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12 Great Reasons to Visit Iceland in September

12 Great Reasons to Visit Iceland in September

Thinking of visiting Iceland in September and wondering what to expect? This guide should answer all your questions. Find out!

Many of our readers ask what is the best time to go to Iceland. As already mentioned in one of the older articles, Iceland winter vs. summer, there is no straightforward answer. Traveling in Iceland is very different depending on what time of the year you visit and every season has its charms. However, on one of my recent trips, I visited Iceland in September and have to admit that it’s a wonderful month to travel in Iceland.

Is September the best month to visit Iceland? Maybe. Can you see and do everything? No. However, September is as close to being the best month to travel to Iceland as it gets. Find out why!

There are various reasons why I think that September is probably the best month to travel in Iceland, especially if it is your first visit to Iceland. This month lets you benefit from some of the best advantages of both – summer, as well as winter travel.

So, without further ado, below are the main reasons to visit Iceland in September. Read on!

September is one of the best months to travel to Iceland
 

Here’s why visit Iceland in September:

1. The weather is a bit like in summer

September is a transitional month between summer and winter weather in Iceland. If you are lucky, you’ll have beautiful sunny days with temperatures of 10-14 C (50-57 F) – that’s also pretty much what summer weather usually looks like in Iceland. But even if you are less lucky with the weather, September temperatures will still normally be above freezing point. Average temperatures in Iceland in September range between 6 and 11 degrees Celsius (43-52 F).

Of course, you will get rain and wind in September as well, but you can hardly expect anything else, no matter when you visit Iceland. September weather in Iceland is just as unpredictable as during any other time of the year.

Although it might happen, especially in the highlands, the chances of having snow in September in most parts of Iceland are pretty slim.

Good to know: Most campings are still open in the beginning of September and so this is a good month for those who are traveling on the budget and want to go camping in Iceland.

TIP: Dress warm, no matter what time of the year you’re visiting Iceland. Check my Iceland summer packing list for tips on what to wear in Iceland in September. Don’t forget a warm waterproof jacket!

Landmannalaugar in Iceland on a beautiful day in September
September weather is often as good as in summer in Iceland (or better, as it was this year)
 

2. Driving conditions are good

No snow and no ice usually means that you can easily explore Iceland by car without having to worry about the road conditions. The possibility of road closures in September shouldn’t be of much concern, so you can drive the entire Ring Road of Iceland during this time of the year.

Driving in Iceland in September is just the same as driving in summer and that surely makes your trip planning easier. Of course, as always, you have to be prepared for high winds, soft edges, and flying stones that can shatter your windscreen. I always recommend getting full insurance when you rent a car in Iceland.

TIP: Since the travel market is so uncertain at the moment, we recommend renting your car via the RentalCars website. You can compare different companies and their offers, find the best prices, and also have a much better cancelation policy. You are also much better protected in case a local company goes bankrupt as it recently happened with our favorite local provider in Iceland. Recently, we had to cancel two trips and two rental car bookings and RentalCars fully refunded them both.

Driving in Iceland in September - road conditions are generally very good
Road conditions are generally very good in September
 

3. Long daylight hours, but also dark nights

September has plenty of daylight hours allowing you to fill your days and see more beautiful places in Iceland in less time. In mid September you have about 13 hours of daylight, compared to e.g. just 6 hours in mid November…

The good thing is that it does get dark at night, so you can easily get a good night’s rest. This is much more difficult if traveling in the beginning of the summer when the sun seems to never set.

Also, you can see many amazing sunrises and sunsets without much extra effort of having to get up too early or stay up late.

Another big advantage of the dark September nights is that you can see the Northern Lights. Which brings us to the next point…

Beautiful sunset in Iceland
You don’t have to stay up late for beautiful sunsets in September
 

4. Northern Lights

There are three conditions you need in order to see the Northern Lights: darkness, clear sky, and at least some aurora activity. With relatively good weather (read, more chance for clear skies) and about 10 hours of darkness, September is a very good month to see auroras in Iceland.

