Category: Things to See
Find out what is worth seeing on your Iceland trip.
Imagine exploring glistening icebergs and stark black sand beaches during the day. Then spending your evening relaxing or partying at festivals in the glow of the midnight sun. This is what awaits you on a summer trip to Iceland.
To help you plan, we’ve compiled this guide of what to see and do during your Iceland summer adventure. You’ll also find a few added tips of what to pack and what to expect from that famous Icelandic weather.
How is Iceland in summer?
What can you expect when you visit Iceland in summer? Long days, the best weather of the year, good driving conditions, and plenty of outdoor activities.
All of this makes summer a great time to visit Iceland. The longer daylight hours mean you can take more time to explore each day, drive greater distances, or simply bask in the sunlight well into the night.
How is the weather in Iceland in summer?
The summer months enjoy the best weather of the year. It won’t be the Caribbean, but it is called Iceland after all.
Generally, you can expect average temperatures to hover around 10-13°C (50-55°F). But every year there are warm days in the low 20s°C (68-77°F).
When to visit in summer?
This may depend on your summer holidays, but here is our advice.
The height of summer, between June and August, is the popular travel season. For that reason, you may find you’re not alone at famous sites and on the roads.
This is especially true along the south coast and for day tours from Reykjavík. If you want to visit at that time, maybe you could head off the beaten path instead.
Or, to see a quieter side of the country, visit during the shoulder season, in May or September. During these months, you’ll still benefit from some lovely weather and long days, but with more of the popular sites to yourself.
- Browse our Iceland summer packages.
Top things to do in Iceland in summer
Spend your summer vacation in Iceland and you could get up to so much. Experience new things and relish Iceland’s stunning landscape.
We’ve compiled our favorite 15 things to do in Iceland in summer to give you some inspiration:
1. Take a dip in swimming pools and hot springs
Thanks to its volcanoes and geothermal activity, Iceland has a large number of naturally heated pools. In Reykjavík only, you’ll find almost 20 of them. Or you could book a slot to soak in the soothing waters of the Blue Lagoon in the Reykjanes peninsula.
You could also experience the more natural pools in the countryside. Go hiking and then relax in hot springs. Make sure to bring your swimsuit and towel for this activity.
2. Camp your way around the country
While the winter isn’t as harsh as you may expect from this Nordic island for camping you’ll want to do so in summer. Camping is a fantastic way to wake up each day amidst the scenic landscape. And it’s cheaper than hotels, so you’ll save money along the way too!
- Look up our summer camping tours of Iceland.
3. Experience long days with the midnight sun
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon whereby the sun doesn’t set at all below the horizon. It occurs in the summer in the extreme north and south of our planet. As Iceland is almost within the Arctic Circle, it boasts extended daylight hours in summer.
Between May and July, you can expect between 18 to 23 daylight hours each day. This means you have longer days for driving, exploring, hiking, or simply enjoying the midnight sun.
4. Hike in the stunning landscape
Discover Iceland along the hiking trails for an adventurous getaway. With the better weather, hiking paths start to open for the summer season around April and May.
If you’re in Reykjavík for a short stay, you could hike up the nearby Mount Esja. With more time, drive to the highlands to take on the multi-day Laugavegur Trail. You’ll find plenty of other options, from East Iceland to the Westfjords.
- If you’re an intrepid traveler go on a hiking tour of Iceland.
5. Celebrate the summer solstice
The summer solstice is either on the 20 or 21 June in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the longest day of the year and in Iceland, it happens to be very long!
The period surrounding the summer solstice is also called midsummer. You have probably heard about it being celebrated in many Nordic countries. Iceland is no exception, and you’ll find parties across the country at this time of year.
The biggest one has to be the (not-so) Secret Solstice festival in Reykjavík. Don’t miss it if you’re visiting during midsummer.
6. Go off the beaten path
As we’ve mentioned before, Iceland’s top sights attract a lot of visitors in the summer months. So, if you have time, travel off the beaten path. This way you’ll discover other fantastic attractions and have them more to yourself.
