Iceland is a mystical island designed to leave you breathless with wonder and awe. The land is alive and teeming with an oasis of hot springs, active volcanoes, and contrasting elements like glaciers and ice caps. This country is striking and even more so in the fall. During this time of the year, Iceland displays a vibrant arrangement of autumn colors like bright reds and saturated yellows. The night is also transformed by the colorful dancing Northern Lights called the Aurora Borealis. This makes driving in Iceland in the fall a magical experience.
Driving in Iceland in the fall is an epic opportunity for any adventurous traveler. The country has limited public transport and long stretches of paved and rugged roads when visiting Iceland in the fall. Therefore, the best way to explore Iceland is to rent a camper van and identify interesting tourist routes. Also, the benefits of traveling in Iceland in the fall months are numerous. You will avoid the summer crowds, enjoy cheaper prices for Iceland camper van rental and accommodations, and still have 13 hours of daylight. When you take day trips to locations like the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you will definitely capture stunning images without being photo-bombed.
So when is autumn in Iceland and what is fall like in Iceland when it comes to driving? Let’s gear up to plan your drive through Iceland with some tips and tricks.
Autumn in Iceland are the typical fall months of September, October, and beginning of November. There is a tangible change in the air during this time. The drop in temperature from 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) to 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 degrees Fahrenheit) can be felt. October is colder, rainier, and windier with temps as low as 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit). In early November the weather drops more to about below 1.5 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit). At this time your camper rental will be equipped with winter tires to account for any icy snow on the roads.
However, early fall is still a great time to go berry picking near the capital Reykjavik and take long walks. In winter, the Highland F-Roads are shut down for safety purposes because of the levels of snow and ice on the ground.
In September the weather is more rainy and windy but you still have 13 hours of daylight to enjoy. The Midnight Sun from summer is gone but it allows the beautiful Northern Lights to appear. Wear warm waterproof clothes when you stay up for the Northern Lights because the weather can be very unpredictable. But this unpredictability is part of the Icelandic charm and experience. A trip to Iceland will teach you how to be prepared for the unexpected.
In the beginning of fall, the weather is pleasant but can still have sudden rain, wind, and drops in temperature. However, there is a saying that if you wait a few minutes the weather will change for the better. The theme when you drive in Iceland is to be flexible and expect the unexpected. Preload your destinations in your GPS and have printed instructions just in case you lose signal. You can contact the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (ICRA) for weather updates and view their website at www.road.is. Check the weather reports often and travel with an adventurous spirit.
When renting a camper use a search engine to compare prices and quality. Many travelers highly recommend getting camper rental insurance to be prepared for anything. The key to renting the right camper in Iceland also depends on where you are driving and the weather conditions. In September, the weather is mild and the roads should be clear of snow and ice. In October and early November be even more mindful of the weather conditions. Especially if you travel to places where winter can arrive early like in the North, West, and East of Iceland.
The most important road condition factors are the levels of snow and ice on the roads. If there is a high level you need a four-wheel drive regardless of paved roads. If you drive through the Highlands, you will always need a four-wheel drive because of how rough the roads are. The Highlands have roads called F Roads, which require you to drive through open lava fields, rivers, gravel and more. Driving through the Highlands is quite the adventure but you will earn the right to see majestic marvels.
Instead of the Midnight Sun from summer, the sun is low in the fall and can be in your direct eyesight when driving. The low sun can make it difficult to see the road, however there is an easy fix for this. Bring strong shades and you will drive in style. Please note that the heavy winds in fall can create sandstorms and also impede your vision when driving. The sandstorms are sometimes strong enough to damage your car paint and windows. Fortunately, you can avoid these storms by checking the weather for high winds and avoiding arid and sandy areas. Also, pay attention to any sheep that might be in the road. In the fall there’s less sheep roaming but you don’t want to accidentally hit Little Bo Peep or damage your car.
Pro tip: When driving pay attention to your gas tank. If you see a gas station fill up your tank because you might not pass another one for hours. Being stranded because of low gas is entirely preventable. However, gas is expensive in Iceland so budget in advance for this cost. Also, adhere to all speed limits, road signage, and never drive off road. Speeding tickets are expensive. But driving off road can make you face even higher fines and up to two years of prison. Fortunately, these consequences are avoidable if you drive cautiously and responsibly on your journey.
There are plenty of beautiful sites to visit in Iceland during the fall season. Your first day trip should be to the very famous Golden Circle. There are three natural wonders you can visit, Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Thingvellir National Park is a protected World Heritage Site for two reasons.
One, it is the location where Iceland founded the first democratic parliament. Two, you can witness the unique landscape that showcases two tectonic plates separating. When you visit you are walking among weighted history and a rare geological phenomena. Geysir is credited as the first geyser and even with giving geysers their name. The area is currently dormant but it still has steam and could burst at any time. Gullfoss Waterfall, also known as, the Golden Waterfall is a popular favorite. The water changes colors and is still stunning when viewed from any angle. This waterfall is fueled from Langjökull Glacier, which also features an ice cave you can explore.
Another amazing trip is driving the ring road to see many sites in the South Coast of Iceland like the glittering Diamond Beach. This beach features crisp black sand and icy white icebergs on shore. The contrast is a photographer's dream. Then go on a whale watching tour from Reykjavík to see minke whales and dolphins. After all of your traveling a relaxing day is needed at the famous Blue Lagoon. This manmade hot spring features steamy water, plush landscapes and rejuvenating spa treatments such as mineral infused masks.
In September and October you can go to fun music and film festivals. At the end of September is the famous Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF). RIFF is a wonderful experience to have for any film enthusiast. It showcases the work of local films and international blockbusters.
The well-known Reykjavik Jazz Festival started in 1990 and has been organized ever since. It attracts an amazing array of famous jazz and blues musicians from all over the globe. In addition, university students organize an affordable three-day version of Oktoberfest that is oddly enough held in September. It has famous bands from all over Iceland perform. There’s also a free literature festival called Reykjavik International Literary Festival. The festival is a memorable experience for English readers who enjoy learning about Nobel-prize winners, novelists, poets, and the like.
Visiting Iceland in the fall is a breathtaking experience you will have forever. Be prepared to have treasured memories, a great photo album, and fun stories to tell.