Northern lights in the sky during a visit to Iceland in October

Iceland in October: The Ultimate Guide

October is one of the quietest months in Iceland. As the summer tourists begin to make their way home and the sunlight hours begin to get shorter. Don’t let that fool you because October is one of the best times to visit Iceland. A month that is known as the shoulder season, which means you can still reap the benefits of Summer while enjoying the crisp cool air of Fall. We are going to break down some common questions as well as some of the best things you can do when visiting Iceland in October!

What time is sunset and sunrise in October?

Similar to September, most of October also has an average of 12 hours of sunlight per day. Which makes it a great time of the year for a road trip around The Ring Road or The Golden Circle. You can expect the sunrise to be around 7:30 AM and the sunset around 6:50 PM in early October. Towards the end of the month, the sun rises close to 9:00 AM and sets around 5:00 PM. You would have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights during the end of October since the sky gets darker earlier.

What is the average temperature in October?

The average temperature during the month of October is normally a high of around 42 F and a low of 34F. While you can expect the weather to be more chilly than summer, it is still a fantastic time to visit the waterfalls and tourist destinations during this time.

Does it snow in Iceland during October?

Fortunately, October isn’t known for heavy snow. Of course, this could change yearly and it is always important to check the forecast before heading out to any activity. Reyjavik sees less snowfall than some other parts of the country. The South Coast also gets less snow during this time of the year.

If snow is not your preference then we recommend avoiding North Iceland or the highlands. These areas of Iceland are known for having heavier snowfall and even icy roads. Luckily, there is so much to do in Reykjavik and the South Coast. So avoiding heavy snow storms shouldn’t be a problem when visiting in October/

How are the roads in October?

Despite the intense landscape that Iceland has to offer, the roads are very well maintained here. It is known to be just as easy as driving in the United States, especially since both countries drive on the right side of the road. However, the United States has a larger population while Iceland has a smaller one of around 360,000 people. This makes driving throughout the country a bit easier.

Most of the main roads throughout the country are paved. If you are looking to explore offroading in the country then we recommend you have the proper vehicle for it. 4x4 cars are necessary when exploring pretty much anywhere outside of Reykjavik. Especially for those who want to access remote trailheads and hot springs.

What to pack for a trip to Iceland in October?

Packing for a visit to Iceland in October is similar to packing for two seasons. It is known to be the transition season so you can expect a variety of weather. Some days may be warm and you could be wearing a T-shirt. Other days can be frigid and require multiple layers. When we say you should probably pack a little bit of everything, we mean it.

First off, do not forget your rain jacket. Rain in October can be very cold, this also includes the mist near the Waterfalls on a nice day. Investing in a winter jacket that has a thick rainproof cover would be your best bet. Layers and more layers will be key to staying warm in October. Wool Base Layers can be a lighter option that will provide you with a cozy and warm layer to your outfit.

If you are taking a day hike you should pack a bit of everything. A t-shirt if it gets too hot, a winter hat if it gets too cold. Wind protection is a must in case a cold front comes in. Wind chills can significantly drop the temperature and if you are not fully prepared it can become dangerous.

Hiking boots with a good grip are necessary for any outdoor lover. During October frost is common and that can cause slickness on rocks. You can invest in a pair of winter hiking boots that protect you from the cold as well as provide a good grip on slippery and icy surfaces. Even if the weather is going to be on the warmer side, hiking boots are still a must. While Iceland’s trails are well marked and maintained, there are some loose gravel and rocks in certain areas.

What To Do in Iceland in October?

Soak In Iceland's Hot Springs

The cooler October temperatures pair perfectly well with an Iceland favorite, hot springs! This small country has around 45 hot springs that are located all over the country. Of course, you can visit the tourist favorite, The Blue Lagoon. Which is conveniently located twenty miles from Keflavik International Airport. The lagoon reaches a temperature between 98-104 F, which compliments the crisp October air flawlessly.

If you want to experience a hot spring that is not as crowded and off the beaten path, then check out the Seljavallalaug Hot Spring in Iceland. This place is known to be one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, making it even more special. The parking lot to the hot spring is located near Seljavellir and the Ring Road, in the valley below the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. This is about a two-hour drive from Reykjavik. Once you reach the parking lot you are not done yet! The swimming pool can only be accessed by a short hike. The hike is 1.2 miles long with an average of 15 minutes each way. Hiking in the cool air will make the soak in the hot water even more majestic. 

