Well into winter, November brings unpredictable weather and occasional heavy storms. Mountains are capped, if not covered, with snow, and the nights grow ever darker.
The beginning of the month sees 8 hours of daylight while by the end you can expect only 5 hours and temperatures hover around freezing (30-38 degrees Fahrenheit), so plan your outings and pack accordingly. Road conditions and walking paths may be compromised or slippery, so drive with extra care and pack your crampons.
Crowds & Costs
With little daylight, this is one of the year's slowest and most peaceful travel months in Iceland. Flight and hotel prices will be at their cheapest since many winter activities have still yet to begin. This is also a great month to come if you're trying to avoid the holiday rush of December.
Where to Go
This is a good month to get out and explore Reykjavík before the winter sets in. Check out the oldest and coolest street, Laugavegur, in the compact downtown area, popping in any of the numerous cafés and trendy boutiques.
A classic route from here is to head south of Reykjavík to tackle the famous Golden Circle and South Shore. Starting from Þingvellir, the country’s first national park and filming location for HBO series, Game of Thrones, you’ll see the lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss. The South Shore offers a route along the Eyjafjoll Mountains with views of Eyjafjallajokull Glacier to Vík and the black-sand beach of Reynisfjara. For more ideas on where to go from Reykjavík, read this article.
Those in search of outdoor adventures can head north to Akureyri for early-winter excursions, with more chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
What to Do
Now in the offseason, enjoy exploring the popular attractions of the southern coast without the throngs of tourists, like a visit to the ghostly Sólheimasandur plane crash as you work your way to Reynisfjara and Vík.
If you’re willing to brave the cold, the truly hardy might enjoy surfing off the Reykjanes Peninsula and snorkeling or diving the Silfra fissure in Þingvellir National Park. Glacier hiking and ice caving are other popular winter activities. Strap on your crampons and hike along the contours of the Vatnajökull glacier before taking the opportunity to climb into naturally forming ice caves for a truly breathtaking (and seasonal) experience.
More traditional winter activities abound, from snowmobiling and dog sledding over snowfields and on top of glaciers to downhill and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. For Iceland’s best slopes head north to the resorts in and around Akureyri.
Soak in a heated pool, or heitir pottar (hot pot) or visit the iconic Blue Lagoon near the Keflavík airport or the lesser frequented Mývatn Natural Baths. For a local experience, seek out naturally occurring hot springs or geothermal rivers. The advantage of this experience is you can watch the dancing Auroras overhead if you wait until the sun goes down. Alternatively, if you’re after the Northern Lights, join a tour (boat, Super Jeep, or bus) or rent a car and go on the hunt.
Read Tips for Viewing the Northern Lights in Iceland for more information.
Events in November
Iceland Airwaves Music Festival. A four-day event featuring both new international bands and up-and-coming Icelandic artists is hosted annually in Reykjavík (typically from November 7-10).
Everybody’s Spectacular. Taking place every year in mid-November is the combined festival of Reykjavík Dance and LÓKAL International Theater for one impressive five-day event featuring performances from local and international artists from theater and dance.
Traveling to Iceland in November? Check out these great itineraries.
Best of Iceland's South Coast & Golden Circle - 6 Days. Starting in Reykjavik, this 6-day Icelandic road trip lets you visit classic highlights along the country's south coast including waterfalls, black sand beaches, basalt columns, massive glaciers, and icebergs at your own pace. You'll then join the popular Golden Circle route where you can see Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal area of Geysir (watch Strokkur erupt like clockwork), and Thingvellir National Park where tectonic plates meet.
Winter Adventures in West & South Iceland - 9 Days. This self-drive tour covers some of Iceland's best sites and winter-themed activities with plenty of chances to search for the Northern Lights. Start in Reykjavik and head off the beaten path to the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You'll then continue to the popular Golden Circle to snorkel between tectonic plates, finishing your trip on the black sand beaches of the South Coast.