What is Iceland like in May? How is the weather? Are prices getting higher?
Icelanders give May a really warm welcome! It’s the month the summer truly arrives, the flowers and other flora come to life, the locals as well! The sun is up almost 24/7, it’s getting warmer but still, we can expect one or two snow storms. We have had a snow storm already in the first days of May so hopefully, that’s over now!
The high season has not yet arrived but you might still feel it getting busier towards the end of the month. You might want to prepare your trip if you’re travelling in mid-May or later since accommodation tends to get fully booked well in advance. You can expect higher prices for flights and accommodation from mid-May as well.
BBQ season has started! The most typical sight of an Icelander after the first sight of the sun is standing in his sandals and shorts, with sunglasses on, by the BBQ with a beer in one hand and a BBQ tool in the other.
The average temperature in May is around 6°C, it can go from 2°C up to 10°C. Make sure to bring warm clothes when travelling in May. Layers of clothes are your best friend in Iceland, bring your base layer; thermal underwear or similar, middle layer; hoodie or similar and something waterproof! On average over the year we get the least rain in May.
May is the time when Icelanders open their summer wardrobe, if the sun is shining you can always expect to see at least one local wearing shorts even though the temperature shows only 6°C. With better weather, locals start hiking mountains and hiking trails. Esjan is the most popular mountain to hike from Reykjavik, other popular hiking trails that are located near Reykjavik are Helgafell, Úlfarsfell and Reykjadalur valley where you can bathe in the natural warm river coming down from the geothermal field just outside of Hveragerði.
Things to do in May
My favourite activity in Iceland is without a doubt snorkelling in Silfra. If you have the time and are able to swim, then I would say do not miss out on this unique opportunity!
If driving around then I would definitely recommend making a stop for a short glacier hike on the way! 🙂 Available from Sólheimajökull and Skaftafell. Glacier hiking is a great activity to do all year, get up close with Icelandic glaciers and enjoy the view! Please note that hiking on a glacier alone without a certified glacier guide is irresponsible and can be extremely dangerous so please make sure you go with someone who is well aware of the glaciers condition and who knows the paths and risks of the glacier.
Another glacial activity, snowmobiling on Langjökull or Vatnajökull, doesn’t matter. It’s fun, thrilling and amazing views, what more do you need!
Visit the public swimming pools that are all around the country! It’s getting warmer and the sun is beginning to shine, you might be able to catch some tan, that would be a great story when you get home! Getting a tan in Iceland 🙂
May 1st: A public holiday in Iceland, Labour Day or in Icelandic “Verkalýðsdagurinn”. It is a day of protest where Icelanders go downtown Reykjavik for a marching parade mainly to protest labour rights. The first march took place in Iceland in 1932 where workers were fighting for an 8 hour work day and 5 day work week. This day has however been a public holiday since 1966.
International Day of the Icelandic horse is celebrated by riding demonstrations and a horse show in Víðidalur, Reykjavík. Through downtown Reykjavik, there’s also a horse parade around noon that ends in the Parliament Square Austurvöllur where you get a chance to meet these beautiful creatures.
May 10th – Ascension Day: is a public holiday in Iceland, most workplaces are closed and children get the day off from school. Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter, celebrating the ascension of Jesus to heaven. The Icelandic tradition is to be with their families, to cook and eat some traditional Icelandic food. Please note, shops might have different opening hours!
May 12th – Eurovision: This should be a special holiday in Iceland. Icelanders take Eurovision song contest very seriously. Although we haven’t made it very far in the competition we still have a great passion for it! Well, we have been 2nd place TWICE, in 1999 and 2009 so next year 2019 is our year! Maybe we’ll take the 1st place, who knows… Even if some don’t like watching it they still do, just to be able to partake in next Monday’s conversations! That’s how dedicated we are. Listen to this years Icelandic Eurovision song below:
May 13th – Mothers Day
May 24th-26th – Raflost, a festival of electronic and media arts held in Reykjavik every year in May. The direct translation of the name of the festival would be electric shock. This festival brings together all kinds of electronic art forms such as dance, science, media art and much more! See further information about the festival HERE
All in all
Come on and visit Iceland to see everything come to life! See how the locals welcome summer before the summer traffic arrives! Get to know what the locals do on weekends, attend one of the festivals, see how the people protest on May 1st and see the Icelandic horses in a parade! May is exciting, it’s close to summer, Iceland is not over-crowded with tourists yet and there are small local festivals that are not well known. May is the ideal month to get to know the Icelandic local!