Are you thinking of planning a trip to Iceland in November? Iceland is a fantastic year-round destination. But you’ll have a very different experience depending on the time of year you visit. There’s not necessarily a good or bad time to visit Iceland. But it’s useful to understand the nuances of each season in Iceland, so you know what you’re in for.
It’s best to first decide on the type of trip you want, as this will determine the best time of year for you. Do you want endless hours of daylight, drier weather and warmer temperatures? Or would you prefer the snowy landscapes and gorgeous sunsets of the winter months?
If you’re wondering whether to visit Iceland in November – or you’ve already booked your trip – here’s everything you need to know.
Is November a good time to visit Iceland?
In short, yes! November is a fantastic time to visit Iceland, especially if you’re after stunning snowy vistas and hours of ‘golden hour’ light. There are plenty of fun and unique places to visit and things to do. From more relaxing activities, such as visiting the Blue Lagoon, to more thrilling adventures, such as caving and snowmobiling.
You’re also in with a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights in November. Of course there’s never a guarantee that you’ll see the magical green lights leaping across the sky. But it’s a big attraction for visitors to Iceland in the winter months.
What is the Iceland weather like in November?
The weather in Iceland throughout November is exactly what you’d expect from Iceland in the winter. It’s cold and icy. This may not appeal to everyone but if you can stand the chilly outdoors then you can enjoy the amazing benefits of Iceland in November.
The average temperature in November is around 1°C (34°F). Add to that an arctic breeze and it can feel well below freezing. There’s no getting around the fact that Iceland is really cold in November. But it needn’t be an issue. As long as you come prepared with appropriate clothing, you’ll be just fine.
How many daylight hours are there in Iceland in November?
This is an important point to note, as it can have a big effect on your itinerary. Iceland’s daylight hours are considerably shorter in the winter months. These hours decrease pretty rapidly throughout November. In early November there are up to eight hours of daylight. By the end of the month, there are only about five hours.
Less daylight hours does give you less time to explore. You need to cram more into the day and ensure careful planning of your itinerary. If you’re worried about the lower number of daylight hours, it may be best to visit in early November.
However, one of the great advantages of visiting Iceland in late November is that you get a beautiful ‘golden hour’ glow for the whole five hours. As the sun never gets particularly high in the sky, the result is a constant sunrise / sunset all day. It’s absolutely beautiful and makes for the best photos!
What clothing to wear when visiting Iceland in November?
As mentioned, Iceland is excruciatingly cold in November. It therefore follows that good thermals and a very warm coat are compulsory items on your packing list. Bring lots of layers, thick socks and waterproof outer layers. In terms of footwear, good hiking boots or snow boots are a must. Don’t even think about wearing lightweight trainers! Warmth and waterproof are key here.
For a concise list, here’s what clothing to pack for a November trip to Iceland:
- Thermal base layers – top and bottom
- Fleeces & jumpers – layer with warm fleeces and jumpers
- Warm, waterproof coat – a ski jacket is a great option
- Good pair of gloves – bring glove liners too for extra warmth
- Thermal socks – keep your feet warm and toasty
- Wooly hat – any warm hat that keeps your head and ears insulated
- Scarf – useful for keeping your neck protected from the chilly winds
- Hiking boots or snow boots – there will be snow and ice to contend with
What to see and places to go in Iceland in November
You are spoilt for choices with things to do and places to go in Iceland in November. If you’re lucky to have sunny weather, then everywhere you visit is made even more beautiful by the sun’s golden glow reflecting off the snow and ice. Here are the top picks for what to see in Iceland in November:
Tour the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle crops up a lot when researching a trip to Iceland. It’s a popular itinerary point because it’s so accessible from Reykjavik. The Golden Circle is situated in southwest Iceland and consists of three locations: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
November is a perfect time to visit the Golden Circle. The National Park will be flooded with golden sunlight, reflecting off the crystal clear iced over lakes. Watch the geysers explode with the sun shining through the steam. Finally, gape at the scale of Gullfoss waterfall and, if you’re lucky with the weather, spot the rainbows rising out of the water.
Explore the many caves
There are caves of all shapes and sizes dotted across Iceland. Formed by numerous volcanic eruptions, the lava caves offer a hidden underworld of geological history. You’ve probably seen pictures of the beautiful glacier caves in Iceland. These are the most popular caves due to their unique beauty.
Enter a world of bright blue walls and immense ice sculptures. Armed with crampons, a helmet, and a headtorch, wander around the caves with a guide and learn about their formation. There are various caves available to explore, including the Crystal Cave, Thrihnukagigur Cave, Raufarholshellir Cave, Gjabakkahellir Cave, Katla Ice Cave, and many more.
Relax at the Blue Lagoon
There are numerous geothermal hot springs across Iceland. One of the most well-known is the Blue Lagoon just outside Reykjavik. The mineral-rich water offers numerous health benefits, from improving circulation to soothing skin conditions.
Spend a day relaxing in the lagoon and take in the beautiful surroundings. Indulge in a free face mask, grab a drink from the swim-up bar, and get a neck massage from the powerful waterfall. Be sure to check out my guide to visiting the Blue Lagoon before you go. For an alternative to this popular tourist spot, try the Secret Lagoon or Krauma.
For the adventure seekers, snowmobiling is an absolute must for your November Iceland itinerary. Glide through the snowfields and soak up the captivating landscapes. You can even go snowmobiling over active volcanoes – an experience that is unique to Iceland.
If you’re a qualified driver and adult then you can drive the snowmobile yourself. Zoom over Iceland’s glaciers for a truly exhilarating experience
Walk along the black beaches
There are a number of famous black beaches in Iceland. Seeing the waves lap up against the black sand while the sun sets in the background is a truly mesmersing and unforgettable experience.
Many of the black sand beaches are located along the south coast of Iceland, so they are easily accessible. Reynisfjara is probably the most popular black sand beach in Iceland. Diamond Beach is adorned with crystal clear glacier pieces. While Solheimasandur is home to the recognisable plane wreck.
Try whale watching
Iceland is generally considered to be one of Europe’s top whale-watching destinations. There is something incredibly special about watching the large majestic whales splash around in front of your eyes.
November is the end of the whale watching season, so you’ll be able to find a good tour. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the trip will be very cold and wet, so dress appropriately. It may also be one to avoid if you suffer from sea sickness.
Go surfing (yes, really)
Probably not the first activity that springs to mind when you think of Iceland and November. There is a growing community of surfers in Iceland and November is the best month to do this thrill-seeking water sport. November sees wind speeds picking up, along with the waves.
Although it is possible for newcomers to surf in Iceland, it’s more suited to experienced surfers. The one downside is that it’s pretty chilly. So thick wetsuits, hoods and gloves are a must!
Is November a good time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
November is a great time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Given the limited daylight hours and long nights, there are plenty of opportunities to witness the majestic display. It does take a good degree of luck though, so there is never a guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights.
It’s therefore not recommended to plan your trip around seeing them. Going on a tour with a guide can increase your chances of seeing them, but you don’t need to go on a tour. Simply stay on the lookout throughout the evening, particularly if there are clear skies.
All in all, November is a wonderful time of year to visit Iceland. As long as you’re prepared for the cold, there is plenty to see and do.