What to do in Iceland in Summer

As summer approaches, Iceland begins to emerge as a captivating destination for anyone who is seeking a unique blend of natural wonders and cultural experiences. This little island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean boasts breathtaking landscapes all year round, but the summer months offer a particularly enchanting allure. From the midnight sun bathing the rugged terrain in glowing light, to the vibrant festivals that beat at the heart of Icelandic culture there’s no shortage of reasons why Iceland attracts so many visitors during the warmer months. 

Iceland in summer is like a grand symphony of nature. The landscapes burst with life and the almost never ending daylight makes it possible to really get the most out of a day. From the most unique hikes in the world, to quirky festivals filled with creativity and heart, there’s something for everyone in this magical season of the year. So pack your bags, bring your sunscreen and a sense of adventure and let’s check out all the things you can do in Iceland in summer. 

What is Iceland Like During the Summer?

Iceland during the summer months transforms into a land of contrasts. The days are long, with the sun barely dipping below the horizon, bathing the landscape in a surreal, golden glow. The air is crisp and invigorating, and the scenery is a stunning mix of lush green valleys, towering glaciers, and sparkling blue fjords. It’s a time when the entire country comes alive with activity, from bustling city streets to remote rural villages.

What Kind of Weather Should I Expect in Iceland During Summer?

Don’t be fooled by Iceland’s name; summer here can be surprisingly mild, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C. However, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always best to pack layers and be prepared for sudden changes. One moment you might be basking in the sunshine, and the next, you could find yourself caught in a sudden rain shower or even a brief snowfall. But hey, that’s all part of the Icelandic charm!

What Are the Best Things To Do in Iceland During Summer?

Iceland really does come alive in summer. It’s a time of year when most of the country is accessible to tourists so the general possibilities are almost endless. This is also a period of the year when there are lots of incredible animals, festivals and events that flock to the country to make temporary homes. Below is just a taste of what’s possible. 

Explore the Icelandic Highlands

The rugged beauty of the Icelandic Highlands is truly unmatched, and one of the best ways to experience it is by visiting Landmannalaugar. Landmannalaugar is a breathtaking region in the Highlands of Iceland, renowned for its vibrant rhyolite mountains, geothermal hot springs, and rugged hiking trails. Translated to “The Pools of the People,” Landmannalaugar is a popular destination for hikers, backpackers, and nature enthusiasts during the summer months when the area becomes accessible. Here, you can hike through surreal landscapes of colourful mountains, soak in natural hot springs, and marvel at the otherworldly beauty of the surrounding wilderness. Make sure to pack sturdy hiking boots and plenty of snacks for this adventure!

Spot Puffins

The Atlantic puffin, often affectionately referred to as the “clown of the sea,” is an iconic seabird that holds a special place in Iceland’s natural heritage. These charming birds, with their distinctive colourful beaks and striking plumage, are a common sight along Iceland’s coastline, particularly during the summer breeding season.

Iceland is home to a significant portion of the world’s Atlantic puffin population, with millions of these seabirds nesting on its cliffs and coastal cliff sides. Puffins typically arrive in Iceland in late April or early May to breed, forming large colonies in coastal areas and on offshore islands. They excavate burrows in the cliffs or use existing crevices to create nesting sites, where they lay a single egg and raise their chicks.

The relationship between Iceland and the Atlantic puffin is deeply intertwined. Puffins are not only a beloved symbol of Iceland’s rich biodiversity but also play a crucial ecological role in the marine ecosystem.

Head to coastal cliffs such as Dyrhólaey or Látrabjarg to catch a glimpse of these charismatic creatures as they dive and frolic in the ocean. Don’t forget your binoculars for some up-close birdwatching!

Visit a Festival 

Icelanders love to celebrate, and summer is festival season. From music festivals like Iceland Airwaves to cultural events like the Viking Festival in Hafnarfjörður, there’s always something fun happening around every corner. Join locals and visitors alike as they come together to dance, sing, and celebrate Icelandic culture.

