Updated: Sep 1
Spending your summer in Iceland can be adventure-filled since the weather is nice and there are plenty of activities and events to keep you busy and entertained. We detail everything you can expect from these fun-filled summer months.
Visitors from all over the world flock to spend a summer in Iceland, and for good reason. Instead of scouring cyberspace to collect information from various sources before you can start planning your trip, we decided to compile a helpful article that includes everything you need to know about Iceland’s summer travel.
From the weather and the roads to packing lists and activities – we discuss it all. So, without further ado, let’s dig in!
Why Visit Iceland During the Summer Months?
Well, that depends on your requirements and what you have on your Icelandic bucket list. So, to avoid any disappointment, here are a few pros and cons of Iceland summer travel to weigh up against each other to make the right decision for you:
Pros of Spending Summer in Iceland
Driving is much easier, with many of the treacherous road conditions of the winter months a distant memory.
You will also have more routes to choose from when driving, as many of the roads are closed due to conditions during the winter months.
With days of up to 24 hours long, you’ll get to experience the infamous midnight sun.
If you plan your trip for before the end of August, you’ll be able to go Puffin spotting.
All activities and attractions will be open to the public, and operating hours are much longer than winter months.
Cons of Spending Summer in Iceland
With visitors flocking to spend summer in Iceland, finding accommodation, booking a spot for activities, events, etc. can be quite challenging. Many who don’t book well in advance leave Iceland disappointed that they couldn’t do everything that’s on their to-do list.
Since it’s peak season, prices skyrocket. Your Iceland winter trip budget won’t cut it in Iceland during summer.
With days up to 24 hours long, you won’t be able to see the Northern Lights.
The long days create havoc with some peoples’ sleeping patterns.
Weather in Iceland in Summer
The Iceland summer months are between June and September (or the end of June until the end of September if you want to get really technical). Summer kicks off with the summer solstice and there’s a lot to celebrate, with long (up to 24 hours of daylight, in fact!) days and sunny weather reaching temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius.
Gone are the snow-filled days, and the infamous Icelandic winds that could move mountains, have also gone on holiday. If you’re still on the fence in terms of which month to book your flight, here’s an outline of what the Iceland weather’s like during each of Iceland’s summer months:
Keep in mind that summer only really starts at the end of June, so there might still be a bit of an autumn chill in the air the earlier you arrive. Since this is still a bit of a transition period, you can still expect the tail-end of those pesky Icelandic winds and drenching rainfall. The good news is that the temperature is starting to rise and the June average will be between 6-10 degrees Celsius.
The season has officially changed, and it shows in July. The weather regarding rainfall and winds is much milder. July is the warmest summer month, with the average temperature now ranging between 13-20 degrees Celsius.
August in Iceland is pretty much your last chance to visit during the summer. Whilst temperatures have already started to go down (ranging between 8-13 degrees Celsius), the weather in August is still nice enough to enjoy the many outdoor activities the island has to offer.
September in Iceland is summer’s last breath. It is clear that the season is changing, and the temperature has fallen to between 6-11 degrees Celsius. The wind and rainfall are still not at their winter worst and whilst September's weather allows many activities to still be open, many opt to visit the island when most of the peak summer tourist traffic has gone.
Can I see northern lights in Iceland in Summer?
During the summer months, Iceland experiences prolonged daylight. From May to August, even though the sun sets, the sky remains lit, preventing complete darkness. This continuous brightness makes it impossible to witness the northern lights or even the stars during this period.
What to Pack for Your Summer in Iceland
Summer in Iceland is definitely not summer in the Caribbean, and we often have people asking us what to pack for their trip. Here is a handy packing list of all clothes and essentials:
Waterproof hiking shoes
T-shirts and long sleeve shirts (so you can layer)
Hats (to protect against sunburn as well as the cold)
Quick dry towel
Flip-flops (when visiting the hot springs and public showers)
Sleep mask (to try to mitigate the sleeping pattern issues when faced with daylight for almost 24 hours)
Water bottle (the Icelandic water is of such high quality that you only need to refill throughout your trip)
Backpack (suitable for day outings as well as hikes)
Everything you need for your electric devices: adapter, cables, chargers, and power bank.
Things to do in Iceland in August
If you’ve got an upcoming trip to Iceland, or you’re just curious, then read on. Here’s the lowdown on some of the most popular things to do and see here on the island during the summertime:
Have Some Ice-cream
Let's clarify one thing: eating Ice cream is a popular activity for visitors during the summer months. However, Icelanders don't need a specific season as an excuse to enjoy one of their favorite treats. Icelanders are absolutely obsessed with ice cream, and you’ll find all sorts of delicious and unique flavors of homemade ice cream all across the island.
Hike Till Midnight
This is an absolute must-do in Iceland in summer, especially if you’re planning on visiting during June. Generally speaking, Iceland has more than 20 hours of daylight each day all throughout the summer, but it’s on the 21st of June when the island experiences 24 hours of daylight. In other words, the sun never technically sets, and you can experience a phenomenon called the Midnight Sun.
