Midnight Sun in Iceland – Your Guide
Visit Iceland in summer and you’ll experience endless daylight during the season of the midnight sun. In the Land of Fire and Ice, it’s a time for being outdoors, music festivals, and magical goings-on.
Discover all you need to know in this guide to the midnight sun in Iceland. Find out why it happens, how Icelanders celebrate, and what you can do to make the most of this special time.
What is the midnight sun?
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that affects countries at both ends of the globe, including Iceland. Simply put, it’s when you can still see the sun in the sky at midnight – and when you have 24 hours of daylight.
This happens because the Earth is tilted on its axis while it spins. If it weren't, the whole world would have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness every day. But as it leans over slightly, the amount of daylight we get changes throughout the year.
On the equator, the sun sets at similar times year-round. Meanwhile, the closer to the Arctic and Antarctic Circle you get, the more dramatic the seasonal changes.
Come summer, this means you can soak up the midnight sun's golden hours. Whereas in winter, the long, dark nights are ideal for spotting the Northern Lights.
The midnight sun is sometimes also called the 'polar day' because it only happens at the north pole and south pole. In contrast, 'polar night' is the time of darkness, which happens around the winter solstice in Iceland.
When can I see the midnight sun in Iceland?
If you want to see the midnight sun for yourself, visit around the summer solstice on 21 June.
This is because, like everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the longest day of the year and your best opportunity to experience the midnight sun. That said, you can make the most of extended evenings with very little darkness throughout the summer months, from May to July.
For example, at the beginning of June, the sun sets at around 11:30 p.m. and rises again at 3:20 a.m. in Reykjavík. While it’s not technically the midnight sun, as the sun is just below the horizon at midnight, you’ll still have light nights.
Where can I see the midnight sun in Iceland?
You can see the midnight sun from anywhere in Iceland. But the further north you go, the more daylight you’ll get.
In southwest Iceland, around Reykjavík, you’ll enjoy bright nights from June through July. Head to Akureyri, in the north, and you’ll experience the polar day from May into August.
This means you don’t need to go anywhere specific to see the midnight sun. It’s a phenomenon you can encounter all over Iceland.
How to get the most out of Iceland’s midnight sun
So, you’re coming to Iceland during the midnight sun. But what should you get up to while you’re here?
This is the time for late nights under an open sky, music festivals, and centuries-old celebrations. Scroll down to discover some of the ways you can join in.
1. Celebrate Jónsmessa
The season of the midnight sun isn’t just a favorite time for visitors to Iceland. It plays a special part in local Icelandic customs too.
In Iceland, 24 June is Jónsmessa, a national holiday marking the summer solstice. The name comes from the mass of John the Baptist, who’s thought to have been born on this day. But you’ll soon find out that this is far from a conventional Christian festival.
Tradition has it that on Jónsmessa, those who want to be healed should roll around naked in dew-covered grass. It’s also a time of magic when, according to Icelandic folklore, cows can speak and seals could turn into humans.
As you’ll see, the midnight sun means so much more than just late-night sunshine!
2. Take part in a midnight sun festival or event
The summer solstice is an important time in Iceland. In fact, many Icelanders make the most of this joyful time of year by going to festivals or night-time events. With plenty of options, you'll find something for you whatever your interests.
If you love music, don’t miss the popular Secret Solstice festival in Reykjavík. It’s a great opportunity to catch some of the biggest names in music, lit up by the midnight sun.
Or, for a physical challenge, sign up for the Midnight Sun Run. You can take part in 5 km, 10 km, or half marathon races in the Laugardalur valley. Just remember to pack your running shoes!
You could also head to Grimsey Island, just inside the Arctic Circle, and join in with the community get-together there. Expect live music, food and drink, and the chance to sail around the island.
- Get off the beaten path on a self-drive tour of Iceland.
3. Enjoy a late-night spa experience
Iceland’s spas and hot springs are some of the most famous in the world. And indulging in a spot of R&R while the midnight sun is shining will just make your getaway even more memorable.
Many of Iceland’s top spa destinations keep their doors open late during the summer months so you can relax under its gentle glow. This includes the Sky Lagoon. With its 7-Step Ritual and infinity pool overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean, a trip here makes for the ultimate pampering experience.
Or why not venture to one of Iceland’s natural hot springs? For instance, head for Reykjadalur and you could soak in a geothermal river.
4. Go camping in the countryside
One of Icelanders’ favorite summer pastimes is going camping. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, it’s a trend you should get on board with.
You’ll find campsites across the country where you can pitch your tent and spend the night out in the sunshine. With sites in all of Iceland’s national parks, including Þingvellir and Vatnajökull, nature is never far away.
5. Stay out late in Reykjavík’s bars
Of course, you can also savor the midnight sun without leaving the capital. Had a full day of fun and sightseeing? Check out one of Reykjavík’s awesome bars. There are few nicer ways to chill out on a summer evening in the city.
Luckily, Reykjavík has many options when it comes to nightlife. Whether you want live music, a relaxed café vibe, a rooftop bar or outdoor seating, there’s something for everyone.
- Base yourself in Reykjavík and take day trips into the countryside on a multi-day tour.
How do you sleep during the midnight sun?
It’s true, you probably don’t want to stay up late every night. But how do you get to sleep when the sun’s still shining outside? Thankfully the solution is pretty simple.
Wear a sleeping mask and you won’t be able to tell whether it’s light outside. If you’re not camping, you'll find that your accommodations have either curtains or blackout blinds.
How to experience the midnight sun with Iceland Tours
A summer tour of Iceland during the season of the midnight sun promises to be an adventure you’ll never forget. Come to the Land of Fire and Ice in summer to encounter this phenomenon for yourself.
At Iceland Tours, our Reykjavík-based travel experts will plan your getaway for you. This includes arranging your accommodation, local transport, and excursions. Plus, with their local knowledge, you can be sure you’ll see the best of Iceland.
Go at your own pace on a self-drive tour of Iceland. Or, if you’d prefer to skip the driving, opt to travel with a professional guide on one of these group trips or privately guided packages. Meanwhile, on a multi-day tour, you could stay in Reykjavík and enjoy excursions into the surrounding nature.
No matter how you decide to travel, you can customize your itinerary online by adding optional activities and extra nights.
Get ready to soak up the midnight sun on a trip to Iceland where we take care of the details. Secure your booking with just a 5% deposit.
About the author
Catherine became fascinated by Iceland when she studied geology at university. And while there’s plenty to captivate a self-confessed geology geek, there’s so much more to discover here. The wild landscapes, epic bathing spots, and laid-back culture are just some of her favorite things about Iceland. When she’s not writing about travel, you’ll probably find her rock climbing or planning her next adventure.View more posts by Catherine