Additional benefits of hunting for auroras in September in Iceland is that it’s much warmer than in the winter months. You can easily stay outside for a couple of hours without a risk of freezing your toes off. Still, be smart and dress warm!

TIP: In this article you can find more tips on how to see and photograph the Northern Lights (tips for beginners). Check it out if visiting Iceland in aurora season!

LEARN MORE: Complete Guide & Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland in September
We saw the Northern Lights 3 out of 5 nights we were in Iceland in September
 

5. Beautiful autumn colors

A while ago someone asked me about the best places to see fall colors in Iceland. I was thinking, what autumn colors, there aren’t even any trees in Iceland… Well, I was wrong.

September is a beautiful month to watch autumn colors in Iceland. There are indeed just very few trees, but they look beautiful. Furthermore, there are so many small plants and bushes that change colors in autumn. This is especially visible in the Icelandic highlands.

So if you love autumn colors, now you know – the best place to see autumn colors in Iceland is in the highlands. Consider a day trip to Thorsmork or Landmannalaugar.

If you have more time, I really recommend a multi-day Iceland highlands tour with a private driver. It’s A M A Z I N G!

TIP: If you have no time for the highlands, check out Thingvellir National Park on the Golden Circle. I hear that fall colors are just beautiful there in September as well.

Autumn colors in Thorsmork Iceland
Autumn colors in Thorsmork
 

6. Iceland’s highlands are accessible

September, especially the first half, is also the perfect time to explore the highlands of Iceland. Most roads in the highlands are only accessible in summer months, from about mid June to the end of September.

F roads (unpaved roads in the highlands) are usually still quite wet and muddy in the beginning of the summer, also the rivers still have much more water making it more challenging to negotiate the river crossings. However, by September the highland roads are usually as dry as they get, making it a very good time to visit.

This still doesn’t mean that you should attempt driving in the highlands in a regular car or even in a small 4WD. You really need a decent size 4×4 for the Icelandic highlands.

Alternatively, you can easily visit the most popular places in the highlands -Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork – with an organized tour. So no need to rent a more expensive car for the whole trip if you’re just going to the highlands for a day.

 

Good to know: There are some places in the highlands that you can easily reach on your own (with a car that’s allowed to drive on the F-roads). One such place that is really easy to visit is Haifoss waterfall, just a short drive from the Golden Circle.

LEARN MORE: How to Visit Haifoss Waterfall

September is a good month to travel in the highlands of Iceland
The highlands are in general good accessible in September
 

7. September is perfect for hiking

Iceland has a lot of hiking possibilities, but not all seasons are equally suitable for hiking. It’s not abnormal to find snow on the hiking trails till the end of June…

However, at the end of the summer, in September, hiking trails are normally free of snow and quite dry, allowing you to explore Iceland’s beautiful scenery on foot.

If you don’t know where to start, I recommend Skaftafell National Park for hiking. It’s not far from the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and is very easy to get to. There are several hiking trails, most of them not that hard, and the scenery is really nice. Here you can find more information about hiking in Skaftafell. If you have 3 hours to spare, I recommend Svatifoss and Sjónarnípa hike.

Another nice thing to do in September is going on a glacier hike in Iceland. It’s one of the bucket list activities and well worth a few hours of your time. See our full guide below for more information.

LEARN MORE: Iceland Glacier Hike (Complete guide, best tours, and essential tips)

Hiking near Haifoss waterfall in Iceland
Hiking trails are easily accessible in September – hiking to Haifoss
 

8. Rettir – sheep return from the highlands

September brings a yearly tradition of Rettir in Iceland. Rettir is an annual event, the return of the sheep from the highlands.

As it gets colder, farmers bring their sheep back from the mountains to the farms, where sheep will stay till next spring again. It’s fun to watch this buzzing event: you see farmers on horses, kids howling down the mountains, barking sheep dogs, and even drones – all means are good to find and gather the sheep and lead them home. This is something that you’ll see all over Iceland in the first half of September.

