Tips for Planning Your Autumn Trip to Iceland

Everything is more beautiful during the fall, right?

Going to Iceland during the fall was one of the best decisions I ever made. The landscape had transformed from green to a million shades of yellow through red, purples and pinks - it was an amazing canvas of colors. Also during the fall you have true night so you have a chance to see the northern lights (we saw them three times!). Oh, and the crowds are considerably thinner during the autumn season!

1. Beware of the Unpredictable Weather

For the two weeks we were in Iceland we only had two rainy days which was a miracle. While we got lucky, I've read that the weather is highly volatile during the fall. Be prepared for any situation and for the weather to change within minutes. Bring gear that's durable and can keep you warm and dry (and outdoors). 

2. Always Add Onto Your Travel Time

Because the landscape during the fall is totally transformed into a rainbow of colors, the photography opportunities are going to be endless and sometimes you're going to want to pull the car over to literally just take pictures of the ground. When driving from point A to point B be sure to factor in an extra half hour to an hour (depending on how long the drive is) to pull over and explore/take some pictures. On our first few days I did not take into account that we would be constantly stopping to check out trails, take pictures and just gawk at the landscape and we missed a few things from being horribly behind schedule. 

Hraunfossar

3. See the Northern Lights

Instead of paying for a tour to see the Northern Lights we opted to stay in the countryside for most of our vacation. We got off the Ring Road and stayed in the Northern Fjords and then came down a little farther south and stayed in an AirBnb way off the beaten path. We saw the Northern Lights MULTIPLE times just from staying in the countryside and having big, dark open skies. My advice would be to get out of the city and find an Airbnb up north! The two areas we stayed in were Bíldudalur and Búðardalur. 

4. Get a 4x4 Vehicle

A lot of what I'm recommending is off the Ring Road and for good reason; you'll see fewer people and get to explore more remote locations but you'll need a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We did not get one while we were there and while we survived, we would have been much better off with an SUV. When you get off the main Ring Road, a majority of the roads are not paved and are rutted with potholes. Also, always ask if you can get "gravel" insurance. It's exactly what it sounds like, insurance that protects you from any damage done to your vehicle from the gravel roads. 

5. The Foliage 

We were in Iceland for the last two weeks of September and the fall foliage was at its peak! We did not plan for this at all - I simply chose the end of September because the Airbnb's were cheaper but we couldn't have been more lucky! Fall peaks at different times every year but I think you'll be safe if you plan for the last two weeks of the month of September. 

6. The Crowds

Although September is during the shoulder season, there's really never a time where there aren't people in Iceland. While there weren't that many people, at the main attractions off the Ring Road there were still crowds and lines of people waiting to get pictures. Wake up early or stay a little later to avoid the main crowds and do some hikes that are over a mile long to really get some alone time!

Also check out my story 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Iceland in the Fall 

Published: May 10, 2018

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Jess FischerExplorer

Portland

An east coast transplant exploring the wild and wonderful PNW ⇞