I just love summer in Iceland! I’ve only been to Iceland in summer and while I do understand the draw of visiting in other seasons, it is Icelandic summers that are most appealing to me and this is what has drawn me to return to Iceland.
Summer is the peak season in Iceland like it is for most of Europe. And normally, I try to avoid travelling in peak season because it tends to be the busiest and most expensive time. But Iceland is a special case. An exception.
I think Iceland is one of the rare places that I’d encourage people to visit during the peak summer months. Yes, it’s busier and yes, it might be more expensive, but it’s just so, so good in summer! The weather is mild and the days are long and light. And, even better than that: in summer, when the snow recedes, the Icelandic landscape reveals its true colours – vibrant greens, deep blacks, bright blues and even brooding reds.
In this post, I’ll set expectations of what you can expect in Iceland in summer, why it’s so good and I’ll give you 13 things to do which are best done or only possible in summer. I’ve also included some tips on what to pack for Iceland in summer.
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What To Expect In Iceland In Summer
First up, we need to set an expectation on how good the Icelandic summer weather gets.
It is of course the mildest weather you will get, and it’s the best time to camp or travel by camper van in Iceland. But you should know that even in the height of summer, it’s unlikely to feel warm in Iceland.
Sure, you might see Icelanders wearing shorts, but they tend to be a tougher bunch than most. On days I was with Icelanders in shorts, I was wearing jeans and a down jacket! In fact, I don’t think there was a day on either of my trips to Iceland, across June, July and August, that I didn’t wear my down jacket.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in Iceland in summer, by month.
Iceland In June
At A Glance
- Daylight hours: 21 hours
- Temperatures: 12 C (54 F) / 8 C (46 F)
- Rainfall: 2.1 inches
- Visitor numbers: 757k in 2022
- Festivals in June: Viking Festival – 2nd weekend in June in Hafnarfjorour; Icelandic National Day – 17 June; Secret Solstice music festival – around the summer solstice; Reykjavik Arts Festival – May or June.
What To Expect In Iceland In June
June is a great time to visit Iceland because the temperatures warm up and the snow recedes, but it’s quieter (in terms of visitors) than July and August.
It is the driest month in Iceland and also the lightest month, i.e. it has the longest hours of daylight (the summer solstice falls on 21 June). If you want that midnight sun experience, June is the month for you.
However, be aware that being the first month of summer, there can be more snow hanging around compared to later in the season.
During my first visit to Iceland, in June, I did find some places were still affected by snow in the first half of the month. For example, I had a plan to do a tour of the highlands in mid-June that had to be re-routed due to the roads not being as thawed as the tour company had anticipated when we booked it.
Iceland In July
At A Glance
- Daylight hours: 19 hours
- Temperatures: 14 C (57 F) / 9 C (49 F)
- Rainfall: 2.7 inches
- Visitor numbers: 1.15m in 2022
- Festivals in July: LungA Art Festival – mid-July in Seydisfjordur; Braedslan Music Festival – late July in Borgarfjordur Eystri
What To Expect In Iceland In July
July in Iceland is the warmest month, so if you really want to avoid the chill factor, July would be a good month to visit.
It’s also super popular with other travellers, though. When I arrived in July, I remember Reykjavik airport being chock-a-block with visitors!
For this reason, I would recommend booking things well in advance if you’re planning to visit Iceland in July. That includes car hire and accommodation, both of which can get snapped up quickly.
Iceland In August
At A Glance
- Daylight hours: 16 hours
- Temperatures: 13 C (55 F) / 8 C (47 F)
- Rainfall: 3.5 inches
- Visitor numbers: 1.1m in 2022
- Festivals in August: Verslunarmannahelgi – 1st Monday in August, in the Westman Islands; Dalvik Fiskidagurinn Mikli (The Great Fish Day) – 2nd Saturday in August, in Dalvik; Reykjavik Pride – 2nd week in August; Culture Night or “Menningarnott”, late August in Reykjavik.
What To Expect In Iceland In August
In Iceland in August, the daylight hours start to normalise, ie you get more hours of darkness at night.
