The 15 Best Activities To Do in Iceland During Summer

Chris Ayliffe, Founder of Arctic Meta


Welcome to the enchanting world of Iceland during summer, a time when the midnight sun paints the sky in endless shades of gold and the landscapes awaken in vibrant bursts of life. This far-flung island nation, nestled in the North Atlantic, offers a treasure trove of experiences that draw travelers from around the globe. With its unique blend of natural wonders, rich culture, and the quirky charm of its wildlife, Iceland in summer is a dream destination for adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and those looking to immerse themselves in a land of stark beauty and profound contrasts. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and prepare for an unforgettable journey as we explore the 15 best activities that make Icelandic summers truly magical.

 1. Explore the Icelandic Highlands

Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic highlands during summer

Venturing into the Icelandic Highlands is akin to stepping onto another planet. This vast wilderness of raw beauty is marked by its rugged landscapes, where mountains of rhyolite stone erupt in a spectrum of reds, greens, and yellows, contrasted by the black sands of volcanic deserts and the sparkling blue of glacier-fed rivers.

Accessible only during the short summer months, these remote areas offer solitude and the kind of breathtaking vistas that fuel the soul. Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for your next challenge or simply someone who yearns to gaze upon untouched nature, the Highlands beckon with the promise of adventure and discovery.

2. Find Some Puffins

Puffins in Iceland on a cliff edge during summer

Iceland’s summer is heralded by the arrival of puffins, those endearing seabirds with their distinctive colorful beaks and comical expressions. Nesting on coastal cliffs around the island, puffins can be seen in abundance, particularly in the Westman Islands and the Látrabjarg cliffs.

These birds are not only a delight to watch but also a symbol of the Icelandic summer. Their burrowing nests, playful flights, and skillful dives into the ocean depths for fish make puffin watching a heartwarming experience. Joining a guided tour ensures a respectful distance, allowing these beautiful birds to continue their natural behaviors undisturbed.

3. Visit the Icelandic Westfjords

A house sitting at the side of a fjord in Iceland's westfjords region during summer

The Westfjords, a sprawling peninsula in Iceland’s northwest, are a testament to the raw, unbridled force of nature. Here, time seems to stand still among the deep fjords, towering cliffs, and tranquil fishing villages that dot the coastline. The Westfjords are less traveled compared to other parts of Iceland, offering a serene escape and a glimpse into traditional Icelandic life.

The region’s highlights include the majestic Dynjandi waterfall, with its series of cascades flowing down like a bridal veil, and the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a haven for hikers and nature lovers seeking solitude and unspoiled wilderness.

4. Watch the Midnight Sun

A town in Iceland under the long hours of the Midnight Sun during summer

The phenomenon of the midnight sun, where the sun barely dips below the horizon, creates a surreal landscape bathed in a golden twilight that lasts for hours. This natural marvel provides a unique opportunity to experience Iceland’s landscapes in a different light—quite literally.

Whether you find yourself wandering through the lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula, standing atop a mountain in the Eastfjords, or by the peaceful shores of Lake Myvatn, the midnight sun offers endless possibilities for exploration and photography. It’s a time when night becomes day, and the magic of Iceland shines brightest.

5. Check Out an Icelandic Music Festival

The Secret Solstice

The Secret Solstice Festival is not just a music event; it’s a celebration of the summer solstice, set against the backdrop of Iceland’s stunning natural beauty. Taking place in Reykjavik, this festival combines an impressive lineup of international and Icelandic artists with unique venues, including a concert within a glacier and intimate performances in lava tunnels. It’s a place where music, nature, and ancient Norse culture converge, creating an atmosphere that’s electric and otherworldly.

Reykjavik Arts Festival

The Reykjavik Arts Festival is a vibrant celebration of creativity and culture, illuminating Iceland’s capital with a kaleidoscope of artistic expressions each summer. Spanning music, theatre, dance, and visual arts, this festival transforms Reykjavik into a canvas of imagination and inspiration.

From the halls of Harpa Concert Hall to impromptu stages in city parks, artists and performers from Iceland and around the globe share their talents, stories, and visions. It’s a place where boundaries blur between genres, and attendees are invited into a world where art in all its forms can be explored and appreciated. Whether you’re a connoisseur of classical music, a lover of cutting-edge theatre, or simply someone who delights in the joy of discovery, the Reykjavik Arts Festival offers something to touch your heart and spark your creativity.

