In a land of constant seasonal changes, every month in Iceland is recognisably unique, with May arising as one of the more preferable months to travel here for international visitors.
Not only are flights, accommodation and car rentals all cheaper throughout May—a precursor to the upcoming summer season—but the weather is drastically on the upswing, transforming Iceland into a land of blossom flower, natural rebirth and transient sunshine.
In May, Icelanders begin to step out of their winter hibernation, venturing out into the rare reality of the sun, blue skies and longer days. With it comes an atmosphere of youthful excitement.
Icelanders have long by now known how to maximize the sun’s presence, relaxing in the city parks, enjoying the geothermal beach or hiking Mt. Esja, sipping Gull in an outdoor beer garden, taking to the kayak and hosting BBQ’s. In this rush of excitement and anticipation, visitors may even catch a rare glimpse of an Icelander sporting shorts.
Perhaps most important for those visiting, however, are the tours and activities open throughout the month of May. Thankfully, almost every option is available; whale watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, ATV’s, horseback riding, lava caving, hot spring hunting, glacier and mountain hiking, mountain biking, surfing, sightseeing… the list is endless, and with more daylight hours available, Iceland in May can very quickly be turned into a non-stop adventure.
The only experiences missed in May is, first, witnessing the country blanketed in a snow and darkness (both in equal measure), and second, the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.
The aurora borealis is a solar phenomenon that can only be seen with clear skies at night; considering May comes close to experiencing the Midnight Sun, seeing the Northern Lights will in no way be a possibility.
There are also a number of festivals, events and public holidays that occur in May, adding a cultural overlay to your vacation here. Not only are there two festivals—RAFLOST: Icelandic Festival of Electronic Arts and Saga Fest—but there is also the opportunity to celebrate religious holidays and even attend events organised as part of the International Day of the Icelandic Horse.
So read on to discover the possibilities open to you throughout May in Iceland; whether it’s a holiday focused on gentle relaxation or adrenaline-fuelled action, there is always an opportunity just waiting over the horizon.
Things to Do in May in Iceland?
As previously stated, visiting Iceland in May means that you will have the opportunity to partake in an enormous wealth of different past times and activities, ranging from the relaxing to the adrenaline fuelled.
Though certain areas of the country are still inaccessible during May—such as the Central Highlands—you will be gratified to discover how many more experiences become available as the summer months begin to roll in.
Hot Springs and Swimming Pools in May in Iceland
One of the more popular attractions in Iceland is to visit a natural, geothermally heated hot spring. Thankfully, with relatively mild weather and calm winds, May is perhaps the best month to do just that.
Iceland is dotted with geothermal pools, some well-known, others little more than modern-day folklore. Despite the difference in surroundings and temperature, Iceland’s geothermal pools are sure to provide a deep and lasting experience.
It is always advised to find out where these pools are before you set out travelling as some are located on private land and, thus, entering requires permission from the landowner. Asking locals as to their own recommendations is a sure-fire way of finding the best spots and ensuring that you don’t get lost along the way.
As opposed to hot spring hunting in the winter—a pastime that involves hopping around at sub-zero temperatures trying to recover your clothes from the wind—May makes dipping oneself into these soothing pools a true pleasure.
Nothing can compete with that overwhelming sensuality that one feels as the summer sun keeps perched high and proud in the illuminated night sky. This is a bath-time experience to write home about.
If you’re looking for something a little less natural (though, culturally, second-nature to Icelanders), May is an excellent time to visit some of Reykjavík’s swimming pools.
With the sunshine out and the holiday spirit kicking in, you’ll be surprised to find Iceland’s swimming pools more closely resemble spas, with hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. After all, why not shed that jet lag and start your holiday in the most relaxed way possible?
One of the most popular and accessible pools for visitors is Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik. Aside from geothermal hot tubs, the pool offers water slides, steam room and sauna, an adjacent gymnasium, a full-length swimming pool and an area for kids to play with ease. There is also a shallow, heated pool for lying out in, an excellent way to stretch out and chill.
Be aware of the rules when it comes to public pools in Iceland; it is not only culturally expected, but required, to shower oneself naked before entering the water. This is not to satisfy the fantasies of the changing room warden, but to help combat the spread of disease and bacteria.