Iceland in September - beautiful autumn colours is just one of the reasons to plan September trip

12 Great Reasons to Visit Iceland in September

In Europe, Iceland by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

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, I just 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, these are the main reasons to visit Iceland in September.

September is one of the best months to travel to Iceland
 

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.

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!

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 Landmannaugar.

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

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.

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 less crowds than in July or August.

Not only will you meet fewer people at the most popular landmarks, 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 slowly 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 prices 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 hotels in Iceland for a self-drive trip.

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.

More tips for your trip to Iceland:

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

Comments

  1. 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.

    1. Author

      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.

  2. Thank you for this GREAT article! Very helpful! I’m interested in renting a camper car (Through the company you recommend) and driving the Ring Road next month (September) – ideally staying in a place a few days to hike & sightsee and then move on. Is this logical? Are there towns along this road – ideally that would have a coffee shop with WiFi to work out of?

    1. Author

      Hi Kirsten, yes, this is logical, but I think it’s best to move around, so not more than 2 nights at most places, especially because you have your own house on wheels – no reason to drive up and down.
      But keep in mind that you have to stay at the campsites (sleeping in the car just anywhere isn’t allowed in Iceland anymore). And not all the campsites will be open in September anymore, so you’ll have to do some research. More information here: camping in Iceland).
      And yes, there are quite some towns along the Ring Road in Iceland with restaurants and coffee shops and many have free wi-fi. Use Google maps to find restaurants etc. along the way.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

      1. Thank you for the quick reply and information! With more research I realized the car rental place you recommend offers an internet router that I’m going to opt in just to be safe. I didn’t realize I’d be restricted to the campsites – that would have been quite a surprise – thank you for the link as well!

        1. Author

          Oh yes, we just came back from Iceland and had also rented wifi with our car from Lagoon Car Rental – it worked amazingly well and we could use it pretty much everywhere. Also – don’t rent a GPS – it’s completely unnecessary as you can just use Google Maps all the time.
          And yes, do some research for the campsites that are open on your travel dates to avoid any unpleasant surprises. And stay warm!

  3. Hi jurga
    Thank you for the great info, in very pleasant way. I m going to attend a conf in Reykjavik, for five days beginning 2nd of Sep. I ll have free time after six or four pm. Kindly, what is your suggestion for this time to enjoy within the town.

    1. Author

      Hi Nagwa, there are actually quite a few things you can do in the evenings:
      – Visit Perlan (open till 10pm) – make sure to do the Aurora show
      – Climb the Hallgrimskirkja tower (open till 9pm)
      – Take a Northern Lights tour
      – Take a bus to the Blue Lagoon (you can book the bus here and Blue Lagoon tickets here – have to book in advance!)
      – If you can make it for 5pm, you can take a whale watching tour. Alternatively, there are later tours that combine whale watching and Northern Lights hunting, but I’m not sure if it’s really a good idea – it will either be too dark for whales or too light for auroras….
      Here you can find more suggestions for short excursions in and near Reykjavik.
      Hope this helps.

  4. Hello! Great Information! We are going August 28 to September 6, any chance of Rettir or Northern Lights? Also how do we prepare for this trip? I have to read how Iceland is in August AND September and this is a transitional period but not too different, but based on the days we are going would it be safe to assume just go with what Iceland is like in September?

    1. Author

      Hi, yes, it will be about the same at the end of August as at the beginning of September. There is a high chance to see the Northern Lights (please check our tips for Northern Lights), but I’m not sure about the sheep 🙂 In principle, you can always see sheep in Iceland, just maybe not in such big numbers as during Rettir.
      As for how to prepare, please check this article for what to wear and what to pack for Iceland and for the rest – check our Iceland page for more information.
      Have a great trip!

    2. Great information. Thank you. Visiting the week of September 6, 2019.
      Possibility of seeing Puffins????

      1. Author

        Very small chance, I’m afraid. From what I hear, they already left some areas, but are still around in the East and in the South. But by September, they’ll probably be back to sea…
        You can always ask in our Facebook group a day or two before your trip if anyone still saw them around at that time…
        Have a great trip!

        1. Thank you so much for the quick response!

  5. Hi Jurga, much appreciate for your information!!

    Do you have any recommended camper van rental to rent for 4 person trip around Iceland?

    1. Author

      Hi Ned, please check Lagoon Car Rental website. They have some nice campers, also ones that can do the highlands. Alternatively, just google and you’ll find plenty of choice for your needs. Hope this helps.

  6. Wow! This is by far the most informative post I have seen about planning a trip to Iceland. Thanks. You are awesome 🙂

  7. Wow! Loved this post❤ we are thinking of visiting for a week during the third week of September. Can you please suggest us a rough itinerary? Would very much appreciated it! Also, we won’t be driving, so dependent on tours and private cars with drivers.

    1. Author

      Hi Neha, if you don’t drive, you can just stay in Reykjavik and take day trips. Here you can find my hand-picked selection of the best day trips from Reykjavik. Since September is a bit of a shoulder month, please also check Reykjavik winter day trips – those will include the Northern Light tours as well.
      I would suggest to definitely visit the South Coast and Jokulsarlon, Golden Circle, at least one of the thermal lagoons, and in September I also recommend you visit the highlands and take a Northern Lights tour.

