Iceland in September: Weather and Autumn Colors

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Iceland in September promises an experience that combines the charm of seasonal change and unique cultural offerings. Visitors are greeted with delightful sunny days and the vibrant hues of fall foliage as the country gracefully transitions from summer to autumn. Snow is visible only on the highest peaks, and most roads are open, making this stunning country easy to navigate. The highlights of September include the annual Rettir, a tradition that witnesses the return of sheep from the highlands, and the beginning of the Northern Lights season. A trip to Iceland in September also ensures a more serene atmosphere, with fewer crowds than in the bustling summer months.

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Iceland Weather in September

Tourists hike the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Icelandic highlands.
Iceland has mild weather in September, lovely warm days, and cold, dark nights.

In September, Iceland experiences a transitional climate with average daily highs of 9°C (48°F) and average nightly highs of 5°C (41°F). As summer gives way to autumn, expect unpredictable weather, occasional rain showers, and rapid changes in conditions.

Reykjavik and the nearby regions, influenced by northbound Gulf Stream winds, enjoy the warmest temperatures in September. This weather pattern extends throughout South Iceland, West Iceland, and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. However, heading to North Iceland or the remote Westfjords brings cooler temperatures and the potential for early mountain snowfall, although it tends not to linger.

September in Iceland is also characterized by decreasing daylight hours. At the beginning of the month, you can still expect around 13 to 14 hours of daylight, but as October approaches, daylight hours will be approximately 10 to 11 hours.

For more details on the season and weather of Iceland, check out our travel guide on the best time to visit Iceland.

Why Visit Iceland in September

Car driving the beautiful scenic road of Iceland.
September is one of the best months to go on a scenic drive through the Icelandic countryside.
Aurora borealis with silhouette love romantic couple on the mountain.
Capture the beauty of the Northern Lights in the comfortable temperatures of September in Iceland.

The summer destinations that make Iceland so popular are, for the most part, open and accessible on a trip to Iceland in September. Here is why visiting Iceland in September is an excellent idea:

  • Northern Lights season: The Northern Lights are most active around the equinoxes, from September until March. The longer nights provide an increased opportunity to witness this natural phenomenon. Additionally, nights are darker, so there is less light pollution in the skies, making the colorful bands of aurora borealis appear more enhanced.

  • Fewer crowds: As summer ends in August, tourist crowds subside significantly, making sightseeing tours of Iceland a rush-free experience for visitors. Flight deals are also often more favorable during this period than the bustling summer months.

  • Good driving condition: One of the best ways to explore Iceland is on a self-drive tour. September is a good month to drive around Iceland, as most roads are still open and free of ice or snow. Plus the traffic conditions are not as intense as in summer. The first week of September is the best time to explore Iceland’s f-roads, while the later weeks are good for driving Iceland’s Ring Road.

  • Glacier hiking and snowmobiling: Glacier hiking and snowmobiling are two sports available year-round in Iceland. That said, the thick snow of winters, vivid visibility, and erratic weather conditions can make these winter sports difficult for amateurs. But September provides mild weather, good visibility, and decent daylight hours for the best glacier hiking and snowmobiling conditions.

  • Authentic cultural experiences: For those seeking cultural immersion, September brings the traditional Rettir, an annual event where locals round up sheep from the highlands. Also, be sure to attend The Night of Lights in Reykjavik, an annual cultural festival observed in Reykjanes during September to honor the unique culture of Iceland.

Where to go and What to do

Man marveling at an ice cave formation in Vatnajokul.
Marvel at the grandeur of the Vatnajokull Glacier, one of the biggest glaciers in Europe.

Iceland offers a unique and captivating experience in September as the country prepares for autumn. The onset of the Northern Lights season makes it an ideal time to witness the mesmerizing aurora borealis. Head to remote regions such as the Thorsmork Valley for the best views.

Embarking on the iconic Golden Circle tour this month provides a distinct advantage. The popular attractions, including Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and the powerful Gullfoss waterfall, are less crowded, allowing for a more tranquil and immersive experience. The pleasant weather and autumn foliage in September further enhance the beauty of these natural wonders.

Driving the Ring Road in September is a rewarding experience for those with an adventurous spirit. The comfortable driving conditions allow travelers to explore the diverse regions of Iceland without the challenges of winter or the peak summer traffic.

Most hiking trails in Iceland, such as those in Skaftafell National Park, are still open in September. You can discover magical mountains and soak up scenic vistas easily on foot during this month.

September marks the beginning of autumn in the Westfjords. As the foliage changes color, the landscapes transform into a vibrant tapestry of reds, yellows, and oranges. The Westfjords boast a variety of hiking trails like the Kubbi Trail and Haukadalur Loop. Finally, for glacier hiking, kayaking, and snowboarding, head to Vatnajokul while the weather still permits a comfortable experience.

Need Help Planning Your September Trip to Iceland?

The mild weather, thin crowd, and abundance of activities in September make it one of the better months to visit Iceland.

Fill out our customized Iceland trip form and let our team of travel professionals help your itinerary vision come to life. For more ideas and inspiration, look at our Iceland guide and let us take care of the details.

Our related travel guide articles:
Iceland in August
Iceland in October

Published by Lucas Toft, updated on December 11, 2023
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    Harpa GroissTravel Expert in Iceland
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