Certain regions, like the Westfjords, aren’t as accessible in winter. Another great example is the highlands. The roads into this region only open between June and August (dependent on weather). So, summer is the best time to head up there.
Explore parts of Iceland that few take the time to see and you’ll find breathtaking scenery at every corner.
- Spend some time in the highlands with these Iceland tours.
7. Spot whales on a cruise
Whale-watching tours are available all year long but keep a few things in mind before booking this fun activity. Summer has 3 major benefits for whale watching.
First, the weather is usually better, meaning you’re more likely to want to spend your time on the deck waiting for the whales to make an appearance. At this time of year, the water is usually less choppy too, perfect if you don’t have the strongest sea legs.
But the biggest benefit is the higher number of whales that migrate to Iceland’s coast in summer. You may spot minke, humpback, and sperm whales, and, if you’re lucky, even the elusive blue whale.
8. Enjoy some fresh local food
Iceland is a pleasure to visit for foodies. You’ll find plenty to dig your teeth into here.
Make sure to visit Dalvík in North Iceland. In summer, you could join the friendly locals for “Great Fish Day,” a celebration over a large seafood feast.
In Reykjavík, there are restaurants of all kinds that serve delicious Icelandic dishes as well as international cuisine. You could even take a food tour of the capital to get a taste of local ice cream, pastries, seafood (including shark!), Icelandic spirit, and more.
Or take a day tour to the idyllic Friðheimar greenhouse cultivation center. Or include it in your itinerary as you tour Iceland. At Friðheimar, they grow pesticide-free tomatoes and cucumbers with the aid of geothermal heat.
9. Party at music festivals
Summer is a great time to visit Iceland to immerse yourself in the culture. The country opens after a dark winter and Icelanders celebrate with loads of festivities.
Attend festivals with the locals or join an international audience at major events, such as:
- Reykjavík Arts Festival – May or June
- Seafarer’s Day – June
- Iceland’s National Day – 17 June
- Viking Festival in Hafnarfjörður – June
- Secret Solstice in Reykjavík – June
- Siglufjörður Folk Music Festival – July
- Bræðslan music festival – July
- Þjóðhátíð in the Westman Islands – August
- Reykjavík’s Culture Night and Marathon – August
- Reykjavík Pride – August
10. Try a sea swim
Although not for the faint of heart, why not dip your toes in the cold Northern Atlantic Ocean? A beautiful spot to do so is Nauthólsvík, a beach in Reykjavík. It’s probably best to keep this activity for a warm summer’s day!
- Visit on a city break of Reykjavík, Iceland.
And in case it’s too cold, there are hot tubs nearby to warm you up. Or you can keep your dips exclusively for hot springs and heated pools instead.
11. Explore the national parks
Iceland has 3 stunning national parks: Þingvellir, Snæfellsjökull and Vatnajökull. They are oases of natural wonders that are worth taking the time to discover. Not only because they encompass magnificent beauty, but because they are a treasure trove of fun activities. Imagine hiking, snowmobiling, or chasing waterfalls.
12. Go on exciting day trips
- Look up all the great activities you could add to your Iceland itinerary.
13. See glaciers from up close
Did you know there are 269 named glaciers covering 11% of Iceland’s landmass? That’s a whole lot of glaciers! You could take a day tour to explore one or more of them with an experienced guide.
Try your hand at driving a snowmobile on top of Mýrdalsjökull glacier or along the Langjökull Ice Cap. Or go glacier hiking on an outlet glacier in Skaftafell. These will allow you to see the snowy landscape, glacial ice sculptures, ice ridges, and deep crevasses from up close.
14. Spot puffins in the wild
Ever wanted to see these cute birds in person? From late April to early August, around 8 million puffins come to mate and nest on the Icelandic coast. That’s 60% of the entire Atlantic puffin population that call Iceland their home during the summer.
