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Thinking of visiting Iceland in summer? Me too.
I’ve been bitten by the Iceland travel bug since our trip to Scandinavia last year and would jump on a plane right now if I could.
Though I would love to see the Northern lights, I think summer is the best season to visit Iceland.
Thanks to genetics, I really feel the cold (I’ve had 2 cases of mild hypothermia – in Australia!). So Arctic winter conditions are probably not for me.
I set about researching the top things to do in Iceland over summer and you know what? It sounds amazing.
An Iceland summer trip would be full of adventure, nature experiences, local culture and fun.
What's in this article
- 1 When is summer in Iceland?
- 2 Things to do in Iceland in summer
- 2.1 Make the most of the Midnight Sun
- 2.2 Check out Lake Viti – the crater lake
- 2.3 Meet the puffins
- 2.4 A bird’s eye view of incredible nature
- 2.5 Explore Iceland’s fjords
- 2.6 Go chasing waterfalls
- 2.7 Try the local food and produce
- 2.8 Bathe in the famous hot springs
- 2.9 Go whale watching
- 2.10 Dodge the geysers
- 2.11 Attend a local festival
- 2.12 Walk on a glacier
- 2.13 Discover Iceland’s volcanoes
- 2.14 Explore Reykjavik
- 2.15 See the Northern Lights (maybe)
When is summer in Iceland?
The summer months in Iceland are June, July and August and this is the most popular time to visit Iceland.
During these months temperatures are an average high of 10–13 °C (50–55 °F). If you are lucky, a summer day can reach up to 20–25 °C (68–77 °F).
And of course there is plenty of sunlight. In summer, Iceland experiences the phenomenon known as the Midnight Sun – when the sun remains visible at the local midnight.
Parts of the country closest to the North Pole experience 24 hours of sunlight due to their position on the globe. In Iceland’s capital Reykjavik there are only 3 hours of darkness at the summer solstice on the 21st of June.
With mild temperatures, long days full of sunlight and nature in full bloom, summer looks like an amazing time to visit Iceland.
Have a look at this incredible video of scenes of an Icelandic summer before reading more details about what to do in Iceland in summer below.
Things to do in Iceland in summer
Here are some of the activities that inspire me to book a trip to Iceland in the summertime. I use a mixture of resources when researching and planning our trips. I’ve chosen some favourites from Amazon below.
Make the most of the Midnight Sun
Take advantage of the extra daylight hours and take to the open road.
With a full week, drive Iceland’s Ring Road, one of the world’s epic road trips that takes you past some of the most spectacular natural sights imaginable over 800 miles (1,285km).
If you are short on time, the famous Golden Circle route takes you to from Reykjavik to the southern on a 190 mile (300 km) long round trip taking in Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area.
Check out Lake Viti – the crater lake
In summer, when the snow has melted, many roads that are inaccessible in winter can be accessed by 4WD vehicles. Many of the roads in the highlands of Iceland do not open until July.
Here and you can experience some of the most unique off the beaten track nature experiences in the world.
Lake Viti (pictured above) is a crater lake formed after a huge eruption of the Krafla volcano in 1724. The water in some parts of the lake boils!
Walk around the perimeter of the lake and enjoy the contrast of the barren landscape to the crystal blue water.
Meet the puffins
Did you know that the Westman Islands in Iceland are home to the world’s largest puffin colony?
These cheeky looking birds with colorful beaks and orange webbed feet are so photogenic and interesting to watch.
The puffin season in Iceland runs from late April to the end of August. This is nesting time for around 20% of the world’s population of Atlantic puffins. For the rest of the year they are at sea.
So if you want to see these beautiful birds in their natural habitat you need to visit in summer.
Did you know that a baby puffin is called a ‘puffling‘ – so cute!
A bird’s eye view of incredible nature
Imagine seeing the volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers from above.
An aerial view of these natural wonders gives a completely different perspective. Did you know that you can even hover over a live volcano? Wow!
If ever there was a time to splurge on the adventure of a lifetime then this is it. I’d love to take a helicopter tour of the highlights of Iceland’s dramatic landscapes. No doubt those memories would stay with me forever.
Explore Iceland’s fjords
Ever since we spent a week exploring the fjords in Norway I’ve been dreaming of returning to Scandinavia to explore the fjordlands in other countries.
The Westfjords in Iceland are no less dramatic than those in Norway but are very remote and it is best to visit in the summer months when the roads are accessible.
Only 10% of visitors to Iceland ever reach the fjords region so it is possible to simply relax and soak up the awe-inspiring scenery in solitude.
Go chasing waterfalls
If waterfalls are your thing (and they definitely are mine) it is estimated that Iceland has over 10,000 to explore.
The country’s unique topography and climate with frequent rain and snow as well as melting glaciers are the perfect conditions for creating spectacular waterfalls.
