should think about a trip to Iceland in the period from mid-June to mid-October. At this time, especially big catch of sea trout and river salmon awaits you.
- In winter, you can warm you up in Blue Lagoon.
- Going to Iceland out-of-season, be sure to take care of appropriate clothing. You will need waterproof and windproof clothing; warm but lightweight and comfortable jacket and layered clothing; waterproof, high thick-soled boots; gloves, headwear. In addition, you may need sunscreen and sunglasses, even if you are traveling to Iceland in autumn or winter.
Iceland is a piece of another planet in the world. If you want to spend the best holiday in Iceland you’d better come here from June to the end of August, and the high flow of other travelers will not disturb you.