In fact, I experienced sunsets in August in Iceland – which I didn’t see in either June or July. As much as the midnight sun is a novelty I wanted to experience, when I saw a sunset in Iceland, I realised I had missed them. Seeing the sky change colour at the end of the day is a special thing, after all.
Temperatures remain mild, but it’s also a bit wetter in August on average, so you might get more rain this month. Despite this, visitor numbers remain high in Iceland in August.
Weather info source: Tripsavvy. Visitor data source: Statista
13 Things To Do In Iceland In Summer
Here’s my personal list of 13 things to do in Iceland in summer, all of which can only be done in summer or they’re best done in summer.
1. Enjoy The Midnight Sun & Long Days
Unless you live in places which get midnight sun, it’s a strange thing to experience: it gets late, but the skies are still light. In fact, depending on how far north you are and the time of year, it might not get properly dark at all.
It can be disorienting because your body clock feels like it’s off, but it is also somehow liberating to have light so late into the evening. It presents options!
To my mind, this midnight sun phenomenon also means Iceland in summer can offer good value for money. Iceland gets popular in the summer months, so as you’d expect, demand pushes up prices for accommodation etc.
However, as I explained in my post on exploring Iceland on a budget, you can experience more each day during the long summer days, than you can in the short winter days.
For example, this photo of the magnificent Skogafoss waterfall was taken at 10:30 pm in early June, at the end of a day that had already included:
- A walk around Reykjavik
- Picking up a hire car & driving the entire Golden Circle route, including Thingvellir, Geyser, Gullfoss and Kerid.
- Stopping for food and to see an emergency doctor (I slammed my thumb in the car door, d’oh!)
- Driving to Skógar, checking in and having dinner
So you may well see more of Iceland during summer than you would the same period of time in winter.
2. See Iceland’s Landscape At Its Greenest Green
Oh, I love the vivid greens of Iceland’s summer landscape!
Iceland is named for ice and, of course, there is a lot of it year-round on mountain tops and in glaciers. In winter, the whole country is covered in a blanket of white, but as temperatures rise towards summer, the snow recedes to higher ground and Iceland’s landscape is revealed.
Some of that landscape is black or rocky, but there are belts of lush green, especially around the south coast of Iceland – and some of it is so vibrant, especially in the sunshine!
Here are some of my favourite spots to find gorgeous greens in Iceland in summer.
Seljalandsfoss is a spectacular waterfall in South Iceland that is special all year round because you can walk behind the fall (although it is slippery in parts, so be careful). I loved it in summer because the surrounding cliffs and grasslands were verdant to the point of almost glowing!
Foss a Síðu
Another waterfall, this time much smaller, but even more gorgeous, in my opinion. In summer, the grassy slopes around Foss a Síðu are wonderfully vibrant and the moss on the curved rocks is a complimentary softer tone. It’s a really idyllic spot ideal for a lunch stop if you’re driving the Ring Road.
I’m sure this epic fairy-tale-like canyon is very cool when it’s snowy, or clothed in autumnal colours, but I love it when it’s green. The colours at Fjaðrárgljúfur are slightly more muted, due to the softer green from the moss which covers much of the cliffside. There’s an easy path up onto the side of the canyon, but don’t be tempted to jump the fences, which are there to protect the delicate landscape.
Centuries back, Icelanders insulated their homes from the cold with turf, which was used to line the walls and roof. There are still some turf buildings remaining, including turf-roofed churches, like this one in the hamlet of Hof.
There is also a museum of turf houses in Glaumbær in North Iceland.
3. Boat Rides On Glacial Lagoons
The glacial lagoons of Iceland are right up there among the top attractions in Iceland, in my opinion. You can see them all year round, but if you go to Iceland in summer, a new opportunity opens up: boat rides on the lagoons to get close to the floating icebergs.
Jökulsárlón is the biggest, most spectacular and most popular glacial lagoon in Iceland. It’s super easy to visit because it reaches the Ring Road and there’s a car park right off the road.
You can wander the shore for free, which is a very cool thing to do. And during the warmer months, boat tours operate.
