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10 reasons to visit Iceland in the summer and what to do

Iceland in the summer is full of life with tourists roaming around, sunny days, and midnight sun that will keep you awake for many long hours and lots of activities to try.

Hot springs, glaciers, beautiful waterfalls, and breathtaking sceneries, all are waiting to be discovered as the roads are open, the snow and ice are gone and the sun is shining brightly.

Iceland is a fabulous country and extremely beautiful to visit all year round as each season is different and comes with a completely new face of the landscape.

If during the winter everything is covered in snow and ice and white is the dominant color, summer comes with bright colors, a lot of green but also black from the lava fields and beaches.

Visiting Iceland in summer comes with many advantages, starting with good weather, long days and ending with lots of outdoor activities available to try.

The main downside of visiting Iceland in summer is the high number of tourists roaming around with hotels, cars, and tours fully booked for the entire summer season.

In order to secure your seat in a hotel or a tour, or to get your vehicle for exploring the country, you definitely need to act fast and in advance.

But let’s discover together which are the main reasons why you should visit Iceland in summer.

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Reasons to visit Iceland in the summer

As I have already told you, summer is a busy season in Iceland but now let me give you some reasons to understand why everybody rushes to see this country in summer.

Iceland in the Summer Highlands

Iceland in Summer Highlands

1. Midnight sun

With up to 21 hours of light each day, summer is the best time to explore this amazing country as you have plenty of light to explore the whole area.

Iceland in Summer Midnight Sun

Iceland in Summer Midnight Sun

The days are long and warm so you can stay up till late in the night and roam around the area, admiring the view and taking some memorable shots.

Prepare your camera as sometimes the sky becomes pink and gold just before dusk and you will get some great shots from this country.

2. Adventure into highlands

Because of the road conditions and weather, some parts of Iceland cannot be accessed in winter so summer is the only time of the year when you can explore these highlands.

Iceland Highlands

Iceland Highlands

July is the best month to go into these areas and I have to tell you that it is a unique experience especially for nature lovers, which should not be missed.

Before you venture into these parts of Iceland don’t forget to rent a 4×4 that can be driven on the so-called F-roads and check the weather forecast as bad weather might force you to change the plan.

3. Puffins

There is nothing cuter and most beautiful than these clumsy creatures roaming around the Icelandic landscape and there is no better place to observe puffins than Iceland.

Iceland is home to the largest colony of puffins in the whole world and the best time to see them is during the summer months.

Iceland Puffins

Iceland Puffins

Puffins love the sun and warm days, so you won’t see them in winter or in late autumn, because of the weather conditions.

The best time to see puffins in Iceland is from late April till late August and the best place to see them is Westman Islands.

4. Explore the Westfjords

Summer is a great time of the year to go deeper into the Icelandic wilderness and explore the country on your own, far from crowds and tourist attractions.

Iceland Westfjords Hornstrandir

Iceland Westfjords Hornstrandir

The easiest way to reach this part of the country is with a rented car but you can also get a guided tour just that you will end up paying more.

Get the best price for your car rental today

Westfjords are among the best places from Iceland for such experiences as this area is quite easy to access, has many amazing attractions, and is not very popular among tourists.

On your tour across Westfjords stop at Látrabjarg Cliff, hike to Hornstrandir, and take some great shots at Dynjandi Waterfall.

5. Hike, hike, and again hike

There is no other better country in the world for hiking and enjoying the peaceful and wild nature than Iceland.

Spread all across the country you will find many trails with different degrees of difficulty, different lengths but one thing is sure: they all cross the wildest and most amazing landscape from the whole world.

Hiking Iceland in Summer

Hiking Iceland in Summer

You can follow a trail up to a waterfall, or down to a secluded black sand beach, or why not hike to a crater or a dormant volcano.

All you have to do is to get some hiking equipment, including some hiking boots, take water and warm clothes with you, and hit the road, as a crazy adventure is in front of your eyes.

