Iceland: When to go

by FionaOutdoors on October 21, 2014

Post image for Iceland: When to go

Iceland is a great destination whatever the time of year but in different seasons you can expect different experiences and attractions.

For Northern Lights

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the Aurora Borealis thanks to its location at high latitude. But it needs to be dark and (most often) cold for the fabulous skylights to offer a display. Iceland has periods during the summer when it’s light day and through the night, so that is not a great time to visit for the Northern Lights.

It is the autumn and winter seasons that provide the best opportunity for seeing the lights. The long, dark nights are useful and because Iceland experiences cold and many clear nights this adds to your chances.

I heard, when visiting Iceland, that 9pm and 2am are times when people most commonly see the Northern Lights. We spotted our first at 8.30pm and the display was on and off for the next few hours.

It’s also worth remembering that even when the forecast is not promising, the Northern Lights can be prone to do its own thing. I recommend you keep an eye on the night’s sky most evenings when it’s dark and fairly clear.

For whale watching

The boat trip companies claim that sightings of whales are 95% likely in the summer and 85% likely in winter. I was also told, by locals, that these figures might be a bit over-egged, especially the winter sightings.

sea-safari-whale-watching

It’s worth knowing, too, that the north of the island is better for seeing more species of whale watching and offers higher rates of sea mammal spotting.

In the summer, sea conditions are also likely to be smoother, which means you have less chance of being seasick. Most boat companies hand out anti-sickness pills to passengers.

One trip that is highly recommended is Sea Safari from Reykjavik. The RIB trip is 1.5 hours and because it’s fast and open-air you are less likely to suffer seasickness. The trips run May to August form the Old Harbour.

Also, for something different, take a boat trip at the Ice Lagoon to see the amazing glacier melt icebergs and lots of seals.

For birdwatching

The spring and summer months are the best times to see the many different varieties of birds. One of the biggest attractions on Iceland is puffins. The country is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of puffins, with more than half of the world’s population of the Atlantic Puffin breeds in Iceland.

Puffins galore. Pic credit: Trent Mcbride

The summer months are best for viewing the many puffins, before they head away for warmer climes. Sadly, puffin populations are decreasing on Iceland because one of their staple foods, eels, is also diminishing. However, there is still a very high chance of spotting these stunning birds. (Puffins galore. Pic credit: Trent Mcbride.)

For hot springs

15009984938_2355f00325_z

Natural hot springs and lagoons are a year-round attraction of Iceland. Did you know there are 18 thermal pools in the Reykjavík capital area alone? Visit the most famous, the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, near Reykjavik, or climb the hillside to bathe in the warm natural geothermal waters of a river near Hvaragerdi.

For a city break

Reykjavik is a great city to visit for two or three nights. I’d recommend you stay longer and see more of the island but if it’s charming, beautiful cities that you enjoy Iceland has one of the best I’ve visited.

It’s a great place to come year-round and especially attractive for families. Some of the things to do include making friends with the resident ducks, geese and swans at Tjörnin Lake and visiting the Reykjavík Family Park & Zoo.

For walking

Iceland in the spring and summer are perfect for walkers. Long daylight hours, plenty of sunshine and not so much rain make the island a wonderful place for exploring on foot.

The weather in the autumn can be less predictable but if you are lucky you’ll experience cold temperatures but with bright blue skies.

To ski

Iceland has a ski resort that is located around 30 minutes from the capital. You need snow, so winter is best. See Blafjoll.

For festivals and events

hj

The summer months are generally the time for Iceland’s festivals, including a classical music festival in Reykholt called Reykholtshátíð on the last weekend of July each year.

The only circus in Iceland performs in Akureyri in the summer months. Find out about this and many other cultural events and dates at Midi.is.

In winter, the capital’s multi-coloured Christmas lights, Hafnarfjörður Christmas Village and skating on Tjörnin Lake provide colder season attractions.

Check out the Macs Adventure Walking Holidays.