I did a Zodiac boat tour, which is available between May and October. These boats are small inflatable boats, which gives them agility and speed, so you can race around the lagoon, and nip in between the huge floating icebergs. My experience was amazing – I found it so exhilarating to be amongst these giant icebergs, which have been frozen for possibly a thousand years
There is also an amphibian boat, which is bigger and slower and operates between May and November.
Even though it’s summer, you’ll be suited up in a flotation suit before you board, as it would be no joke to fall into the cold water of the lagoon.
If you don’t fancy driving as far east as the glacial lakes, there are Jökulsárlón day trips from Reykjavik.
Fjallsárlón is another, smaller glacial lagoon, which seems less popular, but is just as special, in my opinion. It’s a short way off the Ring Road, followed by a short walk over the gravel moraines – and the sight of it is more than worth the minor effort to get there.
I have only wandered the shore at Fjallsárlón, which itself is a gorgeous thing to do. However, there are boat tours available from April to October.
For more info, read my post about five glacial lagoons you can visit in Iceland.
4. Walk The Black Sand Beaches At Their Blackest
One of my favourite features of Iceland is the black sand beaches. The contrast of the white surf against the black sand is stunning and the long, untouched beaches feel wild and free.
In winter, the beaches will be partially covered in snow, but in Iceland in summer, you’ll see the full expanse of blackness. And, while the wind can still be strong in summer, and there can be rain, the milder temperatures of summer will make it more pleasant to walk along them.
I’ve written a separate post about some of the best and easy-to-reach black sand beaches in Iceland, but I’ll just mention some of my favourites here briefly.
Reynisfjara is the poster child for black sand beaches in Iceland because it has several fascinating features and is also relatively easy to reach from Reykjavik.
First, it has these dramatic craggy sea stacks at the eastern end. Secondly, at that same end of the beach, there are hexagonal basalt rocks which form a shallow cave called Hálsanefshellir. And in summer, puffins nest in the cliffs, so you’ll probably see them flying around. And finally, at the western end, visible from Dyrhólaey, there’s another picturesque stack of rock called Arnardrangur.
The eastern end is a popular place, so come early in the morning if you want to have it (almost) to yourself.
And do pay attention to the signs warning you not to get too close to the waves: sneaker waves are common here and they can be fatal!
As well as Reynisfjara, from Dyrhólaey you can get an epic view of Solheimasandur and the black sand that stretches for miles westward. On wet days the sand is jet black and on dry days, you can see stripes of grey and black appear along the shore.
You can also get onto this black sand beach via a short hike from the car park for the Solheimasandur plane crash – there’s a rocky path across the gravel plains. It tends to be very quiet on the beach here, so it’s a good spot if you want to get away from the summer crowds.
Diamond Beach (Eystri-Fellsfjara)
This one rivals Reynisjfara as the most stunning black sand beach in Iceland. What makes Diamond Beach unique and what gave it its name is the remnants of icebergs that get strewn across the sand.
They come from the nearby Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon: icebergs wash out to see through a channel and then get tossed around by the ocean and some end up on the beach. The contrast of the blue and white chunks of ice with the black sand is quite something.
For more info, read my post on the best black sand beaches in Iceland.
5. Marvel At Powerful Waterfalls
There are some incredibly powerful waterfalls in Iceland. And if you’re in Iceland in summer, you’ll see them when the volume of water flowing through them is highest, due to the snow and glaciers melting.
Here are two of the most powerful and voluminous waterfalls in Iceland, whose energy took my breath away.
Gullfoss is a highlight of the Golden Circle, a circuitous driving route which brings you to several attractions in Iceland.
The falls occur in two steps and there is a path to get down to some rocks that the river bends around (so you’re surrounded by roaring water on three sides). In the second set of falls, the water disappears into a deep channel – and the power of the water here is amazing.
It gets very wet down in the viewing areas, so do bring your waterproofs!
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, based on its water flow and height.
The water seems to explode off the cliff edge rather than fall from it! Standing on the edge of the cliffs next to the falls, the noise and the energy is electrifying – I found myself involuntarily whooping into the din!
You can visit Dettifoss, which is one of the best things to do in North Iceland, from either the east or west side. The east side is said to have a better view across the full height of the falls, and is drier – but the track to reach the viewpoint is said to be quite pothole-y.
