Skaftafell in the autumn

Iceland in September: Events, Concerts and Things to Do

Are you planning on visiting Iceland in September? This article will help you find events, activities and other stuff that will keep you busy, in the capital and beyond.

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Nína Þorkelsdóttir

23. August 2018

My guess is that most travelers that come to Iceland are not pursuing a relaxing holiday. Rather, they are searching for adventure and excitement. In fact, Iceland is probably not the best destination for those who just want to chill out and do as little as they can.

Having said that, I’ll now introduce you to events that take place in September in Iceland. I will also talk a little bit about activities that are ideal to take part in during the early fall. I hope this article will be of help.

Concerts and festivals

Ljósanótt – The Night of Lights

A crowd of people and some colourful balloons in the air. Ljósanótt is a family-friendly festival in the town of Reykjanesbær. Photo: Ljósanótt@Facebook. 

Ljósanótt is a four-day music and culture festival in Reykjanesbær, which is a town just a stone’s throw away from the International Airport. It takes place the first weekend of September. Ljósanótt was first held in 2000 and will thus celebrate its 18th anniversary this year.

Like most town festivals in Iceland, Ljósanótt is intended to be a family-friendly event, although the concert during the evenings might not be of any particular interest to the youngest ones. During the day, you can choose from a variety of events, but the highlight of the festival is definitely the large outdoor concert that takes place on Saturday evening. After the concert, there are fireworks. For more info, check out the webpage of Ljósanótt

Reykjavik Jazz Festival

A guitarist playing in Harpa concert hall. Guitarist Björn Thoroddsen performing at Harpa Concert Hall. Photo: Reykjavík Jazz Festival. 

Jazz lovers who are visiting Iceland in early September are certainly in for a treat since the biggest event of the Icelandic jazz scene takes place during the second weekend of the month.

The focus of the festival is mostly modern original jazz and the line up includes both Icelandic jazz musicians and foreign visitors. The events take place from Wednesday through Sunday in seven different venues.

In my opinion the best season to listen to jazz is autumn, so the timing of this festival is just perfect. More info can be found here.

Icelandic Country Music Festival

A band performing on stage. From last year's festival. Photo: Icelandic Country Music Festival@Facebook. 

The Icelandic Country Music Festival will take place for the second time this September. It is held in Selfoss, which is a small town an hour’s drive away from Reykjavik. The festival lasts for just one day, but it could be a nice idea for those who are driving the Ring Road of Iceland to stop by in Selfoss and listen to some country music. 

In case you were wondering, country music isn’t very popular in Iceland. It’s therefore a pretty curious festival. This year, the biggest name is the Danish country band J. Tex and the Volunteers.

Activities that are ideal to take part in during the early fall

Pick wild berries

A close up of wild crowberries. Crowberries are one of only few wild berries that grow in Iceland. Flickr/Western Arctic National Parkland. 

Wild berries, such as blueberries and crowberries, are in season from mid-August to Mid-September. During dry days, it’s ideal to venture out of the city and search for berries. Picking wild berries in the early fall is something Icelanders have done for centuries. Due to Iceland’s subarctic climate, edible fruit or plants are extremely scarce. It’s almost impossible to grow fruit trees outdoors so I have a feeling that Icelanders are very grateful for the berries, despite the fact that they are tiny. 

I used to pick berries with my grandmother in Heiðmörk, but you can find berries in every region of the country. Just remember to bring a container or a plastic bag where you can store your harvest.

The sheep round-up: Réttir

A ram. This handsome ram will have to be taken inside for the winter. Unsplash/Julie Karen. 

As you might have heard, Icelanders are greatly outnumbered by sheep. These furry creatures roam freely around the Icelandic countryside during the summer but must be taken inside when the temperatures start to drop in the fall.

Gathering all the sheep together is not an easy task, since they’re scattered all around the countryside. Sometimes they have even walked a long way towards the highlands and farmers have to travel over the hill and far away to retrieve their precious sheep.

Réttir, or the sheep round-up, takes place in the early fall and usually lasts for several days. It is commonplace for farmers to invite friends and family to come over and help, turning the event into a great big family reunion. When people get together in Iceland, there’s always singing and drinking, and the sheep round-up is no exception.

Here’s a list of all the sheep round-ups that are taking place in the fall of 2018. 

Go leafing

Autumn colours in Heiðmörk, a forested area near Reykjavik. Gorgeous colours at Heiðmörk. Wonderguide/Nína. 

There are, of course, a lot of myths about Iceland and one of the most prevalent of them all is that there are absolutely no forests on our island, and like most myths, it has some truth to it. “What do you do when you get lost in an Icelandic forest? You stand up!” is a favorite with Icelandic tour guides, and anyone who ventures outside Reykjavík will immediately note the scarcity of all things leafy. What little forested areas there are to be found fall well short of the majestic subarctic pine forests of Norway, Finland or Canada, for instance.

Autumn leaves are thus not a common sight in Iceland, but there are a few options. Most people go to Thingvellir, a national park rich in history and tourists, but the alternative is Heiðmörk.


September is the shoulder-season for tourism in Iceland. Winter tourism hasn't taken off yet, but the Northern Lights have already started to light up the skies. In September, you can easily combine Northern lights-hunting with other activities that can’t be done in the midst of the cold winter. 

Whale watching

A humpback whale jumping from the ocean in Iceland. Photo: Unsplash/Thomas Kelley.

September is a pretty good month for whale watching, although the high-season is coming to an end. The whales migrate south in the fall to breed in warmer waters, but the chances of sightings are still good in September. Here are some whale watching tours to check out if you want to book now.

Glacier hiking/snowmobiling

A woman walking on a glacier in Iceland. Wonderguide/Dominika.

Although there might not be any snow in Reykjavik, there’s always plenty of it up in the mountains. Glacier-hiking is an activity that you can do all year round in Iceland. The shoulder season is good for this activity since it’s still bright and a bit warmer. It’s also easier to book a spot and less crowded.

It’s not recommended to go glacier hiking by yourself since there are a lot of crevasses in the glaciers. You have to be accompanied by an experienced guide. Click here to check out glacier hikes recommended by the Wonderguide team.

Snowmobiling is also an year-round activity and it can be done on several glaciers in the southern and western regions of the country. There are some tours that combine snowmobiling with other activities, such as sight-seeing. One of our writers went on a day tour that combined the Golden Circle route with snowmobiling, you can read about her experience here .

Snowmobiling is not suitable for kids and most tours require you to present a valid driver’s licence.

Northern Lights hunting

Snowy ground and aurora borealis up in the sky. You might spot Northern lights in September. Photo: Unsplash/Vincent Guth.

Northern lights start to appear when nighttime darkness returns in Iceland in late August and I have seen Northern Lights many times in September. I recommend using the Northern Light Forecast if you intend to go Northern Lights hunting on your own. If you prefer a guided tour, you can book most of them from late August. Browse through our large selection of Northern Light tours here .

Weather in September

The summers in Iceland are short so in early September, temperatures have already started to drop. Autumn storms are common in Reykjavik and beyond, and they typically start hitting the country in mid-September.

In late September, you can also expect freezing temperatures during the night, but it usually doesn’t start snowing in the capital until later.

If you’re planning any kind of outdoor adventures in Iceland in September, you should dress well and bring proper equipment. Be prepared for cold weather, wind and rain. Urban exploring requires different kind of clothing, you can read all about that here.