Experience the Midnight Sun

One of the most surreal experiences in Iceland is witnessing the midnight sun. During the peak of summer, the sun never fully sets, casting an ethereal glow over the landscape and allowing you to enjoy outdoor activities at any time of day or night. Take advantage of the endless daylight by embarking on a midnight hike or enjoying a midnight picnic under the glow of the sun.

Explore the Westfjords 

For a true off-the-beaten-path adventure, head to the Westfjords. Here, you’ll find dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches, and charming fishing villages tucked away in remote fjords. Spend your days hiking along rugged coastlines, kayaking through crystal-clear waters, and discovering hidden gems around every corner. Don’t forget your camera to capture the breathtaking scenery.

Take a Boat on Jökulsárlon

Jökulsárlon, the famous glacier lagoon, is even more stunning in the summer months. Hop on a boat tour and sail among the glittering icebergs, or simply admire the view from the shore as the sun sets behind the towering glaciers. Keep your eyes peeled for seals basking on the ice floes and seabirds soaring overhead.

Go Whale Watching 

Summer is prime whale-watching season in Iceland, with humpback whales, minke whales, and even blue whales making appearances in the waters around the island. Join a whale-watching tour from Reykjavik in the south or Husavik in the north for a chance to see these magnificent creatures up close. Be sure to dress warmly and bring a waterproof jacket, as the weather out on the open sea can be chilly.

Try Sea Swimming

Brave souls (or just those looking for a unique experience) can take a dip in the chilly waters of the North Atlantic. Summer is the only time of the year where this is possible because during the winter months the sea temperatures are dangerously cold for humans. If this is something that interests you, it’s advisable to check out the “visit Reykjavík” sea swimming information page to make sure you know how to do it safely.  

Take a Hike 

With its rugged terrain and countless trails, Iceland is a hiker’s paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a casual stroller, there’s a hike for everyone, from gentle walks to challenging multi-day adventures. Lace up your boots and hit the trails to discover breathtaking waterfalls, towering volcanoes, and jaw-dropping vistas around every turn.

Visit a Hot Spring

No trip to Iceland is complete without a soak in a hot spring. From popular spots like the Blue Lagoon to hidden gems like Reykjadalur, there are hot springs scattered throughout the country, just waiting to be discovered. Immerse yourself in the warm, mineral-rich waters and let your cares melt away as you soak in the stunning Icelandic scenery.

Explore the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is Iceland’s most popular tourist route, and for good reason. This scenic drive takes you past some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, including the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal area of Geysir, and the historic site of Thingvellir National Park. Take your time exploring each stop along the way, and don’t forget to snap plenty of photos to document your journey.

Celebrate the Solstice

Summer solstice is a special time in Iceland, with festivities taking place across the country to celebrate the longest day of the year. Join locals for bonfires, music, and dancing, or simply enjoy the never-ending daylight with a midnight picnic. It’s a magical time to be in Iceland, surrounded by the beauty of nature and the warmth of community.

Take a Glacier Hike

Strap on your crampons and embark on an unforgettable glacier hike. Guided tours are available for all skill levels, allowing you to explore the otherworldly landscapes of glaciers such as Sólheimajökull or Vatnajökull. Listen as your knowledgeable guide shares fascinating insights into the history and geology of these icy giants, and marvel at the sheer beauty and power of the Icelandic wilderness.

Visit Glymur Waterfall 

Tucked away in the remote Hvalfjörður fjord, Glymur is Iceland’s second-highest waterfall and well worth the hike to reach it. Follow the trail through lush forests and rugged canyons to reach the viewpoint overlooking the thundering cascade. Keep an eye out for native flora and fauna along the way, and be sure to pack a picnic to enjoy at the top!

Explore Akureyri and Myvatn

Escape the crowds and head north to Akureyri and Lake Myvatn. Here, you’ll find picturesque landscapes, geothermal hot springs, and charming towns just waiting to be explored. Spend your days hiking through lava fields, soaking in natural hot pots, and sampling local delicacies at cosy cafes and restaurants. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Goðafoss waterfall and the mystical Dimmuborgir lava formations for a truly unforgettable experience.

