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A Complete Guide to the Midnight Sun in Iceland

The Summer Solstice - The Best Places to Visit - Summer in Iceland

|January 23, 2019
Viktoria is a restless adventurer with personal experience in all of the outdoor activities that Iceland has to offer. She has backpacked all over Iceland and she loves to inspire others to make a deep connection with the country during their travels...

The Midnight sun - one thing all travelers find enchanting about June in Iceland. The days get so long that no dark, starry night is observed. The light evenings help people unwind from the long Icelandic days and it’s one of the best times to visit the land of fire and ice! Icelanders embrace this time of the year with endless outdoor activities, while nature’s majesty brings back to life the vivid colors of the mountains and the exquisite skyscape of the Midnight Sun. We have some helpful tips for you to travel during the beautiful season.

midnight sun above church in vik in iceland

The Best Places to Visit During the Midnight Sun Season

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Southern Iceland is the first attraction on our list of the top four places to visit during the Midnight Sun. Accessible via a 1-hour and 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is a popular spot where visitors can watch the 60-meter waterfall plunge into a beautiful pond.  

midnight sun in iceland near seljalandsfoss waterfall

To add to the excitement, you can walk behind the waterfall into a cave to see the fall from a unique angle and watch the vibrant sunlight radiate through the cascade. Many tours will take you to the spectacular South Coast of Iceland, and most will likely stop at this waterfall on the way!  

Glymur Waterfall in Hvalfjörður is not far from Reykjavik and is another awesome spot to experience the Midnight Sun. It is set among the backdrop of an insanely beautiful fjord, where a large ocean inlet shapes the dramatic landscape. The waterfall is located at the top of a beautiful mountain where it drops 198 meters straight down to the bottom of the gorge. The higher the viewpoint you have from the top of the mountain, the better the view!  

an aerial view of glymur waterfall in iceland

From the peak, you can see Glymur waterfall tumbling down against the twilight of the Midnight Sun. To reach the highest point, you will take a moderate hike for about an hour and a half. As you climb up the steep, hilly area, you’ll pass a picturesque cave and stream. It’s worth the effort because you’ll be rewarded with an awesome view of the canyon and mountain below. Hiking to Glymur waterfall is a fantastic activity to add to your summer trip itinerary in Iceland!  

Whale watching during the Midnight Sun season is one of the best experiences you can have in Iceland. You’ll have the opportunity to get really close to the beautiful marine mammals!  

The increased daylight also increases the successful sighting rate! No matter where you are in Iceland, you are never too far from a whale watching tour company. There are multiple whale watching tours from Reykjavik Harbor. We highly recommend taking the RIB boat to whale watching as you have the chance to get much closer to whales! 

If you are in Akureyri, you are half an hour away from Dalvik, the whale watching capital in the north. The chances of spotting a whale from there in the summer are as high as 99.5%! 

a whale breaching with tail in iceland near a boat

If you are traveling to West Iceland, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula has several fabulous spots for you to go whale watching! Olafsvik is on your way from Kirkjufell to Snaefellsjokull glacier anwhale watching here can be a worthy detour in the middle of your trip. Whale watching from Grundarfjordur is another option. When you are in the Westfjords region make sure to visit Holmavik as it’s the most famous town for whale watching in the Northwest. 

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is absolutely stunning during the Midnight Sun. The bright night sky mirrored in the glacier meltwater creates an even more heavenly sceneAs the deepest natural lake in Iceland Jokulsarlon is a must-visit destination in the summer since there will be even more icebergs floating on the lake due to its seasonal calving fluctuation from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue.  

big icebergs floating in jokulsarlon at sunset in south iceland

If you are based in Reykjavik, it’s best to take a full-day trip to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and its vicinity. It’s at least 5-hour journey and there are so many attractions in between that you’d otherwise miss! A full-day trip can accommodate the perfect itinerary. Visit Jokulsarlon in the late afternoon or evening to truly appreciate the Midnight Sun. 

Iceland’s Events During the Midnight Sun Period 

Music is a key component of life in Iceland. Over the years, the island nation has cultivated many big stars like Bjork and rising talents like Of Monsters and Men. Not surprisingly, Iceland also hosts several world-renowned musical festivals each year. 

The Secret Solstice Music Festival, for example, takes place starting June 21. It is known as a “bucket-list event held during 96 hours of straight sunlight.” It’s the best opportunity to immerse yourself in live music. People from around the world flock to Iceland each year to enjoy all the live music, drinks, food, and party scene.  Every year, the fantastic line-up includes a set list of both established and emerging musicians. 

happy friends having drinks at a bar in reykjavik

In the summertime, the nightlife in Iceland is equally as entertaining. In previous summers, the success of the national Icelandic football team in the Euro Cup and the World Cup has captivated the country. Every bar in Reykjavik celebrates creating a fun and lively experience!  

