May 01, 2019

May in Iceland | The Best Way To Do Iceland in May

by Ragnheidur Harpa
Driving in iceland
Natural attractions
Road trip
Things to do
Travel tips
Ragnheidur studied anthropology with a minor in media so it might not come as much of a surprise that she is curious about the nature. She loves educating others about her findings or her home country, Iceland. Ragnheidur is into country living, traveling, Icelandic horses, the Icelandic naming system, plants and all things having to do with food and beer. Her favorite places in Iceland are the Westfjords and the South Coast but she has lived in downtown Reykjavik for the last few years.
May in Iceland | The Best Way To Do Iceland in May

Vestrahorn mountain

Updated April 2022

May is a beautiful month to visit the island of ice and fire. The terrain is now green and flowery and the waterfalls even more powerful. It is close enough to the summer season so the weather is warmer and the summer tours have opened up but still not close enough to have high peak prices yet. This means that May in Iceland is a bit of a shoulder season that delightfully results in lower prices and fewer tourists!

Lupins in Iceland

May is a wonderful time to travel around Iceland and road trips are greatly recommended. Likewise, will a trip around the famous Ring Road be one to remember: Just you, the open roads and untouched nature shared only by a few cute lambs and the locals. The weather is lovely and balmy, the midnight sun has started to share its charm and the puffins have already landed.

If you haven’t realized already, we will bluntly tell you: May might just be the perfect time of the year to visit Iceland!

Weather in May in Iceland

May is known as a mild month when it comes to the weather. Its average temperatures range from 4°c to 10°c (about 40°-50° Fahrenheit) and brightness and daylight are the dominant features. May is the month that the trees start to bud, the flowers begin their colorful blooming season and the baby lambs, foals and calves gleefully play in the vast open fields.

Small lambs in an Icelandic field

Nevertheless, May is often followed by a bit of rain which though, thankfully, is known to stay only a short time. Keep this in mind when deciding what to pack for your trip. May is the first month we start to see some actual warmth and much celebrated double digits are common!  

Daylight in May in Iceland

June is undoubtedly the month of daylight in Iceland but it is followed closely by the month of May. At the beginning of the month, you will have about 13,3 hours of daylight to enjoy but by the end, that number is up by more than three hours. This means that by the end of May we have about 16 hours and 40 minutes of daylight. Yet another reason why May is such a great time to visit Iceland.


Northern Lights in May in Iceland

The only downside to this abundant of daylight that May brings us is the challenge it provokes for Northern Light watching. However, on a more positive note, many consider May to be the absolute last month of the season to spot them and they are known to appear in many colors right at the beginning and end of all seasons. So, you are not completely hopeless in your quest for the lights. Just keep in mind that the sky needs to be pitch black for our favorite dancing pastel colors to pop out so the later you go out the better.

What to Pack for Iceland in May

The packing list for Iceland looks surprisingly similar each month. Even though the country is named after ice and is therefore often considered among the most Arctic places to visit the weather, in recent times, has proven to be quite steady over the year. There isn’t as much of a drastic shift in seasons as there was before and as a result, the ‘What to Pack for Iceland’ list is looking more and more the same no matter when you plan on visiting.

The basic things you will always need in Iceland:

  • Base Layer: Wool Underwear/Thermals
  • Thick Socks (more than usual)
  • Mid Layer: Sweater, Fleece or Thermal Insulation Garment
  • Pants that are easy to move in
  • Hiking Boots
  • Scarf/Buff
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Water/Windproof Jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Bathing Suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm (you will know why when you land)

But, for May you might also want to bring

  • Shorts
  • T-Shirt
  • Light Jacket

What to do in May in Iceland

An Icelandic Horse

Visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsnes is home to the mighty Kirkjufell mountain, Stykkisholmur fishing village, the black Budarkirkja church and Berserkjahraun lava field. In its center you can’t help but see the towering Snaefellsjokull glacier made famous by the Jules Verne book ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and by the coastline are rugged yet stunning views enjoyed in common with the Arctic seals that nestle around the beaches.

The area as a whole is easy to get around, less affected by the snow like Iceland‘s more Northern locations and ideal for a road trip in May.

Make sure to stop at Krauma Geothermal Baths which waters are naturally sourced from the neighboring hot spring, Deildartunguhver. Famous for being the most powerful hot spring in Europe.

Join a Puffin Watching Tour

Many locals will say that spring arrives with these feathered bundles of adorableness and we completely agree. The first spotting of a puffin will make the headlines and soon they have turned Iceland into Europe’s largest puffin colony. You can find them in numerous places around Iceland including, Dyrholaey, Ingolfshofdi, the Westman Islands, the Westfjords and even in the small islands surrounding Reykjavik!

Puffins in Iceland

Take a dip in a Local Swimming Pool

There is no faster way to take in a country’s culture than through the art of bathing in it. This is quite literally what you will be doing if you take bathe in one of the many local swimming pools found around the island. In Iceland, the population of about 150 people is considered a sufficient reason to build a swimming pool so you will have no trouble finding one.

Swimming Iceland

Whether you are looking to challenge your inner Michael Phelps or simply want to relax in the hot tubs these places are true gems on Iceland’s royal crown and you can’t miss out on.

Visit a local swimming pool and bare witness to how Icelanders deal with the winter’s darkness and the cold weather. But also, how they harness the geothermal activity their grounds provide.

Go Hiking

May often brings that perfect weather for outdoor activities and hiking is one of the more budget-friendly things you can do in Iceland. Mount Helgafell and Mount Esja are very popular hiking trails near Reykjavik and free to do. They are also very well marked!

Other hiking places further out worth attention are Thorsmork, Landmannalaugar and Reykjadalur!

Hiking in Iceland

Events and Festivals in May in Iceland

1st of May – International Workers Day  

International Workers Day is celebrated in Iceland on the 1st of May and can often affect opening hours of public businesses and shops. Keep it in mind when planning your trip.

1st of May – Day of the Icelandic Horse

On this day all the horse societies around Iceland will host events relating to the Icelandic Horse.  Simply sign up for a horse riding tour to celebrate!

Icelandic Horses

The Icelandic Mother’s Day

The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day in Iceland. It was first celebrated in 1934 and has been an annual event since. It is the perfect occasion to treat your mother to a great meal, an adventure tour or simply a hug! Many Icelanders like to buy flowers, a cake or a small gift.

Driving around Iceland in May

In May the weather should be warmer and calmer than it has been in the months before. Even though we might not entirely have reached the summer months yet the snow and icy roads should now be behind us. Hopefully resulting in the perfect road trip conditions.

Road trip Iceland

Still, it is important to keep in mind that we are talking about Iceland and the weather in Iceland is known to act out. If it were a beast it most certainly would be an untamed one and it is better to be prepared than to get surprised. Make sure to check the road conditions before setting off each day. This will give you the chance to feel free and relaxed on your trip to Iceland. Leaving you without worries about rapid weather changes or difficult road conditions and plenty of room to enjoy!

Top Trips to Enjoy in May

As you can easily see, May is perfect for shorter road-trips, which have the ring road around Iceland in the spotlight. Enjoy a flexible and stress-free travelling with pre-booked hotel nights and rental car, plus the Iceland Travel’s comprehensive electronic road book. Use the Iceland Travel Companion App with over a thousand interesting points of interest to help each day.  We will make sure to offer the best cars and itineraries for the road conditions as our focus is everyone’s safety.

Ideal activities to include in a May vacation include puffin watching, whale watching and river rafting fun.

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