Are you planning an autumn trip to Iceland but not quite sure what activities to add to your itinerary? Contact us and we will help you put together a customised itinerary that will make memories of a lifetime.
The autumn months can be a tricky time to plan out what to do in Iceland with it being the shoulder season between summer and winter. Many seasonal activities are at an in-between phase of operation and therefore the expert advice of our staff is even more valuable. Weather can be highly unpredictable and range anywhere from nice sunny days to rainy with heavy wind storms, even a snowstorm can be thrown into the mix, so always dress accordingly and leave it to us to sort out your Iceland autumn adventure.
No matter what the weather conditions will be or the current status of certain tours we have a list of 10 activities that are perfect to enjoy in Iceland in the autumn months. Add any of these activities to your Iceland itinerary and make the most of your autumn adventure around Iceland!
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Photo © copyright by Paul Marcellini
1. Take a Road Trip
The autumn months are considered low season for tourism in Iceland, which means fewer people out on the roads making it a great time to plan your Iceland road trip. Take advantage of the fewer crowds to enjoy some of the most popular sights around Iceland, such as the popular south of Iceland and the Golden Circle route. And, thanks to the mild weather autumn brings driving conditions are still great for a road trip making it a good time to explore those further off locations that will soon be trickier to reach once winter settles in.
Here are a few ideas for where to plan an autumn road trip to:
Known for the stunning nature and abundance of natural hot springs this region of Iceland is one of the least visited mainly due to the distance and need for decent weather conditions. During the summer months the area can become quite busy so take advantage of the offseason before the snowstorms make this area a bit more challenging to reach and cruise in and out of the gorgeous fjords as you search for a new hot spring to relax in. Stay in small and cozy family-owned accommodations with breath-taking views such as Heydalur and Harbour Inn Guesthouse. Take in the serenity and remoteness of the area as you visit stunning sites such as Látrabjarg Cliffs, Rauðisandur Beach, Hellulaug Hot Spring, Samuel's Sculptures in Selárdalur and the magnificent Dynjandi Waterfall.
With dozens of attractions to stop and check out all close together this area is a great one for those looking for a road trip that will keep them active and out of the car. In this region, you will find a very diverse nature meaning you will get a little bit of everything while exploring. An added bonus, you get to enjoy it with the autumn colors making everything even more vibrant. We recommend you stay 1-3 nights in the are to really take it all in. You can stay at the very tip of the peninsula at Arnarstapi Cottages or more centrally at Suður-Bár Guesthouse. There are so many things to see and do in the area that we wrote an article about the top 10 experiences in West Iceland. Visit the famous Kirkjufell Mountain, enter into an 8000-year-old lava tube called Vatnshellir Cave, step back in time at the Eiríksstaðir Viking Farm, dip into Landbrotalaug Hot Spring and more. Contact us and we will share our secrets with you.
Take advantage of the good driving conditions and make your way up to the North of Iceland to experience places that many don’t get to visit. You will find waterfalls, mountains and fjords but with a bit more of a remote feel to the more popular south of Iceland. You might even get to enjoy some early season snow giving things a wintery feel. Stay at a working farm like Gauksmýri where you can be in close proximity with farm animals, go on a horse riding tour and other activities. There is no shortage of unique and wonderful places to stay in North Iceland or fantastic things to do. We have even written about all the hidden gems the area has to offer such as Kolugljúfur Canyon, Kálfhamarsvík Cove and more.
2. Explore a Lava Cave
A fun activity for all in your group, heading off for a lava cave tour is a unique way to experience Iceland all while learning more about the geology of this volcanic island. This activity is a great option to have on your list in case there is a rainy autumn day, which we won’t lie is likely to happen in Iceland during this time of the year. Since you will be underground anyways it won’t matter what the weather is doing, you will still be having an enjoyable, and dry, adventure.
While the nature on the ground is in full autumn bloom you are going to be in for a treat when you see the vibrant colors of the cave. Deep reds and purples along with unique lava rock formations will be seen on your tour showing you a different (in)side of Iceland. The mild autumn temperatures make it so you don’t have to worry about being frozen while underground as well, just make sure to wear those layers and you will be nice and comfortable underground.
3. Practice your Photography Skills
The landscape in Iceland is the perfect model for any photographer, but add in the autumn colors and light and you have the makings for some stunning photography. Practice your photography skills and take advantage of the varying conditions you will find in Iceland this time of the year. From sunny days with the perfect golden hue to moody stormy days giving you a dramatic sky to work with you won’t want to put your camera away.