6. Camping

You can sleep in a hotel, guesthouse, or hostel or you can choose to rent a camper van and be close to nature.

Just imagine how beautiful is to park your van near a waterfall, or a glacier and wake up in the morning with this unique view.

If you choose to get a campervan bear in mind that you cannot park wherever you want and you have to spend the night in designated areas.

Iceland Offroad Car Motorhome Tent on the car roof 4x4

Iceland Offroad Car Motorhome Tent on the car roof 4×4

The good news is that these camping areas are generally located extremely close to the main attractions and you can even hear the roar of the waterfall or the ice cracking from the glacier.

Campervans are quite pricey, especially during the summer season, but for sure they are cheaper than hotels.

All you have to do is to book the van in advance as they are likely to sell out soon, no matter how expensive they are.

7. Glacier activities

Iceland in the summer comes with many sunny and warm days and this might cause the melting of the glaciers.

If the temperatures are too high and experts consider that the ice cap is unsafe, glacier activities are suspended on certain days.

Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland Ice

Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland Ice

But the good news is that these things happen very rarely and you can enjoy some very unique and interesting glacier activities on your summer holiday in Iceland.

Pack with you some warm clothes, a jacket, and winter boots as you will need them when you explore the Icelandic glaciers.

8. Soak into a natural pool

There is nothing more spectacular than seeing the midnight sun from a natural pool in the middle of nature, far from any light and noise pollution.

Iceland is full of natural baths and mineral hot springs, out of which the most popular one is definitely Blue Lagoon ( read here a full guide about Blue Lagoon).

Natural Spa at Iceland Blue Lagoon

Natural Spa at Iceland Blue Lagoon

Then there are Myvatn Nature Baths, Laugarvatn Fontana, and the Secret Lagoon, all located along the Ring Road, the most popular road that circles the country.

Besides these famous natural pools, there is a plethora of small pools and hot springs with no facilities around, places where locals go and relax.

9. Time for nature to rebirth

Summer is the time of the year when everything goes green, the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, birds lay their eggs and cute baby animals appear from the bush.

Not just wild animals but also sheep and horses have babies, so everything around you is full of life and joy.

Iceland Sheep Animals Summer

Iceland Sheep Animals Summer

Drivers, beware of these cute creatures but also of any animal as many farms come across the road and animal encounters are quite often during the summer season.

Drive cautions and don’t exceed the speed limit as sheep and horses use to stay on the road and the last thing you want is a traffic incident.

10. Horseback riding tours

Icelandic horses are smaller than most horses you have ever seen, but they are extremely well prepared for the tough conditions of this country.

These small horses are not ponies and Icelandic people take it as an offense if you tell them that their horses are ponies, so don’t do that.

Glacier Horseback riding tours Iceland

Glacier Horseback riding tours Iceland

The horses are used not just for walking tours but also play an important role in farm activities, so treat them with respect.

There is nothing more romantic and beautiful than exploring Iceland from the back of a horse, a gentle and strong creature that knows the place better than you do.

Iceland Horses Horseback Riding Tour

Iceland Horses Horseback Riding Tour

What to do in Iceland in summer

Iceland in the summer comes with a long list of interesting, unique, and exciting adventures that you definitely have to try when coming to this country.

I drop below a list of the most popular things to do in Iceland in summer:

1. Explore the highlands

Highlands are not accessible in the winter so if you want to venture into the Icelandic wilderness then you definitely have to go in summer.

The roads are quite bumpy and require some driving skills but in the end, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the glaciers, volcanoes, and mountains.

These roads, also known as F-roads are not open all year round, and they generally open for the public in the second half of June and close in September.

Iceland Highlands

Iceland Highlands

The exact date of opening and closing varies from one year to another and is dictated by weather conditions and the quantity of snow that falls.

Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed to enter these roads and before going on highlands check with your renting car company if you are allowed to go with the rented car on F-roads because not all the companies allow it.

2. Puffins spotting

Puffins are extremely cute animals and they can be spotted in Iceland in the summer when the days are sunny and warm.

