Summer in Iceland: How Best to Enjoy It
People often say that driving around Iceland feels like traveling between different continents. Some even go as far as saying that Iceland looks and feels like several different planets. However true that might be, it is safe to say that the diversity of Iceland’s landscapes is simply unparalleled.
- Explore these summer trips to Iceland.
Iceland is the place where glaciers meet pitch black volcanic sand beaches and moss-covered lava fields run into colorful fishing villages. The south coast is flat, decorated with ice caps and volcanoes, but the Westfjords are steeply carved in narrow fjords.
The Eastfjords are home to the only free roaming reindeers in Iceland, and the north is the mecca of the Icelandic horse. Moreover, Reykjavík is the only settlement that really counts as a city and is home to over two-thirds of the Icelandic population. Reykjavík is the center of culture, a foodie paradise, and a place of great architectural beauty.
You will definitely need your time to explore Iceland especially because the seasons (of which there are really only two in Iceland: summer and winter) can dramatically shape your experience. There are a lot of activities linked with either season and many must-sees that only appear at a certain time. To help you figure out the best summer activities in Iceland, we’ve prepared a little blog for you.
Fun facts about summer in Iceland
- Summer is the time puffins flock to Iceland, turning Iceland into the biggest puffin colony in Europe
- Summer is the best time for road trips, especially the famous Ring Road route!
- There are natural hot springs scattered around Iceland, ideal for you to bathe in
- The sun doesn’t completely set during the summer months in Iceland, giving you time during the night and day to explore!
- You will need sunscreen and sunglasses! Iceland is located so close to the Arctic, making the sun’s rays much stronger than most countries.
- The Icelandic horse loses its winter coat and looks completely different in summer from its shaggy winter look
- Reykjavík and almost every village in Iceland hosts its own summer festival
How is the weather in summer in Iceland?
Although the temps in Iceland are unlikely to drop to tropical or subtropical temps, it can get very sunny and quite pleasant in the summer months. On a really warm summer day, the peaks can reach around 20–25°C (68–77°F), but on average they are closer to 10–15°C (50–59°F). The Eastfjords are known for better weather than for example the capital and in the north: the midnight sun entertains its people with an even longer lasting daylight.
- Bring sunglasses and sunscreen
- You might even want to pack some t-shirts and shorts
- But, it can still rain so a water-resistant or waterproof coat will go a long way
When planning your visit to Iceland, you should definitely look up the weather for the month of your stay. It can really make the packing all that easier!
What to wear in summer in Iceland
This question is hard to answer without an itinerary. If you are spending most of your time glacier hiking you will need to bring another wardrobe than the person planning on staying in swimming pools. Still, there is a set list of basics most will be happy to have brought.
- Thermals and or/long-johns
- Long-sleeved shirt(s)
- Long pants
- Thick sweater for evenings and chillier overcast days
- Waterproof jacket and pants
- Hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes with a good tread
10 things to do during an Icelandic summer
1. Go on a road trip
If there ever was a prime time to get behind the wheel, it would be summer in Iceland. So load up that playlist and have a new country surprise you. If you want to do a day trip, maybe to explore the Golden Circle, or perhaps you are looking for a two week vacation around the country, the road trip options are endless.
Summer is the easiest and safest time to travel around Iceland on your own and our self-drive itineraries make sure you don’t miss out on any of the best stops.
Pro tip: To make the most of the daylight, enjoy during the day and drive in the evening. You’ll cover so much more ground!
2. Visit a glacier
During summer, the top layer of snow melts away and what awaits you are the stunning colors of glacial ice. Take a day tour from the city or meet up on your road trip around Iceland. Just make sure you book your guided tour in advance. The glaciers are a popular destination!
3. Bathe in a swimming pool or hot spring
Since the time of the Vikings, Icelanders have enjoyed bathing in natural pools and rivers. This natural warm water is provided by the bubbling magma underground. These days, it is essential to Iceland’s culture and pretty much any visit.