Reykjavik Pride

People celebrating Reykjavík pride in Iceland

Reykjavik Pride is not just a festival; it’s a colorful, joyous, and profoundly meaningful celebration of love and diversity. Each summer, Reykjavik comes alive with rainbow flags, lively parades, and events that affirm and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a time of unity, visibility, and joy, where people from all walks of life come together to support love in all its forms.

The music at Reykjavik Pride spans genres and generations, providing a soundtrack to a week of celebrations, demonstrations, and parties. From pop-up concerts to dance parties under the midnight sun, the festival atmosphere is electric, inclusive, and bursting with pride. Reykjavik Pride is a testament to Iceland’s open-hearted and progressive spirit, offering a warm welcome to everyone to join in the celebration.

Menningarnótt (Culture Night)

Menningarnótt, or Culture Night, is a festive highlight of the Icelandic summer, a day when Reykjavik’s streets, squares, and venues pulse with cultural activities, music, and art. Originating as a modest gathering to celebrate local arts, it has blossomed into a city-wide fiesta, drawing crowds from across Iceland and beyond.

Music is a central pillar of Menningarnótt, with performances ranging from symphonic concerts in public parks to indie bands in backyards. The city becomes a stage, and every corner holds the promise of a new discovery. It’s a night when art installations light up the dark, culinary delights tantalize the senses, and the community comes together in a spirited celebration of Icelandic culture. Menningarnótt encapsulates the essence of summer in Reykjavik—bright, communal, and brimming with life.

Viking Festival

The Viking Festival at Hafnarfjörður brings the past to vivid life, offering a plunge into the world of Vikings with a uniquely Icelandic twist. This summer event is a fascinating fusion of history, culture, and entertainment, where Norse traditions are celebrated with enthusiasm and authenticity. The festival grounds buzz with the sounds of battle reenactments, the melodies of traditional Viking music, and the chatter of craftsmen and women sharing ancient skills.

Attendees can explore the Viking market, watch as warriors clash in friendly combat, and even sample traditional Viking fare. Music plays a vital role in setting the atmosphere, with drums, flutes, and ancient Norse songs echoing through the air, inviting you to step back in time and experience the rich tapestry of Viking life. It’s an immersive journey into the heart of Norse culture, where history and entertainment meet in a celebration suitable for all ages.

6. Go Whale Watching

Whale watching in Iceland during summer

The waters around Iceland teem with life during the summer months, making it an ideal time for whale watching. The town of Husavik, in particular, is famed for its whale watching tours, where you can see humpback whales, minke whales, blue whales, and sometimes even orcas.

Being on a boat in the vast Atlantic, surrounded by these gentle giants of the sea, is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. It’s a reminder of the majesty of nature and our place within it, offering moments of thrilling encounters and peaceful coexistence with the ocean’s inhabitants.

7. Take a Glacier Hike

People taking a glacier hike in Iceland during summer

Iceland’s glaciers are among its most majestic natural wonders, and there’s no better way to experience their grandeur than by setting foot on one. Equipped with crampons and an ice axe, led by experienced guides, you can explore the surreal landscapes of ice and snow that make up these ancient giants.

Sólheimajökull and Vatnajökull are popular choices for glacier hikes, offering a variety of routes that reveal deep crevasses, ice sculptures, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. It’s an adventure that combines physical challenge with the reward of witnessing some of the most spectacular scenery Iceland has to offer.

8. Take a Tour of Jökulsalron Glacier Lagoon

Jökularlon glacier lagoon in Iceland during summer

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a place where nature’s artistry is on full display. Icebergs calve from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, drifting slowly across the lagoon’s mirror-like surface before making their way to the sea.

A boat tour on the lagoon allows you to navigate among these floating ice sculptures, each one a unique formation of size, shape, and color. The lagoon is also home to seals, which can often be seen lounging on the ice or swimming in the cold waters. It’s a surreal and captivating landscape, emblematic of Iceland’s dynamic nature, where beauty and change coexist.

9. Take a Hike in the Golden Circle

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland during summer

The Golden Circle is Iceland’s most famous tourist route, but venturing off the beaten path reveals a world of hidden treasures. Hiking in the area around Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall allows you to discover secret geysers, secluded pools, and stunning viewpoints away from the crowds.