Seljavallalaug Hot Spring in Iceland in the middle of nowhere surrounded by green grass and mountains

Imagine Peace Tower Lighting

This international memorial for John Lennon is located on Viðey Island. Which is a quick twenty-minute ferry from Reykjavik. The unveiling of the sculpture happened on October 9th, 2007, which was John Lennon’s 67th birthday. The Imagine Peace Tower symbolizes John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono’s love for world peace and each other. It is also known to communicate awareness to the whole world that peace & love is what connects all lives on Earth.

It makes an even more special visit on October 9th, which is John Lennon’s birthday. On this day this tower is lit up and shines through the sky. You can see the light from miles away, even from the Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik. But we recommend taking the quick ferry ride over to see it for yourself up close. It is a peaceful ceremony of remembrance for John Lennon and reminds us why peace in the world is so important.

Imagine Peace Tower Lighting

Marvel At The Fall Foliage

Even though Iceland is not known for its vast forests, there are a lot of different areas of the country that have beautiful fall foliage. The Eastern part of Iceland is known to have the best fall show due to the number of trees in the area. The leaves began to charge in Late September and linger into early October. Depending on the year, you may even see some fall foliage into late October.

You can also get some bucket list photographs at some of the waterfalls in Iceland during this time. The breathtaking cascading waterfall will be surrounded by bright yellow leaves with a few spots of burnt orange and intense deep red.

One of our favorite spots sits in the Borgarfjörður district, the Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls. Hraunfossar is a series of small and large creeks and waterfalls that flow out of the lava field for a half mile. The flow of lava also changes the colors of the water. Some days it is a whiter color, and others it can be a bright turquoise blue. Right above this waterfall is another one, Barnafoss Waterfall. The vibrant fall foliage compliments these two amazing waterfalls during the fall months.

The Reykjavík International Film Festival

Spend some time watching unique films at The Reykjavík International Film Festival. This year the event is held from Thursday, September 29th to Sunday, October 9th. This event takes place for eleven days making it the perfect addition to your Iceland in October itinerary. Both locals and tourists will head to the cinema to enjoy top-rated films as well as new films of international filmmaking.

You can even attend a meet and greet with the film’s directors or attend panels and workshops, concerts, and exhibitions. They have some quirky events, like watching a film in the swimming pool of one of the filmmaker's homes! Even if you attend for a day or two, we still recommend checking it out. Who knows, you may even find your new favorite movie here!

Drive The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a great option for those wanting to take a quick road trip and explore areas outside of Reykjavik. The route is 186 miles long and takes around four hours to complete in one day without stopping. But stopping is the best part! There are three main attractions on this route and also some hidden gems too. 

Kerið Crater Lake is one location on the Golden Circle that is normally passed by travelers.

But it should truly not be missed. The crater lake is 180 feet deep and surrounded by deep red volcanic rock. The view from above is simply stunning. We recommend doing the more difficult hike here where you can take the staircase down to the bottom of the lake. There is a small entrance fee of 100 ISK to enter the crater lake, but it is completely worth it!

Next, spend some time at the famous Gullfoss Waterfall. Which is probably one of the most popular spots along this route. This two-level waterfall is a combination of waterfalls. The first part has a 36 feet drop and then the second a 69-foot drop. In total, the canyon on both sides of the waterfall reaches 230 feet. Don’t miss the short hike that brings you to the top of the falls. The scenery of the hike is majestic as you enjoy the subtle waterfall mist on your face.

Then take a ten-minute drive over to The Geysir Geothermal Area. Which is a spouting hot spring that is one of the most popular stops on The Golden Circle. The Geysir shoots all the way up to 20 meters or 65 feet up to 40 meters or 130 feet high. It is known to erupt every five to ten minutes too. So you won’t need to spend too much time stopping off here.

Strokkur geysir eruption in Iceland

Your last stop along the Golden Circle Route is Thingvellir National Park. This is the only place in the whole world where you can walk between two tectonic plates. It is also home to the largest lake in Iceland, Thingvallavatn. So you will not be short on places to explore in this national park. It is free to visit Þingvellir National Park but there is a small fee for both parking and bathroom use.

You can use the Golden Circle as a full-day trip from Reyjavik, especially during October. This time of the year the crowds will be less too, making it quick and easy to view the attractions.

Visit Music Café for the Lennon & McCartney Event

As we already discussed, October 9th was the birthday of John Lennon. Making it a celebration around the world in his honor. In addition to visiting the Imagine Peace Tower, you can also indulge in some local events too.