Travel to Snæfellsnes

Known as “Iceland in Miniature,” Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a microcosm of everything the country has to offer, from rugged coastline to volcanic peaks. Don’t miss the iconic Snæfellsjökull glacier, said to be the entrance to the centre of the Earth! Spend your days exploring charming fishing villages, hiking along coastal cliffs, and marvelling at the stunning natural beauty of this unique region. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as seals, seabirds, and even Arctic foxes as you explore the diverse landscapes of Snæfellsnes.

Take in All of Iceland’s Waterfalls

With over 10,000 waterfalls scattered across the country, you’re never far from a breathtaking cascade in Iceland. From the mighty Skogafoss to the hidden gems of the Westfjords, be sure to seek out as many waterfalls as you can during your visit. Spend your days chasing waterfalls along scenic hiking trails, snapping photos of rainbows in the mist, and feeling the cool spray on your face as you stand in awe of these natural wonders.

Visit the Abandoned Plane at Sólheimasandur Beach 

Tucked away on a black sand beach near Vik, the wreckage of a US Navy DC-3 plane makes for a surreal and haunting sight. It’s a bit of a trek to reach it, but the journey is well worth it for the incredible photo opportunities. Follow the trail across the starkly beautiful landscape, and feel like you’re stepping back in time as you approach the rusted remains of the plane. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the hike, and keep an eye out for the resident sheep that graze along the way. If trekking isn’t your thing, there is a shuttle that regularly takes tourists out to the plane. 

Enjoy an Ice Cream 

Last but not least, treat yourself to a scoop (or two) of Icelandic ice cream. Made with locally sourced dairy and unique flavours like licorice and skyr, it’s the perfect way to cool off after a day of exploring. Whether you opt for a classic cone or a decadent sundae topped with fresh berries and caramel sauce, Icelandic ice cream is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you smiling from ear to ear. Icelanders love ice cream and making a dash to the local ice creamery is a national pastime and often the activity of choice for a first date. They even have a word in their language ‘Ísbíltúr’ which basically means ‘driving around while eating ice cream.’  

Where to Stay in Iceland During Summer?

From cosy guest houses to luxurious hotels, Iceland offers accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. In Reykjavik, you’ll find a wide range of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses, while in rural areas, you can stay in charming farm stays or remote wilderness lodges. 

One notable option is The Hill Hotel in Flúðir. Situated in the picturesque town of Flúðir in the heart of the Golden Circle, the hotel provides easy access to some of Iceland’s most iconic attractions, including the stunning Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal wonders of Geysir, and the historic Þingvellir National Park. 

Its strategic location makes it an ideal base for exploring the wonders of Iceland’s rugged landscapes and natural treasures. Moreover, the Hill Hotel itself boasts modern amenities, comfortable accommodation, and warm hospitality, ensuring a relaxing and rejuvenating stay after a day of adventure. Guests can unwind in the hotel’s cosy rooms, enjoy delicious Icelandic cuisine at the on-site restaurant, and take in panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. 

Whether marvelling at cascading waterfalls, soaking in natural hot springs, or embarking on exhilarating outdoor excursions, the Hill Hotel in Flúðir provides an excellent starting point for an unforgettable Icelandic summer adventure.

What Can You Not Do in Iceland During Summer?

There are many things to do in Iceland in summer but there are a few things that just aren’t possible at this time of the year. 

See the Northern Lights

While summer offers endless daylight, it also means that the Northern Lights are not visible during this time. If seeing the aurora is on your bucket list, you’ll need to visit Iceland during the winter months when the nights are long and dark.

Visit an Ice Cave

Similarly, many of Iceland’s famous ice caves are only accessible during the winter when the glaciers are stable and safe to explore. Summer visitors will have to admire these natural wonders from the outside, but don’t worry—there are plenty of other incredible experiences to enjoy in Iceland during the warmer months!

Conclusion

Iceland in summer is a land of endless adventure, where the sun never sets and the possibilities are limitless. Whether you’re hiking through volcanic landscapes, soaking in hot springs, or simply enjoying the midnight sun, there’s no shortage of unforgettable experiences to be had in this magical country. So pack your bags, embrace the Icelandic spirit of adventure, and get ready for the summer trip of a lifetime!