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8 Good Reasons to Visit Iceland in Mid- to Late May

If you’re considering a road trip around Iceland, please take me with you I’m going to try to persuade you into doing it in mid- to late May instead of any other time. Why? Because I think we picked the perfect time to go! We had such a great time seeing the country at this particular time of year and I’d like you to experience the same. :-)

Before we continue, I should probably let you know the kind of travellers we are. We are budget travellers for sure but we are not the backpacking or even the camping type. Our backs prefer not to carry anything heavy for prolonged amount of time and we like to lay our backs on a soft, warm bed at the end of the day. We’re getting old! We also enjoy a good amount of privacy during our travels. That said, on with the list!

These are the reasons why you should visit Iceland in mid- to late May:

  • Less expensive airfares, especially if you book months in advance. We booked about 6 months in advance and saved a couple of hundred of dollars that way. We flew with Icelandair, direct from Toronto. It was nice enough. They gave each passenger a bottle of pure Icelandic water upon boarding. In-flight entertainment was pretty good. In-flight food was meh. Could go without the crying baby sitting next to us, though. But it wasn’t the baby’s fault. Mother Nature made it up to me by showing me the Northern Lights through the airplane window. Pretty cool!
  • Less expensive car rental. Once the high season is on, the rental fee practically doubles! We rented a small, compact car because we weren’t planning on going to the highlands (or as they like to call it, the Interior) as the mountain roads would still be closed for the season anyway. It served us well. We rented our car from Blue Car Rental because it had decent reviews and a little less expensive than the competitors. We had no problems with them.
    The little Suzuki Swift that took us around Iceland.
    The little Suzuki Swift that took us around Iceland.
  • Less expensive accommodations. This is another thing that would cost double in the summer. We stayed mostly at the Icelandic Farm Holidays farms. To save a little bit of money, we alternated between a room with a shared bathroom and one with a private bathroom. The price difference could be up to $50, which is like one dinner for two! The rooms at the farms were nice, warm and clean, which is all we care about when we’re travelling, really. They also came with breakfast. Don’t expect hot breakfast while in Iceland, though. You’d be disappointed! But do expect some lovely, freshly made bread. Icelandic people really know how to make bread!
  • Less busy tourist attractions. The Golden Circle would still be busy as it is one of the major tourist attractions that every tour bus operator would take the tourists to visit, but I would imagine it would be multiple times busier during the high season. In some places, we were still able to find ourselves alone with nature and no hordes of tourists around us. It was lovely. It also helps that we went to many lesser known tourist attractions in addition to the major ones. (Note: Might not apply anymore; Iceland seems to be busy all year long now.)
  • Longer days than if you visit during the winter or autumn. When we were there, it never really got completely dark. At midnight, it still looked like sunset and it stayed that way until morning. Longer days means more hours to explore and more things you can see. And there is a lot to see in Iceland!
  • Friendlier weather, at least compared to winter weather. Temperatures would be generally above 5° Celsius and we only experienced snow maybe once in the two weeks we spent in Iceland, and it was right in a valley surrounded by mountains by an old, mostly forgotten swimming pool called Seljavallalaug that we hiked to one morning. Even that didn’t last very long. Anyway, it would still be wet and windy, but that’s Icelandic weather in general. Do pack a good rain coat/windbreaker and be sure to check the weather and road conditions before you head out for the day!
    We found Seljavallalaug swimming pool, and then it started snowing.
    We found Seljavallalaug swimming pool, and then it started snowing.
  • Lambing season is on, and it means cute overload at every turn! Baby sheep are super cute and you’ll see them everywhere but especially in South Iceland near the town of Vik. You better watch out, though, because baby sheep have zero understanding of where they should and should not be so you’ll occasionally find them hang out in the middle of the road. Please don’t hit them.
    My husband had a nice little chat with these little guys.
    My husband had a nice little chat with these little guys.
  • Last but not least, puffins! Puffin season is usually between mid-April to mid-August, so mid-May is a good time to view them. We didn’t get to see them in South Iceland where they were supposed to be in abundance but we did get to see them at a bird-viewing area near Bakkagerði in eastern Iceland. They are very entertaining to watch. You should see them at least once!
    My favourite puffin in the whole Iceland.
    My favourite puffin in the whole Iceland.