Between mid-April and September, Iceland is full of puffins as about 60% of the arctic population of puffin come to Iceland to give birth to a new generation.

Puffins Iceland

Puffins Iceland

The best place to see spot puffins is Westfjords and you need to hike a little bit to get to see the colonies with your own eyes.

Another great place to spot puffins is Grimsey Island and you can take a boat tour to get there and if you are lucky you might spot some whales on your way to the island.

3. Attend festivals

Summer is the period of the year when people gather to celebrate, socialize, and party so all across the country are many festivals and music concerts.

Most concerts and festivals are held in Reykjavik, the capital city of the country, but all across the summer, you might take part in all kinds of gatherings and festivals everywhere in Iceland.

Reykjavik Iceland Festival

Reykjavik Iceland Festival

For the Viking festival plan your trip in mid-June, while July is the month of the year full of music festivals all across the country.

4. Celebrate the solstice

Solstice is on 20 or 21 June and marks the longest day of the year, when there are almost 23 hours of light.

This will blow off your biorhythm but it is something you have to see with your own eyes.

Summer in Akureyri Iceland

Summer in Akureyri Iceland

The longest day is in the Akureyri area, as it is the closest location to the Arctic Circle and here you will have 23 hours of light.

The period around the solstice is known as the midnight sun and is a period celebrated with many special ceremonies by most of the Nordic countries.

In Reykjavik is the Secret Solstice Festival, a great opportunity to meet locals, make new friends, and listen to good music.

5. Do the Ring Road

Ring Road of Route 1 is a circular route that goes all across the country and is the most popular route from Iceland.

The route is open all year round, depending on weather conditions, so if you want to do the entire trip you should consider going to Iceland anytime except for winter.

We chose to go in the first week of October and we were lucky to do the Ring Road without any major events.

In the 1,400 kilometers which is the length of the Ring Road we have all the four seasons of the year, and in some parts of the country because of weather conditions the road was closed during the night.

Summertime is a great time to do the Ring Road as the weather is warmer and the days are very long, but the main downside of this season is the prices which are extremely high.

That is why we strongly recommend you to go during should season, in May, September and the first part of October, as the prices are low and the weather is still great for exploring.

6. Navigate between icebergs

If you travel to Iceland you definitely have to stop and take a short trip to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, located in the southeastern part of Iceland.

The location is closely located to Vatnajokull National Park and is extremely accessible by car, being located along the Ring Road.

This lagoon is unique in the country and is the best place to sail between icebergs that broke from the Vatnajokull glacier.

Iceland Icebergs on Ring Road Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Iceland Icebergs on Ring Road Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

I was deeply impressed by the blue color of the ice and I was delighted to follow an iceberg floating along the lagoon down to the open sea.

You can admire the icebergs from the shore or get an amphibian boat and sail between them anytime between May to October.

There are all kinds of sail tours and even day trips from Reykjavik that include the boat tour along the icebergs.

Jokulsarlon Iceland Glacier Boat Tour

Jokulsarlon Iceland Glacier Boat Tour

The best tour you can take from Reykjavik is From Reykjavik: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Full-Day Trip, a 14 hours trip that includes multiple stops on Icelandic attractions and the boat tour of the lagoon.

The pickup and drop-off are included in the rate, and you are accompanied by an experienced guide that will provide all the necessary information about the places you will visit.

7. Book a whale watching tour

Iceland is ranked among the best places in the world for spotting whales in their natural environment and Iceland in the summer is perfect for this activity.

Whale watching tours are available all year round, but summer is the best season as the waters are calmer and the days are warmer, not to mention that there are many more whales in the water during summer.

Whale Fin Husavik Iceland

Whale Fin Husavik Iceland

The most popular species of whales that you can spot in the area are humpback whales and sperm whales and if you are lucky you might see the rare blue whale.

The best place to spot whales is near Husavik, in the northern part of the country, or in the area around Reykjavik.