      Here is how your trip could look like (day order doesn’t matter much):
      Day 1 Reykjavik and maybe take a bus to the Blue Lagoon (you’ll need to reserve Blue Lagoon separately and in well in advance)
      Day 2 Golden Circle and Fontana Wellness Tour
      Days 3 and 4 – I really suggest doing this as a 2-day trip like this: 2 Day South Coast Tour with Glacier Hike & Boat Tour Otherwise, if you rather stay in the same hotel in Reykjavik, you can do this as a day trip to Jokulsaron, but it will be a very long day and you won’t see as much. Alternatively, just do the South Coast.
      Day 5 Take it easier. Visit Perlan in Reykjavik, go whale watching, or book a Northern Lights tour.
      Day 6 Snaefellsnes Peninsula
      Day 7 If you can hike 3-4 hours, I recommend to visit Landmannalaugar in the highlands. Otherwise you can find plenty of other suggestions in my posts mentioned above.

      If you prefer private tours, there are quite some options for private tours from Reykjavik.

      I also know a very good private guide who can arrange the whole trip for you and make any itinerary that you want to. But in that case, I suggest you don’t stay in Reykjavik and let him book hotels for you along the way. It’s much more sightseeing with less driving. You can find an example of a trip I did with him here (Iceland highlands trip with a private driver) – it’s just an example and he does lots of regular ‘best of Iceland’- type of private trips as well. His website is linked in that article; tell him Jurga sent you and he’ll take care of you.

      What you can also do is, for example, a 2-4 day private trip along the South Coast and then visit a few other places as a day trip from Reykjavik. As you can imagine, private trips will always be much more expensive than organized day trips, so it’s a way to make it more affordable.

      P.S. If you are staying in Reykjavik and are looking for hotel recommendations, please check this article on where to stay in Iceland (also Reykjavik hotels).

      I hope this helps you and hopefully some other readers. I always think I’ll just quickly answer, and before you know it, it becomes a whole trip planning 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

  8. And that is when I will go then.

  9. Hi Jurga. We are going in September for 7 days. What do you think is the best self driving tour for that time?

    1. Author

      Hi Carlos, there are SO many possibilities. If you haven’t been to Iceland before, I’d suggest this 4 day itinerary plus maybe a day trip to the highlands. This specific day trip can pick you up in Hella, so is easy to combine with the itinerary I suggested (after day 1 you’d stay in Hella area, so can easily stay one night extra there and make that day trip).
      If you still have a day or two left (depends on your flight schedule and whether those 7 days are actually 7 full days), you could potentially consider driving up to Snaefellsnes Peninsula. I have no info about the latter on the blog yet – we ourselves are going in August and will be visiting that part as well.
      Hope this helps. PS in September you can visit all these places in a regular car (if you don’t drive to the highlands on your own – in that case, you’d need a big 4WD). We use and recommend this local company for car rental.

  10. Hi Jurga, i will be travelling to iceland on Sept 12, do you think i should rent a SUV car or just a normal car? We only have 2 person, appreciate you advise …

    1. Author

      If you stay on the main roads (so no highlands or F-roads), you should be ok with any regular car in September. Of course, you never know how the weather will be, but generally speaking, it should be fine.
      Here you can find some great car rental deals, check it out. Often a small SUV or 4WD isn’t that much more expensive than a regular car, especially if you are not traveling in the summer.

  11. Hi Jurga may I know u travel to Iceland is on early, mid or end of Sep I am planning to take wedding photo & try my luck to see northern light

    1. Author

      Hi Sally, I was there mid-September (11-16/9). The weather and the Northern Lights is always a gamble in Iceland, but generally beginning of September should be much warmer than the end of the month. For auroras it doesn’t matter – there is always a chance from mid-August till mid-April.

  12. Much appreciate for your information.
    It was very valuable for us to plan our trip.
    Did you see northern lights in your trip?
    Where was the best places to see northern lights in September?
    Many thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Linda, yes we saw the Northern Lights several times. We went outside every night and saw them three out of 5 nights if I recall well. When there are no clouds, you have a good chance to see them. It doesn’t matter where you are – all you need is darkness, no clouds, and at least some aurora activity. Use this website to check aurora forecast when you are in Iceland and if you see white on the map (= no clouds) in your area and activity of at least 2, there is always a chance. KP index of 3-4 is enough to see auroras with the naked eye, but of course, you’ll see them better if the activity is stronger.
      If you are staying in the city, then it’s better to drive outside the city or join a tour (you can find some suggestions here – best Iceland tours in winter), but if you are traveling around the country, you’ll be staying at the places that don’t have much light pollution, so you can just see auroras anywhere by your accommodation.
      Enjoy your trip!

      1. Hi Jurga

        Much appreciate for your prompt reply.

        Kind regards
        Linda

  13. In the Iceland,What months are summer and what months are winter ? It is not clear to me.
    In the Finland and Norway ,whether northern lights become visible.

    1. Author

      It depends on what you mean by the summer 🙂 Icelandic summer (June-August) has about the same weather as Spanish winter, but with more wind and rain. 🙂 So if you are expecting beach weather, Iceland isn’t the place to be.
      As for the Northern Lights, the season starts from around mid-August and lasts till mid-April – you need darkness to see them and in the Northern countries it stays light pretty much the entire time between May and July.

  14. Hi,

    Very helpful post! On what dates were you there in Sept?

    1. Author

      Hi Kevin, I was in Iceland from the 11 till 16th of September and we really lucked out with the weather. Here you can read more about the trip that I made this time: Icelandic highlands.

  15. Your website has excellent information, Jurga. Makes trip planning to Iceland so much easier.

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