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Summer in Iceland: Top 10 Things to Do

Activities That Will Help You Make The Most Out Of Your Iceland Summer Trip

|November 16, 2020
Vita has hiked glaciers in Alaska, climbed fourteeners in Colorado and is all about sharing her stories and promoting responsible tourism. These days she is often wandering the streets of Vilnius with a film camera in her hand or reading.

Summers in Iceland are about as good as it gets. The pleasant weather allows you to explore every corner of the country, which is why summer is the high season. Are you planning a summer trip to Iceland? Great!

Man Standing Near Godafoss Waterfall Iceland Akureyri Summer

No one knows what the summer of 2021 will bring. But it’s always best to hope for the best. For those of you who are eagerly planning their summer vacation to Iceland, this list of the top 10 things to do will inspire you to plan an incredible trip 

1. See Puffins, the Cutest Birds Out There

Puffin Flying Wildlife Birdwatching Iceland

There’s no question that puffins will steal your heart. Their name and their looks go togetherThey were named puffins because of how puffy they look with their thick feathers. Does it get any cuter than that? 

During the best part of the year, puffins are out at sea, floating on waves and fishing. They can be spotted from April to September when they come to shore to mate and bear their little offspring.  

Join a puffin-watching tour and visit spots where puffins nest with professional guides. You’ll get to see them flap their little wings, dive into the ocean, and learn fun facts about this incredibly adorable bird species.

2. Go on a Road Trip

Girl Looking At The Map Of Iceland Road Trip

Clear skies, long days and warm weather – the summertime is simply perfect for a road trip around Iceland. Rent a car and circle the island making as many stops as you want 

People say that driving around Iceland is like exploring a whole new planet. The landscapes change in the blink of an eye! You’ll discover glaciers bordering pitch black lava fields, multi-colored mountains with steam coming from the ground, bubbling hot springs and ice-cold rivers as well as the occasional volcano. 

3. Hit a Local Swimming Pool

Relaxing Friend In Swimming Pool in Iceland

Pack your swimsuit to the land of ice! If a town has at least 200 people living in it, there is a high chance you’ll find a swimming pool there. And because Iceland has abundant resources of geothermal power, the outdoor pools are always warm and teeming with locals excited for a relaxing summer afternoon swim. 

Icelanders take the hygiene of their community pools seriously. Make sure you shower before and after entering the pool without your swimsuit and don’t wear your shoes in the changing room.  

4. Go Camping

Camping Sunset South Coast

There is nothing like experiencing Iceland’s nature during the summer, and there is no better way to do it than camping. Pack up your gear, lace up your hiking boots and go exploring!  

Be prepared for challenges though, as the rapidly changing terrain and weather in Iceland might grant you some surprises. Make sure your tent is waterproof, pack rain gear and don’t underestimate how cold the nights get!  

It goes without saying that it’s important to protect nature in Iceland, so only camp in designated spots. 

Tip: Instead of packing a bunch of bottled water, google how clean the water is in the area you’re going to explore. Chances are you’ll be perfectly fine bringing your reusable water bottle and refilling it in the natural springs!  

5. Hike Laugavegur

Female Hiker Laugavegur Trial Iceland Autumn in iceland

Laugavegur trail is on National Geographic’s list of the top 20 hiking trails in the world. This alone should be enough to convince you how incredible of an experience this hike is.  

If not, here is a run-through: You’ll encounter multicolored mountains, otherworldly fields of lava obsidian, lush valleys, bubbling hot springs and many more fascinating natural phenomena along the way!  

Stretching for 34 miles (55 km), this hike is only possible during the summer as winter conditions can get too challenging. For the sake of convenience, consider a guided Laugavegur trekking tour and take the weight of planning and navigating off your shoulders! 

6. Witness the Midnight Sun

Thorsmork Hiking Sun Evening Sunset Sunrise

The wintertime in Iceland sees no sun but the summers are the complete opposite! Iceland is one of the few places in the world where your summer day does not need to end because it simply never gets dark.  

Days are long from May to August, but the Midnight Sun peaks around June 21, right when Summer Solstice happens. This is the day when you can see the sun hanging right above the horizon, and it’s a pretty fascinating sight. 

7. Party at a Festival

Videyjarstofa Viking Festival Summer

Summers are when Iceland’s cultural life bloomsNumerous music festivals, such as Aldrei fór ég suður (I Never Went South), feature performers from all over Iceland, as well as foreign countries, and draw big crowds.  

Foodies are bound to lose their minds over Höfn Lobster Festival, which is held toward the end of June. Those fascinated by the sea in general have a chance to stop at any fishing village and take part in the festivities of Sjómannadagur, a day dedicated to celebrating the role fishermen played in the development of Iceland’s unique culture and strong economy.  

There are also booming art festivals with an emphasis on the Reyjkavik Art Festival. Active since the 1970s, it attracts performers and art lovers from all over the world and has a distinct Icelandic spirit to it. It’s not your average art festival. The performances and installations are spread out all over the city and appear in the most unconventional places, such as the sides of buildings and bus stops. 

