Before You Go: How to Pack for Spring and Fall in Iceland

People in the rain on Skólavörðustígur street, Reykjavík.

If you‘re planning a trip to Iceland, you‘ve no doubt heard that the weather here is unpredictable. This is true for every season, but even more so for spring and fall. Both are pretty cold, with temperatures swinging from 0°C [32°F] to 7°C [44°F], and both have the potential for storms and precipitation. However, they are also the most erratic seasons. They frequently lean more into the lines of summer or winter, so check the weather forecast before finalising your packing list. The following are suggestions for what to bring on your fall or spring trip to Iceland that suits the typical circumstances. You might want to scale it up or down depending on which way the weather is expected to swing while you‘re here. 

The basics of dressing for the Icelandic spring and fall

Layering up is the best way to be prepared for the range of weather situations you might encounter in Iceland. Doing this allows you to quickly adapt to changing conditions. You‘ll want to bring:

  • Long trousers
  • Long sleeved tops
  • A thick sweater
  • A water resistant jacket and overtrousers of the same sort
  • Consider thermal underwear, particularly if the forecast is cold, windy and/or wet
  • A hat
  • Gloves
  • A scarf 

In terms of shoes, bring lighter shoes, like trainers, and more robust water resistant ones suitable for diverse terrain. If you don‘t have room for extra shoes in your suitcase, go for the water resistant ones. These will be better suited for any nature trips you might be taking. 

Adventure add-ins

If you’re going all in on the phenomenal Icelandic nature with higher energy outdoor activities, like climbing or hiking, the packing list will be similar to the above recommendations. The main difference is that you should pay more attention to the materials of your clothing. Go for:

  • Thermal underwear
  • Comfortable pants
  • Woollen socks
  • A woollen sweater
  • Proper hiking shoes
  • A breathable, water resistant jacket and overtrousers of the same sort 
  • Mittens
  • A hat or headband
  • A scarf or warm buff

We advise you to prioritise wool, which has the excellent quality of keeping you warm even when wet, and to avoid both non-breathable materials and cotton. Cotton gets cold when wet, and non-breathable materials trap moisture, lessening your chances of staying warm. 

Additional items 

What Is Iceland Like in the Spring and Fall?

Hraunfossar Waterfalls in Iceland

Icelandic nature during shoulder seasons

During fall, Iceland’s nature takes on a unique palate of orange, maroon, and moss green, making autumn in Iceland a treat for your eyes. During the spring, the empty branches start blooming after a long winter’s rest, and the grass turns green again. Both fall and spring are excellent times to observe the rich birdlife of Iceland, as migrant birds pass through during this time. The well-known Atlantic Puffins arrive in April and stay until September. You can see the puffins in several places, but the most convenient way is to take a boat tour to Akurey island or Lundey island from Reykjavík harbour.

The weather in Iceland during fall and spring

During any season, Iceland’s weather can change often and quickly. Sometimes, you can even experience all four seasons in just one day! For this reason, it is best to be prepared and regularly check for weather updates and road conditions. In the fall, the average temperature is 4-7°C [39-45°F], and in the spring, 0-7°C [32-45°F]. In the spring, the daylight is, on average, 15 hours. During fall, it averages 10 hours. Fall and spring bring more rain than the other seasons, so bringing water-resistant coats and footwear may be a good idea.

The roads in Iceland

Route 1, often referred to as “the ring road”, will take you around the island with clear road signs and paved roads. However, some remote locations may only be accessible by gravel roads. You will not be able to travel to the Highland, as the F-roads that take you there are only open from June to August.

Foggy road in Iceland
Photo: Golli.

Driving safe

Due to rainfall, water can accumulate in the roads’ tyre tracks or other dips, causing hydroplaning. If this happens, slow down by letting go of the accelerator and pump lightly on the break if needed. Note that rain, fog, and snow can reduce visibility, especially during the darker hours. Make sure to never stop in the middle of the road or enter closed roads; it is illegal and can cause serious accidents. In case of an emergency, call 112. Make sure to bring essentials such as warm clothing, snacks and beverages, and to have a GPS/map at hand. It is good to familiarise yourself with Icelandic road signs before driving. For information regarding weather and road conditions, you can call 1777. With some preparation and research, you can have a safe and adventurous journey!

Northern lights in Iceland during spring and fall

Late fall and early spring are good times to see the northern lights, though never guaranteed. You can catch them yourself from wherever the skies are clear, but tours are available to see the northern lights shining brighter from better vantage points. The tours usually run from mid-September to mid-April, as the rest of the year brings too much daylight to see the aurora. You can view the northern lights forecast here. Note that the white areas on the map indicate clear skies and a higher chance of seeing them. You will see numbers in the upper right corner representing their activity level.

What is there to do in the spring and fall in Iceland?

Inside:

Iceland offers a diverse range of museums. In Reykjavík, Perlan museum has interesting interactive exhibitions presenting virtual northern lights and a man-made glacier, in addition to educational exhibitions on natural history and geology. Other museums in Reykjavík include the Maritime Museum, the Whale Museum, the National Museum of Iceland, and the Reykjavík Art Museum. Iceland offers a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can experience both Icelandic and foreign cuisine. You can browse Iceland’s unique art, clothing, and jewellery designs in local shops around the country.