Whether you are the type to go fully nude in a natural setting, or you are the type that wants great facilities when changing into your suit, Iceland has the thing for you. If the village has a minimum population of 100, there will be a community pool.
Furthermore, can you easily find a warm-temperature hot spring to bathe in most parts of the country. Put hot pools in Iceland on your bucket list!
4. Get an Icelandic hot dog or two
When you ask ‘what food should I try in Iceland?’, an Icelandic hot dog is likely to be the answer. It is quick, filling, cheap, and delicious and it can be bought at almost any gas station or food stall.
The standard toppings are ketchup, deep-fried onion, raw onions, Icelandic mustard, and remoulade (Iceland’s version of the special mayo/relish based sauce). Ask for ‘one with everything’ to get those toppings together!
5. Go hiking in Icelandic nature
Summer is the time to explore Iceland’s highlands. During winter they can’t be reached without guides and monster trucks, but in summer they are accessible by most 4×4 vehicles. Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk are some of the more popular areas with gorgeous landscapes, mountain views, and unique charms.
For the more experienced hikers, trails like the 4-day and 6-day Laugavegur are supreme!
6. Catch a local festival
Nearly all villages in Iceland hold a festival in June, July or August. Mark the month you will be visiting and find out the festivals at that time. Some of the best ones are the Fishfest in Dalvík, the Lobsterfest in Höfn, the Swamp Soccer tournament in Ísafjörður, Ein með öllu in Akureyri, and LungA Art Fest in Seyðisfjörður. Reykjavík’s summer festivals, including Gay Pride and Culture Night, are numerous, so plan ahead!
7. Visit the Westfjords
The Westfjords are unfortunately not located off the Ring Road which often results in travelers missing out on the experience. It does, however, also make the locations less crowded and some say it feels like Iceland before it was discovered.
In winter, the Westfjords can be a bit difficult to reach, but in summer the road conditions are much better. Make sure the Westfjords, sometimes nicknamed the Bestfjords, are on your bucket list. They are so worth it!
8. Join a whale watching tour
Summer is when you catch the most variety in whale species here in Iceland. If you have the time to travel north, the record sighting 9 different species of whales in one tour! That tour was near at Dalvík, close to Akureyri.
These majestic creatures frolic in the Atlantic Ocean and can at times, jump out of the water creating a private show. The humpbacks are huge show-offs but the minke whale is more subtle. The blue whale is majestic but the killer whales are very impressive. We could go on and on but the truth of the matter is, you simply need to meet them!
9. See the adorable puffins
In May, these supremely cute birds flock over to our island for mating and nesting, giving us a couple of months to enjoy them. They have become somewhat of a token animal for Iceland and people travel from afar to see them in their natural habitat. As soon as you see one, you will understand why.
10. Make the most of the midnight sun
Icelanders pay the price of darkness in winter for the most magical summers, with daylight around the clock. This phenomenon known as the midnight sun is something everyone has to experience. Stay up, watch the sun touch the horizon only to come back up and the beautiful colors it leaves in the sky. You will never want to leave this moment.
- Related: Midnight sun in Iceland – Your guide.
Can I see the Northern Lights in summer in Iceland?
This is probably the only downside to the midnight sun. It gets so bright that the Northern Lights can’t be seen, even though they might be there. Picture a white pencil drawing on white paper. The marks are still there just not visible. We need the dark winter skies to set the right backdrop for the elusive lights to be visible. Until winter, we will bask in the endless sunlight!
About the author
Ragnheiður is a nature lover first and foremost, having studied anthropology and media at university. She also loves sharing her passion about her home country, Iceland, with everyone she meets. You’ll often find her traveling the Icelandic countryside, especially the Westfjords and south coast, although her hometown is Reykjavík. Her interests include Icelandic food and drink, plants and wildlife, and cultural traditions.View more posts by Ragnheiður Harpa