So, did I convince you? ;-) I hope so! If you need recommendations on places in Iceland to visit, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer the best I can with what I know from experience.

I miss Iceland so much! :-(

Addendum: If you are a Game of Thrones fan, don’t miss my post about our visit to several Game of Thrones shooting locations in North Iceland! Trying to figure out your way around Iceland? This post might help!

37 thoughts on “8 Good Reasons to Visit Iceland in Mid- to Late May

  1. Hi Firda! I’m so glad to have found your write up on your trip to Iceland. My husband and I are looking to travel day in mid-May as well. So I have a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind sharing your itinerary . We are looking to do the ring road and a lot of hiking and it will be somewhat a budget trip of 10 days. I’m a nature lover and enjoy sightseeing of landscape and such and in love with those puffins. So here are my questions to you.

    – How many days were you there?
    – How many days did you spend in Reykjavik?
    – How was the road? Did you encounter any obstacles during your ride around iceland such as road close? river crossing?
    – Did you book hotels/apt/farmhouse before you arrived in Iceland? or did you just stop and stay whichever hotel you came acroos as you traveled around Iceland?
    – Did you rent GPS with the car?

    Thank you so much in advance for your answers. I look forward to hearing from you!


    1. Hey Kim, thanks for your questions and here are my answers:

      1. We were there for 15 days so we had an ample amount of time to go off the ring road to explore.
      2. We spent 2 nights in Reykjavik with only one full day at the end of our trip and wish we’d had allocated more time to spend there because we didn’t get to see much of Reykjavik at all! We booked an apartment in Reykjavik through Airbnb which I can recommend if you’re interested.
      3. The ring road was generally in good condition, but in the northeastern Iceland, there’s a stretch of the ring road where you have to drive through a mountain pass and the road might still be a little snow-covered up there, but nothing to worry about if you’re used to snowy winter driving. We also had a day in eastern Iceland with some really strong wind and I think the road authority might have had to close that stretch of the road because of it, but luckily not before we drove through it. We always checked the road conditions before we were off to venture in the morning. Here’s a handy link to Iceland road condition maps.
      4. We booked all of our accommodations three months in advance (we like to plan ahead) but we probably could’ve got away with booking on the day, except for the places in South
        Iceland around Vik and Jokulsarlon. Those places are always busy so make sure to book in advance.
      5. We didn’t rent a GPS. There were only a few times that we actually needed a GPS but we had a tablet with us with a data plan from a local ISP (a prepaid GSM card) so all we did was open up Google Maps on the tablet, entered where we wanted to go, and off we went! :-) We also had a real paper map of Iceland which came in handy at times.

      Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! I had such a great time answering your questions because they brought back great memories, I wouldn’t mind answering more! :-)

    2. Hi Firda, thanks for your tips to fellow travellers’ queries. Looking through all, I don’t seem to see any queries on money changing. We are a bunch of 13 from Singapore. Had gotten a local travel agent to do a private tour for us. So itinerary and hotel accommodations all planned.
      Please let us know how and where we could get our Euro changed to Icelandic Krona. Which gives the better rates of exchange? Easily find a money change?
      Also noticed that it is about 5-7degrees, so we really need to pack winter attire with gloves, scarves etc? Do we need thermal inner wear?
      Is it alright to wear sports shoes, eg Adidas running shoes?
      Thank you a zillion
      Siew Wah

  2. Hi Firda,

    Thank you for the info. I finally booked a flight to Iceland a few weeks ago for mid-late May trip. It will be 11 days (10 nights) trip. Now the planning is on! After doing a little research and planning, I do have a few more questions for you.

    – Do you mind sharing your itinerary? I’m thinking that I will start counterclockwise around the ring road.

    – was there any area that you spent more than 2 nights aside from Reykjavik?