I went to the west side, which seemed more popular and slightly easier to reach. This side is wetter and therefore greener in summer, as it catches spray from the falls (so, again, wear your waterproofs, even on a sunny day).
For film fans, the beginning of the movie Prometheus used Dettifoss in the beginning of the film.
6. See Wonderful Wildlife
Iceland is teeming with life and you can see birds and animals all year round, including, of course, the gorgeous and hardy Icelandic horses. You’ll see these in fields along the roads all over Iceland in all seasons.
However, there are some species that you’re more likely to see in summer.
These gorgeous little birds are worth looking out for during summer in Iceland, even if you’re not particularly interested in birds in general. Their colourful bills and mournful eyes are so beautiful – and the flappy way they fly and dive for fish is really cute to watch.
Puffins are migratory and Atlantic Puffins arrive in Iceland between April and May and they stay until August. You can find them in many coastal areas and islands around Iceland. One of the easiest places to spot puffins (due to how easy it is to get to and also how easy it is to see birds there) is Dyrhólaey in South Iceland.
On my last visit, I saw so many of them, and some quite close to the path right by the lighthouse. They really are lovely little birds.
The water around Iceland is a great feeding ground for whales, with a high chance of seeing them if you take a boat trip. Tours tend to run in the summer months only and many offer a guarantee of seeing whales, such is their confidence.
The most common whales seen around Iceland are Minke whales, but many species of whales and cetaceans occupy the waters, including blue whales.
I took a whale-watching tour from Reykjavik on my first visit to Iceland and, while I didn’t get any photos, I saw several Minke whales from a distance and lots of dolphins. I also just loved being out on the sea, the cold sunlight glinting off the grey waves like they were made of mercury.
Arctic foxes are the only land animals native to Iceland. There are different species in Iceland: the white arctic fox, which is actually only white in winter when it snows (in summer, its fur turns brown) and the blue arctic fox, which keeps its brown fur year-round.
Arctic foxes are known to be most common in the Westfjords, one of the most remote and least populated areas of Iceland – so it’s not easy to see them, especially when the landscape and roads are covered in thick snow and ice.
However, in summer, the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavik Westfjord opens between May and September. They have an exhibition all about the arctic foxes and their website says they are rearing an arctic fox who was orphaned a few years ago.
Or, maybe you’ll get lucky like I did, and spot one elsewhere in Iceland. I saw two playful young foxes at Fjalladyrd in Möðrudalur in north-east Iceland. They were so gorgeous!
7. Take A Road Trip
During the winter months, snow and ice make driving in Iceland harder. Winter/studded tires are mandatory by law in Iceland from the 1st of November until the 15th of April and in extreme weather, you should follow local advice about whether roads are safe to drive at all.
And even with studded tires, you might find some roads you want to drive are closed during winter, specifically in the highlands of Iceland.
In summer, you have the best chance of being able to drive everywhere. Here are some of the ways to enjoy Iceland by road in the summer months:
The Ring Road
Iceland’s main road does a circular route around the island. Driving the Ring Road is one of the most exciting road trips in the world, taking you through geothermal areas and fjords; past craters and waterfalls; glaciers and glacial lagoons; craggy canyons, steep mountains and black sand beaches.
Check out my guide to driving the Ring Road of Iceland in the summer. It includes an itinerary for 7 or 10 days, plus tips on what to do, where to say and where to eat along the road.
The Golden Circle
This is a short driving route, which can be done in a day (or less). From Reykjavik, the circular(ish) Golden Circle route takes you to the following landmarks
- Thingvellir – the seat of Iceland’s parliament more than a thousand years ago and a place where you can see the ridges and fissures formed by the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates pulling apart. You can literally walk along one of the gullies between the plates! In summer, you can also go snorkelling in the lake and see the Silfra fissure under the water.
- Geyser – an area of geothermal activity resulting in several bubbling ponds and geysers, the most active and impressive of which is Strokkur, which goes off every 6-10 minutes.
- Gullfoss – the huge, powerful waterfall I mentioned earlier.