I was wondering how the farmers know which sheep are theirs and how do they find them all in the highlands… Apparently, it’s not uncommon for a farmer to find sheep that belong to somebody who lives a few hours drive away. All the sheep are marked and so, in the end, they always get back to their lawful owner, even if it means they have to come and get them on the other side of the island…

September is the month of Rettir in Iceland - the sheep come back from the mountains
September is the only time when you can see so many sheep in one place in Iceland
 

9. Fewer tourists

Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination. However, visiting Iceland in September, you can expect much fewer crowds than in July or August.

Not only will you meet fewer people at the most popular landmarks of the South Coast and even less in the Myvatn area in North Iceland, but you will also feel it in your wallet. Read on!

Seljalandfsfoss waterfall in Iceland
The popular Seljalandfsfoss waterfall in September – not as busy as I expected it to be
 

10. Cheaper flights

As school holidays are over or coming to an end, travel demand is much lower in September. This means that you can find much better flight deals to Iceland if you are visiting in September, compared to the summer.

Here you can check for the best flight deals.

But the cheap flights are not the only advantage of traveling to Iceland in the shoulder season like September. Read further…

Icelandair airplane above the South Coast of Iceland aerial picture
Flying to Iceland is cheaper outside the busiest months of the summer
 

11. Bigger choice of accommodations

While Reykjavik has seen incredible growth in terms of tourist facilities over the last few years, the rest of Iceland is just catching up. It means that accommodations are scarce and have to be booked well in advance.

Once again, as there is less demand in September, you have a bit more choice when it comes to finding suitable accommodations in Iceland. More choice usually means better deals as well. Still, don’t wait till the last minute – the sooner you book, the more choice you have, and at better prices.

TIP: Here you can find my selection of the best places to stay in Iceland. And here – our complete guide to Reykjavik hotels and accommodation.

Alternatively, take a look at the map below, where you can compare hotels and short-term rentals in Iceland. Simply insert your travel dates and group size and you can see the best deals for your stay. You can zoom in and zoom out for various locations along Iceland’s Ring Road. Check it out!

 
Colorful rooftops of Reykjavik as seen from Hallgrimskirkja church
Accommodations are cheaper and easier to find in September than in summer
 

12. Wild berries

This is just a bonus point, probably not the deciding factor to plan a September trip to Iceland. But if you are visiting Iceland in September anyway, I guess it’s good to know that September is the best season to find all kinds of wild berries, including blueberries, bilberries, and crowberries.

Lots and lots of free and healthy food just waiting to be picked up and eaten on the go… Such a great way to enjoy the nature of Iceland even more, don’t you think?!

Wild berries in Iceland in September
Wild berries are plentiful in Iceland in September
 

So if you are planning a trip to Iceland, but are not sure when to go, now you know what to expect when visiting Iceland in September. I think that September is an excellent month to visit Iceland for the first time.

Traveling to Iceland in September? Check out these great itineraries:

READ ALSO: Iceland Itineraryroute suggestions for any trip from 1 to 14 days

More tips for your trip to Iceland:

Lesser-known places in Iceland that you can visit in September:

MORE INFO: Iceland travel guide

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Traveling to Iceland in September - here's what to expect
 

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June

Saturday 10th of July 2021

I have a question about the Northern lights planetarium show. My sister thinks its looking at live Northern lights but I am trying to convince her it's a video we watch. Can you answer this for me? We are going in September and want to book our tours.

Jurga

Saturday 10th of July 2021

Hi June, if you refer to the Arora show at the Perlan museum, yes, of course, it's a video. Northern lights is a natural phenomenon, you could never schedule a show and just watch it. You can read more about it in our guide to watching the Northern lights in Iceland. Have a great trip!

Christine

Wednesday 2nd of June 2021

Your photography is beautiful and lots of great tips. We are going on a 7 day Viking cruise around the island and really looking forward to it. I will refer to your blog again and again.

Joanne Gilmore

Saturday 19th of June 2021

@Christine, We'll be on the Viking cruise in September. Have you checked out Cruise Critic? There's a general board called "Iceland's Natural Beauty 2022" (it's really supposed to be 2021) and then there are the individual roll calls. You should check it out!

