The beauty of autumn in Iceland
This blog post is written on one of those autumn mornings that make you glad to be alive. You know the sort: not a cloud in the sky, thick frost covering cars, grass and roofs so their colors become dull; which only serves to focus attention even more on the bright blue sky.
Despite the temperature being low, mornings like this bring everything to life. The birds are chattering away as though it’s spring and the neighborhood cats are more interested in frosty spider webs and catching a few warm rays of sun than in stalking their avian foes. The sound of kids playing outside school seems to carry clearer in this weather than usual – and then there’s the almost complete lack of smells in the fresh air. Where the rain brought wholesome, leafy, muddy, mushroom aromas to the nostrils the frost brings almost nothing at all. Unless you count the unnatural but appealing smell of baking bread, or the few occasional plumes of wood smoke which will increasingly punctuate the still air as the day wears on.
The Icelandic summer's endless array of wild flowers is one of Iceland’s most splendid sights; but frost-covered red, gold, yellow and brown autumn leaves under bright sunlight are every bit as inspiring and the bracing fresh air is an incentive to keep on hiking to see more and keep warm. In the summer you’re just as likely to fall asleep in the soft grass – which is a truly beautiful experience, but not especially productive use of precious holiday time!
Autumn weather in Iceland is predictably unpredictable. Overall though, the most likely two experiences you will have are clear, cold, still and sunny, as described above; or stormy, warm, rainy and windy. Hopefully you’ll discover both during your stay – because while clear weather is always preferred, a good Icelandic autumn storm can be really exciting and invigorating. Plus, it's an excellent cobweb removal session.
Today is definitely autumn in Iceland. But generally it can be difficult to separate the seasons. The first heavy snow could come almost any time between September and November and how long the trees and bushes keep their leaves depends largely on how much wind there is. That is probably why a lot of people pay close attention to the comings and goings of migratory birds as harbingers of spring and autumn.
The ancient Norse calendar is still partially in use in Iceland and it dictates that there are in fact only two seasons: the cold, dark one; and the warm, bright one. That is why Iceland celebrates the first day of summer on the first day of the month of Harpa; which is always on a Thursday between the 19th and 25th of April. It is even a national holiday, believe it or not. And frost is considered a good sign of a nice summer to come.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first day of winter is not a national holiday. It is marked on the Saturday of the 26th week of summer, at the beginning of the month of Gormánuður – between the 21st and 27th of October. That is fast approaching; and with it will come longer nights, northern lights, snow, Christmas, cozy evenings with candles and good movies, satisfying soups and stews, the best outdoor hot pot bathing conditions and all sorts of other good stuff that Icelanders really enjoy.
There is no wrong time of year to visit Iceland and get to know the country. But at this precise moment, fall, or autumn if you prefer, seems like the best choice. No doubt winter’s numerous charms will prompt another blog post in the future, assuring you that winter is the best time to visit Iceland. Maybe you should just try all the seasons and make up your own mind.