    – Did you have time to go to Westfjord area?

    – Did you do a lot of hiking? I definitely don’t want to feel rush to get back to the car and start driving to the next town.

    – Did you get to see puffins? If so, in which area did you see them?

    Thanks again in advance for replying to my questions! :)


    1. Hey Kim. Since it looks like Firda hasn’t replied I will do so:

      – to make it all the way around the island we didn’t spend more than one night in the same place – though most of the places were only an hour or two apart. We liked switching it up but made sure that the drive from one location to the didn’t take the whole day. We also took a lot of side trips from the main road if we found out about something that sounded interesting.

      – we did not make it to the westfjord area. From what we’ve been told the roads are horrible and the weather is still questionable in May. We are planning the westfjords for our next trip (whenever that is).

      – we didn’t do a lot of hiking – though there is a lot of trails out there. We aren’t big hikers so we selectively decide on which ones to do (so we didn’t burn ourselves out early in the day). In May a lot of the hiking trails may still be closed.

      – we did see Puffins in Borgarfjordur Eystri (on the east coast of Iceland). We stayed at the only place inn in town (which is also a spa) and drove out to the end of the road where there is a huge rock with puffins. They are still waiting to head out to sea in May so there are tonnes of them.

      One thing I should also mention. We didn’t have a car GPS but we did have Firda’s tablet and a regular GPS. The regular GPS was good for plugging in coordinates and finding those places we were staying at which were off the beaten path. The biggest problem with car GPS is that there is one brand with the map of Iceland. You might be able to rent one from the car rental place but it was pricey.

    2. What Troy said! But I can add a little to it:

      – As far as itinerary goes, we pretty much just followed this sample itinerary from Hostelling International and added a side trip to Heimaey in the Westmann Islands and Borgarfjordur Eystri in East Iceland.

      – We didn’t stay more than one night at one place but we stayed at least two nights in every region, i.e. four nights in South/Southeast Iceland, two nights in East Iceland, two nights in Northeast Iceland, two nights in Northwest Iceland, two nights in West Iceland/Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and two nights in Reykjavik.

      And I think Troy already covered the rest. :-) Hope our answers help!

  3. Hi,
    I have been reading your Iceland tips and have booked to go 28 May to 4 June 2015. The weather looks/sounds mixed …. haven’t a clue how to prepare re what clothing to take….apart from the waterproof!!
    Sorry for all of the questions in advance…….
    The trip is a surprise for my partner, he has always wanted to go so i want to make it as special as i can, but don’t have an open ended budget. Any tips on how to make the most of getting to see and experience the key interests? Thinking of whale watching, the volcanoes, lights, but we love good dining too so did you go to any nice restaurants?
    Anything to avoid?
    Is it cheaper to book a car in advance, or when we arrive? What docs do you need to have etc? I have never driven abroad before.
    Any advice / tips etc etc would be MOST welcome.
    Many thanks.

    1. ps. just reading some more comments. i have booked to stay in same hotel for a week….is this a bad idea? Most of you seem to travel to different locations. Thanks

      1. Dee Scott, I’ve been reading up on Iceland and found this blog. It looks like my partner and I, along with another couple will be in Iceland the exact same dates as you! We are flying in from Portland, OR. We are renting a car and driving to different areas. It sounds like there are plenty of one day tours from Reykjavik to see the major tourist attractions but seems like if you want to find the “off the beaten path” type of spots, you’d need to venture to different areas. Have you discovered any advice or plans you’d like to share about the time we’re going?

  4. Hey frida,

    Nicely written blog.
    I have booked a self drive trip across the route 1 for may 2014 starting may 12. I have no experience driving on the right side as well as driving in Snow kind of terrain. Will this have any effect on my trip.
    I have to cover a long distance once in my trip, i.e. through hofn to akureyri (east iceland)

  5. Hi,

    We are heading to Iceland on May 12th and plan on mainly seeing South Iceland since we’re only there for 7 nights. Can you advise as to how wet it actually gets? I’m getting a rain jacket and plan on bringing many layers (I’m Canadian so the snow doesn’t bother me). But am contemplating what type of shoes I need to get.