The Music Cafe’ located in downtown Reykjavik holds an event that honors both John Lennon and Paul Cartney. Two individuals brought different ideas to the table and worked together to make the magical music that the Beatles offered to the world. On October 9th, Valgeir Gestsson of Grófin‘s music department will talk about the difference between the two friends and bandmates. The event will highlight the different lyrics and sounds of The Beatles and analyze how they are so different from both artists. An educational and fun event to honor John Lennon on his birthday.

Glacier Hiking

Located just 98 miles east of Reyjavik is the Sólheimajökull Glacier, a well-known glacier in the country. It is a glacier of the icecap of Mýrdalsjökull, which sits on the South Coast of Iceland. It is also one of the most popular places to glacier hike!

You can take a tour with Guide To Iceland to reach the glacier. The tour starts with a meet and greets with your guide at the Skaftafell Visitor Center. The guide will go over all safety measures as well as get you set up the equipment you will need for your day. Then take a quick fifteen-minute drive to where the glacier tongue starts. If you have never glacier hiked before that is completely fine. Your educated guide will go over all of the basics with you so feel confident to scale the ice cap. 

You will begin your trek through the wilderness and even pass some ice formations accompanied by deep blue crevasses. Once you reach the gigantic ice cap, you will have time to take in the majestic beauty of the area. If your day is clear, you could even see the country's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur. The duration of the tour is about three hours and is available any time of the year. The price of the tour is $76 per person and you can even rent a pair of hiking boots for an additional $11 if you forget yours. We recommend going in October for snowy landscape views in the distance!

Glacier Hiking in Iceland

Chase The Northern Lights

While the dead of winter is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, you still have a chance in October. This is when the skies start to become darker, especially in Late October. There are a few different ways you can get outside and try to find them.

Heading to the remote area in the Icelandic Countryside is a great place to try and find them. Out there you won’t have to worry about any light pollution from the city or the airport. An overnight stay in a hotel is your best bet. This way you are a quick drive from an isolated area where you can spend some time waiting for them.

Take the hour-and-a-half drive southeast of Reykjavik and enjoy a night at the Ranga Hotel. They are located in the countryside and turn off their external light for optimal conditions to view the night sky. On clear nights, you will be able to spot beautiful constellations and distant planets. A dream scenario would be to soak in one of their geothermally heated hot tubs with a glass of bubbly! Too tired to stay up all night for the Northern Lights to appear? We get it, and so does Ranga. They offer Northern Lights Wake-Up Calls, that way if you want to catch some zzz’s you totally can. They will alert you of any Aurora activity.

Don’t want to drive around to find the Northern Lights? You don’t have to. You can sign up for a bus tour and your guide will do the driving for you. Northern Light Bus offers different tours that are available from late August to April. So October is an ideal time to indulge in one. Visible between the end of August and mid-April, the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) are a sight not to be missed when visiting Iceland.

The bus tours can be anywhere from 3-4 hours and take you to a variety of different locations. This all will depend on the forecast that is customized by their northern lights team. There is also an app you can download on your phone to help you track Aurora's Activity. Download the Hello Aurora App, which will help you know when the lights are going to be visible. 

Northern Lights

Go Horseback Riding

While most horseback riding tours shut down towards the end of summer, there are still a few that are available in October. Honestly, we could not think of a better time to explore Iceland via horseback. The cool air paired with the falling leaves is a breathtaking venture. But do you know what would make it even more special? Ending it at one of the most loved lagoons in Iceland, Sky Lagoon.

Ishestar Horse Riding Centre offers the Horse Riding and Sky Lagoon Tour for only 24900 ISK or 174.77 USD. This day combines a horseback riding experience with a relaxing visit to the oceanside geothermal spa Sky Lagoon. This tour is recommended for all riding levels, so beginners are welcome. 

Your day kicks off with horseback riding along stunning riding paths surrounded by lava fields and green hillsides. Then when the ride comes to an end you will enjoy a complimentary coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. You can use this time to ask any questions about the Icelandic Horses as your chat with your tour guides.

Then you will begin your journey to Sky Lagoon. It is only a few minutes away from the city center near the Atlantic Ocean. Upon arrival, you will enjoy the views from the lagoon as well as participate in “The Ritual”. Which is a unique seven-step experience that guides you through the history of Icelandic bathing culture. This includes combining the healing powers of warm water, cold water, warm steam, dry heat, and fresh air. We couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy the chilly October air than by getting outside into nature and ending at an oceanside warm lagoon.

Explore The Crystal Blue Ice Cave

October is a fantastic time to take a guided tour of Crystal Blue Ice Cave with Blue Iceland. The meeting point for the tour is at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which is a five-hour drive from Reykjavik. The lagoon is located along The Ring Road which means even if it is snowing, the roads are generally maintained well during October. October is also the first month of the season when you can visit the ice caves. Tours normally run from October through April.

