Winter is wondrous, spring is sublime, but there’s nothing quite like Iceland in summer. If there isn’t a song about it, then there should be. While Iceland is wonderful at any time of the year, there’s so much about traveling here in the summer months that just ticks all the right boxes.
From the Midnight Sun and the milder weather to the wildlife and all the places you can see, as well as top driving itineraries and activities, we’ll be uncovering what makes summer in Iceland so special.
It can’t all be sweetness and light though, as there are a couple of downsides to summer travels. To prepare you for everything, we’ll look at these too, along with some tips and tricks on how to get around them. Here’s everything there is to know about a summer trip to Iceland.
The summer weather in Iceland
You can be sure about one thing: the weather in Iceland is always unpredictable. However, during the summer months (June-August), the island is at its most settled. This is when the temperatures are generally mild and there isn’t too much chance of snow, though you should still expect about nine to eleven days of precipitation during these months.
The good news is that the icy Arctic winds that alter the felt temperature considerably tend to calm down in summer. Visitors coming to Iceland in summer can expect temps that usually hover around 10-15 °C (50-59 °F), and up as high as 20-25 °C (68-77 °F) on rare occasion.
These are the typical average temperatures in Reykjavik during the summertime:
June average temperatures: High 54 ºF (12 ºC) | Low 44 ºF (6 ºC)
July average temperatures: High 57 ºF (14 ºC) | Low 48 ºF (9 ºC)
August average temperatures: High 56 ºF (13 ºC) | Low 47 ºF (8 ºC)
Regardless of what the temperature says, you’ll need to bring sunscreen and sunglasses with you as the sun’s rays are particularly strong this far up north.
The many implications of the Midnight Sun
One of the most wonderful things about a summer visit to Iceland is the Midnight Sun. It can be quite hard to get your head around the fact that the sun doesn’t actually set. For those who have yet to experience it, it may feel like quite an alien concept. But it’s true; at the height of summer the sun barely dips below the horizon.
This Midnight Sun shining in the sky has all sorts of implications, most of them positive. It basically means that you’ll have bountiful daylight hours to explore the wonders of Iceland to your heart’s content. Not to mention everything is easier in the light, from sightseeing, to hiking, to driving and setting up your camp.
So, instead of having to plan your hiking trips to be back before nightfall, you can happily hike until midnight! The same goes for driving. There will be no rush to make it to your next campsite before dark. With this luxury comes an added sense of ease. When you have all the time in the world, the pursuit of hurry is eliminated.
Photographers are also going to fall in love with the Midnight Sun- professional photographers and Insta amateurs alike. As mentioned, the sun spends quite a bit of time close to the horizon rather than sinking completely below it. This means that there is often an extended period of golden sunset light bathing the landscape. Trust us, it’s very pretty!
Road tripping in the summer months
The summer months are without a doubt the ultimate time of year for a road trip. Especially a road trip where you will be camping along the way. Tent camping is very much possible in the summer. But it’s definitely more convenient to camp in a camper van or a motorhome.
By renting a car for a road trip, you have a whole lot more time to play with. This is extra helpful if you are traveling in a group or planning on staying for more than just a week or so. You will also have the space to chill out in if the weather does decide to whip up a summer storm.
A summer road trip means an endless amount of possibilities and activities. For example, it is by far the best time of year to take on the full Ring Road route. Road tripping in the north and in the northern Westfjords is also a whole lot easier. It is possible to travel these routes at other times of year, but the summer makes it easier and more enjoyable.
There is also one road tripping opportunity that is only open to you in the summer months- exploring the Southern and Central Highlands. These regions are wild and inhospitable places with rough roads and river crossings to navigate. As soon as the snows come, access is promptly closed to all traffic.
Best things to do in Iceland in summer
So we’ve established that sightseeing, road tripping and camping are all great things to do in summer. From seeing the sights of the Golden Circle to traversing the more remote and hard to reach places, camping in summer is much more easeful with plenty of daylight hours and the milder weather.