    Is the rain torrential or more of a constant drizzle?

    1. It’s more like a constant drizzle (at least it was when we were there) but it’s also very, very windy. The wind would be more of a concern than the rain, really, so make sure you pack a good toque that covers your ears (seriously, the strong wind could make your ear-drums hurt, first-hand experience!). Temperatures would still be in the one digit range. As for shoes, a pair of waterproof boots (preferably with anti-slip soles) is a must. Not many things are worse than travelling with wet socks! Have a good trip!

  6. Love your blog! Beautiful photos.
    Just back from a week in Iceland; breathtaking West Iceland, Reykjavik & the Golden Circle. The weather late September was surprisingly nice. Only one very windy & rainy day, however it was still beautiful.
    After reading your blog I think the month of May would be a perfect time for a 2nd visit. Puffins & Northern lights!

    1. It barely gets dark in Iceland in May so I’d say the chance to see aurora at that time of year is next to zero. I took an overnight flight to Iceland and was lucky enough to see the aurora from way up there through the window during the flight, but it was definitely not over Iceland.

  7. Hi! Thank you for your article. I’m going to Iceland in May but only for a few days. I want to hike to the dormant volcano and go inside. I also want to go into the ice caves. One day to walk around the city of Reykjavik and of course visit the Blue Lagoon. I travel alone and thought 3 days is enough without getting bored. I would stay longer and do more excursions but they cost money. What would you say is the average cost per night for hotels? I’m not renting a car and want to be close to the city, restaurants, shops, markets, etc.
    Any suggetions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. You might want to check if the ice caves are open in May. As far as I know, they’re only open in tue winter months (November to March) because the ice will be melting in the spring, making it unsafe for people to visit. We stayed in an apartment in downtown Reykjavik rented through Airbnb.com two yeaes ago. I think it cost just under 100 Canadian dollars per night. A hotel room in the same area would have cost at least double the amount. I’d imagine hotel rooms would cost a lot more now because tourism is booming in Iceland and hotel rooms are always high in demand. Check out Airbnb if you’re travelling on a budget.

  8. Hi Firda,
    Your blog is more than helpful and it definitely helped me choose dates for my upcoming trip to Iceland – late May. I am also travelling on a tight budget and any additional tips you may have are more than welcome.
    At the moment I’m planning my route (as I’m planning on going all around the island – Ring Road) and I was wondering if about 9 days would be enough to pull it off?
    Did you have to pre order prepaid sim card or they’re available anywhere when there?
    What about gas? Are gas stations hard to find and I should top up every chance I see one or they have decent amount of them on the road?
    When you went hiking would you just park the car anywhere and go or are there parking places where you have to leave them? (Asking these questions as – coming from Europe myself – I know how strict we are with laws and I’ve read that their fines are very high for any traffic violation).
    And last one (I promise :) ) – if you could share your itinerary with me?

    1. We actually met people who were doing the drive around Iceland in 5 days! You might not be able to stray too far off the ring road but you should be able to pull it off.

      We bought a SIM card at the airport. Shouldn’t be a problem.

      If you rent a small car like we did, you’re not likely to have to fill up too often. I think we filled up only 3 or 4 times during our 2-week trip. Every town will have a gas station. As long as you don’t go off the ring road, you won’t have to worry about running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.

      There is usually a designated parking area by every marked trailhead. If not, just make sure that you’re not blocking anyone’s way where you park and you should be fine.

      Not really knowing much about the country, we pretty much just followed this sample itinerary from Hostelling International. It did the trick.

      Hope that helps! :-)

  9. My daughter(age 9) and I are traveling to Iceland may 11 to 15. I plan on renting a car. Could you recommend an itinerary as we seem to have the same travel style. Do I really need a 4 wheel drive?

