ICELAND IN MAY 2023
In this post I'll show you why I love May in Iceland.
Below, I'll answer all of your questions on:
- What to expect when visiting Iceland in May
- Average weather and temperature in May
- Special events
- Best tours, activities & things to do
... and give you my very best, local insight and tips, to make your trip an unforgettable one here in Iceland in May!
Let's dive in!
IS MAY A GOOD TIME TO VISIT ICELAND?
Absolutely! You might have made the best decision by choosing to come here in May.
May is still off-season for Iceland, meaning you will miss the largest crowds of tourists (don’t expect to see few fellow travellers, though; even during off-season, Iceland is a popular destination). During the off-season, May is considered by many to be the best month to visit Iceland.
In May, the Icelandic nature comes back to life. The sun lingers in the sky for an impressive average of 19 hours in Reykjavik. Even though the sun technically sets, the sky doesn't get completely dark at all!
The temperatures rise, just enough to make your trip comfortable!
Therefore, coming to Iceland in May means that you can see and do many things that you couldn’t do or see in winter.
Below, I will guide you through all the best activities in May in Reykjavik, as well as around Iceland, and give you all the information you might need to make your trip even more amazing!
WEATHER IN ICELAND IN MAY
As far as Icelandic weather goes, May has the balmiest temperatures before summer. If you look at the graph, don't be put off by the temperatures that you see! Yes, the expected temperatures for May in Iceland range from an average of 5°C (41 F) to 10°C (50 F). However, as long as there is no wind, the cold in Iceland isn't...well, that cold. Icelandic people would consider these temperatures quite nice!
In May, there is hardly any rainfall. Even if it rains, it would be for a short period of time, and it certainly wouldn't be like a winter storm! You might see a little bit of snow, but only during the night. I promise you it will be gone by the time you wake up!
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR TRIP TO ICELAND IN MAY
The age-old question. Living in Iceland for a while now has taught me that the best way to dress is layers, layers, layers.
Having three layers of clothing is the golden rule in Iceland. The temperatures can vary vastly throughout the day, so when it's cold they'll keep you warm, and when it's warm, you can take them off.
Here is a packing list to help you prepare for your trip to Iceland in May:
- Thermals! Bring some good base layers to keep you warm when you explore Iceland, and make sure your tops are moisture-wicking to stay dry throughout the day.
- Sweaters and hoodies.
- Jeans, sweatpants or other comfortable clothes that you can wear while exploring the Icelandic nature!
- Good hiking boots for your adventures!
- Wind and rain-proof jacket. You'll want to stay dry when you visit the famous Icelandic waterfalls! If you can get a pair of pants, bring that too! You never know what the Icelandic weather will throw at you.
- A swimsuit and sunscreen. The May sun can be quite strong, and you definitely want to bring a swimsuit to visit the Icelandic hot springs!
- Some party clothes that you can wear in downtown Reykjavik's club scene -or restaurants if that's more of your thing.
- Your camera! You'll want to take a lot of pictures!
BEST TOURS & ACTIVITIES IN REYKJAVIK
Now that you know all the basics, let's check out all the fun activities you can do when you visit Iceland in May!
May is one of the best months to see Reykjavik on foot. The warmer temperatures will keep you comfortable, and the brilliant, lingering sunlight will let you see Reykjavik in all its glory.
REYKJAVIK FOOD WALK
Reykjavik Food Walk tour is a must-do first or second activity for any traveller visiting Iceland.
It's the best way to get your bearing in Reykjavik while enjoying delicious Icelandic food!
Our Reykjavik Food Walk is the #1 rated tour in Reykjavik on TripAdvisor, and for good reason!
You will spend three hours on a foodie adventure with a fun local guide where you'll enjoy:
- All the highlights of the city of Reykjavik
- Five to five local restaurants that offer the best authentic Icelandic cuisine
- Over 8 mouth-watering Icelandic dishes
- Learning about Icelandic history and tradition, and forging friendships with some real vikings!