One of the other benefits of a summer visit to Iceland is seeing the flora and fauna. You’ll find that the country is very green, with colorful flowers brightening up the villages. This is also the season when Iceland’s wildlife is at its busiest.
There is not a great deal of wild animal species in Iceland, but those that are here are a lot of fun to hang out with. Puffin colonies are particularly busy in the early summer months. Whole cliff faces come alive with activity as pairs of puffins lay their eggs and raise their young. Iceland is home to some of the largest puffin colonies in all of Europe.
The other summer visitors to Iceland are ocean bound. The sheltered waters around Iceland welcome many different species of whales in the summer. Taking a boat trip tour to see them is one of the highlights of a summer visit. While you’re out on the water, you’ll also likely see pods of dolphins and puffins diving for fish.
The summer is a very sociable time to be in Iceland. There are lots of other visitors for a start, and it is certainly the busiest time of year for tourists. So, the campsites will be swarming with fellow travelers to swap travel notes with.
Icelandic people also love socializing outdoors together during summer. This means that there is always a busy calendar of social events in the villages and towns. Expect to stumble upon town festivals and parades as you take your summer tour. Do a little research to time your visit around one of the big summer music festivals.
The downsides of summer in Iceland
To be honest, there aren’t that many downsides to visiting Iceland in summer. However, there are a few factors to consider that might influence your plans. We’ll run through them now with a few potential alternatives.
Summer is the busiest time of year
This means that many of the more popular sights get full fast. So, you will need to share these beauty spots with plenty of other visitors. You will also need to book restaurants and experiences like the Blue Lagoon well in advance, in addition to nailing down your campsites in certain areas. Therefore, a summer trip requires a bit more planning and a bit less spontaneity.
To avoid the crowds at the busier sights, such as the Golden Circle, we have a nifty workaround. The majority of tour groups will visit between about 10am and 5pm, so you can visit early in the morning or later in the evening to skip the line. Camping nearby makes this simple and easy to do.
The prices are highest in the summer
It follows that the busiest time of year will also command the highest prices. Campsites and vehicle hire as well as some other services carry a higher cost. There are lots of ways that you can travel in Iceland on a budget though; you might also consider visiting just outside of the summer season for the best of both worlds.
The Midnight Sun might keep you awake
It’s great having all those hours of daylight to explore in, but it can also disrupt your sleeping patterns. If you’re travelling with a young family, this can be especially tricky. Bringing eye masks for the whole crew is a simple solution though, as well as asking about black out blinds in your camper van hire.
You won’t get to see the Northern Lights
Sadly, there is no chance at all of seeing the Northern Lights during the summer. You need a perfectly dark sky to witness them and that will be nowhere to be found. But don’t worry, it just means that you’ll have to come back and visit Iceland again in the winter months. After all, you’ll be planning the next Iceland experience before the first one is even over.
What to pack for your summer visit
While packing for a summer trip to Iceland isn’t a big feat, the weather is still quite unpredictable and this requires a good range of clothing. Just think along the lines of layering and you’ll be all set. Here’s our summer essentials packing list:
Water and wind proof jacket with a hood
Waterproof trousers for hiking
Sturdy walking boots for hiking and sightseeing
Gloves, woolly hats and plenty of pairs of socks
Comfortable light trainers for walking in the towns and driving
Sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap or sun hat
Daypack rucksacks for hiking
Swimwear and a travel towel
Reusable water bottles
Thermos flasks for hiking
Some favorite hiking snacks
Your camera and related chargers
Your smartphone chargers
A penknife for camping (but remember to pack it in your hold luggage!)
A Bluetooth speaker for listening to tunes
Make the most of Iceland in summer!
If you are wondering what time of year is best for an Iceland escape, know that you can really enjoy the country throughout the year. Keep in mind, however, that some activities are only available in specific months of the year. For example, if you're traveling to see the Northern Lights, summer is not a good season, and you should consider visiting Iceland in spring.
Have you locked your rental car in already? This is the first step to planning the best summer adventure in The Land of Fire and Ice!