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BEST THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND IN SUMMER + TRAVEL TIPS

WHAT TO DO IN ICELAND IN THE SUMMER MONTHS

Are you heading to Iceland? Maybe even heading to Iceland in summer (spring or fall)? Then read on and find out about the best things to do in Iceland in the summer months and travel tips for your trip. 

I have visited Iceland in the summer and winter. For this post, I share my favorite summer activities in Iceland and have also asked my fellow travel bloggers for some of their favorite places to visit in Iceland.

Road trip costs of Iceland
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PLAN YOUR SUMMER TRIP TO ICELAND

Iceland is one of the most unique places in the world, it’s got amazing landscapes and scenery.

The best time to visit highly depends upon what you want to see in Iceland. Each season has its charm – you can do some activities throughout the year while some can really only be done in summer. Before talking about what to do, here are some travel tips for your trip to Iceland in the summer.

How to Get Around in Iceland in Summer

ROAD TRIP

While Iceland in winter isn’t the perfect time to drive, summer is perfect for a road trip. Getting a rental car is perfect because it is the best way to get around, driving in Iceland is easy since there aren’t too many cars once you leave the Reykjavik and Golden Circle area.

DAY TOURS

If you want to make Reykjavik your base and do some day trips, you cannot rely on public transportation. In this case, you will have to book guided tours. This is a great option if you stay near Reykjavik and do not plan to visit the North of Iceland for the East Coast.

I have done many day trips in the winter months. And I used GetYourGuide for booking tours. It is my favorite choice for many reasons – one of them is the generous cancellation policy they offer (which normally allows us to cancel tours up to 24 hours before without any cancellation fees). I will link to tours whenever I think it is a good fit.

Where to Stay in Iceland

If you road trip Iceland you will have to change locations accordingly. Check out this detailed guide on where to stay in Iceland.

Weather in Iceland

The best about visiting Iceland in summer is the looong summer days – you might have heard about the magical Midnight Sun in the nordic countries. 

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the summer in places south and north of the Antarctic Circle – including Iceland. The Earth rotates at a tilted axis relative to the Sun, and near the 21st of June, the north pole is tilted toward the Sun, and the northern hemisphere experiences summer solstice. For several weeks, the Sun never sets above the Arctic Circle, and the Sun remains visible even at Midnight.

  • The peak of Iceland’s Midnight Sun is usually the 21st of June
  • You can experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland between mid-May and mid-August
  • Iceland’s daylight hours on the longest days of the year are 24 hours per day (May-July)

So, be prepared for that – however, this does not mean that it is warm or even hot. The weather in Iceland can be crazy. And I had some bad days in July with a lot of rain and strong wind. So, pack appropriately even in the summer months.

Temperatures in Iceland in summer can rise to 20-25 °C (68-77 °F), but most of the time they are about 10-15 °c (50-59 °F) with strong winds on the coast and a lot of rain (especially in Reykjavik). 

BEST ICELAND ACTIVITIES

Okay, summer in Iceland does not necessarily mean beach time and getting a tan. Summer in Iceland is different than summer in Southern Europe. However, it is unique, and here are some of the best summer activities(many can be done throughout the year, but some can only be done in the summer months).

Relax at Blue Lagoon

You cannot visit Iceland without soaking in the Blue Lagoon! It is one of the best places to visit in Iceland. This milky-blue geothermal spa is one of the 25 wonders of the world and is the top bucket list travel experience for many. 

Top Things to do in Iceland The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in winter
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It is also very romantic, so grab your lover or find one there and blissfully soak the day away. Get a glass of prosecco from the swim-up bar and you’re in heaven! Lose the crowds by wandering to the outer edges of the Lagoon. Don’t forget to bring your camera to snap photos of the famous blue water that seems to glow thanks to its mineral content which reflects the sun.

Give yourself plenty of time – you might want to spend between 3-8 hours here.

The Blue Lagoon has become one of the main tourist attractions in Iceland and so it is very busy. Make sure that you book your Blue Lagoon tickets well in advance.

Tickets start at 60€ which includes a silica mud mask for silky smooth skin. Bring your own towels, bathrobes, and flip-flops if you want to buy the cheapest package. For about 80€ you get the premium package (including a towel and a bathrobe). You can buy tickets directly on the website or via GetYourGuide (my preferred choice because of the generous cancellation policy). 

The Blue Lagoon is only about 30 minutes from the Keflavík International Airport in Reykjavik, so it makes sense to visit after you land or on your last day before heading to the airport. 

Visit Glaumbaer

Glaumbaer is a traditional turf farmhouse that is now a museum – making it one of the best places to visit in Iceland in summer.

