Iceland Weather in May - What to See & Do

12. May 2020 —
Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
Hiking in Iceland in May

May in Iceland has officially brought about the month of spring meaning warmer weather, especially in Southern Iceland, and many outdoor adventures to enjoy. Iceland's nature starts to truly come alive in the month of May, as flowers begin to bloom and the island starts to become more green as trees and grass begin coming back to life.

Snowfall is always still likely in May, but much less likely than it is in April, making May the perfect time to visit for those who want to visit Iceland with milder temperatures and potentially no sight of snow on the ground. Snow can still be seen from afar on the mountaintops, but for the most will stay off of Iceland's main roads.

One benefit to visiting Iceland in May is that oftentimes, flights, accommodation and even car rentals will be cheaper during the month of May, prior to the start of summer. On top of cheaper prices, outdoor activities start happening in full swing, with tons of excellent adventures that are catered towards the warmer months such as Kayaking on Sólheimajökull’s smooth glacier lagoon.

Shape Jan Zelina
Hraunfossar in west Iceland

Quick Facts on Iceland in May

Average temperature: 6°C/43°F
High temperature: 9°C/48°F
Low temperature: 3°C/37°F
Average Daylight: 16 hours 21 minutes
Average Rainfall: 40mm/1.5 inches
Average Rainy Days: 21 days

Average annual temperatures in Iceland

Weather conditions in Iceland in May

May is an excellent month to visit Iceland, especially for the outdoor lovers. Weather conditions in Iceland in May are quite different from the colder winter months, meaning a variety of different activities that can’t be found during other times of the year.

Average temperature

During May, the average temperature in Iceland is usually around 6°C or 43°F. You’ll still need a warm coat for most days, but luckily you might need just as many layers underneath as during other months. Still, layering is recommended as temperatures can quickly change and it’s the easiest way to be able to stay comfortable during both the day and nighttime. Daylight hours during the month of May normally reach over 16 hours total, so you can expect tons of time to enjoy Iceland during the day. High temperatures in May usually hover around 9°C or 48°F with lows normally around 3°C or 37°F.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
The DC3 plane wreck on Sólheimasandur in south Iceland

Daylight in Iceland during May

May is a great time to be in Iceland if you love daylight, as we most do! May brings an average daylight time to Iceland of 16 hours and 21 minutes. If you want to be out and about to maximize your time, May and the summer months are the perfect time to do so.

Precipitation & snow

Snow is not so likely during May, but sometimes can grace Iceland with its presence even late into the month. Luckily, you won’t have to be too worried about a lot of snowfall as during March or early April. If you plan on hiking to higher altitudes in Iceland, you’ll still need to come prepared as snow is always expected the higher up you climb. Road closures are not so likely during the month of May as well, which is another huge positive aspect of visiting Iceland during this period.

May still brings a high chance of rainfall in Iceland, with up to 21 days per month on average seeing precipitation in the forecast. Proper clothes and being prepared for rain will go a long way in keeping you warm and enjoying your trip to the fullest when visiting Iceland in May.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
Hiking in Iceland in spring

What to Pack & Wear in May

May still brings a high chance of rainfall in Iceland, and therefore it’s very important to come prepared. It’s highly recommended to bring along a high-quality rain resistant jacket for your trip. You’ll also want to make sure you bring along a warm hat and a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm and dry.

If you’re planning to journey outdoors, make sure you pack a pair of lightweight outdoor pants to keep you dry during your time outside. Normal pants such as jeans or chinos also work well, and are a good idea if you’ll be spending some time in the city, such as Reykjavík.

Each and every month in Iceland is the perfect month to pack a swimsuit to enjoy both the inside thermal baths, or the natural thermal baths that are scattered throughout Iceland. You probably shouldn’t be jumping into the Atlantic ocean at any point of time during your trip, but nothing will warm you up more than jumping into a hot warm thermal spring on a mild April day.

If you’re planning on doing some hiking, a pair of proper hiking boots will come necessary to navigate the terrain. Hiking trousers which zip on and off are quite versatile and come in handy as they allow you to easily adjust according to the current weather.

Don’t worry if you forgot extra warm clothes - you can always pick-up a handmade Icelandic wool sweater, known as Lopapeysa, which is the perfect piece for your wardrobe for those cooler spring evenings.

Driving in May

Many of Iceland's roads, especially mountain and highland roads will still partially be closed during the month of May, with those becoming more and more accessible towards the later days of the month. Nonetheless, the Ring Road will be accessible and if you’re planning to visit the South Coast, or Snæfellsnes Peninsula, then you’re in luck as these are generally easily accessible during May.

You’ll also be able to travel to Northern Iceland by vehicle, if you wish to check out Akureyri or Mývatn. During the spring months, there’s always a small chance of snow, so for all months outside of summer, it’s recommended to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle for the safest possible driving experience.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson
Snæfellsjökull in west Iceland

Potential Storms & Driving Conditions

Driving during the month of May presents less challenges compared with the winter months. There is a small chance of snow during the month of day, so non-experienced winter drivers don’t need to be as concerned with winter driving conditions in most cases. All main roads will generally be fully accessible to Iceland's main attractions.

