Iceland is a stunning country at any time of the year! However, there are certain activities and events unique to the summer in Iceland. When the warmer weather and longer days arrive, there’s plenty of time for hiking and lounging in geothermal springs and hot pools. Also, you’ll enjoy unrestricted access to sandy beaches and West Fjords. Here are some insider tips on what to do in summer in Iceland.
Summer is the best time of year to travel around Iceland, and there’s one major ring-road navigating the entire island – Route 1. Along this route, you can stop at cascading waterfalls, trek in the mountains and glaciers (yes, they are still present in summer!), and venture to beaches and fjords. Some highlights include a walk to Fjadrargljufur Canyon. with its volcanic craters and lava fields, and a leisurely hike to Gullfoss Waterfall. Make sure to visit Borganes for its museums, coastal hiking, whale watching, and hot springs.
Iceland boasts one of the largest puffin colonies in the entire world! Summer is the perfect time to spot these playful creatures – especially around the West Fjords. Over 85 species of birds are seen regularly on the island, including the arctic tern, tufted duck, and common eider. For wildlife enthusiasts, a trip to the countryside to admire majestic Icelandic horses is a must. These diminutive horses are curious and intelligent in their mannerisms. They were once used to transport farm produce to trading posts throughout Iceland, but today, they graciously offer spectacular horseback riding opportunities across scenic landscapes. If you’re heading to East Iceland, adventurers can spot wild reindeer herds during the summer. To the north of the island, whale watching is a popular pastime, either from the shore or via boat trip.
Hike the Highlands
Iceland has challenging landscapes that appeal to hiking enthusiasts of varying levels. All regions offer unique trails for beginners, intermediates, and seasoned hikers alike. Laugavegur is a popular destination in the southern highlands, and takes between 3-5 days to traverse. The scenery is spectacular – with lava fields, volcanoes, glaciers, forests, and natural hot springs to navigate along the way. If you’re planning a longer hike, the Iceland Tourist Board offers mountain huts to stay in throughout your journey. There are also plenty of shorter hikes available, like the other-worldly Hverfjall Crater Rim Trail, the desolate Landmannalaugar Loop, and the scenic Thorsmork Panorama.
Iceland’s summer festivals take place all across the island, ranging from electronic and folk music to horse conventions, Viking festivals, and culture weeks. There are a few events that shouldn’t be missed if you spend the summer in Iceland. During the month of May, the northern town of Akureyri showcases a festival of Iceland’s finest dancers and folk musicians. In June, Hafnarfjörður hosts a 4-day long Viking festival in Víðistaðatún Park. It’s the perfect place to procure Viking inspired jewelry, swords and leather goods. The town feasts on spit-roasted meats and they dance, tell stories and recreate life as it was during the reign of the Vikings. During July, the capital of Reykjavik springs to life with a celebration of all art forms at the Reykjavik Fringe Festival. Visitors can experience everything from magic and burlesque dancing to circus acts, comedy, and theater performances.
Visit West Fjords
Iceland is a magical destination to visit during summer. The midnight sun bathes the island in almost 21 hours of daylight, allowing access to areas you can’t get to in the winter. The West Fjords are the perfect summer escape with deserted sandy beaches, abundant bird life, and thermal pools and springs. Venture to Hornbjarg, a picturesque trail where emerald clifftops jut out into the sea, or hike to the Dynjandi waterfalls with a picnic. The main town in West Fjords is the old trading port of Ísafjörður. The 16th century town hosts some of the best traditional summer festivals in Iceland, along with myriad outdoor activities including golf, hiking, biking, kayaking, and horse riding.
Heat Things Up
At least one day of your trip to Iceland should be spent relaxing in one of the country’s iconic hot springs. Iceland boasts some of the world’s most beautiful geothermal locations consisting of lakes, rivers, and pools – which tourists can visit daily. Spend a day immersing yourself in the great outdoors surrounded by mountains in a hot spring river. Or plunge into a steaming lake then enjoy spa treatments at one of Iceland’s premier spa destinations – such as the Blue Lagoon.
Step into the Screen
Most fans of the hit TV show Game of Thrones know that much of the show’s footage was shot on location in Iceland. Locals love to show fans the filming locations on dedicated tours, but you can also make your own tour. Head to Grjótagjá cave to see where Jon Snow and Ygritte’s scenes were filmed, or venture to Svínafellsjökull glacier and Thingvellir National Park for beyond The Wall scenes. The lava fields of Dimmuborgir were used in Season 3 as the site of Mance Rayder’s wildling camp, and several locations around Akureyri and Lake Myvatn will also be familiar to show fanatics.
Go to Elf School
Icelandic people believe in elves, fairies, trolls, and gnomes. In fact, there’s even a map showing where these hidden creatures live throughout Iceland. If you want to know more about the country’s fascinating traditions and folk tales head to Reykjavik’s Elf School. Open year-round, the school offers tours and classroom sessions where tutors tell folkloric tales sure to stay with you long after your holiday.