Perlan Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland
Photo: Perlan Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland

Outside:

Hikes in areas such as Heiðmörk nature reserve and Þingvellir national park will bring you a new appreciation of the scenic nature of Iceland through lava, moss, lakes, and rich history. Road trips to the villages and towns of Iceland are a great way to experience authentic Icelandic culture. To keep warm during cold days, submerge yourself in some of Iceland’s many geothermal pools and lagoons. Mountains, black sand beaches, waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers are some of the natural wonders of Iceland worth exploring, whether on your own or by going on various excursions.

As summer and winter are the peak seasons of tourism in Iceland, fall and spring are more affordable for flights and accommodation while bringing fewer crowds. Whether chasing the aurora, exploring Iceland’s nature and its wildlife, or immersing yourself in the local culture, the shoulder seasons provide fascinating scenery for a vacation to remember.

 

Rescue Operation Resumes for Man in Grindavík Crevasse

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

The search for a man who fell into a crevasse in Grindavík on Wednesday is set to resume today, RÚV reports. The operation was paused due to safety concerns from rockfall.

What happened?

The town of Grindavík was evacuated on November 10 amid powerful seismic activity. Earthquakes and the formation of a magma dike under the town opened crevasses and damaged roads, homes, and infrastructure in and around Grindavík. (A short, but powerful eruption occurred northeast of the town between December 18 and 21 and volcanologists say that another could occur soon.)

After the evacuation was lifted, construction workers began filling in the crevasses in town, as business operations resumed. On Wednesday, a man who was finalising work on one of the crevasses went missing. After his tools were discovered by a colleague near the crevasse, rescue workers began searching for the man.

Why was the search paused?

The search for the man was paused before midnight yesterday, after continuous efforts since Wednesday, due to the inability to ensure the safety of rescuers in the crevasse owing to rockfall. But the search will continue today.

Read More: Out of Harm’s Way (The Evacuation of Grindavík in Photos)

“At around midnight last night, we had to stop the search because we could not guarantee the safety of those working down in the crevasse,” Úlfar stated in a conversation with RÚV this morning. “There was rockfall within the crevasse.”

Despite the shifting of rocks and debris within the crevasse yesterday, rescuers did not suffer any injuries. The conditions for the search are, however, highly challenging.

As noted by RÚV, efforts have been made to widen the opening of the crevasse, which is narrow. This has limited the search to only two people being able to descend into the crevasse at a time.

Updated at 20:17. The search for the man has been called off.

Iceland’s President Comes to Aid of Fallen Senior at Ikea

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson promptly assisted an elderly man who fell at Ikea, a moment captured in a photo by attorney Katrín Oddsdóttir. Following the incident, medical and police personnel arrived to ensure the man’s well-being.

A “graceful” reaction

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was quick to respond when an elderly man suffered a fall at Ikea in Garðabær yesterday.

Attorney Katrín Oddsdóttir, who was present, captured the moment in a photograph, which she contended was “telling” for this small nation. “Where else in the world would one see a president in Ikea without a security detail, ready to intervene in such a situation?”

In an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, Katrín lauded the President’s interventions: “I just thought his reaction was graceful,” she observed.

According to Katrín, a loud thud was heard as the elderly man fell backwards in Ikea, creating considerable distress in its wake. “Guðni rushed over and proceeded to sort of manage the situation; the President was there for this man,” Katrín remarked, adding that a nurse was also present, who comported herself like a hero and took good care of the man.

Shortly after, ambulances and police cars arrived at the scene.

Woman Safe After Difficult Rescue from Kirkjufell

The Coast Guard’s helicopter was called out shortly before 6:00 pm on Wednesday regarding an accident at Kirkjufell mountain on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, RÚV reports. A French woman in her twenties fell from the mountain and injured herself badly, but was able to make an emergency call herself.

At the time of the call, weather conditions on and around the mountain were difficult, with snow, considerable ice, and poor visibility. As such, it was expected that it would take time and would be rather dangerous for rescuers to reach the woman. In addition to the helicopter, paramedics and a search and rescue team specially trained in mountain rescues was also called to the scene. In spite of the challenging weather conditions, however, she was rescued in under four hours.

Per a report in Skessuhorn.is, the young woman suffered both head and foot injuries after sliding down the ice-slick side of the mountain. Amazingly, she stopped sliding just a few feet shy of cliff edge; had she gone over, she would have fallen some 10 meters [33 feet] at least, undoubtedly to her death. She was very cold by the time that rescuers reached her, but they were able to get her into a helicopter and transport her to the hospital in Reykjavík.

It has only been a little over two weeks since another hiker died after a fall on the very same mountain, not to mention the hiker who died there last year. Given this, there is considerable debate among Search and Rescue members and others about whether or not there should be limits to, or even a full ban on hikers climbing Kirkjufell in the winter. It’s thought that hikers often attempt the climb often without taking account of weather conditions, or having the appropriate experience, clothing, and/or gear to complete it safely. The matter is, therefore, now being transferred over to authorities for consideration.