There are Golden Circle tours, or you can drive it independently.
Another popular driving route is in the west of Iceland, around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
This is one of the older areas of Iceland and has been called ‘Iceland in miniature’. This is because this relatively small area contains most of what we associate with Iceland: it has a volcano with an ice cap over it, craters, lava formations, black sand beaches and quaint little villages. It also has the unique mountain, Kirkjufell – known as the ‘witch’s hat mountain’ to my husband and me.
I have a post with a suggested driving route and things to do in the Snaefellsnes peninsula. You can also explore the peninsula on a Snaefellsnes Peninsula guided tour.
I haven’t driven in the Westfjords myself, but I do know that it’s possible to do so in summer. This is the most remote region of Iceland, known for its craggy fjords, wild beaches and abundant wildlife.
Super-Jeep Tours Of The Highlands
Now, even in summer, you should still be careful in the highlands, where some remote roads require you to drive through rivers – not something to undertake without the right car and guidance!
So, even though you could drive in these places, if you’re not experienced with this kind of off-roading, it might be better to have someone experienced tackle these challenging routes.
On my first trip to Iceland, my husband and I took a super-jeep tour of the Highlands. A super-jeep is a jeep with extra-big tires, basically, so it’s perfectly suited to rough terrain and river crossings.
Our super-jeep driver was able to navigate the gravel tracks and river crossing of the highlands with ease – and we saw some amazing sights including huge crater lakes, remote waterfalls and the rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar.
If you don’t want to drive yourself in Iceland, there are plenty of bus tours available from Reykjavik, including:
8. See Iceland’s Colourful Mountains
I mentioned the rhyolite mountains around the Landmannalaugar area of Iceland’s highlands earlier. These have a soft blend of colours, like they’ve been painted with watercolours: lots of warm tones, but occasionally reddish, yellow and splashes of green.
From what I can make out from reading up on it, the colours come from rhyolite being present in the magma of a volcanic eruption and a high level of acidity in the magma might be another factor.
If you want to see the full palette of colours in these mountains, you’ll need to come to Iceland in summer, when the snow retreats into patches, revealing the natural colour of the rocks beneath. Having clear skies and good light also helps reveal the colours in their full glory.
Possibly my favourite mountain in Iceland is Maelifell, a small volcano in the highlands, between the Mýrdalsjökull icecap and Landmannalaugar.
I’ve seen many photos of it in winter, and it’s gorgeous: this perfectly conical mountain poking up in a blanket of white.
However, in summer, my goodness, it’s breathtaking! The moss on the sides of the mountain almost glows green, and really stands out from the black gravel plains around it. It’s stunning!
It’s hard to get to, though – it’s on one of those tracks that are crossed by rivers, so you need a 4×4 or to take a tour (or to fly over it, like I did).
Another of my favourite mountains is Vestrahorn, in East Iceland. This steep, sharp mountain stands like a moody sentinel guarding Iceland from the ferocious sea.
I’m sure it’s striking in any season, but in summer when there’s no snow and the best chance of clear skies (fog is common in this region), it’s really something.
9. Enjoy Hot Springs (Without Freezing When You Get Out)
So, you can visit hot springs in Iceland all year round, but you might appreciate the relatively mild temperatures of summer when you get out. Cold air on wet skin can feel brutal! Whilst it is not exactly what I’d call ‘warm’ in Iceland in summer, the air will likely be less chilling that the rest of the year.
Now, full disclosure: I’m not into hot springs myself – I’ve been to a few in New Zealand, Budapest and Iceland, but they’re just not my thing. But I do, of course, know many people love to visit hot springs in Iceland, so here are a few to consider:
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is the biggest and best-known hot spring in Iceland. It’s a man-made pool containing seawater heated deep in the earth’s crust during the process of harnessing geothermal energy (Svartsengi geothermal power plant is nearby). The story goes that locals discovered the health benefits of the silica-rich water and not long afterwards, the spa was opened.
Most people seem to love this place. I thought it was only OK. I’d have preferred it if it was less crowded, with fewer people videoing themselves (and the rest of us). I also didn’t think it was hot enough for my liking – I guess some like it hotter than others, haha.
