The month of September is a period of climatic transition in Iceland. During this time, the autumn rolls in, and the colors of the Nordic country change. The hue of green changes into soft shades of red, yellow, and orange. It is the best month to travel to Iceland if you wish to skip the peak tourist crowds but still be able to see the northern lights. You can find easy accommodations, tours, and transportation at minimal rates. No matter how beautiful the Icelandic summers appear, Iceland autumn cannot be missed. The days become dark enough to experience the mystic Northern Lights. This write-up is a comprehensive guide that offers an array of options to explore in Iceland in September.
Weather Conditions in September
The month witnesses an average low temperature of 4oC and the high temperature of 11oC. The country witnesses quick weather changes hence there are chances that the temperature might dip to -4oC and the temperature rise to as high as 20oC. You get an opportunity to experience the best of both seasons. Thus, the weather is slightly cooler with some warmth of summer and still comfortable temperatures. It is, therefore, advised to plan the activities accordingly.
In early September, daylight usually ends for a little over 14 hours per day, offering you plenty of time to explore and enjoy the touristy sights. The sun rises at around six in the morning and sets at around ten in the evening. This allows you to witness the magical Northern Lights. By the end of the month, the daylight hours reduce to 11.5 hours. In fact, the closer you go to the Arctic circle, the daylight hours become even shorter.
In this month the amount of rain depends on where you are. However, precipitation is not much different from August. The average precipitation in the month is around 76 mm. However, in Dalatangi can receive up to 160 mm and Akureyri gets an average of 39 mm. Although the rain is more than the other months it is not the wettest month of the year. Be prepared for rain wherever you go. Pack your waterproof jackets and rain boots.
Best Self Drive Activities in Iceland in September
- Katla Ice Cave
- Snorkel Silfra
- Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike
- Snowmobile on Langjökull glacier
- Víðgelmir lava cave
- Giljaböð hot spring hike
- Glacier Lagoon Kayaking
Pros of Visiting Iceland in September
September proves to be the best month to travel in Iceland. The weather is pleasant and you get to witness a beautiful transition from summer to winter. Most of the campsites remain accessible at the beginning of September. Driving in the month is as pleasant as driving in the summer. This month is perfect to watch autumn colors in Iceland. If you wish to enjoy the autumn colors in Iceland, plan a day trip to Thorsmork or Landmannaugar. The first half of September is the perfect time to explore the highlands of Iceland. The Northern Lights have put on a great show in September for the last couple of years.
Cons of Visiting Iceland in September
The weather in Iceland is unpredictable in September. Therefore, there are chances that you will have to deal with windy and horizontal rains. It also means running into the risk of waterlogging and cold days. Since the daylight shortens, darkness returns to the Nordic country and limits the options to explore outdoor activities. One of the major setbacks could be the inability to go hiking through the highlands, and more.
Your To-do List for Iceland in September
September is the month for profound seasonal change and commencement of fall in Iceland. It is not only the flora that changes shades but the vibrant summer nights turn into twilight autumn nights. This is the perfect time to indulge in the landscape, culture, and traditions of the country. Participate in an array of fun-filled activities and relax with a beer, watching the stunning sunset or mystical Northern Lights. Here are some activities and places you can explore in this season:
Golden Circle Tour
The Golden Circle Tour takes you on routes that include Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir National Park. These three sites are the “Big Three” of the route and are impressive.
Gullfoss features a picturesque waterfall that has a 105 ft. drop. What makes the fall beautiful is the vibrant rainbow that is created when the sun rays pass through the water sprays.
Geysir is a multi-colored collection of hot springs in the valley of Haukadalur. The hot springs erupt and spout hot water up in the air every 10 to 15 minutes.
Thingvellir National Park offers you a great opportunity to explore the many trails of the park. It is one of the few places in the world where you can view major tectonic plates drifting above the sea level.
Watching Northern Lights
Northern Lights is probably the major reason that will prompt you to visit Iceland in September. They are produced because of the solar wind flowing through the particles from the sun’s surface. When these particles collide with gas molecules, energy gets released in the form of visible fluorescent light. Seeing the Northern lights in September is dependent on the lack of light through the night. In September the daylight hours start to decrease. Icelandic light pollution is far lower than the rest of the world. So, there are greater chances of witnessing the aurora borealis.
Hiking in Skaftafell
Iceland offers a whole lot of possibilities for hiking. If you want to start, it is usually recommended to go to Skaftafell National Park for hiking. The place is not far from the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. The national park has several hiking trails, most of which are not hard. You can even explore the glacier lagoon up close since September is the last month in which you can take a kayaking trip on the glacier lagoon for a dramatic and close view of the gigantic icebergs that float over the freezing water.
This is yet another great option to explore in Iceland in September. The tours are available in almost every coastal region of the Nordic country. The whales remain active throughout the autumn season and whale watching tours give you a great opportunity to see these giant mammals.
Soak in a hot spring or a swimming pool
September is by far the best time to enjoy swimming in the pools and relaxing in the hot springs. The weather is still warm. You get a chance to sit in a warm pool while the brisk breeze touches your face-surely a relaxing experience! This also allows you to interact with the locals and make new friends.
Visit Cozy Café
September is the perfect month to experience the cozy café culture. The leader of this culture is Reykjavik. No shortage of cafes offers this warm and welcoming culture. When in the capital city, explore Reykjavik Roasters, Kaffibrennslan, Perlan, Kaffihus Vesturbaejar, and Aleppo. You can enjoy a cup of Joe and interact with the natives.