The 4 million pairs create colonies along large sea cliffs. You’ll find quite a few around the country, but the best ones are in North Iceland and the Westfjords. A great way to see them is hiking, or you could take a whale- and puffin-watching tour.
15. Tour the island along the Ring Road
Think we would have forgotten this one? The Icelandic summer is nothing but perfect for an impressive road trip. With long days, you have more time to explore and enjoy yourself. Or you could also take fewer days to travel around Route 1 as you could drive more each day.
- Check out our summer self-drive tours of Iceland.
- Related: Learn more about driving the Ring Road on our expert’s blog.
Top places to add to your must-see Iceland summer list
You now have an exciting list of things to do and activities to add to your itinerary. But what are the must-see places? Pick some (or all!) of the following Icelandic locations for a memorable summer tour.
Here are the 15 best places to visit in Iceland in summer:
- Explore the Golden Circle’s top attractions – Geysir, Þingvellir and Gullfoss
- Experience the summer buzz of the capital, Reykjavík
- Walk around the lush canyon of Ásbyrgi in North Iceland
- Drive through the fjords of East Iceland
- Visit the village of Vík and its nearby beach, Reynisfjara
- Discover the varied wilderness of the Vatnajökull National Park
- Roam around the lunar landscape of the Lake Mývatn area
- See the icebergs glistening in the sun at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
- Tour the volcanic Heimaey in the Westman Islands
- Visit the remote Westfjords for unspoilt beauty
- Witness the highlights and rock formations of the Snæfellsjökull National Park
- Photograph epic waterfalls like Goðafoss and Seljalandsfoss
- Adventure yourself into the mountainous highlands
- Spot whales on a cruise from Húsavík
- Wander around the mossy boulders of Iceland’s lava fields, such as Eldhraun
Can you see the northern lights in summer?
If you’re visiting between mid-April and mid-August, the answer is no. Because it takes darkness to see the Northern Lights, you should avoid the months with endless daylight hours.
Peaking in June, the midnight sun is a spectacular phenomenon, but will restrict your ability to see the Aurora Borealis.
But visit in late summer, from mid-August into September, and you may be able to spot them. At that time, the nights are growing longer, giving you more opportunities to see the lights.
- To see the Northern Lights, look into visiting Iceland in winter instead.
What to pack and what to wear on a summer trip to Iceland
Icelanders have a saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. This is the philosophy to keep in mind when visiting Iceland, even in summer.
With its ever-changing weather, the best thing to do is to be ready for everything. Bring layers so you can adapt to the day’s weather and appreciate all that Iceland has to offer, come rain or shine.
Here is a list of packing essentials for your Iceland summer trip:
- Short-sleeved shirts and lightweight layers
- Fleece or lightweight wool jumpers
- Waterproof and windproof jacket or shell layers
- Waterproof trousers
- Gloves, scarf, and warm hat
- Cap and sunglasses
- Sturdy walking or hiking boots with good socks
- Thermal underwear and socks for cooler excursions
- Binoculars for wildlife watchers
- Eye mask to help you sleep with the midnight sun
- Swimwear, flip flops, and towel to take a dip or go to the spa
Planning your summer vacation to Iceland
Activities, tours, and accommodation book out early during this popular travel season, so start planning early.
Decide what you want to see and experience most and then put together your tour. For road trips, look at renting a car and booking accommodation or camping spots. Then add activities to your day-to-day itinerary.
Or you could let a local do the work for you. The travel experts at Iceland Tours are based in Reykjavík and know the country inside-out. They can advise you on the best activities and routes to take.
Get in touch or browse our Iceland vacation packages to pick the one that’s right for you. You can choose from self-drive itineraries, camping tours, city breaks, or even privately guided experiences of Iceland.
You can’t go wrong when choosing a trip to “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Iceland is a great year-round destination! Whether you’re visiting during the snowy months or at the height of summer with its never-ending days, you can experience Iceland’s stunning beauty.