From Húsavík: Traditional Whale Watching Tour is a 3 hours guided tour with a traditional Icelandic oak boat in the waters around Skjálfandi Bay.

Bring with you warm clothes, comfortable shoes, and a raincoat as well as a camera to catch these unique encounters.

If you don’t have time to travel to the northern part of the country, then a short trip outside Reykjavik is what you need for spotting whales close to the shore.

Reykjavík: Whale Watching from a Luxury Yacht is a 3 hours guided tour with an amazing luxurious yacht with a triple panoramic deck that offers great opportunities to spot humpback whales, dolphins, and seals.

8. Hike the amazing scenery

There are so many trails and paths all across the island and all go to amazing attractions and breathtaking sceneries.

The most popular attractions located close to Reykjavik are:

  •  Go glacier hiking in the Westf National Park
  • spot wildlife at Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords
  • hike at colorful Landmannalaugar in the highlands
  • admire Mount Esja directly from the capital city of Reykjavik
Westfjords Iceland Gongummanafoss waterfall Dynjandi river

Westfjords Iceland Gongummanafoss waterfall Dynjandi river

Iceland in the summer is perfect for hiking but don’t forget to pack with you thermal layers, raincoat and good hiking boots as the weather changes dramatically from one minute to another.

9. Take a glacier adventure

My Iceland activities summer list continues with a glacier adventure in one of the largest national parks in Europe: Vatnajokull National Park.

Glacier adventures are most popular during winter and shoulder season as the temperatures are lower and the risk associated with ice melting is lower too.

Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland Ice

Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland Ice

Sunny and long days of summer cause ice melting and some of the glacier-related adventures might be suspended at certain times of the year.

A great time for glacier hiking is the beginning of the summer season, just before the days become too warm and the ice starts to melt.

Skaftafell National Park: 3-Hour Glacier Hike starts at Skaftafell visitor center where you will meet your guide and you will get your crampons and ice ax.

After a short training, you will head to the glacier for the adventure of your life.

This national park is conveniently located on Route 1 or Ring Road and this is the place where ice caving and glacier hikes started in Iceland.

10. Take a bath in the cold sea

Everybody who goes to Iceland takes a bath into one of the many beautiful natural swimming pools with thermal water spread all across the country.

The most famous ones are Blue Lagoon and Myvatn Nature Pool, but very few of you would dare to venture into the cold waters of the sea for a short bath.

Still, there is one place extremely popular in Iceland for those looking to try the experience of bathing in the cold ocean.

Diamond Beach of Jokulsarlon Iceland Glacier Beach large chunks of ice

Diamond Beach of Jokulsarlon Iceland Glacier Beach large chunks of ice

I am talking about Nauthólsvík, a geothermal beach located in Reykjavik where you enter into hot water and then run into the sea to cool off a must-do Iceland thing.

The list of the activities to do in Iceland in the summer stops here although there are plenty of other interesting things to do in Iceland.

Now it’s time to see how is the weather in the summer to have a better understanding of the climate, to know what to pack and when to go to maximize your time spent abroad.

How is the weather in Iceland in summer

Summer in Iceland starts in late May or in some years early June and generally lasts until the end of August.

The days are long and warm, the weather is great for exploring and this is definitely the best time to visit Iceland.

It is also the midnight sun time that happens around solstice when is the longest day of the year with almost 23 years of light so you have enough time to explore this magnificent area.

After the summer solstice, that is around 21 June the number of hours of light decreases, but there is still enough time for you to explore.

Iceland Westfjords Hornstrandir

Iceland Westfjords Hornstrandir

So if you cannot sleep when outside is light don’t forget to pack an eye mask or use the blackout curtains from your hotel for a few hours of sleep.

During summertime, there are many areas of the country accessible to tourists, places that are generally covered in snow or mud.

Mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and volcanoes are accessible to everybody and for most of these attractions, you don’t even need a 4×4.