Rock on: The UK’s top geo-sites

17 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Rock on: The UK’s top geo-sites

If geography bored you at school, think again. From stunning basalt columns and mighty volcanic plugs, to glacial valleys and fabulous waterfalls and ribboning rivers, the UK boasts some of the world’s most incredible geological sights (or sites?) that will surely take everyone’s breath away. Now a top 100 of these amazing geo-sites have been named by […]

Read the full article →

Ireland’s top 5 drive & hike stops

17 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Ireland’s top 5 drive & hike stops

When I was asked to visit Ireland on a Drive & Hike trip I jumped at the chance – Ireland has always been on my bucket list and I can tell you it definitely didn’t disappoint! From the moment I stepped onto Irish soil and picked up the hire car at Dublin airport I knew […]

Read the full article →

Top tips for the trains and trails of the Cinque Terre

16 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Top tips for the trains and trails of the Cinque Terre

Since becoming an official UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, the five fishing villages of the Cinque Terre have become an iconic landmark of Italy. For hundreds of years these villages were only accessible by sea and by the mule trails that crisscross the cliffs of the villages and the surrounding coastline. Today this network […]

Read the full article →

Iceland: Myths, magic and magnificence

15 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Iceland: Myths, magic and magnificence

Last week I was wowed, enchanted and thoroughly blown away by the country of Iceland. My partner and I enjoyed the seven-day Macs Adventure Scenic South Coast Drive and Hike trip. While Iceland had long been on our bucket list of countries to visit and we were sure we would be enchanted by it, we had no […]

Read the full article →

Walk of the Week: England’s Coast to Coast

15 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Walk of the Week: England’s Coast to Coast

Welcome again to Walk of the Week. This week, a walk that has it all: England’s Coast to Coast (or indeed Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, named after the famous author and illustrator who devised the route). The benefit of choosing a classic trail like the much loved favourite Coast to Coast, is that tens of […]

Read the full article →

Walk of the Week: Amalfi Coastal Trails

9 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Walk of the Week: Amalfi Coastal Trails

Walk of the week is a trek into the good life, on the Amalfi Coast. We use this feature to give a little bit of the limelight to some of our favourite walking trails which we feel deserve some love and praise, and the Amalfi Coastal Trails deserve a LOT of praise! The glitterati have […]

Read the full article →

The joys of biking and hiking

9 October 2014
Thumbnail image for The joys of biking and hiking

I am on a bit of a hiking mission at the moment. Having steadfastly refused to count the number of Scotland’s Munros (Scottish hills with a summit of more than 3,000ft) that I’d walked I suddenly decided to do so. After a few hours down memory lane – and some assistance from my map smart partner […]

Read the full article →

Climbing an actively volcanic mountain higher than Ben Nevis need not be difficult.

8 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Climbing an actively volcanic mountain higher than Ben Nevis need not be difficult.

Climbing La Soufriere is certainly one of the must do things in Guadeloupe, offering a lot of reward for minimal effort. If you are ever on this Caribbean island I strongly recommend hiring a car as public transport is very limited. Once equipped with four wheels, you can drive to St Claud, on the Basse […]

Read the full article →

Kit review: Nikon Coolpix S32 camera

7 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Kit review: Nikon Coolpix S32 camera

In my opinion, there are a few criteria required for a camera that can be taken with you on walking or cycling tours. I look for a camera that is small and compact, has a good quality lens and some element of zoom. Added extras might include a camera that is robust and waterproof. I […]

Read the full article →

Kit review: Berghaus Ulvetanna Hybrid jacket

2 October 2014
Thumbnail image for Kit review: Berghaus Ulvetanna Hybrid jacket

Insulated jackets are the must-have item for outdoors fans. Whether you walk, cycle, climb, ski, snowboard or horse ride, an insulated jacket is always handy, and in both winter and summer. During the summer I always have a lightweight insulated jacket (usually synthetic fibre) stuffed into a small corner of my rucksack. I use it […]

Read the full article →