    1. Unless you plan on driving on unpaved roads (F-roads), you won’t need a 4WD. The ring road, especially in the south of Iceland, is generally in great condition and most F-roads will still be closed in May/won’t be open until June anyway. I’d recommend you check out these sample itineraries. Should give you some ideas.

  10. Firda!
    How expensive do you think Iceland is travel-wise compared to the US?
    Also where did you get your hat?


    1. We went to Iceland in 2013 and car rental was expensive because we needed a car with automatic transmission (still expensive now). If you know how to drive stick, manual transmission car rental should be a lot cheaper. Gas was and still is expensive. About $2 a liter. Restaurant food was also expensive. About the price of food in mid-range restaurants in North America but without the fancy bits. That hasn’t seemed to change. Accommodations were expensive back then for what you got but now you can get a nice hotel room for under $100 in low season if booked months in advance.

      I got the hat from Knitwits.com but they don’t seem to stock that particular hat anymore.

  11. Hi Firda,

    Thank you for writing this post! I am planning on going to Iceland in mid to late May this year and am wondering if you encountered any annoying bugs are your trip?
    I am hoping to avoid peak bug season!

    Thank you!


  12. Hi Firda,

    Thanks to your awesome post, I’ve booked my trip to Iceland for the 1st week of May 2016! I wanted to ask you, is a regular small car (eg. VW Golf) okay to drive from Reykjavik to Vik and potentially beyond that along the southern coast to the National Park? Were the road conditions bad in May? or just wet?

    Also, can I ask you what is the frequency you see fast food restaurants?


    1. As long as you stick to the ring road, a regular small car should do the job. We were driving around in mid- to late May and the road was in a pretty good shape, except for the parts that go over some mountain passes in East Iceland. Those were still snow-covered and also steep and winding so a bit scary. :-D For the most part, it was just wet. I’d recommend getting the sand/ash protection insurance with your car rental, just in case. The sand storm could do a number to your car if you happen to be in the area when it happens.

      As for fast food restaurants, I only saw those in Reykjavik and up north in Akureyri, and even then there weren’t too many of them, but it might have changed now. They don’t have any McDonald’s for sure. We never did but I think you can buy cheap hotdogs from some of the bigger gas stations. There is a good and cheap-ish cafeteria-style restaurant in Vik by the gas station that serves decent fast food-style fares. You should check it out! My husband highly recommends the meat (lamb or beef, not sure) wrap.

      1. Thanks for the information Firda! We are planning to go as far as the Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon using the Ring Road (route 1?) from Reykjavik so hopefully it will be fine but I will make sure to get the sand/ash protection and check out your husband’s recommendation :)

        Just noticed you are also from Southern Ontario! Shout out to Ontario, Canada!

        Appreciate all your help!

    2. planning a 5 day trip with my adult boys for early may or mid may.
      working details now.
      i’m wondering if we did friday-tuesday will that be enough time.
      we all have to go back to work.
      what would be the highlights that you all would suggest.
      we are all walkers and runners

  13. Thanks for your post. I’m planning a solo trip to Iceland in May and your experience was helpful. I too, enjoy the thrifty and frugal tips. I’ve heard that the local flea market is a great place to shop. Can’t wait to see a Puffin in the wild. Please email me with any other blogs you feel may be helpful. Bon Voyage!! Peggy

    1. No northern lights in May since it doesn’t get dark. I only saw the northern lights from the plane over the northern part of Canada.

  14. Hi Firda,

    Thanks for your blog! I’m heading to Iceland in May and I’m wondering what to pack. Can you make suggestions for how warm of a coat to pack? Do I need waterproof pants? Thanks!!

  15. I’ve just discovered your blog – love your Iceland posts. I got back from a trip there last month and am hoping to go again during a different season – your blog has so much useful information, and the photos are awesome!

  16. Hi- following your recommendation. Leaving from Toronto to Reykjavik for a week from May 21 to 28. Could you recommend what to see on Golden Circle? Planning to rent a car and do a self drive. Will also research on farm accommodations as you suggested.

    Many thanks again for your post. I can be reached at sharma.vibha@gmail.com

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