For many people October brings to mind spooky decorations and all things pumpkin-spiced. In Iceland however, Halloween is not traditionally celebrated (instead children dress up and sing for candy on Ash Wednesday) and pumpkins weren’t a common sight until the 90’s. October mostly just signifies the transition from fall to winter and often sees the first frosty nights of the year, since the official First Day of Winter falls on October 27th. The sound of crispy leaves crunching underfoot brings thoughts of cozying up with a good book and a warm blanket as Icelanders break out their winter woollies and sturdy boots to prepare for the coming winter months.
But October is also a great month to travel around Iceland since the off-season has started which means the more popular tourist sites will be less crowded and the stunning Fall colors will lend them new and different hues from the greens and blues of the Summer.
Weather in October
October is our wettest month so make sure you pack your rain gear and your umbrella. The average temperature is a low of 3°c and a high of 7°c but can feel colder because of the wind and rain. Icelanders start preparing for winter mode by lighting candles, putting on their woolly socks and digging out their warm blankets. There’s nothing cozier than cuddling up with a good book in a warm house as the sound of rain patters on the windows.
Daylight in October
October has an average of 9 hours of daylight, with the sun rising around 9 am and setting around 6 pm so if you’re planning on driving use the daylight hours wisely. Luckily Iceland’s nature is just as majestic in the dark, which lends the landscape a mystical, otherworldly aura.
Northern Lights in October
October is one of the best months to see the Northern Lights. The best viewing for Northern Lights requires cold and clear nights and October has a lot of those! You will be able to see the lights from around 7 or 8 in the evening, once the sun has properly set. Make sure you check out the Aurora activity before you go on your Northern Lights hunt, the Icelandic met office provides a great Northern Lights forecast.
Read our detailed blog to become an expert Northern Lights hunter here.
Learn to take that perfect photo of the Northern Lights here.
What to pack for October
The weather in Iceland can be very unpredictable so be prepared for anything. In October you can expect wet weather and Old Man Winter is starting to flex his fingers so there might be some frosty mornings this month. However, October also sports some of the most gorgeous crispy Fall days, when the low winter sun lights up the gorgeous fall colors and the world seems to be in sharper focus.
So what should one take with them when you can expect all types of weather? Do like the locals and dress in layers! It’s good to have a backpack with some extra warm clothes just-in-case, or to store those extra layers if get lucky and it’s too warm… Below is our packing list so if you pack these things you will be prepared for any weather Iceland might throw at you in October.
Packing list for October in Iceland
- Waterproof rain and wind jacket
- Waterproof pants
- Your camera is a must to catch the Northern lights and the beautiful fall colors
- Hat, scarf and gloves
- Warm sweater (If you need one you can always buy the traditional Icelandic wool sweaters)
- Good waterproof footwear that is also good for hiking.
- Bathing suit
- Warm socks
What to do in October
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and its signature pink color can be seen all over the towns and cities. Stores have special offers on pink items and the proceeds go to cancer research so October is an ideal time to discover the best shopping you can do in Iceland. Reykjavik has two major shopping malls, Kringlan and Smaralind, where you can find all the most popular brands of clothing as well as homeware and sporting goods. The downtown area has the main shopping street Laugavegur which in recent years has become the hub of Icelandic design stores and boutiques, as well as the perfect place to get those Iceland mementos to bring home to family and friends.
Visit Videy Island
October is also the best time to take a boat ride out to the small island Videy, just outside Reykjavik. The island is not inhabited but offers a potent mix of breathtaking views, historical ruins and contemporary art pieces like Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower, a single beam of light in remembrance of John Lennon and his humanitarian work that is lit each year on his birthday, October 9th in a special ceremony.
Northern Lights and warm baths – two of Iceland’s favorites
Even though we Icelanders have seen the Northern Lights many times we are always impressed by their elegant dance in the sky in all their fantastic shapes and colors, they never cease to bring about their wow-effect. Another Iceland’s favorite are hot tubs and swimming pools. We in Iceland are so fortunate to have geothermal hot water and can therefore you can find a swimming pool in every town and Icelanders love to soak in them! You might we are crazy to run out in a blizzard in our swimwear to jump in a pool of water – but laying in a warm pool whilst the cold snow falls on your head is just the best feeling! Read our blog about top hot springs and swimming pools in Iceland here.
So why are we writing about these two different things in one post? Because we found a way to combine our two favorites into great tours that you simply can’t miss! A day tour where you visit the Secret Lagoon, one of the oldest natural geothermal pools in Iceland, after which you go to a delicious light buffet and try a variety of Icelandic cuisine and of course top the evening with a hunt for the Northern Lights. Or if you really want to go all in check out our Spa and Northern Lights break.
Driving around Iceland in October
As we have already mention, the weather is ever changing in Iceland, you never know what you might get, sun, rain snow or heavy wind – you might even get that all in one day! When driving in Iceland it is always important to have checked the weather forecast and road conditions before you start your journey. You can check the weather forecast here and road conditions here. Also remember to pick the right vehicle for your journey, we recommend an AWD or 4×4 vehicle during winter months, just in case (you can read more about picking the right car here). If you want to learn more about safe driving in Iceland check out our “The Do’s and Don’ts of Driving in Iceland” blog and/or if you have any questions about driving in Iceland we are always happy to answer your questions.
Must-see places in October
So to sum things up, October is the perfect month to take advantage of Iceland’s bathing and spa culture with a trip around the most luxurious spas in the countryside or you can even combine it with a Northern Lights hunt!
If soaking in warm water is not your thing why not try a chilling and thrilling visit to a real ice cave? Or maybe you want to experience all the culinary delights of the country while sitting safely inside a warm restaurant.
What ever you choose to do in your Iceland adventure in Iceland, just remember to have fun and enjoy the moment!