Whilst some prefer to become very productive during these extra daylight hours, and others prefer partying the night away, there is another group of people who take advantage of the fact that they can take on trails without the time crunch. Many also prefer timing the hike in such a way that they can watch the Midnight Sun sunset (or rather lack thereof) from a bit of a vantage point high up in the mountains.
For example, hiking Mt. Esja is one of the popular things to do in Reykjavik in summer, and where you will be treated to a view across the entire region whilst basking in the never-setting sun.
Explore the Highlands
For those who are unaware, the Highlands are pretty much closed to the public for the majority of the year here in Iceland. This is because the area is very remote and the roads are exceptionally treacherous during the colder months. But this is exactly what makes exploring the region one of Iceland’s must-do activities during the summer.
It is a beautiful area of the country that’s got many hiking trails that allow one to take “the road less traveled”. And if you’re a 4x4 fan, the F-roads in the Highlands definitely need to be on your Iceland bucket list.
Try the Beer Tölt
Iceland boasts its very own breed of horse, very unimaginatively called the Icelandic Horse. But don’t let the less-than catchy-name fool you; these are exceptionally unique creatures. They have more of a pony-like stature despite being fully grown, and during the winter they have thick, fluffy coats to protect them against the harsh weather elements.
They are also known for their extremely friendly natures and the fact that they can perform an extra gait called the tölt. The tölt is said to be such a smooth ride since the horse always has one hoof on the ground, that it has inspired a challenge here on the island.
Cue the beer tölt! During a beer tölt, the rider is given a pint of beer and told to perform the tölt without spilling a drop. This is probably one of the most fun things to do in Iceland in summer, especially if you’re with a group of friends.
Go to the National Parks
There are three official national parks in Iceland with one, Vatnajökull National Park, continuously expanding as more and more land and smaller nature reserves are added to its borders. The other two are Thingvellir National Park and Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Thingvellir is usually the easiest to visit since it’s conveniently located as one of the first stops on the popular Golden Circle route when starting off from the capital city. But each of these parks has its own attractions and activities that are not to be missed. Some of these sights include volcanoes, glaciers, and lava fields.
Take a Stroll on a Black Sand Beach
This is a must-do in Iceland during summer when the legendary Icelandic winds have calmed down a bit. One of the most unique features of the island is our black sand beaches. These are the result of all the volcanic activity here in Iceland, and the black sand is actually hardened lava that has been eroded throughout centuries.
When it comes to the black sand beaches in Iceland, there are a few must-visit spots and taking a stroll on their shores are some of the best things to do in Iceland in summer. Reynisfjara has kilometers of outstretched beach where one can take a leisurely stroll and marvel at the massive black basalt cliffs lining the shore. And Diamond Beach is a magical place where thousands of pieces of ice wash ashore to give the illusion of sparkling diamonds in the sunlight.
Go on a Whale Watching Tour
Whales can be found all along the coast of Iceland all year round, but if you visit during the summer months, you’ll also be able to spot a few migratory whale species that call the island home from April to September each year. The best way to get up close and personal with these gentle giants of the ocean is to book a spot on one of the whale watching boat tours.
You will find a plethora of these in Reykjavik, but most will recommend that you go on one in Husavik which is referred to as the whale capital of Iceland. Some of the whales you might be able to spot include Orcas, Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, and even Blue Whales (the largest whale species on the planet).
Have a Soak in One of Our Hot Springs
There are at least 45 natural hot springs in Iceland and more than 200 geothermal pools making use of hot spring water. These hot springs are yet another result of the volcanic activity here on the island that heats up the underground water supply.
Taking a relaxing soak in one of our hots springs is one of the best things to do in Iceland in summer. The Blue Lagoon, Kvika Footbath, and the Myvatn Nature Baths are just a few of the popular hot spring places to visit in Iceland in summer.
Go Searching for Puffins
This is another favorite summer activity amongst wildlife lovers here on the island. The Iceland Puffins spend the majority of their life out at sea except for during their breeding season (May to August) when they call the island home. Iceland is a popular destination to see these odd-looking birds with their colorful beaks since the island boasts 60% of the global Puffin population.
There are many must-see places in Iceland during the summertime that are extremely popular amongst those who want a peek at the “clowns of the sea” such as the Latrabjarg Cliffs in the Westfjords. And if you plan your trip towards the end of the breeding season, you’ll suffer severe cuteness overload with all the little Pufflings waddling about.