Source: Iceland Monitor/Skapti Hallgrímsson
If you are hoping to capture some of Iceland’s most famous locations on camera the autumn will be a great time for you to do so with wonderful sunsets, colorful leaves and the warm lighting of the golden hour. Instead, you can get clear shots of the beautiful Icelandic nature minus all the crowds, a rare treat these days in Iceland but one that is possible during the offseason. And we can’t forget the vibrant autumn colors that will pop in your photos, they will be pictures you will want to frame for sure!
Let us share with you our favorite spots, sights, experiences and hidden gems.
4. Enjoy the Autumn Colors
Sure you likely have beautiful autumn colors to enjoy back home, but have you ever seen moss-covered lava in its vibrant autumn colors? Or a waterfall surrounded by bushes in rich tones? Trust us, this is one gorgeous sight to be seen and Iceland is the prime place to do it.
A few locations to add to your autumn trip to Iceland to make sure you get some amazing autumn colors are:
Located in west Iceland, this waterfall in a lava field is a unique one to visit as it spans across a 900 meter distance of little waterfalls all cascading down the side of lava rocks. During the autumn months this waterfall comes to life with the vibrant autumn colors popping against the blue glacier water.
Þingvellir National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Not only is this location one of the most popular in Iceland, it also is one of the most beautiful displays of autumn colors in Iceland. Walk between the tectonic plates while taking in the view of the changing colors of the trees and moss that surround this area. With the light reflecting off the clear water running through the park it makes for one stunning display of autumn colors.
This glacial canyon in the North of Iceland is known for its unique horseshoe shape and is one of the more vegetation dense locations in Iceland. With all the vegetation around this means it makes for one of the best places to head to when the autumn colors set in. Everywhere you look you will be in for a treat of autumn hues taking over the canyon. If you find yourself in North Iceland be sure to put on your hiking shoes and spend some time exploring this beautiful area.
5. Go Berry Picking
Berry picking, in Iceland? That is right, even on this lava rock covered island in the Atlantic you can still enjoy some fresh berries, and early autumn is the prime time to do it! While out on a hiking adventure keep a lookout for two of the main types of berries you will find growing wild in Iceland, crowberries and blueberries. Your friends back home might not believe you that you went berry picking in Iceland, but it is a tasty addition to any outdoor adventure!
Crowberries are the most common type of berry you will find in Iceland. These blue to black little berries are less sweet than blueberries but still make for a tasty snack. If you happen to stumble upon some berries all they need is a quick rinse as these berries are left to grow organic and pesticide-free around the countryside. Before you leave Iceland be sure to try some of your freshly picked berries on a cup of skyr, or the traditional dessert skyr cake.
6. Take a Northern Lights Tour
Autumn doesn’t just bring beautiful colors to the vegetation in Iceland, it also lights up the skies with the dancing colors of the Northern Lights! The mild temperatures during the autumn months make for a great time to join a Northern Lights tour as you won’t mind being outside for potentially several hours while you wait for the Northern Lights to make their appearance.
There are a variety of options you can choose from when it comes to joining a Northern Lights tour. You can do the more traditional route of taking a bus tour that will drive you out to a location in the hopes of spotting the Northern Lights, but we recommend doing something a little more unique. The following tour options will add a little something extra to your northern light chasing experience, and with the not too chilly temperatures, you will be able to fully enjoy your time instead of worrying about those freezing fingers and toes!
Adrenaline-Filled Kayaking Tour
If you are looking for an adrenaline-filled Northern Lights adventure this tour is for you! Kayak around the peaceful fjord by the light of your headlamp while you wait to see the Northern Lights dancing overhead. A magical way to experience the Northern Lights!
Serene Sailboat Tour
Hop onboard an electric powered sailboat and take in the Reykjavik skyline while you wait for the Northern Lights to appear. This tour will have you enjoying the Northern Lights by water far away from the light pollution of the city.
Super Jeep Tour
Make your way out of any light pollution by way of a super jeep tour and find yourself surrounded by only the light of the Northern Lights and the rugged Icelandic countryside on this tour.
7. Relax in a Cozy Cafe
While it is true that the autumn months bring pretty mild temperatures to Iceland, you will also be in for some autumn storms that can bring heavy rain and winds to the country. Thankfully these storms usually pass within a day or two and bring back the nicer weather, but it is a good idea to have some activities that you can do when those storms do hit, and relaxing in a charming cafe is a perfect rainy day activity to enjoy in Iceland!
Get into the Scandinavian hygge culture with a visit to one of the many cozy cafes you will find around Iceland. Bring a book, enjoy a pastry or two, and warm up with something hot to drink.
Here are a few traditional Icelandic treats we recommend trying during your cafe visit:
● Vínarbrauð - a flaky pastry filled with almond and vanilla custard and chocolate icing.