Jurga

Wednesday 2nd of June 2021

Glad you found some useful info for your trip on our blog, Christine. Enjoy your trip!

Peter Swinhoe

Saturday 29th of May 2021

Hi Jurga , `1) WHICH ARE THE BEST TOUR CAMPANIES IN ICELAND FOR VALUE/ QUALITY ?. WE ARE THINKING ABOUT COMING FOR ABOUT 14 DAYS IN 1ST HALF OF SEPTEMBER 2021 ?, BUT ARE FLEXIBLE FOR 2ND HALF SEPT , IF COMPELLING REASONS .

2)WHICH IS BEST HISTORICAL WEBSITE IN ENGLISH ,TO COMPARE 1ST VS 2ND HALF SEPT RAINFALL ?

3) BEST HISTORICAL WEBSITE IN ENGLISH , FOR COMPARING 1ST VS 2ND HALF SEPT FOR CHANCES OF SEEING NORTHERN LIGHTS ? ROUGHLY WHAT TIME DOES IT GO DARK IN 1ST HALF VS 2ND HALF SEPT?

4) DIFFERENCE IN ACCOMMODATION PRICES AVAILABILITY 1ST HALF VS 2ND HALF SEPT ?

5) IF WE COULD NOT GET A LONGER TOUR , IS IT A LOT EASIER TO BOOK OUR ACCOMMODATION FOR SEPT 2021 THAN JUNE / JULY /AUG ?

6) REFERRING TO Q5 ) , WHAT PRICE SHOULD WE EXPECT TO PAY FOR SOME SUITABLE HIRE CAR ?(4 WHEEL DRIVE ) PER WEEK OR 14 DAYS .

7) WE DON'T HAVE A PARTICULAR BUDGET , BUT SEEK VALUE , WHEREVER APPROPRIATE . MY WIFE PREFERS WARM /COMFORTABLE ACCOMMODATION IN PRIVATE ROOM WITH TOILET (BUT IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE LUXURIOUS ) , TO CAMPING ,BUT SHE CAN BE FLEXIBLE . THANKS FOR YOUR HELP , JURGA.

Jurga

Monday 31st of May 2021

Hi Peter, that's a lot of questions and I really don't know if I can help you with all of them... 1. There are many good companies, depends on what you are looking for. Here, you can find pretty much all available tours - self-drive, group tours, multi-day tours, day trips, etc. 2-3. No idea, really. :) It would never occur to me to look for something like that. There's really nothing more unpredictable than Icelandic weather and no historic data will help you to guarantee that you have amazing weather. If you are going for two weeks, you'll just have to be prepared for everything anyway. You should always expect lots of wind and also rain. If you are lucky, you'll get a few days of sunshine too. You just never know. If I recall well, it gets dark at around 8-9 PM in September, depends on when exactly and where you are. For auroras, please see this guide - Northern Lights in Iceland. 4. That depends on accommodation and on demand. The best way to compare is just simply to check booking.com for your travel dates. I don't expect there will be a significant difference in price for the same place. What you're likely to have is more availability at the end of September, and thus more choice of accommodations in all budgets. But this year is so different than 'normal', that it's really hard to say. 5. The same answer as above - just check what's available. This year is very different and there's still a lot of availability because travel is just starting and many people are booking last-minute. 6. Please see here for car rental prices - simply insert your travel dates, and you'll see all the best cars and deals. There's so much difference depending on the time when you travel and the car you rent. 7. There are so many amazing accommodations in Iceland - you really won't have a problem finding something nice with private facilities. If you are not sure where to stay, take a look at this guide: Where to stay in Iceland. Hope this helps. Good luck with the planning! If you find it all overwhelming, but still prefer to go without a group (easy to do in September), take a look at the suggested self-drive itineraries here (there are so many of them, for any duration) - you can just book the trip you like and they'll take car of all the practical aspects, and you get the itinerary and just follow it.