Learn more about the Reykjavik food walk here
EXPERIENCE THE ICELANDIC NATURE
It’s as if May in Iceland was created for us to enjoy the gorgeous nature that this country has to offer. May is the month when everything comes back to life, the earth awakens, and the scent of blooming flowers saturates the countryside air. Therefore, it is the best time to explore the Icelandic nature!
EXPLORE THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
The Golden Circle might be Iceland’s most famous trio of sights. The perfect way to see Icelandic nature if you only have a few hours to spare, the Golden Circle is close to Reykjavik and features the highlights of Iceland’s natural wonders.
Check out our Golden Circle Tours:
- Golden Circle x Natural Hot Spring tour (most popular)
- Small Group Golden Circle Tour
- Super Jeep Golden Circle x Glacier Snowmobile tour
GOLDEN CIRCLE DESCRIPTION:
Our Golden Circle tour will take you first to Thingvellir National Park, where you can see one of my favorite waterfalls called Öxaráfoss. You will also walk between the two tectonic plates on which Iceland rests.
Then, you will see the magnificent waterfall Gullfoss. Gullfoss is truly a sight to behold, with its enormous power and beautiful surroundings. Particularly in May, the entire area around Gullfoss is painted green with colorful speckles provided by the blooming wildflowers.
Last but not least, we have the geothermal area of Geysir (photo above.)
Geysir erupts around every eight minutes, much to everyone’s delight.
During your drive the Golden Circle, you will also see a good bit of Icelandic nature, its glacial rivers and gorgeous landscapes.
Unlike other tours, our tour will also take you to Faxi waterfall, which glistens beautifully under the spring sun. If conditions allow for the driver to stop, you might get to see some Icelandic horses up close, too!
Photo taken from Secret Lagoon (from Golden Circle x Natural Hot Spring tour.)
TOUR OF THE SOUTH SHORE OF ICELAND
Mighty waterfalls, a black sand beach, a small coastal town and a glacier are the highlights of this must-do tour. Since you're visiting in May, you might even get to see some puffins!
The South Shore of Iceland is a paradise on Earth. It is one of my favorite places to visit in Iceland (even though it's very hard to pick!), as it changes with the seasons and there is always something new to discover!
Our South Shore tour will show you all the highlights of the Icelandic nature, as well as some places that other tours won't show you! Join our tour and see:
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Seljalandsfoss is one of the most magical waterfalls in all of Iceland -or dare I say, in the world. Not only can you admire its beauty from the front, you can also walk behind it! Trust me, you will feel like a mythical creature from an Icelandic saga!
- Skógafoss waterfall. Just as majestic as Seljaladsfoss, Skógafoss is one of Iceland's biggest waterfalls. It measures at an impressive 60m (200 ft). Therefore, it's very powerful and sprays a lot of water. As a result, you can often see a single or even a double rainbow!
- puffins! May is truly one of the best times to see puffins in Iceland. The stop at Dyrhólaey is an excellent chance to spot them on the cliffs!
- Reynisfjara or Black Sand beach. This almost alien beach stretches as far as the eye can see. On one side, the ocean crashes against the shore, and on the other the beach is adorned with beautiful basalt column formations. In the distance, you can see some strange rocks in the ocean. Legend says they were once trolls!
- the coastal town of Vík. A charming little town with an unmistakably Icelandic atmosphere.
- Solheimajokull glacier. Most tours won't show you this magnificent glacier. We will walk you right up to it so you can touch it, and maybe discover an ice cave if you are lucky!
Learn more about the South Shore tour here!
DISCOVER THE ICELANDIC WILDLIFE
If there is one thing that Iceland is known for, that is its nature. Both locals and visitors are enamored by it and for good reason. The untouched Icelandic nature will be the highlight of your trip.
One of the best parts of the Icelandic nature, in my opinion, is the wildlife. Iceland is home to many adorable little critters, and you can get to meet them with our tours!
