Visiting Iceland in November is an incredible experience. The country has astounding nature and beauty, super unique things to do and also an interesting history. Read on to find out why you should be exploring the land of fire and ice during November and score some top tips whilst you’re here!
Iceland has been on our bucket list for years now. It intrigued us, and we were right to be drawn in because it truly is a captivating country.
There aren’t many places in the world quite like it, and we are already planning to return. Whether you’re interested in the scenery, the adrenaline activities or just the food (admit it), visiting Iceland in November is a great way to spend your holidays.
This post is full of tips and advice about travelling to Iceland travel in November. Click on the contents box below to jump straight to the information that you need, whether it’s what to wear in Iceland in November, where to stay or finding more about the must-do Iceland winter tours.
Why Should You Visit Iceland In November?
Surprisingly, Iceland is a fantastic place to visit all year round. Considering that it’s literally the land of ice, summer in Iceland is also a great time to come if you can’t visit in winter. However, the country really shows off during the colder months. If you can stand the chill and the dark days, you should be coming towards to the end of the year.
Talking of light – there isn’t much of it in November but I personally thought that it gave a magical feel to our trip when we were out driving at 9am and the sun hadn’t risen yet! It’s a weird experience but it does get you up and out of your accommodation so that you can fit everything in during the day.
There are also some awesome things to do in Iceland in November that just wouldn’t be possible during the summer months.
You can visit the ice caves, which are flooded earlier in the year when the ice melts.
The hot springs are also especially fun during the winter because you’ll be standing in literally freezing temperatures one minute, and the next you’ll be swimming in 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit!). It’s just not the same in summer!
Visiting Iceland in the winter also means that there will generally be fewer tourists around, so you can have some beautiful spots to yourself for longer. Exploring a glacier lagoon is so much more breathtaking when you’re alone! Of course, people will always be travelling to Iceland all-year round but many people don’t like to brave the winter months!
During November, it will be easier for you to get that Instagram shot next to a gushing waterfall, or book that dreamy Airbnb at a lower price.
Things To Do In Iceland In November
You certainly won’t be short of things to do in Iceland in November, especially if you’re only on a quick weekend break like many people are. We recommend at least 4 days in Iceland – get an early morning flight on day 1 and a late one on the way back so that you can make the most of your time there. That’s easier said than done when you’re travelling from further afield than Europe but you could easily add an Iceland itinerary to a longer trip.
If you’re flying from Europe, use Easyjet to book your flights as they’re a cheap airline. Read the flights details carefully though as often the returning flight will actually be landing at a different airport than your departing one. It could lead to other travel issues or problems with picking up a car left at the wrong airport!
Here are our top picks of what to do in Iceland in November:
A Golden Circle Tour
This has got to be one of the most popular things to do in Iceland. We personally recommend hiring a car and doing it yourself, but if it’s your first time driving in winter conditions or haven’t got a licence then there are plenty of guided tours that will take you to the same places.
You’ll visit Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.
The National Park is a World Heritage Site where not only can you appreciate the incredible natural beauty of the area, but you discover the engrossing history of the early settlers and how Iceland gained independence in the 20th century.
Scuba dive or snorkel between two tectonic plates (you’ll need to be certified for diving but you can snorkel as long as you can swim!), marvel at the waterfalls dotted around the park and follow a hiking trail to lead you some wonderful views. You can even camp here!
Less than an hour’s drive from the park is the hot spring area where the original Geysir is located. It’s unlikely it will erupt whilst you’re there – it hasn’t properly gone off in around 100 years. The more recent eruptions have been due to earthquake activity but it’s not common. However, you WILL see the nearby Strokkur geyser explode and it’s such an amazing sight!
You only have to wait 2 or 3 minutes and the boiling hot water will bubble up and launch into the air. The water can reach heights of around 30m – get that slow-mo ready!
Gullfoss waterfall is pretty close too – it literally takes 10 minutes to drive and there is plenty of parking.
What I loved about all three of these attractions on the Golden Circle was that there was no messing about. You drive there, park up and you’re treated to what you came for.
You don’t have to walk miles from the car park or pay high entry fees to see the beautiful natural sights!
If you’re on a tour, then you’ll find that it will be expensive because Iceland is an expensive country in general.
But, if you’ve rented a car (which actually can be fairly priced) then you will see so much that you don’t even have to pay for. The only thing we paid for on our Iceland vacation was our snowmobiling tour which we’ve talked about below!
The waterfall is loud and a little intimidating, but it’s also magnificent. Be careful walking down the steps because they can get super slippery, especially if you’re travelling to Iceland in winter.
You can get up close to the falls and you’ll be sprayed with water but it’s definitely a must-see attraction. Take a wander around the shop at the top. If you’ve booked a snowmobiling tour, it’s likely that you’ll be picked up from the car park here.