If you’re wondering when to visit Iceland, it’s all broken down for you here. We explain each season’s benefits as well as when to go to Iceland for specific pursuits. Only you can decide which matches you best!
Visit Iceland in summer – June to August
The summer months have the best weather of the year. Expect less precipitation, much higher number of daylight hours, and the warmest temperatures. Generally, Iceland experiences highs of 15°C (59°F) and lows of 9°C (48°F) at this time of year.
That means if you’re not too keen on cold temperatures, this is the ideal time for you to visit. You could take the opportunity to go hiking and explore remote corners of the country in the midnight sun.
Take advantage of the sunny days, that go on and on, to explore to your heart’s content. Drive the Ring Road around the island in less time. Having longer days means you can cover more distance.
Or you could take all the time you want and really soak up the atmosphere and gorgeous landscape of glaciers, lagoons and jagged mountains.
- Check out our summer tours to Iceland for more inspiration
Visit Iceland in fall – September to November
This is the time of year when the weather starts to drop, and the days become shorter. This shoulder season is ideal if you are seeking smaller crowds and don’t mind cooler temperatures.
Travelling to Iceland during the fall period means witnessing the transition from summer to winter. As the darkness slowly sets in, you’ll start having good chances to spot the Northern Lights. There are also good chances of snow fall the later it gets in the season.
At this time of year, you could still take on a road trip around the country. Or it’s the perfect time to discover the Golden Circle and south coast in more depth.
Visit Iceland in winter – December to February
The winter months are the coldest of the year, as you would expect for a northern country. But don’t let the winter weather in Iceland put you off.
From mid-October, it can be cold, dark, and windy, but thankfully the climate is tempered by the ocean and the Gulf Stream. That’s why it won’t be as cold as you may expect from the ice-land. Between December and February, average temperatures hover around -2°C (28°F).
At this time of year however, the weather becomes less stable. It means you may encounter all seasons in one day. Always be prepared for it all when visiting Iceland in winter: storms, snow, rain, and wind.
During this snowy season, you may prefer a city break with guided activities from Reykjavík. It’ll allow you to settle into one location, but still see the highlights of the surrounding regions.
If you feel adventurous or want to test your winter driving skills, opt for a self-drive adventure. Take the wheel to see specific regions or tour around the country.
Photograph the glittering waterfalls, admire the snowy mountains, and hopefully catch sight of the colorful Northern Lights in the night sky.
Visit Iceland in spring – March to May
Did you know that the country celebrates the “First day of summer” in April? That’s because it’s an exciting time of revival and reawakening.
The spring season is the most varied time of the year, transitioning between snowy winter weather to bright and sunny days. From March, the temperature in Iceland starts to climb back up and so does the number of daylight hours.
This is another ideal time to visit if you’re looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy Iceland in a bit more peace. Relax in the hot springs or heated pools after days of exploring around the south coast. This is a great time for birdwatching as well.
Best time to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon that occur all year long. However, in summer they are rarely seen, thanks to the midnight sun in the northern region where they occur.
From late August, you could catch a glimpse of them as the nights start to lengthen. For the best sightings, travel to Iceland in winter, between October and March.
Auroras are one of the world’s most beautiful natural sights to behold.
The best way to see them is standing under a clear dark sky, free from city light pollution. This location would preferably be somewhere between the 65th and 72nd parallel north. That area is called the “Northern Lights Belt” because it has some of the strongest solar activity necessary to see the beautiful dancing lights.
- Browse our best tours to spot the Aurora Borealis in Iceland
- Related: Read our Northern Lights guide to Iceland
Best time to visit Iceland for a road trip
Dreaming of taking on the Ring Road, the affectionate name for Route 1 and the highway that circles Iceland? Just imagine putting on your favourite playlist and then seeing the glaciers and mountains ahead of you…
The summer is the best time to go on a road trip in Iceland, and there are many reasons for that.