Glaumbaer is one of the best things to do in Iceland in summer
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Visiting Glaumbaer – located in the north of Iceland -is like stepping back into time. The turf houses look like hobbit houses from the outside but the inside is spacious if somewhat dark.

The farmhouses were built in the mid-18th century. Building turf houses with sod roofs and little windows was an Icelandic tradition that dates back to the time of the Vikings.

There has been a house in this location since the 11th century when the land was farmed by Snorri Porfinnsson. Porfinnson was probably the first European born in North America because his mother accompanied her husband on the expedition to Vinland with Leif Ericsson.

Everyone who worked on the farm would have lived in this house from the owner and his family to the servants and the farmhands. 

After visiting Glaumbear, you will have a newfound respect for the hardiness of the Icelandic people who created homes in this inhospitable climate. 

Skógafoss

A trip around the famous Ring Road is another great activity in Iceland. In winter, parts of the streets might be closed – or at least not easy to drive due to snow. But summer is perfect for driving here.

Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland - best things to do in Iceland
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There are so many magical stops right off it to venture to it will be hard to see everything without years of exploration. However, one of the best sights literally right off “Route 1” is Skógafoss waterfall.

Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most iconic waterfalls in Iceland at 15 meters wide and 60m high – this has to be on your Iceland itinerary.

It is located in the Southern part of Iceland near the town of Vik. It has even been featured in a number of movies like “The Secret Life of Water Mitty” and Thor”.

You really can’t miss the stop here as the waterfall can easily be seen from the road. Once at the waterfall just park your car and walk right up to see nature’s beauty – you cannot visit Iceland without seeing it – there is a reason why this is one of Iceland´s top attractions.

You can either venture under it or climb up (in the summer months) to the very top of the waterfall on a nearby staircase. If you want to stay overnight there is a campsite and restaurant at the site!

  • It is free to visit and there are some parking spots in front of the majestic waterfalls.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is another must-see. The waterfall drops 60 meters and is part of the Seljalands River, which has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall for your Iceland in 5 days itinerary
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Seljalandsfoss is special as you can walk behind it and have a unique view. In the winter months, the walking path is most likely closed which makes the waterfall even more special in the summer months.

There is not much other hiking to do, so 15-60 minutes is enough. 

  • There is no entrance fee, but if you have some change, you can donate something, and there is a parking fee.

Do a Boat Tour on Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón is one of the most otherworldly places in Iceland you have to see – so if you want to visit the best place in Iceland this might be it.

JÖKULSÁRLÓN GLACIER LAGOON one of the best things to do in summer
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The name means “glacial river lagoon” and that’s exactly what it is.  Due to climate change, icebergs are breaking off the glacier next to the lagoon and slowly floating out to sea.  It’s a new phenomenon – the lake didn’t exist 80 years ago.

If you want to see the icebergs and the glacier up close, the best thing to do is the one-hour zodiac tour that runs from May 1st to the end of September (longer if weather permits). They get as close to the ice as safely possible, and you may even see it calve off the glacier.  The boats are small, so be sure to make a reservation.

For a tamer approach, you can take a 30 to 40 minutes amphibious boat tour that starts on land and floats among the icebergs.  The tours run frequently during the May to September season, but if you don’t like waiting, it’s best to reserve ahead.

The Glacier Lagoon is easy to find on the ring road on the south coast of Iceland.  It’s about 400 kilometers from Reykjavik – One and two-day tours from Reykjavik are also offered and are one of the top things to see in Iceland.

Visit Diamond Beach

Don’t miss Diamond Beach across from the lagoon. It’s where polished chunks of ice wash up along the wild ocean shoreline. And while it is more dramatic in winter, summer is a great time to explore Diamond Beach and watch the sunset.

Iceland glacier beach in 5 days in Iceland with arzo travels
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Even in the summer months, it can be cold, so when you come for the sunset (which is quite late in the summer months if at all), then dress appropriately and bring a drink with you.

This beach in July was surely one of the highlights to see.

Summer in Iceland, Arzo Travels
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See Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Another summer highlight could be this unique canyon. I highly recommend visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in the summer. The canyon is about 100 meters deep and about two kilometers long. 

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Mountains and waterfall are free places to visit in 5 days in Iceland
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Due to its popularity and its sensitive flora, they close it once in a while, so it might not be open year-round. 

It is near the main road and though it‘s mostly a gravel road, you can easily drive there with all kinds of cars (in summer only). 

From the parking area, it is a short and easy walk up a hill. And from there, you have some of the best views in all of Iceland. There are several vantage points, and if you like mountains, this is the place to visit.

Walking in the canyon is not allowed any longer, but the views from above are reason enough to visit.

Go Glacier Hiking in Iceland

If you are heading to Iceland in the summer, you might want to consider traveling down to the Southern coast of the island.