If you visit Iceland in November, you’ll get the chance to visit an ice cave. During the warmer months, these caves flood because the ice melts. That means winter is the only time you’ll be able to get there. Only go with a guide as these areas can be dangerous and unpredictable!
There is a difference between ice caves and glacier caves. Read your tour description carefully so you know what to expect!
Ice caves – Natural caves with some ice inside
Glacier cave – Caves made purely out of ice (these tend to have that gorgeous blue colour!)
Escaping the festive cheer is difficult at this time of year, but why would you ever want to!?
Iceland in November is full of Christmas markets, performances and activities. You might even spot one of the 13 Santa Claus’ around town! In places like Reykjavík, there are plenty of shopping opportunities and Christmas concerts to enjoy too.
The Silfra fissure is a rift in between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Swimming in between the two plates means that you’ll be next to two different continents – how’s that for adventure!?
Situated in Þingvellir National Park, the world’s clearest water waits ready for you to swim, snorkel or dive into. If you’re a certified diver, then SCUBA diving in Iceland is a must-do activity. If you’re not certified, then you can still join in the fun with your snorkelling gear.
Yes, it will be cold (around 2 – 4 degrees Celsisus, or 35 – 39 Farenheit) but you’ll be required to wear a dry suit which will insulate your body.
We won’t mess around because we all know why you’re going – the Northern Lights. It can’t be guaranteed because Mother Nature likes to toy with us.
However, visiting Iceland in November is going to give you a fair chance of spotting that elusive aurora borealis, or Northern Lights to the un-sciencey folk out there.
The long, dark nights are perfect for a viewing but the clouds can block the Lights out so just be aware of that when booking your trip.
Fancy a bit of a challenging adventure? Hike a glacier and see what you’re really made of! You can choose the level of difficulty when booking your hike, but you’ll still be open to the elements. You’ll be walking for at least 3 hours so you need to be reasonably fit.
Hot Springs and the Blue Lagoon
You can’t book a trip to Iceland without going to the Blue Lagoon! In November, the temperature levels drop but the water in the lagoon stays hot so it’s really fun to swim in!
You can go in the day time when you’ll get better photos. Or, go at night when there are less people around and there’s an eerie magic to the place!
Included in the price is a towel, a silica mud mask and a drink at the swim up bar. If you pay a little extra you’ll get a dressing gown and another mineral, lava or algae face mask of your choice.
If you do decide to skip the Blue Lagoon, then there are plenty of other hot springs that you can experience. Iceland has an amazing amount of geothermal activity so you’ll easily be able to find other springs that are not as popular.
A super fun and mesmerising day, snowmobiling is the perfect Icelandic adventure. Crossing an incredible glacier and watching the sun go down whilst driving (or being driven if you’re a nervous wreck like me!) has got to be high up on your Iceland bucket list.
If you’re staying around Reykjavík, take a tour to Langjökull Glacier (Iceland’s second largest).
You’ll be picked up at Gullfoss and driven to the base camp in a huge beast of a truck. From there you’ll hop onto your snowmobiles and be treated to some incredible views from the glacier.
Iceland Weather In November
No surprises here – Iceland is cold! However, at this time of year it doesn’t actually get as cold as you might expect considering how far north the country lies. The average temperature in for Iceland in November is between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius (38 – 41 Fahrenheit). The wind chill can be brutal though so make sure you are prepared for that with the clothes you pack. Windproof clothes are definitely something to consider!
There also aren’t many daylight hours during this month. Towards the end, you might only see the sun for about 5 hours! It will seem like it’s slowly coasting across the horizon, never fully going up. We visited during the last week of November and the sun didn’t rise until 10am!
What To Wear In Iceland In November
Be careful when you’re packing because winter clothes will be bulky, but if you’re only visiting Iceland for a long weekend then the chances are that you will only be carrying hand luggage on the flight. Adding extra luggage to cheap flights can be expensive so try and wear your biggest items on the plane and always roll up your clothes in your bag to save space!
Here’s our guide to what you should be bringing to Iceland in November (remember that if you’re visiting at a different time of year, you might need to bring less depending on how much you feel the cold!)
Iceland Packing List
Getting Around Iceland In November
When considering your transport in Iceland, you have two main options. Either hire a car, or join multiple day tours to discover what the country has to offer. There are a couple of pros and cons of each so read carefully and decide what is best for you. If you do decide to drive then book early because cars are a popular mode of transport in Iceland. Car rental tends to be cheaper in the winter too so that’s a bonus.
Hiring a Car In Iceland
Renting a car gives you tons more flexibility, and will be more comfortable as you’ll be able to pick and choose when you stop for a break to stretch your legs. Choose a 4×4 so that you can have more control when driving on the icy roads. Hiring a car just means that you can create your own Iceland itinerary. You’ll be able to explore everywhere freely, from Europe’s most powerful waterfall in north Iceland to that famous plane wreck down in the south that you always see on Instagram!