This pool in East Iceland is naturally heated. Vök Baths has three pools of different temperatures that are on the edge of a lake, so the views from the pool are really lovely and serene.
If you really want a truly natural hot spring experience, the hot spring at Landmannalaugar might be for you.
The only man-made thing is the boardwalk and steps that give access to the pool. Other than that, it’s just a naturally occurring hot spring that bubbles up from the volcanic ground and feeds into a marshy pool (complete plenty of plants and weeds in the water).
I’ve heard that temperatures can vary and you need to be careful because the source of the hot water can get too hot – it can be safer to sit a little way from the source where the hot water mingles with the cold water of the pool.
However, when I went, it didn’t seem very hot at all – the people in the water looked freezing! They were huddling around one spot that must have had the only source of warmth. For this reason, I decided not to join them!
10. Walk Around Black, Red & Blue Craters
OK, so we all know Iceland is volcanic – and there are a gazillion craters around the island. Well, walking up and around the rim of craters is a great thing to do in Iceland. And in summer, you get to see the rich variety of crater colours.
Here are a few of my favourite craters in Iceland (so far).
Hverfjall: this is a pretty big crater in North Iceland, which formed during an eruption 2500 years ago.
As you head eastwards towards the Myvatn area, which is fairly flat, the black sides of this crater loom large on the horizon. It’s not that big of a climb to get to the top of the ring, though: it’s only about 20 minutes’ climb up a gravel path on the side.
I love how dark and desolate the crater is: somehow it really conveyed the power and devastation of the eruption.
Red Instagram Craters
I don’t know the actual name of these craters in the highlands of Iceland. I only know them from dramatic drone shots that I’ve seen on Instagram, so I call them the ‘Red Instagram Craters’.
And, because they looked amazing on Instagram, when I had the chance to take a scenic flight over Iceland, I included them in my flying route.
I have to say, I think the Instagram drone photographers may have edited their photos a great deal because they’re not quite as blood-red and brooding as they look in previous photos I’d seen, but they were still pretty cool to see from the air.
Blue Crater Lakes
Viti – Another spectacular crater in North Iceland is Viti. It is part of the Krafla volcanic system and was formed 300 years ago. It has a stunning turquoise lake in the crater. It’s fairly easy to walk around the southern side of the crater rim.
Kerid – Often visited as part of the Golden Circle, Kerid is an easy crater to visit because it’s not very far from Reykjavik. It’s also small in size, so walking around the rim is easy. There’s also a path down to the edge of the crater lake, which is teal in colour.
Unlike the others I’ve mentioned here, Kerid has moss and plants growing on it, but you can still see the reddish tinge to the crater rim.
11. Stroll The Quaint Towns (Comfortably)
So, you can explore the towns and cities of Iceland any time of year, but in summer you have the best chance of mild weather, which means you can take it easier as you wander around. On the best Icelandic summer days, you might not even need a jacket!
My passion for Iceland is far more about the dramatic landscape than the urban areas, but even I acknowledge there are some quaint, pretty towns and cities around, including the following…
The capital of Iceland feels big when you drive through it – it is spread out over a relatively large area. But Reykjavik city centre is small and easily walkable. Follow my self-guided walking tour of Reykjavik to see the best of the city on foot, including the impressive Hallgrímskirkja church, the Sea Voyager sculpture and Harpa Concert Hall.
The ‘capital of the north’, Akureyri is on the coast of a fjord in North Iceland and has long been an important fishing town. If you’re in the area, stop by for some good food joints, and check out the traffic lights, which feature hearts on the red lights.
Seydisfjordur is a small town in the East Fjords and visiting it is one of the best things to do in East Iceland. It’s nestled in the base of a deep fjord and has its own microclimate. While the town is an important ferry port, the centrepiece for visitors tends to be its picturesque powder blue church with a rainbow street running up to it. Be warned: there will inevitably be TikTokers here.
This town in southeast Iceland is known for its great seafood. I tried langoustines in Höfn that were amazing! You also get surreal views here of the Vatnajökull icecap and its tributary glaciers, which flow down the sides of the mountains like white tongues.