Each site has its own history and geological significance, from the ancient assembly fields of Thingvellir to the roaring waters of Gullfoss and the bubbling mud pits of Geysir. Hiking through these landscapes, you’re walking through the heart of Iceland’s natural and cultural heritage, each step a journey through time and nature. You can book a fantastic tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik.

10. Try Sea Swimming

People sea swimming in Iceland during summer

Iceland might not be the first place you think of for a swim in the sea, but for those willing to brave the cold, it’s an exhilarating experience. Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach in Reykjavik offers a unique opportunity to swim in the Atlantic’s chilly waters, followed by a warming dip in geothermally heated pools and hot tubs.

It’s a practice deeply rooted in Icelandic culture, blending the invigorating effects of cold-water swimming with the relaxation of geothermal heat. For the adventurous, it’s a must-try experience that invigorates the body and spirit, surrounded by stunning coastal views.

11. Enjoy an Ice Cream in Reykjavik

A dog enjoying an Ice Cream in Reykjavik Iceland during summer

Icelanders’ love for ice cream knows no season, and summer is the perfect time to join in this sweet tradition. Strolling through the streets of Reykjavik with a cone or cup of freshly made Icelandic ice cream is a pleasure not to be missed.

Made with rich, creamy milk from local farms, Icelandic ice cream comes in a variety of flavors, from traditional vanilla and chocolate to more inventive options like licorice and sea salt. It’s a delightful way to savor the tastes of Iceland while enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of its capital city.

12. Go Camping

A man camping in a campervan in Iceland during the summer months by Skogafoss waterfall

Camping is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Iceland’s stunning natural landscapes. With public campsites scattered across the country, you can sleep under the midnight sun, surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, or the serene Icelandic countryside.

It’s an affordable and adventurous way to travel, offering the freedom to explore at your own pace and wake up to some of the most beautiful views in the world. Whether you pitch a tent or rent a camper van, camping in Iceland is an experience that connects you deeply with the land and its elemental beauty.

13. Celebrate the Solstice

Seljalandsfoss waterfal in Iceland under the Midnight Sun in summer

The summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year, is a time of celebration and tradition in Iceland. Across the country, festivals and events take place, drawing on ancient customs and modern festivities to celebrate the peak of summer.

From bonfires and folk dancing to concerts and art exhibitions, the solstice is a time to enjoy the abundance of light and the richness of Icelandic culture. It’s an opportunity to join in communal gatherings, experience local traditions, and revel in the joy of summer in one of the most magical places on Earth.

14. Take a Dip in a Hot Spring

Natural hot springs in Iceland during the summer months

Iceland’s geothermal activity gifts it with countless hot springs, from the famous Blue Lagoon to Sky Lagoon, Hvammsvik Hot Springs, and hidden gems in the countryside. Soaking in these warm, mineral-rich waters is the quintessential Icelandic experience, offering relaxation and rejuven

ation amidst stunning natural settings. Each hot spring has its own character, from the luxurious spas with their range of wellness treatments to the simple, natural pools that offer a more rustic experience. Taking a dip in a hot spring is a must-do in Iceland, a chance to unwind and soak up the beauty of the land in the most literal sense.

15. Visit a Lagoon

Sky Lagoon in Iceland during the summer months

Beyond Jökulsárlón, Iceland boasts a variety of lagoons that offer serene beauty and unique experiences. The Secret Lagoon in Fludir and the Sky Lagoon near Reykjavik are just a couple of examples where you can enjoy the warmth of geothermal waters while surrounded by Iceland’s breathtaking landscapes.

These lagoons combine the natural beauty of hot springs with thoughtful amenities, creating spaces where relaxation and nature blend seamlessly. Whether it’s watching the northern lights dance above you in winter or basking in the endless daylight of summer, a visit to one of Iceland’s lagoons is an unforgettable way to experience the country’s natural wonders.


Iceland in summer is a realm of endless possibilities, a place where the natural world offers up its treasures generously, and the culture is vibrant and welcoming. From the solitude of the highlands to the communal joy of festivals, the warmth of geothermal lagoons to the chill of glacial ice, Iceland offers a myriad of experiences that are as diverse as they are profound. As you embark on your Icelandic adventure, remember that it’s not just about the places you visit, but the memories you create and the connection you forge with this extraordinary land. So dive in, explore, and let Iceland’s summer magic fill your heart and soul.

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