Don’t ever go ‘off-road’ (on the F-roads) as that it actually illegal. The government (and local people!) understandably don’t want their precious landscapes to be ruined by reckless drivers. Fuel is expensive in Iceland – there is no getting around that fact! However, if you’re splitting the cost with a few other drivers then driving will work out cheaper anyway.
You also have the option of hiring a motorhome or campervan to drive yourself around in and live in too! They are more expensive of course, but you’ll save on accommodation so work out what it more cost effective for your own needs.
Using Tours In Iceland in November
Joining tours is a great way to have your trip organised for you. You’ll also learn a lot from the guides about Iceland that you might not find out if you drove yourself.
One downside is that although tour buses will of course have toilet breaks, if you pass one of Iceland’s best waterfalls and want to spend ten minutes taking some photographs, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to because you’ll be on a time schedule!
Actually, we think that a mix between the two is a good option. We hired a car as we wanted to drive all the way to the east side of the country independently. We also took a tour too. If you have a licence to drive and YOU’RE A CONFIDENT DRIVER, then driving in Iceland in November shouldn’t be too hard.
There are icy roads and narrow bridges to cross too. As long as you’re slow and careful, you should be okay. Never underestimate the weather though and if it seems too dangerous to drive, then it probably is! There are usually public buses to rely on if you do get really stuck, and you’re staying close to a town centre.
Iceland tours, however, are excellent ways of exploring the country and getting great tips from local people.
Where To Stay In Iceland
There are plenty of awesome accommodation options in Iceland for you to choose from. Whether you want a unique Airbnb cabin, stay in fancy hotels or jump from hostel to hostel, you’ll find something.
Remember that if you are staying in one location, you might be driving/sitting in a bus for hours. If that doesn’t appeal then it might be a better idea to pick more than one accommodation in different locations. That way, you aren’t doing any return journeys in one day.
Many people in Iceland have summer cabins, so in November they’re usually free for holiday makers. Staying somewhere like this means that you can cook for yourself (because eating out is incredible expensive) and you might even be lucky enough to have your own hot tub!
We actually rented the cabin in the picture below through Airbnb. It was a great remote location (but near enough to the next town for emergencies!). There was space for 6 people and the only downside was that although there was a hot tub, it was essentially just a hot bath outside with no bubbles! Make sure you double check you’ll have what you need and read the reviews of previous stays! Click here to get $44 off your Airbnb stay!
There are some beautiful hotels in Iceland, especially the further you get away from big cities like Reykjavík. Imagine watching the Northern Lights from your cosy bed through the floor to ceiling windows!
Of course, you’ll pay a premium price but if you have saved up for this trip specifically then you’ll have so many options of where to stay in Iceland. WiFi is usually included and some places offer breakfast too, which is a good way to save on food throughout the day if you fill up in the morning!
If you’re happy to share a dormitory room, then hostels are a great way to save money on accommodation in Iceland. Some hostels so have private rooms and double beds but they’ll just be a lot more basic.
I assume you’re going to Iceland to experience the country and not solely to test out their accommodation though! If you’re going to be out all day anyway, then a basic room is all you’ll need. Plus, many hostels will have their own kitchens so you can prepare picnic lunches to take on your day trips.
Hostels are also good for meeting new people so if you’re on a solo trip then it might be a better idea to grab a hostel. If you’re using tour buses because you might find some people staying in the same place as you are going on the same trips!
Frequently Asked Questions
Will it snow in Iceland in November?
There is a fairly high chance that it might snow in at this time of year, but there is no guarantee. In fact, the weather can be very unpredictable so make sure you are prepared for all cases (except a heatwave, I guess!) Pack layers so that you can add or remove them depending on the weather. If you’re hiring a car, ask yourself if you’d be confident driving in snowy conditions just in case.
Will I see whales in Iceland in November?
It’s not the best time of year to spot whales but there are tours running all year round from Reykjavík if you’re happy to take a chance. Go north to Akureyri to improve your chaces of seeing a humpback whale. If you don’t see a whale, usually the tours will give you a chance to come back on another day to try again. That’s not always possible so remember that no one can give you a 100% guarantee that you’ll see a whale!
Will I see the Northern Lights in Iceland In November?
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon so there’s obviously no guarantee you’ll see them. As the nights get longer and there are less daylight hours then your chances do increase but it’s a risk. I wouldn’t spend more than around $50 on a Northern Lights tour for this reason. The tours can be useful because the guides know where the best places to look are. Some tours (like the one I recommended above) give you advice on how to photograph the lights if you do see them. You also get the chance to learn about the star constellations too!
Should I drive in Iceland in November?
The roads shouldn’t be too hazardous at this time of year, so it should be like driving anywhere else. However, you might have to cross narrow bridges, and if there is heavy snow that could be distracting. If you aren’t a confident driver then consider only using bus tours. However, driving does give you amazing flexibility and I do think it’s the best way to travel around the country! Here, people drive on the right by the way!