Updated: Nov 11
When organizing your Iceland holiday, it can be difficult to decide what to include. With such an abundance of activities, travel routes, and points of interest, you may be wondering how you can fit it all in! Well, if you’re visiting in summer, Iceland’s biggest season for tourism, here’s a little help. This is your guide to the best things to do in Iceland in August.
The Best Things to do in Iceland in August
August is arguably one of the best months to visit Iceland. With the summer solstice slightly behind, there’s not quite 24 hours of daylight, but still, plenty to work with. August's weather is usually as calm as it gets in Iceland, and fairly warm by local standards. For that reason, it’s best to maximize your outdoor time with adventurous activities.
If you’re wondering what to do in Iceland in August, here are some recommendations.
1. Go Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands
Iceland’s wild interior is only accessible between June and September. For the rest of the year, extreme weather and heavy snow make the roads leading to the highlands—known as F-roads—impassable. Take advantage of this brief access by heading into Iceland’s uninhabited center for the best views and hiking trails.
The country’s best—and longest—hiking routes are found in the highlands of Iceland, giving unrestricted scenery for miles upon miles. The Laugavegur Trail and Fimmvörðuháls are two multi-day trails that continuously attract hundreds of people every year. Prepare yourself well and tackle these challenging routes for a real Iceland summer adventure.
Iceland’s F-roads may only be driven on with a 4x4 vehicle, and sometimes even that isn’t enough. Most of the mountain roads involve river crossings, which sometimes only larger vehicles can handle. Do your research and select your rental vehicle accordingly.
Although you won’t be able to see the northern lights in August, Iceland’s clear skies are perfect for watching sunsets. And there’s nowhere that offers a better, more unrestricted view than the highlands.
2. Go Whale Watching
Although whales and dolphins frequent the ocean around Iceland all year long, their concentration is highest in summer. Whale watching, then, is one of the top things to do in Iceland in August as you’re almost guaranteed a sighting. Twenty-two different species of whale and dolphin have been spotted in the past, so who knows what you’ll see when it’s your turn!
Boat tours with destinations to whale hot spots leave from many harbors around the country, on every coast. If you’re sticking close to Reykjavík, several companies operate from the city’s harbor. The most popular place to spot whales, however, is Húsavík, aptly named the “whale watching capital of Iceland”.
3. See the Puffins on Vestmannaeyjar
In the summertime, there are up to ten million Atlantic puffins living on the cliffs across Iceland. At the end of August, these birds and their newly-hatched young fly into the ocean. They’ll spend the rest of the year in the ocean, so August is the last time to see them.
Puffin watching is actually one of the most incredible things to do in Iceland in August. It’s a rare opportunity to see baby puffins up close, as they leave their nests for the first time. Nowhere is this more spectacular than in the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), where a large portion of Iceland’s puffins live.
The Westman Islands are a series of small islands below Iceland’s south coast, and only the largest, Heimaey, is inhabited. Take a short ferry here in August and see as many puffins as your heart desires, ideally with a boat tour!
4. Travel the Ring Road
Iceland’s Ring Road is one of the world’s most epic road trip routes, so it’s best driven slowly without rushing. Ideally, you’ll want to spread the 1,322km (821 miles) of Route 1 over seven days or more. This will give you enough time to stop, hike and explore every day, with only a few hours of driving in between.
With everything being open, a Ring Road trip is the pinnacle of things to do in Iceland in August. You’ll need to book in advance to stay in hostels or hotels, but campsites will almost always have space. Pitch your tent or park your campervan rental in an awesome campground each night, and continue the adventure the next day.
5. Camp in Iceland’s Biggest Forest
If you’re a fan of camping—whether in a tent or motorhome—staying in Iceland’s biggest forest is a must-do. You may notice as you drive around that the country doesn’t have a lot of tree coverage. Fortunately, Hallormstaður forest in the east has been preserved and is a great destination for the whole family.
There are two main campsites in Hallormstaður, and they also act as the beginning of many hiking trails. In August, the forest’s atmosphere will be tranquil, and at times filled with energy, as many locals holiday there. Playgrounds, lakes and quad-biking tours will keep you fully entertained.
6. Join the Reykjavík Marathon/Celebrate Culture Night
Iceland’s most popular running event takes place around mid-August and attracts thousands of participants. The race, in which a variety of distances are available, takes you around downtown Reykjavík. Running is a great way to explore an area, as it gives you a workout combined with a sightseeing tour!
In the evening after the race is complete, what follows is always the Reykjavík Culture Night. This is a celebration of the capital’s art scene, and music, art exhibitions, and theater performances fill the city. The event comes to an official close at 11 pm with a display of fireworks. Don’t hesitate– come and join in the cultural fun!
7. Attend the Festivals
Þjóðhátíð. This is Iceland’s national festival, taking place at the beginning of August on Vestmannaeyjar. Thousands of locals travel to the island of Heimaey for three days of camping, music, dancing, and fireworks.
Reykjavík Pride. A week-long celebration of diversity, taking place right in the heart of Reykjavík.
The Great Fish day. An event in north Iceland celebrating the country’s fishing culture with a seafood buffet, is scheduled for mid-August.
8. Visit the National Parks
Iceland has three massive national parks- Snæfellsjökull, Þingvellir, and Vatnajökull. All three are full of incredible natural features and contain giant campsites. Exploring Iceland's national parks, then, should be top of your list of things to do in Iceland in August.
Snæfellsjökull National Park lies in west Iceland, and a handy highway circles the park’s edge. Drive around this highway to see the nearby glacier from all sides, and stop at the beaches on the way.
Þingvellir is both a geological and political point of interest. It’s this famous spot where you can clearly see where tectonic plate movement is slowly splitting Iceland in half. It’s also the site where Iceland’s first parliament was held, a tradition that has continued for hundreds of years.
Vatnajökull is Iceland’s largest national park and contains the country’s largest glacier. Some of Iceland’s most stunning volcanoes, lava fields and other features are located somewhere inside. You could spend weeks exploring this park, so leave some time to complete a few hikes in Vatnajökull.
9. Snorkel in Silfra Fissure
One of the gems of the above-mentioned Þingvellir National Park is Silfra fissure. This fissure was created by plate movement and then filled with meltwater from the nearby glacier. The result is a calm “river” of sorts, containing some of the clearest water in the world. Visibility is up to 100 metres, and the water stays between 0-2°C year-round.
Snorkeling (or diving) in Silfra is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Iceland in August. Several companies operate tours in which they provide you with all the necessary equipment and guide you around the fissure. Being able to see that far underwater gives a magical feeling.
10. Visit the Wild Hot Springs
Iceland contains many springs that are filled with naturally-heated water. The temperature varies and some are not safe to enter, but the locals have taken note of the best ones. There’s nothing like bathing in geothermal water while enjoying the view of the surrounding landscape. Talk about a great ending to a day of incredible adventure!
Many of the best Iceland’s hot springs can only be reached via a hike, sometimes of an hour or more. If you want to skip the hike and just bathe, visit one of the country’s geothermal spas or hot pools. Almost every town has a swimming pool, and there are special places like the Blue Lagoon which offer more luxury.
Visit Iceland in August!
As you can see, this sunny month is an exciting time to visit. There are so many things to do in Iceland in August, it’s safe to say you’ll be busy at work planning your second trip during the first! Learn more about visiting Iceland in August, hop in your rental car, and have an adventure that you’ll never forget!