David Drier

Monday 5th of April 2021

Hi Jurga- Going to book a vacation in mid-September, NY-Reykjavik. Seven full days. I know we can get to a lot of the South from Reykjavik, but if we follow your recommendations for a 7 day visit, do we need to rent a car, or book a hotel in a second or third city/town? If so, which ones. Thanks so much! All my friends who have been have waxed enthusiastic over Iceland's people and the beauty of the land.

Jurga

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Hi David, I get this question a lot these days, so I'm working on a detailed 7-day itinerary, but it will probably not be published before the end of April... Anyway, in the meantime, I recommend that you check this 4-day itinerary with all the details of the 'musts' along the South Coast. It has all the accommodation suggestions as well. In addition, with 7 days in Iceland in September, you could add the following places: Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Heimaey Island or Icelandic Highlands day tour, and/or Reykjanes Peninsula. So your itinerary could look something like this: DAY 1: Golden Circle (stay in/near Hella for 2 nights) DAY 2: Day trip to the highlands (the tour I linked to above can pick you up/drop off in Hella) or maybe a boat trip to Heimaey Island DAY 3: South Coast to Jokulsarlon (follow accommodation suggestions in our 4-day itinerary - day 2) DAY 4: Jokulsarlon to Vik (follow accommodation suggestions in our 4-day itinerary - day 3) DAY 5: Back to Reykjavik and visit the city (stay in Reykjavik for the rest of the trip (or 2 nights if you prefer to stay close to the airport on the last night) - see Reykjavik accommodation guide for where to stay) DAY 6: Day trip to Snaefellsnes Peninsula (by car or with a tour) DAY 7: Reykjanes Peninsula and Blue Lagoon (you can stay in Reykjavik or close to the airport which is close to the Blue Lagoon - see accommodation suggestions in our Reykjanes Peninsula guide)

You could also move things around a bit and start with Reykjavik, followed by Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and then Golden Circle and all the rest. Or start with Snaefellsnes Peninsula, then the Golden Circle, with Reykjavik at the very end of the trip. There are many ways to do this - this is just one of the suggestions. See also a bit how your flight hours fit with the itinerary. Some people like to start with the Blue Lagoon upon arrival. It's really your choice and also depends on how often you want to switch hotels.

And yes, it's best to rent a car - in September the roads are usually very good and you can see so much more at a more relaxed pace by making a road trip. We use and recommend this website to find the best deals for your car rental. For this itinerary, you don't need a 4x4 and in September, any regular car should be fine. Or you can opt for a small 4WD car - always a good idea in Iceland. If you decide to go to the highlands for a day, I think it's better to just take a tour. It's cheaper than renting a 4x4 car for the entire duration of your trip and it will be less stressful. In general, mid September, the highlands should still be accessible, so it would be a nice addition to your trip (especially if you hike).

Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

Margie McCloy

Tuesday 24th of December 2019

Great article. We are flexible with are dates, but are trying to choose between last week Aug/first week Sept, or first 2 weeks Sept. We plan to rent a camper and drive the whole ring road; should we be concerned about closed campsites in less touristed areas if we choose the later dates? Does the weather change much between the first and second weeks of Sept? Are any tourist spots closed by mid Sept? We hope to hike, kayak, and maybe whale watch.

Jurga

Thursday 26th of December 2019

Hi Margie, in terms of the weather, it's really hard to say - Iceland is always a bit of a gamble. I've had amazing weather mid-September and I've also had terrible weather mid-August and vice versa. So that's one thing you really can't control. In general, August should be warmer and if you wait too long, towards the end of September, you might experience snow already... For the rest - the biggest advantage of going in September and not in late August is that your chances of seeing auroras are significantly higher. Yes, one week can make a huge difference here. We visited Iceland at the end of August this year and it just didn't get dark enough yet. A week later, everyone was seeing auroras already. A disadvantage of going in September is that indeed some places will start to close for the season already. Many whale watching tours in the north of Iceland usually stop running at the beginning of September, some campings will close, etc. So you should do a bit more research, figure out where exactly you're planning to go, and then decide based on that. For more information regarding camping, please check our camping in Iceland article. One more thing - if you are planning to visit the highlands, then you should definitely try to go mid-September by the latest. Hope this helps.

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