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When I ask for the "best" time of year, I am looking for a reasonable balance of the following criteria, in order of importance:

  1. Mild weather. Ideally, warm enough to have coffee outside in a light jacket during the day, cooling down at night.
  2. Not too much tourist activity. I'd like to be able to get a table at a restaurant and be surrounded by more locals than visitors.
  3. Inexpensive accommodations and flights. I prefer apartment rental to hotel rooms, but will accept data on either.
  4. The higher the likelihood of nice aurora sightings, the better!

Is there a time of the year when all of these factors intersect in Iceland?

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I was there during the first week of June in 2008. The weather varied a lot during our one week stay (as is common for Iceland). Some days we needed a light jacket, others a light sweater was sufficient. I'd say that all of the restaurants we went to during our stay had a good representation of locals, however, there was a pronounced tourist presence too. Things were certainly not inexpensive then, but I imagine things have changed since. –  ESultanik Aug 6 '11 at 18:07
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+1 for the precise criteria you listed in the question to make it specific. –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 6 '11 at 18:20
    
I have been working in Reykjavik during summer and winter, and loved the city during both seasons. But based on your criteria, summer wins. –  nic Aug 8 '11 at 10:14
    
Stay out of Reykjavík and you will won't see as many tourists. The northern part of the country is also better for Auroras and weather is very unpredicatable. Early spring can be ok and early autumn if you stay out of the rainy southern part. –  Ingó Vals Oct 3 '11 at 13:30
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2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

This article is invaluable for that sort of decision.

The growing season (summer) in Iceland is two months long. The tail ends of the summer are the low points, which means early June and late August. Things begin closing down in September. By Christmas, all sorts of things are closed, all though from time to time the industry tries to bring tourists to Iceland for Christmas. Flying to Iceland around Christmas time isn't cheaper--avoid the major holidays to save money.

I was there for spring break. It was pretty darn cold. There were enough things going to keep busy. The swimming pools are so warm you pretty much can go swimming no matter how cold it is.

You can see the northern lights from September to March.

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+1 for article, seems like a perfect match with the question –  Niels Aug 6 '11 at 23:23
    
Great answer and great article. Thanks! –  Abby T. Miller Aug 7 '11 at 0:49
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  1. Best weather is during summer time. What I call mild is what is the average summer in Iceland. The long days make it possible to do more in one day. That does stroke with #4 though.

    Also some roads (to the north) close after heavy snowfall around October/November, which makes it harder to get around the country.

  2. I estimate the tourist season to end at the end of August/ beginning of September. Then you should be totally safe.

  3. Don't know

  4. Winter. You need darkness to see auroras so the closer you are to the 21st of December, the more darkness, the higher your chances. Also if you go more north, the higher your chances. And get out of the city Reykjavík, it is way too bright in there.

So if your only reason to go is the auroras, I would say December. But to also enjoy more of Iceland, maybe go for October, and get away from city lights when you're aurora hunting.

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