Thanks to the long daylight hours of summer, you could spend more time exploring or driving each day. Wake up early if you want to set off and see a popular attraction in relative quiet or drive until the evening to reach your destination.
There is simply more time to do outdoor activities in summer!
The other bonus of this season is that more remote routes and areas of Iceland are accessible at this time of year. This includes the stunning Westfjords, which are often cut off during the winter.
If you’re keen to visit the highlands, this is the ideal time as mountain roads are shut the rest of the year.
- You can view all our Ring Road tours for your Iceland road trip.
Best time to visit Iceland on a city break
You can enjoy a stay in Reykjavík for a short city break all year long. The capital city is buzzing and thriving whatever the season, with fun events, excellent restaurants, and plenty of attractions to visit.
Although we do recommend booking excursions to see more of the surroundings in the Reykjanes, west and south coast regions. All within a day or two’s drive, you could discover some of Iceland’s biggest highlights and jaw-dropping scenery.
What you want to do on your city break will influence when you visit Iceland.
To go on walks on the beach and maybe even dip your toes in the sea, come in summer. Want to witness the Imagine Peace Tower in honor of John Lennon? Visit Reykjavík in the autumn. Many museums, like the Perlan’s Wonders of Iceland exhibition, are open all year long.
For the northern lights, always visit the capital (and book a tour outside the city!) between October and March for the best sighting opportunities.
Best time to visit Iceland to go camping
Camping in Iceland will be something you remember for a long time. Wake up in the quiet of the stunning Icelandic countryside. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Most camping sites (and you should only camp in designated areas) are open between May and September. In more remote regions, you may find they have restricted times between June and August. That may be due to roads not being accessible to reach them until the summer.
Best time to visit Iceland for hiking
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that summer is the best time to travel to Iceland if you want to take on its rugged mountains by foot.
Hiking on his volcanic island will be unforgettable, so if you’re a keen mountaineer, don’t forget your gear at home. Come between late May and September for the best weather and most accessible mountain trails. You’ll also enjoy long days to take advantage of the paths and gorgeous views.
You may find that if you come earlier or later in the year, mountains will have snow on the top and make hiking more perilous. Activities such as hiking in Iceland are extremely dependent on weather after all. Always make sure to keep yourself safe!
Perhaps you also have your eye on Landmannalaugar in the highlands. Hiking in the highlands is an incredible experience! However, visiting this remote region is limited by the opening of the road leading into it. Usually, it opens around mid-June.
- Check out these Iceland tours that are ideal for hiking enthusiasts.
Best time to visit Iceland for wildlife watching
It’s not just the landscape that is awe-inspiring in Iceland, but also the wildlife! The spring and summer are the best time of the year to spot two of the most famous animals that visit our shores.
The cute puffins and mighty whales.
Nearly 60% of the entire Atlantic puffin population spend their summers in Iceland. That’s 8 to 10 million puffins!
These adorable and clumsy birds start arriving in late April and head back to sea around early August. You’ll find them in largest quantities in the Westman Islands in South Iceland, Grímsey island in North Iceland and the beautiful Westfjords.
Whales on the other hand are present all year long. But the summer is the best time to see them. This is when you’re most likely to spot minke, humpback and sperm whales.
The waters are also usually less choppy at this time of year, making the experience better if you don’t have strong sea legs.
And even if you’re only in Reykjavík for a short city break, you could go whale watch from the capital.
Best time to visit Iceland for music festivals
Icelandic music is recognised worldwide and it’s no wonder! Some amazing bands come from this small nation, including Björk, Kaleo, Sigur Ros, and Of Monsters and Men, among many others.
Not only that, but it attracts talented acts from around the globe for its fun (and scenic!) music festivals. Look out for:
Do you feel ready to pick which season or month is best for you now? We hope so! Your next vacation could be one of “fire and ice”.
Iceland Tours has a selection of summer or winter packages to take you to specific areas or around the country if you want to. You can browse depending on your preferred season or interests. Or get in touch if you have more questions!