The bottom line is  there is a summer festival to suit everyone’s taste and you must visit at least one if you get a chance. 

8. Relax in a Hot Spring

Happy Woman Bathing Geothermal River Hveragerdi in Iceland

One of the many things that make Iceland a top-tier destination is the possibility to soak in a natural hot spring. Combine the health benefits – such as improved blood circulation and pain relief – with that incredibly relaxing feeling of submerging your body in hot water and you have the perfect spa day. And a lot of times the experience can take place in nature and for very cheap! 

If you’re visiting Iceland during the summer, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience its top hot springs. From tiny and secluded ones, such as Landbrotalaug and Hrunalaug, to those that have turned into massive tourist attractions, such as the Blue Lagoon and Hvammsvík, Iceland has a hot spring for everyone’s taste.

9. See Lupine Fields

Lupines Near Reykjavik Sunny Summer Colourful Flowers in Iceland

Just imagine a sea of blue and purple blossoms stretching as far as the eye can see and covering fields and hillsides. That’s exactly what happens in Iceland during the summer, when lupine fields start blooming.  

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight and every landscape photographers dreamSome of the more fascinating lupine fields can be found around the village of Vik, the areas surrounding Skeiðará River and East Iceland. 

10. Try Some Top-Notch Street Food

Icelandic Hot Dogs

During the summer, the streets of Reykjavik come alive. Street food is one reason to immerse yourself in the buzzing capital life! Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur is a hot dog stand you simply can’t miss out on. Not only is the Icelandic hot dog a must-try for anyone looking to experience how diverse Icelandic cuisine is, this particular stand has gained popularity all over the world because they are so good! 

As for foreign delicacies, you’ll find food stands and trucks serving everything from delicious bao buns to (beware!) fermented shark bites. 

Iceland Summer Travel: Weather, Activities and Tavel Tips

Here is what you need to know about summers in Iceland to ensure you enjoy your trip to the fullest:

3 things you don’t want to forget about summers in Iceland

Planning Travel Road Trip Holidays Vacation in Iceland

There are three crucial things to note about Iceland if you travel there during the summer. Remember them, otherwise, your trip might not turn out as wonderful as you imagined:

  • Plan and book everything in advance. Saying that summer is the high season in Iceland is no exaggeration. Make reservations and book hotels, tours, car rentals and any gear way ahead of time. Otherwise, you might not like the few options that you’ll be left with.

  • Be prepared for never-ending daylight. If you have trouble adjusting to time zones or sleeping, be prepared that your trip to Iceland will be challenging. Many find it difficult to sleep when it’s always light outside, and the adjustment period might last longer than your vacation.

  • Be ready for the weather to surprise you. Most of us think that summer equals tank tops and flip flops. Summers in Iceland are completely unpredictable, so if you don’t bring warm layers and a raincoat, you might live to regret it. 

Be prepared for the weather

Rainy Day Sad Man Walking In A City in Iceland

Weather is a big topic in Iceland, so let’s give it some more attention. 

Summers in Iceland are generally pleasantly mild. The average temperature is 10-15 °C (50-59 °F), so a light coat is necessary. But don’t be too surprised if you get treated to days as warm as 25 °C (77 °F). 

Do not underestimate the rain though. If it catches you and you’re unprepared, you can get soaked in no time. And that’s no fun! Always carry a raincoat with you, preferably one that can also serve as a windbreaker.  

This one might sound counter-intuitive – you are traveling to Iceland – but bring sunscreen and wear it daily! You might not feel it on your skin, but the sun can get intense in Iceland and there is a lot of it during the summer. It’s best to stay on the safe side. 

Things you won’t get to do in Iceland during the summer

Vatnajokull Glacier Ice Cave Northern Lights South Coast in Iceland

Remember, each season has its ups and downs. While the summertime opens more doors to experience Iceland’s vibrant cultural life and nature trails, some activities should be crossed off your bucket list if you’re planning a summer trip to Iceland.  

Don’t be disappointed though, there aren’t too many. Here is a short list: 

  • The Northern Lights – unfortunately, if you’re visiting Iceland during the summer, aurora borealis is off the table. Since darkness is a crucial condition for a successful Northern Lights hunt, and it almost never gets dark during the summer months, you won’t get to see this natural phenomenon. Consider an alternative and visit Aurora Reykjavik for some fascinating Northern Lights displays and some interactive exhibitions. 

  • Ice Caves – while you can access some large ice caves and the largest man-made ice tunnel,  most ice cave tours operate only in winter.  

Packing tips

Packing For Iceland Warm Clothes Suitcase Holiday
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses – will serve you well during any outdoor activity. 
  • Swimsuit – you'll want something to change into when you discover how many natural hot springs and community pools there are in Iceland. 
  • Warm clothing – even if you get lucky and the days are unusually warm during your trip, evenings will get chilly. 
  • Hiking boots – everyone wears them in Iceland, sometimes even during a casual evening out in Reykjavik. Having them in your suitcase is simply necessary.

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