As I mentioned before, May is one of the best months to visit Iceland if you are looking for puffins. These beautiful birds build their nests on Iceland's cliffs, and while they are a little cautious of humans, they are not at all shy!
You can try your luck at seeing puffins in our South Shore tour.
However, if you want something closer to Reykjavik, we have a puffin tour designed specifically to take you as close to the puffins as possible!
This is the perfect tour for people who want to increase their chances to see puffins. You will also get to see more of Iceland's wildlife, as well as panoramic views of the gorgeous city of Reykjavik!
You can learn more about the puffin tour here!
WHALE WATCHING TOUR
Whales are truly magnificent creatures. Their impressive size and playful manners make our whale watching tour a true spectacle!
You can see these beautiful animals very close to Reykjavik, mainly Minke and Humpback whales. You will also get to see more of Iceland's amazing wildlife, several bird species, but also harbor porpoises and dolphins!
Learn more about our whale watching tour here!
HORSEBACK RIDING TOUR
Did you know the Icelandic horse has five gaits (two more than most breeds)? That's right, these stars love to steal the show with their natural talent!
While you can see Icelandic horses anywhere in Iceland -even in Reykjavik -you don't get the chance to ride one every day. So why not go horseback riding on these incredibly gentle creatures? May is a great month to go horseback riding in Iceland, as the weather is usually very nice!
Our horseback riding tour is minutes from Reykjavik and you can explore the unspoiled Icelandic nature with your new furry friends! If you've never ridden a horse before, don't worry! We'll show you the ropes!
Learn more about this amazing tour here!
EXPERIENCE THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
GLACIER HIKE & WATERFALL TOUR
Have you always dreamed of going glacier hiking in Iceland? Who hasn't! Iceland's glaciers are awe-inspiring and seeing one up close is an unforgettable experience.
May is one of the first months of the year I would recommend to someone to go glacier hiking. As the temperatures rise, the conditions on the glaciers are much more favorable. Your hike won't be as challenging and the weather will be in your favor.
Our glacier hiking & waterfalls tour will take you through the south coast where you'll see some of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland to Sólheimajökull glacier. Get ready to conquer this icy beast and have the most excitement you can handle!
Learn more about this sightseeing adventure tour here!
SNOWMOBILE GLACIER TOUR
Not much of a hiking type? Your fellow asthmatic over here gets it. Sometimes you want to enjoy the good weather conditions in May, on a beautiful Icelandic glacier, without having to pant your way through the tour.
No worries! That's why we have this awesome snowmobile tour! Our tour will take you to Langjökull, Europe's second-biggest glacier for the adventure of a lifetime.
An experienced guide will show you all the best routes on the glacier (and keep an eye on you, you rascal), so you can blaze your way through the ice!
Thrill-seekers, you can find more information about this tour here!
SNORKELING IN SILFRA
If you've been to the Golden Circle, then you know Silfra as the fissure with the crystal-clear glacial water that runs through Thingvellir (if you haven't been to the Golden Circle, join our tour!)
Silfra is the fissure between the European and the North American tectonic plates. Snorkeling there is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The water is so clear that you can see even the smallest details around you, and you will feel as if you've been transported to a different world. In fact, you can easily see 100m down!
It's no wonder that Silfra is one of the best diving places in the world. Also, May is one of the best times to snorkel in Silfra due to the weather being nice!
Find out more about this tour here!
LOOKING FOR MORE TOURS?
These tours are my personal suggestions to you, from one explorer and traveler to another. Don't forget to check out our other tours, too, though! Pro tip: book ahead to ensure that you get a spot!
CAN YOU SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND IN MAY?
In a word, no. While May usually has clear skies (a must for seeing the northern lights), it's also just too bright. The sun likes to hang around a bit too much for us to see the northern lights. Check out this graph that shows how much daylight there is in May in Reykjavik.
While you can't see the northern lights in Iceland in May, you can still enjoy the sun! The long days will be unlike anything you have experienced before! The several hours of daylight in May will allow you to see and explore much more of the Icelandic nature than you could in winter. Besides, it's always surreal and very fun to spend your nights under a midnight sun!
