WHAT TO DO IN ICELAND IN THE SUMMER MONTHS
Are you heading to Iceland in the summer? Then read on and find out about the best things to do in the summer months in Iceland 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.
PLAN YOUR SUMMER TRIP TO ICELAND
Iceland is one of the most unique places in the world, it’s got amazing landscapes and scenery.
Is Iceland in Summer a Good Time to Visit?
The best time to visit Iceland 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 and some only in the winter.
However, overall summer (July to August) is an ideal time to visit Iceland, mainly due to the midnight sun and warmer temperatures.
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
There are several ways to get around Iceland.
While Iceland in winter isn’t the perfect time to drive, summer is perfect for a road trip.
A road trip in Iceland during the summer is an excellent way to get around and explore the country’s stunning landscapes. Iceland’s natural beauty is best experienced by car, and a road trip offers the freedom to explore at your own pace and stop wherever and whenever you want.
Renting a car allows you to discover off-the-beaten-path destinations that you might not otherwise have been able to see. You can take scenic routes that offer stunning views of Iceland’s rugged terrain, including snow-capped mountains, glacial rivers, and volcanic landscapes.
Another advantage of a road trip in Iceland is the opportunity to visit remote areas.
Also, a road trip in Iceland during the summer allows you to take advantage of the long daylight hours. With up to 24 hours of daylight during the summer months, you can explore Iceland’s stunning landscapes well into the evening. The midnight sun also creates stunning photo opportunities, with long-lasting sunsets and sunrises that paint the sky with vibrant colors.
I have some bad news: Public transportation in Iceland is not a good way to discover the island.
Public transportation is not the best way to get around due to limited availability, inconvenient schedules, and unreliable service during inclement weather. Most of the country’s attractions are located in remote areas, making it difficult for public transportation to reach these destinations.
DAY TOURS / GUIDED TOURS
If you want to make Reykjavik your base and do some day trips, without driving yourself, 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 or Viator for booking tours. They are my favorite choices 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) and their great customer service (this especially is true for GetYourGuide).
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.
Summer 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
- Recommended by Alexis and Bertaud from World Travel Adventures
The Blue Lagoon is a must-see in Iceland – whether in the summer or in the winter. This milky-blue geothermal spa is one of the 25 wonders of the world and is the top bucket list travel experience for many.
It is also a very romantic place, 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.
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).
Give yourself plenty of time – you might want to spend between 3-8 hours here.
- Check out the tickets for the Blue Lagoon at GetYourGuide.
- Here are tickets that include admission to the Blue Lagoon and the transfer from Reykjavik.
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.
- Recommended by Shoba from Just Go Places
Glaumbaer is a traditional turf farmhouse that is now a museum – making it one of the best places to visit in Iceland in summer.
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.
- Recommended by Natascha and Cameron from The World Pursuit
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 it will not be easy to drive yourself due to snow. But summer is perfect for driving here.
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 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 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 stopping here for 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
- Recommended by Cindy from Travel Bliss Now
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.
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-minute 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.
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.
See Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
I highly recommend visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in the summer. The canyon is about 100 meters deep and about two kilometers long and one of my summer highlights in Iceland.
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 – Sólheimajökull
- Recommended by Ryazan from Everything Zany
You might want to consider traveling down to the Southern coast of the island and doing a glacier hike at Sólheimajökull. The word “jökull” means glacier in Icelandic. This hike is amazing during the glorious summer days in Iceland, just remember to wrap up warm (yes, even in summer).
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 drive down via Route 1.
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 30-minute 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.
- Check out Prices for a Glacier hike in Iceland
- Recommended by Kay from Jet Farer
One of the most spectacular geothermal swimming pools – Seljavallalaug – in the world is tucked away between the mountains in Southern Iceland. 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.
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.
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.
If you visit between late April and early September, you might see some puffins on your trip. With about 8 to 10 million puffins here, Iceland is home to more than 60% of the world’s entire Atlantic puffin population 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 on the coast and mostly at the cliffs along Iceland’s South Coast, including at Dyrhólaey, Ingólfshöfði, and on the Westman Islands.
While they are super cute and interesting, please do not touch them as it will harm them. Looking allowed, touching not permitted.
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.
The road there is a bit bumpy but even though my rental car was not a 4wheel drive (just a regular 2wheel drive) I still got there quite easily. It takes some time to get there as you can’t drive fast though.
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.
If you do a summer Iceland road trip 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.
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, and 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.
- Check out my detailed Bruarfoss guide.
CONCLUSION: PLACES TO VISIT IN ICELAND IN THE SUMMER
Iceland is a unique and stunning destination to visit during the summer months. With its long daylight hours, visitors have ample time to explore the country’s incredible natural beauty, including glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, and hot springs. A road trip is the best way to experience Iceland’s diverse landscapes and allows visitors the flexibility to create their own itinerary and explore at their own pace.
In addition to its natural wonders, Iceland offers a rich cultural experience, with opportunities to visit small towns and villages and learn about the country’s unique traditions and way of life.
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 enjoying the endless summer nights.
Stay safe and enjoy!