Some of the most famous of these are Gullfoss (found on the Golden Circle route) and Skogafoss on the southern stretch of the ring road.
Try the local food and produce
You may not be surprised that seafood plays a starring role in Icelandic cuisine. All forms of fish – fresh and dried – have been central to the diet in Iceland for thousands of years.
And due to the climate, smoking techniques used for preservation were applied to fish and other meats, lamb in particular.
These strong tastes might not suit everyone’s palate so luckily in summertime, when fresh produce is abundant, there are many other options to try Icelandic cuisine.
I’d love to try the fresh seafood, lamb raised on pristine grasslands, the delicious baked goods, skyr (like a mixture of yoghurt and cottage cheese) and ice cream.
You can also join the locals and pick the local bilberries and blueberries.
Whale and puffin are also on the menu but personally, I’d give them a miss.
Bathe in the famous hot springs
Due to all the geothermal activity, one of the best things to do in Iceland is bathe in one of the many hot springs. Of these, the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik is the most famous but there are many others in and around the capital.
I would like to explore the hot springs in the countryside. At Reykjadalur (translated as Steam Valley) you can hike to and swim in a warm river.
Doesn’t that sound relaxing?
Make sure to pack your swimsuit – read more packing tips for Iceland here
Go whale watching
In summer, 23 species of whale migrate to the shallow waters of Iceland’s fjords to feed on fish and krill. This makes for an incredible opportunity to view these majestic creatures in the wild.
Minke and humpback whales are the most commonly seen species in these waters but you might also catch a glimpse of seals, white-beaked dolphins, and basking sharks.
Whale watching tours depart from Reykjavík, and a small towns near Akureyri in the north of Iceland.
Dodge the geysers
Did you know that the word geyser comes from Iceland’s original spouting hot spring – the Great Geysir in the Haukadalur valley?
Geysir erupts sporadically but when it does it is spectacular. A jet of steaming water is ejected into the air around 60-80 metres high.
Close by, the Strokkur geyser erupts every 4-8 minutes spouting steaming water up to about 20 metres.
Geysir is approximately 62 miles (100km) from Reykjavik on the Golden Circle route.
Attend a local festival
When the days are long and sunny the people of Iceland like to celebrate. Throughout summer in towns and villages across the country people gather together to eat, drink and be merry.
I’d like to take part in the Great Fish Day in the harbour town of Dalvík. Every August the locals put on a huge seafood feast for residents and visitors. The highlight is a huge barbecue where haddock, cod and salmon are grilled. Yum!
After trying the local produce you can enjoy the fish themed festivities including street art and live music.
For more information on the Great Fish Day click here.
Walk on a glacier
More than 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers – slow moving ice masses formed when compressed snow turns into ice.
In summer, once the snow has melted, you see the contrast of the huge ice rivers against the mountains and valleys. I’ve seen this in New Zealand and it is incredible.
You can walk and hike on the glaciers in Iceland or I would to try a snowmobiling tour and cruise across the vast expanses of white ice. The best places to try this is Langjökull glacier.
Discover Iceland’s volcanoes
Iceland has around 130 volcanoes – both active and dormant – and they can be explored in many different ways.
In 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted causing evacuations in the surrounding area and flight chaos across Europe. These days you can walk on the surface of this active volcano where the ground is warm beneath your feet.
The extinct Hverfjall volcano has a crater only 1km in diameter and you can easily hike around it in around an hour.
But for me, entering the magma chamber of the Thrihnukagigur volcano would be an unmissable thrill.
Reykjavik in summer is truly the city that doesn’t sleep.
If you like to party the small hours away the nightlife in Reykjavik is legendary with many clubs and bars open until 5am. After that, the party continues out on the streets.
Reykjavík means “Smokey Bay” in Icelandic
My party days are long gone so I choose more sedate pursuits. I would love to see the setting of the midnight sun at the Solfar Sun Voyager. This massive steel sculpture created by Jón Gunnar Arnason that is said to look like a Viking ship.
I would also take a trip to Viðey (Videy) Island off the coast to explore the ancient structures dating from the 10th century and visit Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower homage to John Lennon.
Ferries to the island depart daily from Skarfabakki pier and Ægisgarður harbour in summer.
For more ideas on things to do in Reykjavik click here
See the Northern Lights (maybe)
But can you see the Northern Lights in summer?
The answer is, a very small maybe.
You definitely won’t see Aurora Borealis at any time near the summer solstice in mid to late June. The lights are active but can’t be seen due to the amount of daylight.
But there is a very small possibility you may see nature’s greatest light show in early May or late August when daylight hours are shorter.
With all the other exciting summer activities in Iceland, I think I’d take that small chance to make my dream come true.
I’m ready to jump on a plane to Iceland right now – are you? If you are convinced and have booked your tickets.. here’s what to pack for Iceland
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