But don’t forget that we are in Iceland and the weather can be very unpredictable sometimes so always check the weather forecast before leaving your accommodation.

Generally, the temperatures are between 5 to 25 degrees Celsius (40 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit) so expect more spring-like temperatures than summer.

It might rain occasionally so don’t forget to take with you a raincoat and comfortable hiking shoes as there are many beautiful trails around.

Some days might be quite windy so expect to feel lower temperatures than what the forecast says as Iceland is a very windy country during summertime.

During summer everything comes to life; there are music concerts, festivals, and all kinds of reunions and parties where people gather and have fun.

Reykjavik is one of the most important cultural centers from the whole of Iceland so stay around for many festivals and concerts, including the Secret Solstice Festival that happens in June.

By the end of June and in July most of the highland roads are open and if you are interested in exploring them check with your car rental company if you are allowed to drive on such roads and definitely rent a 4×4.

Iceland in June

June is a great month to explore Iceland and is officially the first summer month of the year although sometimes you think that it is spring, not summer.

Up in the mountains, there is plenty of snow but the flowers are blooming, the temperatures are quite comfortable, great for camping and exploring.

Not all the F roads or mountain roads are open yet, but there are still plenty of beautiful attractions open to the public so don’t hesitate and visit Iceland in June.

Iceland in Summer Landscape

Iceland in Summer Landscape

June is the best time to experience the midnight sun with 22 June being the longest day of the year.

On June, 17th is the National Day of Independence and then there is the Secret Solstice Festival so there are plenty of occasions to meet locals and party till morning.

Iceland in July

Jully is a very crowded month, with tourists everywhere anxious to explore the country and discover the beauty of this island.

Almost all roads are open, including the F roads so if you are looking for some adventure, rent a 4×4 and hit the road!

Have a unique experience by exploring the area in your own rented car

Whether you prefer day trips from your hotel or a tour around the country, car rental is the best way for creating your own experience and live your dream vacation

The weather is mild, with an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, and is the time of the year when all the tours are available except for the Northern Lights tour.

July is a great time to travel all over Iceland, Ring Road being the best choice plus some outdoor experiences on the highlands.

Iceland in August

August is the last summer month and it comes with warm weather, quite long days and all the attractions including the ones from F roads are open for road trips.

The number of hours of light slightly decreases from one day to another, so you will be able to sleep without using any blackouts or eye masks.

Harpa Hall Iceland Summer Reykjavik

Harpa Hall Iceland Summer Reykjavik

The weather conditions start to change even on the south coast but there are still enough days with the sun to admire the landscape, hike glaciers, or book a whale watching tour.

July and August are the best summer months to explore the country, to drive along the Golden Circle or even do the Ring Road the most emblematic tour of the country.

Can you see Northern Lights in Iceland in summer?

Summer is the time of the year when Northern Lights are not visible in the Icelandic sky.

In order to see the Aurora Borealis three main conditions need to be met:

  • complete dark (far from any light pollution)
  • intense solar activity
  • Clear sky

And summer is the time of the year with most hours of light so even if these natural phenomena occur we are not able to see them because of the light.

Conclusion

Iceland in the summer is definitely extremely busy, full of tourists roaming around and all the main attractions are packed with people anxious to take photos and share the moment with their beloved ones.

It is also the time of the year when everything is open, including the highland roads, and you have access everywhere to see and admire the beauty of this country, not only Reykjavik nearby area, Iceland’s most popular part.

Iceland Westfjords Hornstrandir

Iceland Westfjords Hornstrandir

On the other hand, summer is the time of the year with the highest prices for food, accommodation, and even car rental.

So that is why we advise you to book your trip to Iceland in advance to secure the best price and to be sure you are able to plan your trip when you want to go not when you find free rooms or overpriced cars.

Logistical tips and tricks for your trip

Book your accommodation

We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.

You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.

Don't forget travel insurance

We never leave home without HeyMondo Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money, plus COVID coverage.

Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.

We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.

Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.

We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.

Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.

We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.

Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.

Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.