Road.is is an excellent resource to keep on hand to stay up-to-date with current conditions. SafeTravel.is comes as another highly recommended resource providing alerts, preparation methods for the outdoors, and all-around travel advice for having a safe trip when in Iceland.

It’s also recommended to utilize the 112 Iceland App, just as an option in case you get stuck at some point and require being rescued. It’s best to avoid any type of dangerous situation, and although driving in Iceland can be both very rewarding and safe, you need to be fully prepared and have a well-planned route. Along with this, you must stay up to date on current conditions, as they can change very quickly.

In the best-case scenario, experienced drivers and guides have the knowledge of both the roads and weather conditions in Iceland, and can be an excellent way to embrace all of the island’s beauty.

Activities & Tours in Icelandic Nature in May

Kayaking & Glacier Walk on Sólheimajökull

Gear up for a kayak and glacier walk combo as we visit the Sólheimajökull glacier lagoon. Get an up close and personal look at gleaming icebergs and views that are not accessible by land. Finish up kayaking, enjoy a quick break and prepare yourself for a glacier walk to explore many of Sólheimajökull's crevasses and ice sculptures along the way. All skill levels are welcomed, and necessary equipment is provided for this kayaking and glacier walk combo!

The Ring Road & Skaftafell

The Ring Road & Skaftafell are easily accessible this time of year either by guided tours or through self-drive efforts. Truly one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit some of Iceland’s most popular spots, this is a completely necessary trip for every visit to Iceland. On some warmer May days, temperatures can even hit in the double digits in Southern Iceland, so you’ll not only get to enjoy the views but also the warm weather!

Mountain Climbing Iceland’s Highest Peak

Ascending the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur is a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed. Go along with an experienced guide after you’re debriefed on the climb, and be ready for a true mental and physical challenge during this climb. Look out from the summit, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Vatnajökull glacier along with the spectacular nature along the way. This is truly a not miss adventure for the climb fanatics.

Mountain Skills Course

If you’ve been interested in trying out and learning mountaineering, then this is definitely the trip for you. Three shorter courses combined to teach the fundamentals of success mountaineering, all including an experienced professional mountaineer to show you the ropes. Not only will you learn how to use all of the mountaineering equipment, you'll also camp overnight on a glacier to take in a night in Iceland's nature for full effect. No prior experience is needed to enjoy this tour, but you do need to be ready and in great physical and mental shape.

The Three Peaks Challenge

Breathtaking Icelandic scenery set during the background during the month of May - what could be better, you ask? Take a journey to three different peaks and the charming Skaftafell national park on this action-packed adventure. 

Starting with an easy hike, all the way up to a more advanced hike, you'll get a taste of everything Iceland's mountains have to offer. Hvannadalshnúkur is Iceland's highest summit and the last peak on the climbing list, so get ready to enjoy spectacular views of below as well as the wildlife along the way.

Events & Festivals

Reykjavik Art Festival

Iceland’s most well-known cultural festival showcases over two weeks of local and international theatre performances, film, dance, music and visual art. Visit one of Europe’s oldest art festivals, and take in spectacles from all over the world during your trip to Iceland.

Reykjavik Peace Festival

The peace festival brings together choirs from all over the world who sing together in harmony, signing for a world of peace. This event includes words, songs and encouragement of peace across the world from Iceland. There's over 700 voices performing from over 20 different choirs from around the world, all with one goal - promoting peace.

RAFLOST

If electronic music is your thing, RAFLOST is definitely an event worth visiting. This music festival brings together artists of different forms from all over the world to put together Iceland's best electronic ars performance. Taking place from the 21st - 24th of May, make sure to book in advance.

Holidays in Iceland during May

Labor Day in Iceland

Labor day falls on the first day of May, as in most other European countries is a highly celebrated day which puts great emphasis on celebrating workers' rights which have been achieved through in past decades. You can expect friendly protest marches in support of many different issues, not only workers' rights. You can expect a lot of noise during this day if you’ll be around Laugavegur, Reykjavík’s main pedestrian street.

Ascension Day

Churches around Iceland celebrate the ascension of Jesus on this day, which can vary each year but is normally held 40 days after Easter sunday. Icelanders mostly enjoy this extra leisure time with family and friends. Additionally, this weekend marks the first camping weekend of the summer, so plenty of Icelanders like to get outside of the city and enjoy the warm weather and nature. 

Church services will be held for both Ascension Day and Whit Monday, so if you wish to celebrate, you’re free to visit and partake while in Iceland.

Whit Monday

Signifying the end of the 90-day Easter period, Whit Monday presents another long-weekend and church services for those who are religious and wish to visit a local mass.

About the Author

IMG Staff Writer

An anonymous but well informed member of our team that enjoys sharing their knowledge of Iceland & Greenland’s stunning nature.

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