Driving around Iceland
Most of the roads remain accessible this month. Several car rentals offer you the best vehicle to take a trip to the country. However, you need to be prepared for winds that cause sandstorms. It is important to make sure not to park the car in the open field as it can damage the car. You can consider traveling to the north, Westfjords, and in East Iceland. Consider driving along the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The area is rich in myth and legend. The peninsula has some of the most breath-taking sites – misty fjords and a towering volcano under a glacier that is as ancient as the ice age.
Festivals and Events to Participate in
The Icelandic culture begins to fill the autumn air with vibrations from art, music, and film festivals. You can find a fair amount of festivals taking place in the capital city. Some of them are:
Ljosanott - the Night of Lights Festival
Ljosanott is an annual event where the artists showcase their work around the town, galleries and art studios. A variety of musicians perform at the venues around the area and guests enjoy the traditional Kjötsúpa meat soup. You can check out a collection of classic cars and take a ride on carnival rides. The main event takes place on Saturday evening when people of Reykjanesbær illuminate the region and the cliffs. The night ends with an amazing firework display.
Tene-Rif Music Festival
The Tene-Rif Music Festival is a karaoke party that takes place for two days. It features many new and popular local Icelandic bands. You can even sit back and enjoy the festival.
Reykjavik International Film Festival
Held at the end of the month, the RIFF shows about a hundred films from over forty nations in eleven days. The movies include a wide range of drama and documentary movies that pay special attention to budding filmmakers with the category “New Vision”. Some of the other categories are ‘A Different Tomorrow’, ‘Icelandic Panorama’, and ‘Focus On’. The screenings take place in the art house cinema Bíó Paradís, but the seminars are held across the city. You can consider watching a film concert at Harpa Concert Hall.
Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held every year in Munich, Germany. The Icelandic Oktoberfest originally started as a small gathering amongst students studying German at the University of Iceland. The students set up a tent on the campus ground, drink beer, and listen to Bavarian music. Now around 20,000 beers are consumed at the new and improved Icelandic Oktoberfest. The festival lasts from Thursday to Saturday and is visited by about 2,000 people, the majority of who are students. The traditional Bavarian music is replaced with Iceland’s top bands and artists.
Beers on Ice
This is an LGBTOL event where homosexual men enjoy a beer in the ice-cold water. It is one of the major pride-related events in Iceland.
Best Day Tours to Take in Iceland in September
- South Coast & Northern Lights
- Snæfellsnes Peninsula Premium
- Golden Circle & Snowmobile
- Glacier Lagoon Sightseeing
- Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon
- South Coast & Glacier Hike
Cultural Activities in September
This is one of the favorite past times for Icelanders – picking berries. It is an honored tradition where the families or individuals head out of the city to pick the wild, organic berries. There is stillness in the act and is relaxing. You get an opportunity to sit in nature in peace. All you hear is the muffled sound of berries dropping into your basket and raven cawing at a distance.
Some of the berries growing in the wild are crowberries. These are slightly bitter but have been used in Icelandic desserts and juices for ages. Some other types of berries found in the region are bilberries that are commonly paired with Icelandic Skyr and blueberries. These berries are then used to prepare jams, cakes, juices, and wine. They are added to a Vanilla Skyr or eaten as a snack.
Several natives head towards the countryside to participate in one of the oldest traditions, the annual round-up of the sheep, Rettir. The foam-free sheep roam freely around the countryside throughout the summer, grazing on the fresh grass and herbs in the wild. In September, farmers invite their family and friends to help them herd the sheep back from the plateaus. They walk or ride on the horseback to round up the sheep from the grazing lands, usually with the help of Icelandic sheepdog. They herd them back to the sorting field where the sorting and the fun take place. They are reclaimed by the owners who already mark them before letting them free in the wilderness. The sheep are then stored for the winter. The gatherings lead to singing and they have a gala time.
In Skagafjörður, the horses are rounded up from the end of September to the beginning of October. The horses that have been roaming freely in the wild around the mountains are gathered into the farms. This is an ancient custom. Before the roads were built, the families were scattered around the country and could not visit the countryside easily. This festival made it easy for them to gather in one place and have a gala time. This event was also a way to trade horses or sheep and settle disputes between the farmers. Even today horses are traded and young men try to impress women. If you are driving around the countryside and come across a large herd of sheep and horses, chances are you will be invited to the event.
Best Multi Day Tours to Take in Iceland in September
- 2 Days South Coast
- 3 Days South Coast & Golden Circle
- 5 Days Snæfellsnes, Golden Circle & South Coast
- 7 Days Around Iceland
What to Pack for September
The Icelandic weather is unpredictable. In September, you can expect wet weather. The best way to pack for a September trip in Iceland is to pack layers. This is no hard science that this needs to be practiced throughout the year, whenever you choose to plan a trip. Here is a list of items you should pack:
- Waterproof rain and wind jacket
- Waterproof pants
- Hat, scarf, and gloves
- Warm sweater
- Waterproof footwear that is also good for hiking
- Bathing suit
- Warm socks
- Camera to capture the Northern Lights and the astounding fall colors
Do not forget to pack the prescribed and other essential medications and toiletries as you pack your bags to visit this autumn paradise.
The season offers lower-cost trips with a long list of activities to participate in Iceland in September. You will be able to appreciate the best of both seasons of the country – the scenic winter and summer adventures. Enjoy this magical trip and intake the natural beauty of the country. You get to witness a phenomenal change in the weather and partake in some of the most intriguing local activities that educate you about the culture of the Nordic country.
We hope this article about Iceland in September will help you figure out if it’s the best month for you to visit Iceland or not.
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