The Crystal Blue Ice Cave Adventure is a trip for the adventurous and is located in a more remote area of Iceland. It kicks off with a scenic drive through the majestic Icelandic landscape on a super jeep. You will be able to see the glacial terrain during your drive! Once you arrive at the ice cave, the tour guide will get you set up with the proper equipment that you will need for your tour.

Once you are ready, it is time to enter the cave, which is truly a magical space of vibrant blue ice. You will be in the cave with your guides for about an hour before taking the journey back to Jökulsárlón. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the cave can only be accessed with a guide. We recommend asking them to grab a photo of you with the breathtaking icy walls that surround you.

Ice cave Iceland

Halloween Reykjavik

Every year on October 31st, Halloween Reyjavik throws the biggest Halloween party in the country. While Icelanders don’t celebrate this holiday as much as other European and American cities do, they still throw a fun party for it. While Halloween is a newer holiday celebrated in the country, Icelanders encourage you to grab a Halloween costume for the event.

The party is held at Gaukurinn, located at Tryggvagata 22 on the upper floor. This is a “no costume, no entry” kind of scene! There is a “battle of the best costume” so be sure to get creative with your Halloween attire. It kicks off at 8:00 PM with the award ceremony taking place around midnight. There is a small entrance fee of 2000 kr, about 14 USD. Dance the night away and celebrate with some spooky Icelanders!

Walk Around Heiðmörk Nature Reserve

Take the 28-minute drive from Reyjavik to the breathtaking Heidmörk Forest. It is the largest outdoor recreation area near Reykjavik. There are so many outdoor activities you can partake in here and October is one of the best times of the year to experience them!

This includes bike riding, horseback riding, and walking around the grounds. There are different easy-to-moderate hiking trails for you to explore as well. The reserve was known to be around in 1947, then the council decided to establish it as a nature reserve. Heidmörk is about 3,200 hectares in size, and the forest takes up about a third of the area. There are also geological formations, wetlands, and heather bogs.

Enjoy the breathtaking rock formations known as Rauðhólar. Which are pseudo-craters that were formed 5200 years ago, as a result of the lava flow of the Letin volcano. The red color is known as Rauðhólar, which means Red Hills. We love this spot for snapping a few photographs and enjoying the geology of the rocks. After, take a brisk walk around the vast Lake Elliðavatn.

Heiðmörk Nature Reserve is a local’s favorite spot to enjoy a nice nature walk near Reykjavik. Since it is a forested area, you can also spot falling leaves and bright fall foliage here. A perfect October activity when visiting Iceland.

The Reykjavik Food Walk Tour

What goes great with a nice October day? A food tour! Reykjavik is home to some tasty cuisine and we think you should try it all. The Reykjavik Food Walk Tour can be your host and bring you to some of the city's most exciting spots. The tour is three hours long with the meeting spot at Harpa Concert Hall. Your guide will bring you some culinary dreams in Reykjavik. This includes visiting six local restaurants where you will enjoy over eight tasty Icelandic cuisines.

Some food you will try along your tour is free roaming Icelandic Lamb, homemade Ice Cream, fresh fish, and the iconic Icelandic hot dog. The tour is USD 115.00 per Adult and is worth every penny. This specific tour was awarded the top 20 most exciting experiences in all of Europe by Viator.

Whale Watching

October can be a delightful time to go Whale Watching. While the normal Whale Watching season runs from April-September, there is still a decent chance to spot a whale in October. There are over twenty different species in the waters of Iceland. This includes humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises. You could also spot blue whales, beaked whales, and orcas.

Take a Whale Watching Trip with Elding Whale Watching Pioneers. The tour leaves right from Old Harbor in downtown Reykjavik. Your captain will bring you into Faxaflói bay with the crew and specially trained naturalists. The marine biologist guide will teach you all about the wildlife and whales in the area.

The boat consists of outdoor viewing platforms, a heated indoor saloon with large viewing windows, a cafeteria where you can buy light refreshments, toilet facilities, and a cloakroom where you can borrow our blankets and overalls for the duration of the tour. This allows you to sit outside to enjoy the crisp ocean air or cozy up inside, which still has great views. Your guide will provide live facts and commentary about the areas you are visiting.

Commonly spotted mammals include minke whales, humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. Sometimes killer whales, fin whales, sei whales, and long-finned pilot whales make a rare appearance. The tour is 12,490 ISK or 87 USD and leaves daily at 9:00 AM or 1:00 PM.

Whale watching