● Kleina - Iceland’s version of the doughnut, this twisted fried bun is a great option if you don’t want something too sweet.
● Skyr Cake - a traditional Icelandic dessert, using the famous Icelandic skyr, this treat is delicious with some fresh berries on top.
8. Visit the Imagine Peace Tower
While in Reykjavik make a boat trip out to Videy island to visit the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial to John Lennon from his widow Yoko Ono that symbolizes the couple's campaign for world peace. The 15 searchlights the tower consists of can reach an altitude of at least 4000 m on a clear night, and over one million wishes Yoko Ono has collected over the years can be seen written underneath the light tower.
Every year the tower lights up the Reykjavik sky from October 9th, John Lennon’s birthday, to December 8th the day he was shot. Over the years additional dates have been added to when you can see the tower light up, such as Yoko Ono’s birthday and winter solstice. The impressive light beam is a sight to be seen, and a welcomed addition to the dark Icelandic winter days.
9. Go Hiking
We will be honest, we recommend going hiking in Iceland no matter what time of year you are visiting, as long as the weather is safe to be out in that is. It would be a shame to come to Iceland and not head out to explore at least one hiking trail, so even if the autumn months are known as some rainy ones don’t forget to pack up your hiking boots and fit in some hiking adventures. We have partnered with the Wapp Hiking App to sponsor hand-selected hiking trails all around the country, which you can add to your Iceland itinerary. If you are one who likes to explore a destination on foot and wants to experience an absolute connection with nature, you might want to check out our hiking ring road trip called Complete Iceland - Hiking & Trekking.
From the lovely autumn colors that will take over the hiking trails to fewer crowds out exploring it is a great time of the year to be hiking in Iceland. Coming to Iceland in the early autumn may even be a better option than early summer if you are hoping to hit some hiking trails in the highlands as they are more likely to be open at this time after having the entire summer to melt away any leftover snow. Just remember to read our articles about the things you should know before hiking in Iceland and top 10 things to pack for a hiking trip in Iceland.
To give you a few ideas of where to head off exploring here are a couple of different hikes we recommend doing in the autumn in Iceland:
Reykjadalur is a hiking trail just outside of the town of Hveragerði that has become very popular over recent years. The 2-4 hour hike takes you back into the mountains where you will see steam rising all over the place, which makes sense as Reykjadalur directly translates to “steam valley”. The highlight of this hike is the hot springs found along the trail which are perfect for a mid-hike relaxing soak. This trail can get quite busy during the summer months which makes the low season of autumn a great time to visit as you can enjoy this beautiful hike with few others around.
This trail takes you back to the second-highest waterfall in Iceland on a beautiful 3-4 hour hiking experience. Along the way you will get to take in views across the fjord and over the valley Glymur is located. During the autumn months, these views are overtaken by vibrant autumn colors making the landscape even more stunning. The hike is fairly accessible but you will have to ford a river so be prepared for an adventure!
Fimmvörðuháls is a 25 km hiking trail between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers in southern Iceland. The Fimmvörðuháls trail is known for its diverse landscape, which is only made more dramatic with the autumn colors in full bloom. This trail is only open during the summer months due to access into the area, but if the autumn has been mild (and snowfall limited) it is likely that this area is still open in the early part of autumn. If hiking in the Highlands is on your Iceland bucket list this trail is where you want to be! Good preparation is the key to a successful hike in the Highlands so please check the weather forecast, be dressed according to weather, and follw the information and warnings on safetravel.is.
10. Visit an Icelandic Farm
With the summer ending and winter quickly on its way farms all around Iceland will be gathering up their animals from their summer grazing areas and bringing them back to the farms for the winter. This busy time of year is a great time to visit an Icelandic farm to see all the animals and farmers in action. If you are visiting in early autumn you can even join in on the gathering of the animals by joining in on one of Iceland’s oldest cultural traditions, Réttir, the annual sheep round-up. Many Hey Iceland farms who offer accommodation have farm animals and some even let you partake in the farmwork and become a farmer for a day or two.
Even if you aren’t in the country to experience Réttir this is still a very lively time to add a farm visit to your Iceland trip. Make a day of it and visit one of these family-friendly farms. Or, make the experience even more memorable and opt for a farm stay for some of your time in Iceland to truly get a feel for the daily life of an Icelandic farm.
Photo © copywright Óðinn Einisson
Each season in Iceland brings something a little different and special, and visiting during the autumn months will not disappoint. Vibrant colors popping up across the stunning Icelandic landscape, mild weather conditions, fewer crowds to share the beauty of Iceland with and plenty of fun activities to keep you busy, there really is no reason not to visit Iceland in the autumn months.
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