Visit Some of Our Waterfalls
Iceland has a staggering number of waterfalls – 10,000! So, to visit them all would be mission impossible. But there definitely are a few must-see waterfalls when visiting Iceland during the summer. Each of these has very unique features that make them extra special:
Seljalandsfoss – the waterfall you can walk behind
Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe
Svartifoss – the waterfall with an incredibly dramatic black hexagonal basal column backdrop
Dynjandi – the waterfall that looks like a wedding cake
Godafoss – the place where it is believed a symbolic act representing the island’s conversion to Christianity took place
Explore the Capital City Via a Walking Tour
This is by far one of the best things to do in Reykjavik in summer. The Reykjavik Food Walk is led by a knowledgeable and experienced guide that will show and tell you everything there is to know about Iceland’s capital city whilst stopping every once in a while to stuff your face with local cuisine and gulping down craft beers. You had no idea that learning could be this much fun!
Attend a Local Festival or Event
Icelanders do not need an excuse to celebrate, so you’ll always find some events and festivities happening throughout the year. But the moment the weather heats up and the harsher weather elements take a little break, these events and festivities increase tenfold. A few of the events you can consider adding to your summer trip itinerary are:
Culture Night aka Menningarnott
Lie Suspended Between Two Continents
One of the best things to do in Iceland in summer is to go snorkel or dive the Silfra Fissure. The Silfra Fissure is a tear (fissure) where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are pushing apart from one another.
This tear is now filled with the purest and clearest glacial water that offers 120 meters of visibility. And you now have the option of either going snorkeling or diving in these waters where you can literally lie suspended between two continents. Just take note that to dive the Silfra, you will need a valid diving license as well as sufficient experience underneath your belt.
If not, you’ll have to go the snorkeling route to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although this activity is available all year round since you can only go diving in the freezing glacial waters with a dry suit on, most prefer to take this on during a summer trip when the weather is a bit more forgiving.
One of the most-loved activities in Iceland during the summer by both locals and visitors alike is camping. Not only is this a great way to immerse yourself in the magnificent Iceland landscape, but it’s also a good way to cut down on accommodation costs.
If you don’t consider yourself to be very outdoorsy, you need to remember that you can still park your campervan or motorhome in a campground to get all of the same benefits, but whilst camping in comfort. Another way to maximize your savings is to also purchase the Camping Card.
This card costs only €179 and will grant access to a family of 2 adults and up to 4 children to numerous camping sites all across the island for up to 28 nights. When one takes into account that campgrounds usually charge around $10-$20 per person per night, the possible savings depending on your situation becomes very apparent.
Make a Road Trip Out of Your Iceland Holiday
We strongly believe that the best way of exploring the island is by going on a road trip. And what better time to tackle a road trip than when the weather is fine, you’ve got all these extra daylight hours, and all the roads are open and safe to use again after the cold winter months?
For an even more affordable road trip, rent a campervan once you’ve arrived in Reykjavik so that you’ve taken care of both your transport and accommodation in one savvy travel swoop. There are plenty of popular road trip routes to consider here on the island such as:
Summer in Iceland is a Time to Get Active!
Helpful Tips When Visiting Iceland in Summer
From camping and road tripping to watching waterfalls and eating out, here are a few helpful tips to make your summer trip an easy and memorable one:
Since the summer months in Iceland are some of the busiest months, you need to ensure that you book well in advance. Everything from accommodation to camping spots and activities needs to be booked before your arrival to avoid disappointment.
We understand that setting things in stone like this can be quite restrictive and time-limiting, but that’s why we also advise renting a campervan. That way, you’ve taken care of your accommodation in a budget-friendly manner. This will also, at least, give you a certain sense of freedom when planning your itinerary without having to book in and book out in specific places at specific times.
Visiting Popular Tourist Spots
The saying goes “you snooze you lose”, and it’s never been as true as it is when trying to visit a popular tourist spot in Iceland. If you have already done the unthinkable for summer in Iceland and didn’t book in advance, there is still a way that you might beat the crowds. Getting up really early and being first in line might just give you a fighting chance of reserving a spot or a ticket.
Whether you opt for a campervan or not, you will need to rent a motorhome or a campervan. Whilst the capital and other cities such as Kopavogur and Hafnarfjordur will have public transport solutions, exploring the rest of the island without your own transport is a hassle.
If you intend to explore the rest of the island via self-drive, you’ll also need to remember that many routes and roads can only be accessed via a 4x4 vehicle. So, if you don’t want to find yourself screaming “whyyyyyy?!?!” at the Westfjord heavens, you’ll need to chat to your rental agency before leaving the lot with a vehicle that’s not suitable for your planned drive.
Many visitors bring along cash on their trips abroad. If that sounds like you, you had better leave your cash in the bank where it belongs when visiting Iceland. Except for tips for guides, you won’t find anyone or any place that will prefer cash. It will be pretty much useless and just excess baggage to worry about.
Summer in Iceland – The Perfect Time to Visit?
Summer in Iceland is a time in which the island is alive and bustling with visitors from all around the world, one can enjoy the best possible weather Iceland has to offer and take part in a wide variety of activities that otherwise might be closed the rest of the year. Unless you have crippling social anxieties when it comes to crowds or are pretty adamant about seeing the Northern Lights, Iceland’s summer months truly are the best time to visit the island.