There are plenty of recommended venues where you can take full advantage of the summer nights. Bíó Paradís is an independent cinema where you can watch Icelandic documentaries and short films. If you fancy a casual meal or a drink, the best place for a burger or an ice-cold beer is Lebowski Bar.  

The Midnight Sun: Top Things to Do in Iceland

Going For A Run

If you want to experience Iceland in a unique way and mingle with locals, going for a run can be an awesome activity. There are several running events held in June. 

  • Mýrdalshlaupið  The Mýrdals Race: the event is based in Vík, a photogenic town in Southern Iceland, where runners can enjoy beautiful views from the entire trail. 
  • Reykjavik Color Run: this race is as fun and entertaining as it sounds. The unique 5-km race involves a lot of rainbow-colored powder paint! First introduced to Iceland in 2015, the Color Run is one of the most popular activities both Icelanders and international travelers aspire to take part in. 
  • SUZUKI Midnight Sun Run: is a tradition which began in 1993, starting in Laugardalur in Reykjavik on the Summer Solstice. Runners can choose from half marathon (21.1 km), 10 km and 5 km races. 

Going For a Soak

Iceland has unlimited geothermal power thanks to its unique volcanic activity and you will find many locations with natural hot springs and geothermal swimming pools. The summertime is the perfect season to go for a soak in one of these geothermal hot spring spas. 

couple bathing in the blue lagoon in reykjanes peninsula
  • Blue Lagoon: The iconic spot is one of the wonders of the world. Visitors come here to soak in the therapeutic milky blue hot spring and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Its summer opening hours are very accommodating. From May 31 to June 27 it remains open until 11:00 p.m. and from June 28 to August 18 it closes at midnight. It’s one of the best places to experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland! 
  • Other geothermal hot spring spas and swimming pools include the Secret Lagoon near the famous Golden Circle, Krauma Geothermal Spa near the fabulous Silver Circle of Iceland and Reykjadalur Valley Natural Hot Spring. The one and only Bjorbodin Bear Spa is found near Akureyri and there are many, many more. Check out the tours that include natural hot springhere. 

Top Midnight Sun Season Tours in Iceland

Sightseeing Tours

field of lupines near kirkjufell mountain

Hiking Tours

  • Landmannalaugar Hiking Day Tour: use the never-ending daylight to hike on the most stunning landscape in Iceland and see the colors at their brightest. 
  • Laugavegur & Fimmvorduhals Multi-Day Trek – 6-Day Expeditionfor a more intense and extensive experience, this challenging but fun summer hiking expedition takes you to a famous volcano in Iceland among many other attractionsChoose your accommodation between huts and tents to enjoy the spectacular phenomenon of the Midnight Sun for six nights in a row!  
woman with camera hiking in icelandic highlands

Glacier Tours

couple posing in katla ice cave in iceland

How to Sleep During the Midnight Sun in Iceland

Many tourists travel to Iceland in the summertime and are amazed by the fact that there is daylight all through the night. As a result of the 24-hour daylight, the production of melatonin, (a hormone released to make you tired), is delayed, and your body doesn’t get the same time for bed signal it would get if it was dark. We have a few tips on how you can cope with the Midnight Sun in Iceland. 

woman with a sleeping mask in bed
  • Wear a sleeping mask that covers your eyes while you sleep. It’s the most obvious solution but possibly the most effective. 
  • At least two hours before bedtime, create a dark, sleep-friendly environment by closing your curtains and dimming the lights in your room as much as possible. Icelanders often use blackout curtains to help them deal with the outside light. 
  • Try to have a pillow propped up alongside your head to block out some light. 
  • While you are outdoors in Iceland during the summer be sure to wear sunglasses, even though you might feel the sun is not really shining. 
  • We can’t officially condone or deny this, but it’s been rumored that a sip of beer or brandy before going to bed is a big help! A tiny amount of alcohol reduces the initial amount of time needed to fall asleep. (Note that this is not a long-term solution, especially if you suffer from insomnia!). 

We hope you find these tips useful – the better you sleep, the happier you’ll be! 

Iceland’s Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice

Summer Solstice in Iceland

The Summer Solstice in Iceland is also called Jónsmessa and it originated from the birth of John the Baptist. It’s also known as Midsummer's Night. In Iceland, the official day for Iceland to celebrate the Summer Solstice falls on June 24. Although according to history it used to fall on June 21.  

