Iceland is a wonderful country, filled with so much to see and do. While there are a few staple itinerary items, the best things to do vary depending on what time of year you choose to visit. This guide will cover the overall weather, whether it is worth visiting Iceland at this time of year, the best things to do, and what to wear in Iceland in May.
The Weather In Reykjavik in May
I’m no weather girl, but the average temperature varies from 39-49 degrees F in Reykjavik during the month of May, with an average of 10 rainy days. From my personal experience, it was a mix of weather each day – cloudy with a chill for a few hours, followed by a few hours of straight sunshine! Due to this uncertain weather, it is important to plan (and pack) accordingly.
Is May a good time to visit Iceland?
It’s gonna be a YES from me, however, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. May is a wonderful time because it allows for thinner crowds and cheaper hotel rates, paired with weather that allowed for outdoor activities in comfortable weather. However, if your main goal for visiting Iceland is to see the Northern Lights, I would recommend going in the winter months instead. While it is possible to see the Northern Lights in May if you go out hunting for them in the dead of night, your chances are significantly lower than in the winter months.
Best Things to do in Iceland in May
explore reykjavik by foot
May is the perfect time of year to explore Reykjavik by foot. It is comfortable enough to walk around without too many bulky layers, but still less crowded than the main summer months. There is a lot to see in Reykjavik, and if you are fortunate to stay in the city center, it is also within walking distance! While there is SO much to see, I have included my top 5 recommended spots not to miss below.
- Hallgrimskirkja Church – This epic church features unique architecture on the outside, and stunning views of the city from the top of building! It is free to visit the church, and a small fee if you want to head to the top.
- Grab A Local Brew – If you are a coffee drinker, be sure not to miss your chance to grab coffee from a local shop. My recommendation? Head to Reykjavik Roasters near Hallgrimskirkja – you won’t be disappointed!
- Sæbraut Road Walk – Take in the breathtaking water and mountain views from this easy seaside walk. Along the way, you will see the iconic Voyager Sculpture, as well as the Harpa, the city’s conference center and concert hall.
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hot Dog Stand – A visit to Reykjavik would not be complete without trying on of the famed hot dogs from this stand.
- Views from the Perlan – The Perlan is a combination of a museum, revolving restaurant, and planetarium. We mainly visited this spot to take in the amazing mountain views (free to visit)!
Viking Horseback Riding
While your chances of seeing the Northern Lights dwindle as the weather heads toward summer, the upside is that you are able to spend time with the famous Icelandic viking horses! My husband and I spent an entire morning getting to know the horses, and going for a ride among the beautiful Icelandic landscape. We booked our horseback riding through Viator, though there are a wide variety of booking options out there.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a famous outdoor spa (sort of like a hot spring) which is powered by geothermal seawater. It is known for it’s electric blue waters, with a backdrop of dramatic volcanic rock. While a visit to the Blue Lagoon is worthwhile at any time of year, it was particularly amazing while visiting Iceland in May. The lagoon was relatively empty, the air was not too crisp for comfort, and the sun was shining. There is a cost for entry (I believe we paid 35 euros), but I will tell you right now that it was 100% worth it!
the Golden circle
Visiting the Golden Circle and taking in the sites there in May was absolutely breathtaking. We lucked out with a very sunny and warm(ish) day, which allowed for some added natural beauty. We did not rent a car while we were in Iceland, so we went with a Golden Circle Complete Tour through Extreme Iceland. Our guide was fantastic, and we had a wonderful time. We visited a number of sites, including the following:
- Geothermal Exhibition at Hellisheidi Power Plant
- Gullfoss Waterfull
- Thingvellir National Park
- Kerid Crater
animal sightseeing cruise
May was the perfect time of year to go on an animal sightseeing cruise. It was not too cold to be out on the water, the sun was shining, and we saw a bunch of wonderful wildlife! While there are options for whale watching, we opted for a puffin sightseeing tour as we had never seen them before! This cruise (as well as many others) depart from Reykjavik’s waterfront area which is tucked behind the Harpa.
looking for an itinerary?
Looking for ways to squeeze all of these activities into a quick trip to Iceland? Be sure to visit this post on my website, which outlines a 4 day Iceland itinerary!
What to Wear in Iceland
As stated in the weather section above, the weather in Iceland in May can vary from day to day (and sometimes even hour to hour). The key to packing for Iceland in May is to pack a variety of layers. Below, I have outlined Iceland in May packing MUST haves, as well as outfit inspiration for a variety of activities.
Top 5 Iceland Packing Must Haves
A packable down is a “down” jacket which is easy to pack. A packable down is the perfect jacket to bring along for Iceland in May, as it is heavy enough to keep you warm, but easy to fit into a small backpack when the sun comes out.
Fleece Lined Leggings
Fleece lined leggings are the perfect option for outdoor activities in Iceland. They are the perfect mix of comfortable, warm, and stylish. I found really great and affordable fleece lined leggings on Amazon.
Water Resistant Boots
With weather that is sunny one minute and gloomy the next, it is important to be prepared. I opted to wear water resistant boots nearly every day of my visit to Iceland, as they are versatile and work well with the varied terrain in Iceland.
Swimsuit + water resistant Phone Case
While one might not automatically think to pack a swimsuit for 39-49 degree weather, you will want to ensure you pack one! Even if you opt out of visiting the Blue Lagoon, there are many hot springs around Iceland that you might want to enjoy. In addition to a swimsuit, be sure to bring a water resistant phone case if you want to take photos in the Blue Lagoon!
Light Backpack (to Store Layers)
Since the weather changes frequently in Iceland, it is good to dress in layers. I carried around a light packpack which held my packable down and gloves when it was warm enough to take them off!
Iceland Outfit Inspiration
I opted for a cute and simple layered look for exploring Reykjavik. A simple long sleeve top, herringbone vest, pants, and riding boots did the trick. Don’t forget to bring your packable down in your bag (though you may not end up needing it if the sun is out)!
If you go out exploring the Golden Circle, comfort + warmth are essential. I paired fleece-lined leggings with a sweater and my packable down! For shoes, I wore lace up water-resistant boots.
I opted for a cute and laid-back look for horseback riding, and paired jeans with a chambray top + cozy vest for added warmth. I also brought my packable down along for when I was chilly to layer over top! For shoes, I wore my riding boots (naturally).
Last but not least – the Blue Lagoon! While wearing a swimsuit is obvious, I do have a couple of tips. To get the best possible photos here, be sure to wear a swimsuit that will contrast nicely against the bright blue waters! I opted for a black and white printed two-piece, which turned out great in photos.
If you are a site regular, you know I never leave a girl hanging without shoe recommendations. I only needed 3 pairs of shoes for my visit to Iceland in May – riding boots, water-resistant boots, and sandals (for the Blue Lagoon). If you pack comfortable shoes that are versatile, you don’t need much!
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I hope that you found this guide all about May in Iceland helpful! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Be sure to check out my Iceland 4 day itinerary if you are planning a short stay. Happy travels!