EVENTS & FESTIVALS IN ICELAND IN MAY
So you've done the tours. You've seen the nature. You've explored Reykjavik and Iceland. Is there anything special you can see in Iceland in May?
Absolutely! Keep reading to find out about all the events you can attend in Iceland in May!
1. LABOR DAY
Suffice to say that Labor Day is a very important day in Iceland. Equality and fairness have always been important to Icelanders, and the first protest march in Iceland was in May 1st 1932.
Nowadays, protesters are accompanied by brass bands as they walk around the cities and towns of Iceland. While Labor Day is celebrated in many places, the largest march is definitely in Reykjavik.
Icelandic protests are always peaceful, so don't worry about any trouble. Most people march to protest anything they find unfair in the workplace, but others just join the long walk just because they like to walk around the city.
2. Saga Fest
Saga Fest is a two-day festival taking place every year near Selfoss (very close to Reykjavik!). It's held in a farm, which only adds to the charm of the festival.
Saga Fest is all about connecting to nature and each other through storytelling. Artists not only perform, but can also collaborate with the audience, and everything is based on sustainability, as well as the Icelandic sagas.
It truly is an amazing festival, with an almost electric atmosphere. There is a big sense of community even among strangers, and you are bound to make some friends if you attend!
You can learn more about Saga Fest on their official website!
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM A LOCAL
Would this blog be a real blog without some personal recommendations from a local? I don't think so!
May in Iceland is one of my favorite months. I love how the nature changes so rapidly in preparation for the summer! Everything blooms, the land comes to life, and the sun likes to hang out with us all day long!
I have a couple of tips for you for when you visit Iceland in May. Keep reading to find out what I love to do when May comes!
1. GO TO REYKJADALUR
It's hard to pick a favorite spot in Iceland. There are so many beautiful waterfalls, gorgeous mountains and enchanting glaciers, you don't know where to start! One of my absolute favorite spots, though, has to be Reykjadalur.
Reykjadalur is a natural hot spring river. Icelanders have been using it for centuries as a bathing spot, and I'm not surprised it's that popular. The water is perfectly warm, and you can find your ideal temperature as the river gets warmer the further up you go.
In May, the sun shines beautifully on the valley where this river rests. The place is idyllic, with green grass growing on the rolling hills and steam coming from the river and the nearby (very!) hot springs. You might even see some sheep!
There is a bit of a hike to get to the valley of Reykjadalur, but it's worth it. Even the hike itself is beautiful, with great views and a waterfall you can see from afar.
Once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with one of the most relaxing soaks of your life, right in the middle of the Icelandic nature!
Wanna find out about more hot springs in Iceland? Check out this guide!
Or maybe hiking is more of your thing? We've got you covered!
2. WALK AROUND REYKJAVIK
Allow yourself to get lost in the little streets all around Reykjavik. The famous sights are definitely something you should see, but I think the real beauty of Reykjavik reveals itself when you just wander around.
Venture where other tourists don't. Don't bring a map. Don't look up places on your phone. Just walk and admire the incredible architecture, the colorful buildings and the amazing graffiti that adorns a lot of the walls in downtown Reykjavik.
Besides, the weather in May is so good that you can't pass up an opportunity to see as much of the city as possible! The golden hour is also perfect to take pictures, especially since in May it lasts much longer than an hour!
If you want to walk around Reykjavik with a local, learn everything you want to know about the city, and also eat some delicious traditional Icelandic food, why not join our top-rated Reykjavik food tour?
SOME LAST WORDS
May is truly one of the best times to visit Iceland. You will have the time of your life and experience all the best that Iceland has to offer.
I hope my guide was helpful! Don't hesitate to reach out through the comments if you have any questions, and definitely let me know if you liked the article! Feel free to share with anyone who wants to learn a little bit more about Iceland or is planning a trip here!