Icelandic folklore gives a vivid depiction of this day, describing how cows gain the ability to talk, seals transform into humans and the idea that rolling naked on the dewy grass during the Midnight Sun is good for your health! It’s also said that if you sit all night at a road intersection, with all four roads leading to churches, elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts! 

On the day of the Summer Solstice in Iceland, the sun sets at 12:03 a.m. and rises at 2:56 a.m.  only a couple of hours later. The sky won’t get dark but does produce a few enchanting hours of mesmerizing twilight on the longest day of the year. 

Winter Solstice in Iceland

Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year in Iceland, as the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is positioned the furthest from the sun. In Reykjavik on December 21, the sun rises at 11:22 a.m. and sets at 3:29 p.m, with only a few hours of dim daylight in between. In the northernmost point of Iceland, Grimsey, the daylight is even shorter, as the sun rises at 12:04 p.m. and sets at 2:16 p.m., with a little bit more than two hours of dim daylight. 

Although the days are short, the color of the sky is entirely enchanting, and visiting Iceland in winter is fantastic because you get to hunt for Northern Lights!

bright northern lights at night in iceland

The Best Tours to See the Midnight Sun in Iceland 

Because June is one of the best months to visit Iceland, we have compiled a list of tours for you to make the most of your stay in this amazing country. 

What is the Midnight Sun?

The term “Midnight Sun” refers to a natural phenomenon that occurs north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle every summer. During the summer (and peaking in June), these areas experience a consecutive 24-hour span of sunlight. The sun is still visible from the Arctic Circle, as it hangs right above the horizon  even at its lowest point of the day. 

If there’s fair weather during the Summer Solstice (approximately June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and December 22 in the Southern Hemisphere), the sun is visible for the entire day  not one minute less. In each region, the number of Midnight Sun days per year depends on the proximity to either the North or South Pole. The closer to the pole, the more days of the Midnight Sun you will get. 

sunset above reykjavik city in iceland

Since there is no permanent human settlement on the Antarctic continent (besides science and research stations) the populated regions that actually experience the Midnight Sun are limited to the territory crossed by the Arctic Circle. The list includes Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greenland, Russia, Canada’s Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories, and Alaska of the United States. 

Why Does the Midnight Sun Occur?

It might be too simple to just say it’s because we are living on the amazing planet Earth! It takes 365 days or one year for the Earth to orbit the sun, while simultaneously the Earth rotates on its own axis to create what we know as a day. The two trajectories from the Earth’s rotation (the Celestial Equator) and its orbiting (the Ecliptic) form a 23.5° angle, giving us the four seasons, the Polar Nights, and the Midnight Sun.  

From the human point of view, the more north you live, the longer the sun will stay above the horizon in the days leading up to Summer Solstice. The North Pole and the South Pole demonstrate how this works, as both locations alternate between six months of the Midnight Sun and six months of the Polar Night.  

colourful orange sunset at jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

For example, from late March to late September on the North Pole the sun is constantly visible above the horizon. Meanwhile, if you are in between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer, you will have the sun directly overhead on June Solstice.  

Why does Iceland get the Midnight Sun?

Geographically speaking, Iceland is not located entirely inside the Arctic Circle. The mainland of Iceland is only a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle, with just its northernmost point straddling the Arctic Circle line. The line crosses the country's northernmost territory called Grímsey, a small but inhabited island that lies 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the north coast of Iceland. 

Generally speaking, if you are within the Arctic Circle during Iceland’s summer or from March to September, the sun is always above the horizon. You can see the sun spend the days rolling in circles up above you, gradually spiraling higher and higher until it reaches the highest point in the sky on June 21, the day of the Summer Solstice. 

The sun is not a fixed point, so because of the atmospheric refractions of the sunlight, the Midnight Sun can be experienced at latitudes slightly south of the Arctic Circle or north of the Antarctic Circle. The Arctic Polar Circle may be along the latitude of 66.56083° N but in practice, the Midnight Sun can actually be seen in regions as far as 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the Polar Circle, which includes the northern part of Iceland. The southernmost point of Iceland is Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westman Islands, located at 63.4377° N, which is about 346 kilometers away from the Arctic Circle. It’s still affected by the Midnight Sun, just to a lesser extent. 

enjoying the sunset view in thorsmork of iceland

This is the science behind the incredible Midnight Sun, which we are lucky enough to experience each and every summer in Iceland. Considering how the majority of the island falls outside of the circle, it’s pretty spectacular! 

Iceland is well connected to the rest of the world  especially to Europe and North America. If you want to experience the Midnight Sun, it’s easy to come and visit! 

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