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.
- Less expensive accommodations. This is another thing that would cost double in the summer. We stayed mostly with the Hey Iceland's (formerly known as Icelandic Farm Holidays) network of farmstays. To save 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 basic but nice, warm and clean, which is all we care about, really. They also came with continental breakfast, which was another money-saver for us. In Reykjavik, however, we stayed at an Airbnb apartment downtown because it was cheaper than a hotel room. We had a lovely stay in a top-floor apartment very close to the big church, Hallgrimskirkja. If you're not an Airbnb member yet, sign up using our referral link and you'll get a $40 CAD ($35 USD) credit for your first stay! We'll get some credit too so it's a win-win situation. :-)
- 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 was never really 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!
- 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.
- 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!
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!