Glacier Iceland top things to do in Iceland
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The word “jökull” means glacier in Icelandic and it is one of the best tours to do in Iceland.

The Solheim Glacier (Sólheimajökull) is about 200 kilometers from Reykjavik. You can take a group tour bus to pick you up from your accommodation in Reykjavik or its an easy drive down via Route 1, you can also stop along the way to see the beautiful waterfalls, Seljandafoss and Skogafoss.

Our guide was very experienced hiking in icy conditions and shared very valuable stories and information about Global warming and climate change and its harmful effects on our world.

The hike takes about a couple of hours, including a safety briefing and instructions. Since the glacier preceded at such an alarming rate, the glacier’s entry is now around a 30minutes trek from the campsite, unlike before, only a stone’s throw away.

If it is your first time trekking on glacial ice, it will feel so surreal.

This hike is amazing during the glorious summer days in Iceland, just remember to wrap up warm (yes, even in summer).

Visit Seljavallalaug

One of the most spectacular geothermal swimming pools in the world is tucked away between the mountains in Southern Iceland and if you are asking yourself where to go in Iceland then visiting this place is your answer.

Seljavallalaug one of the best things to do in Iceland in summer
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Seljavallalaug, this hot mountain spring, is surrounded almost entirely by mountains and is a beautiful place to go for a warm dip.

Dipping your feet in, and soaking in the surrounding mountain views – this is a perfect place to chill. Because it requires straying a bit from the main Ring Road and hiking for a few minutes, this hideaway is significantly less tourist-filled than the nearby waterfalls or the Blue Lagoon.

While there, you can relax in the warm geothermal waters, or just dip your feet in and explore some of the nearby hiking trails. Either way, Seljavallalaug is worth a visit for the sheer beauty and seclusion of this unique swimming pool.

Located within a few hours from Reykjavik, it’s an easy day trip from the city or a nice stop on your Ring Road itinerary in Iceland.

To get to Seljavallalaug from Reykjavik, drive east on the Ring Road past Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Turn onto road 242 – Raufarfell.

Drive into that road for a few minutes until you see a gated pool area and a parking lot marked Seljavellir (this is not the pool). From the parking lot, hike on the dirt path towards the mountains for about 20 minutes until you see the pool.

  • Swimming in Seljavallalaug is free of charge.

See Puffins

Puffins must be the cutest birds in the world. And Iceland is heaven for watching Puffins – however, you will not find them all around the year.

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If you visit between May and August, you might see some puffins on your trip. They will not come straight to you, so you have to keep looking (and it took me a while to actually see them so do not give up)!

They are spread out throughout the country but only at the coast and mostly at the cliffs. While they are super cute and interesting, please do not try to touch them as it will harm them.

Looking allowed, touching not permitted.

Hrunalaug

Another place to visit in the summer months is Hrunalaug. This hot spring is privately owned and is quite small, but the views are amazing.

HRUNALAUG hot pools in Iceland
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The road there is a bit bumpy but my rental car was not a 4wheel drive but rather a 2wheel drive and I still got there quite easily. It takes some time to get there as you can’t drive fast.

The owner normally sits in front of the pool and you have to pay an entrance fee. It is either 1,000 ISK, 10€ or $10 and in cash only. Before paying the entrance fee, I would ask how many people are in already. If there are already more than 5-10 people, then I honestly would not enter.

I read complaints that the water was low, so ask the owner before you pay whether it is busy or if it has water.

Depending on how much time you have, this stop should take about 1-2 hours.

Bruarfoss Waterfall

If you road trip Iceland and are flexible, I suggest paying Bruarfoss Waterfall a visit. Since its location is a bit off the Golden Route, it is not often offered when doing guided tours.

BRUARFOSS WATERFALL, amazing watercolor in Iceland
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However, it was one of my favorite places in Iceland, and if you can visit, then go for it. After parking your car, you can do a 7 km “hike“ (in total)  and will see several waterfalls along the way.  This is why it is only possible in the summer months.

The waterfalls come in an incredible color of blue – the color is insane, which makes it worth a visit. It is not a real hike, but more like a beautiful stroll with some steps in between (and probably some mud puddles, so wear appropriate shoes).

This stop should take around 1-2 hours.

No entrance fee, free parking. Google sent me to the wrong parking lot – which is no parking lot any longer and I had to drive back to find the right spot.

CONCLUSION: PLACES TO VISIT IN ICELAND IN THE SUMMER

Iceland in summer is a perfect time to visit – though there might be crowds, it is great for road tripping the country. It is perfect for hikes, chasing waterfalls, and spending time outdoors. Given the weather in summer, it is so much fun to spend time in hot pools after a day of exploring and to enjoy the endless summer nights.

Stay safe and enjoy!

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