Vík í Mýrdal
Famous for its black sand beach and troll-like sea stacks, the small south coast village of Vik has a strong pull for tourists in Iceland. So much so it can be hard to find affordable accommodation here, and the restaurants get busy during the peak summer season. It’s definitely worth stopping for at least a walk on the beach and a look at the pretty village church, though.
12. Hiking In Iceland
I’m not a big hiker, but I am aware that hiking opportunities open up in summer when the weather is kinder and the ground easier to walk over.
This is possibly the most popular multi-day hike in Iceland. Its route is only open during the summer months and it runs from Lanmannalaugar to Þórsmörk, which is a lush valley area.
I haven’t hiked Laugavegur, but someone I follow on Twitter is a bit of an expert on it, having worked as a warden on the trail for several years, so check her guide to preparing for Laugavegur.
There are various hiking routes at Skaftafell, which is part of the Vatnajökull National Park. I chose a short one that took me to the Skaftafellsjökull glacial lagoon, and there are others, including one to a well-known waterfall called Svartifoss.
Hiking is possible in winter, but there are limitations, so summer has the best options. There’s more info and maps at Skaftafell Visitor Centre.
Fimmvörðuháls is another hiking trail to Þórsmörk, this time starting south, at Skógafoss waterfall. It’s a day hike, but a challenging one (or so I’ve read – again, I haven’t hiked this route myself) and also only recommended during the summer season.
Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
A very easy hike, because it’s so flat, is the one you can take out to the plane wreck on the black gravel plains of Sólheimasandur, near Skogafoss. It’s one of the cool things to do in South Iceland.
I believe you can walk this route year-round, but I do also know two tourists died here one January, after getting caught out in a storm and not making it back to their car.
13. Iceland From Above
OK, so this one is not great if you’re exploring Iceland on a budget. But if you think the Icelandic landscape is gorgeous from the ground, believe me, it’s spec-tac-u-lar from the air!
You can fly year-round, but bad weather will ground your flight, so summer has the best window of opportunity for flight-seeing via small planes or helicopters.
Read more about the stunning sights you can see from an aerial sight-seeing flight, including one of the main reasons I wanted to do a scenic flight over Iceland: braided rivers.
What You Can’t Do In Iceland In Summer?
So, I’ve run through a bunch of stuff that is best to do in Iceland during the summer months, but you should know that there are some things you can’t do in Iceland in summer.
These include the following…
See The Northern Lights
With long light days in summer in Iceland is the Northern lights. These need a dark sky to be visible, so you would need to come to Iceland outside of summer to see them. I’m told between September and April is the best chance of seeing the northern lights.
Explore Ice Caves
As glaciers melt in the summer months, glistening, blue tunnels and caves can form in them. However, they’re generally not possible to visit in summer, due to being unstable and/or full of water. In the winter months, the meltwater freezes again, making the caves safer to visit and you can do guided tours into them.
I have seen some exceptions at Langjökull glacier though, where it seems you can visit ice caves all year-round.
Have Guaranteed Clear Views
Even in summer, with the best weather, it’s very common to get rain or foggy weather in Iceland. So, you should bear that in mind as you plan your trip. Be thankful for every clear view you get and roll with the punches if views get clouded over.
Iceland Summer Packing List
If you’re going to Iceland in the summer months, here are a few things I recommend taking:
- A good pair of walking boots. I used the same pair of Salomons hiking boots with Goretex that I bought for the Inca Trail, and they were great for Iceland.
- A warm coat. I can’t recommend one warm enough for winter, because I haven’t been to Iceland in winter. I went in June, and I chose a lightweight down jacket with a hood. And I was thankful for it every day!
- An eye mask for sleeping – with those light evenings and especially with the midnight sun in June, it won’t get very dark at night. You’d think accommodation everywhere would have blackout blinds, but I have been surprised how often this isn’t the case. So having an eye mask will create the darkness many of us need to sleep.
The Last Word
I hope I’ve inspired you about the wonderful things to do and see in Iceland during the summer months. I do think it’s worth going despite potentially higher prices and more visitors. Iceland is just so beautiful in summer!