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Iceland in May: Travel Tips and Tours

Fagradalsfjall volcano

Are you coming to Iceland in May? Find out what weather you can expect, how many hours of daylight there will be, what things you should pack, and what tours are best enjoyed in May.

May Travel Tips

Golden Circle – Gullfoss

Weather in May

In Iceland, summer starts at the end of April, so technically, if you arrive in May, it’s summer. Don’t expect beach weather, though!

In May, you can look forward to gradually rising temperatures and more daylight every day. The average low in May is just above 2°C, and the average high about 12°C.

Snow will be rare around Reykjavík, but rainfall is common. As always in Iceland, it can be a bit windy, so wearing layers is recommended.

Most roads should be in good condition around this time of year, but check www.road.is and www.safetravel.is before you head out to be sure, especially if you’re heading to mountainous areas.

Please note that roads in the highlands can be covered by snow well into June and are still closed in May.

Long days, short nights

The summer solstice is June 21, and in May, the days are already getting really long. At the beginning of May, sunrise will be around 04:30am, and sunset around 22:15pm. At the end of May, sunrise is at 03:30am, and sunset as late as 23:30pm.

These long days mean that you can enjoy Iceland to its fullest by exploring from early in the morning till late in the evening. Don’t forget to rest, especially if you’re going on a long drive, and catch up on sleep, too!

Don’t forget your camera!

May packing list

  • Activewear: you don’t want to go caving in slippers and a T-shirt, so bring some (warm) activewear like hiking pants and good shoes. Even on a whale watching cruise, you might be happy for some gloves, because it can get cold at sea.
  • Good shoes: hiking boots if you have them. Yes, even in the summertime.
  • Warm layers: Iceland isn’t that cold, but it’s never really warm, even in the summertime. And there’s usually at least a little wind and the weather will change rapidly, going from rain to shine to snow in a matter of hours. The trick is to layer up, especially if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside; warm long underwear and undershirts, fleece is great and windproof.
  • Rainwear: it might not rain more than most places here but it might be more unpredictable than some other places. It never rains for a long time in one go, but it might rain a part of the day for a few days in a row.
  • Sunglasses/sunscreen: don’t act so surprised! Sometimes the sun is much stronger than you might think. Also, the sun basically doesn’t set in the summertime, so you might want to block it out. If you’re up on a glacier, you might really need sunglasses because of the reflected sunlight from the snow.
  • Summertime protective wear: even in the summertime, it’s usually not very warm. In general, it’s 15°C at most. So think tights, leggings, jumpers, jackets, scarves. And perhaps even hats and gloves.
  • Swimsuit: the country is full of hot springs and amazing swimming pools. You will want to jump in.
  • Sleeping mask: in the summer, the sun can stay up all night. If you don’t want to stay up with it, you might want to bring a sleeping mask to block out the light.
  • Camera and tripod, drone if you have one, basically everything you got: Iceland is an amazing place for photographs and videos. If you have good gear, you will kick yourself for not bringing it.
  • Water bottle: tap water in Iceland is some of the best water in the world. That being said, if you’re out and about, you would still have to pay for a bottle if you wanted one. Which seems a waste because the tap water is so good. Also good to have with you during a hike.
There’s a lot to explore in Iceland in May.

The Best May Tours

Now, you know the essentials of travelling in Iceland in May. What’s next? Booking some great tours! Here are our recommendations.

Tour operators take all necessary precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, like disinfecting surfaces regularly. Please contact the tour operators directly if you have any questions about their safety procedures.

Fagradalsfjall volcano. Photo: Golli

Hike to Fagradalsfjall volcano

Seeing an active volcano is on many people’s bucket lists. And you’re lucky enough to experience this if you’re travelling in Iceland this May!

Fagradalsfjall volcano started erupting at the end of March 2021 and is still going strong at the time of writing (May 2021). If you book a guided tour, you’ll be brought to the start of the hike to the eruption site by minibus and you will hear many interesting volcano facts during the hike.

People in good shape need about two hours to hike to the volcano and two hours to hike back to the parking lot, and there’s a steep hill in the middle (elevation is about 250m in total during the hike).

Without a doubt, the hike is worth it: seeing the volcano is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Book your volcano tour here:

Glacier hike

Sólheimajökull glacial tongue is a popular spot for guided glacier hiking and ice climbing. Sólheimajökull glacier is easy to reach from Reykjavík, as it’s only 165km from the city.

On the way to the glacier, you cross along the beautiful south coast of Iceland and you can stop at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls.

On top of the glacier, you can enjoy the wonderful views all around, and the different colours of ice, and explore its crevasses and swell holes.

During the hike, glacier guides will tell you all there is to know about glaciers. You can combine a glacier hike with ice climbing if you’re up to the challenge.

Book your glacier hike:

Game of Thrones Film Location
Mt. Kirkjufell

Snæfellsnes tour

The Snæfellsnes peninsula has some of the most diverse landscapes in Iceland, with waterfalls, caves, black beaches, and most importantly, the internet-famous Mt. Kirkjufell! This mountain rapidly gained popularity in recent years, because it has been used as a filming location for several movies and series, like Game of Thrones.

It has been a tourist attraction for decades, and Mt. Kirkjufell is one of Iceland’s most photographed mountains, for good reason!

Book your Snæfellsnes tour here:

Puffin watching

In summertime, puffin colonies are found all around Iceland. The first small flocks arrive in April and the last ones leave in September, but the best months to see puffins are from May to August.

Just off the coast of the Reykjavík, puffins breed each year on three small islands. Most whale watching companies offer puffin watching tours. For puffin spotting, it’s best to be on a small boat and to bring binoculars. Puffins are tiny, and the closer you can get to them, the better the experience will be.

Next to puffins, common sights during these tours include arctic terns and the great skua.

Book your puffin tour here: