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The Enlightening Guide to the Midnight Sun in Iceland

The midnight sun in Iceland is an experience we encourage everyone to have at some point in their lives. The tilt of the earth enables this experience every summer in Iceland, just as it makes the country darker in the winter. The summer solstice will be a good time to visit if you want to get the most out of the midnight sun in Iceland. Still, you will be able to have long, bright days and nights throughout the summer.


Going to Iceland is outstanding for a myriad of different reasons. The nature is stunning, the people are friendly, and even the smallest towns are incredibly energetic. Summer in Iceland is so great that not even the sun can stay away! The midnight sun in Iceland is nothing new to Icelanders, but it’s very fascinating to all visitors. So, we compiled all you need to know about this phenomenon below.


Midnight sun Iceland

What is the Midnight Sun?


When hearing the phrase “midnight sun”, it’s easy to think that the sun will be at its zenith in the middle of the night. Even though it would be an incredible experience, it’s not true, and we’re all happy it isn’t. The volatile Icelandic weather every season is enough to keep us on our toes.


Does Iceland really have 24 hours of daylight?


The short answer to this is both yes and no. The midnight sun in Iceland is the time in the summer when the sun goes just under the horizon for a while. That’s when it paints an incredible picture on the night sky, filling it with various shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple. This technically means that the sun does set in most parts of Iceland, even if it feels like it hasn’t.


Iceland, therefore, has 24 hours of daylight for a period in the summer, but it’s only because the sun provides some light, even if it isn’t technically “up”. The length of the period for when you can experience this depends on where you are in the country. Still, you will be able to catch the midnight sun in Iceland all over the island in the middle of summer.


Iceland summer solstice

How does the Midnight Sun Affect Humans?


If the case were that the Iceland sun never sets, most people would have a hard time living in Iceland because they can’t sleep at night. We have mechanisms in our body that make us sleepy when it’s dark, and alert when it’s bright. So, it doesn’t take an expert to reach the conclusion that bright nights will have an impact on most people in terms of sleeping rhythms.


To get around this, you can “fix” the abundance of light by using blinders or simply a sleeping mask whenever you want to get a proper night’s sleep. The midnight sun in Iceland can, however, also be used for good if you want to stay up late and have a nice summer night with friends and family.


Why Does Iceland Have 24-Hour Daylight?


To answer this, we will have to take this matter to astronomical heights. You see, the midnight sun in Iceland has to do with the tilt of the earth’s north and south poles and when they face the sun.


The northern part of the earth kind of “leans” towards the sun in the Northern Hemisphere’s summertime. This is actually why we have summer in the Northern Hemisphere this time of the year, and why the Icelandic summer is so enjoyable.


Basically, more sunlight and energy are being directed towards this part of the earth. As the North Pole leans towards the sun, it means that anything above the arctic circle will always face the sun. Therefore, this area will experience 24 hours of daylight.


This, in turn, means that areas of Greenland, Canada, the U.S., Russia, Norway, Finland, and Sweden will experience the same thing as Iceland. On the opposite side of the earth, the same thing happens in the Antarctic Circle in its summertime.


When is the Midnight Sun in Iceland?


As you might have guessed already, Iceland’s midnight sun occurs in the summertime. The daylight hours start to become longer after the winter solstice in December. Yet, it isn’t until the end of March that the daylight hours get longer than the night hours. Subsequently, the days start to get shorter after the Iceland summer solstice. However, the days don’t get shorter than the nights until somewhere at the end of September.


Iceland 24 hour darkness

The best time to visit Iceland if you want to experience the longest day on the island will be the summer solstice on June 22nd. Of course, plus/minus a day or two depending on the year.


Iceland Midnight Sun Dates


Depending on where you are in Iceland, you will have different periods with midnight sun. The farther north you are, the earlier the midnight sun in Iceland will come, and the farther south you are, the later it will come.


If you hang around Reykjavík, you’ll have daylight for about 20 hours per day between the end of May and the middle of August. In June and July, you can expect to have about 22 hours of daylight per day, with the nights being lit up by the strong sunbeams from the horizon.


Where the Iceland Sun Never Sets


If you go to Grímsey Island (the northernmost island in Iceland) you will actually have a literal 24 hours of sunlight. That's because the island is far enough north for the sun not to set for almost an entire month.


Grímsey is the best place to see the midnight sun in Iceland. If you want to experience the true midnight sun. Just be sure to go there at the end of June and check your Iceland packing list for warm clothes. It will be chilly since it’s so far north.


How to Experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland


So, just standing outside and admiring the fact that it’s 1 am, and it’s as bright as day is fun for a couple of minutes, but you will grow tired of it quickly.


Icelanders are very well aware of the fact that people come to experience the midnight sun in Iceland in various ways. Hence, they make sure to keep plenty of fun things open for visitors to enjoy at night. The famous Blue Lagoon under the midnight sun, for example, is something we really recommend if you want to experience it in some form of serenity.


Iceland blue lagoon midnight sun

The most popular thing to do is to simply combine any event with an Iceland midnight sun tour. Most of these tours will be more or less the same as in the middle of the day. The difference is that you might be a bit tired, and you’ll experience the attractions in more colorful lighting. Some popular things to do in Iceland include:

Apart from that, there are some special events that take place in the summer just to take advantage of the unusual light.


The Iceland midnight sun run is a great example of this. If you are sporty, we suggest coming for the summer solstice in Iceland and participating in this run. You can pick the distance you prefer, as the event includes a 5 Km race, a 10 Km race and a half-marathon, while if you'd like to run all 42 kilometers, you'll have to wait until August, when the Reykjavík Marathon takes place.


Another great example is Secret Solstice Festival – one of the most popular music festivals in Iceland, where people come together to celebrate the midnight sun. The lineup at this festival always includes big names from a bunch of different genres, from hip hop and rock, to EDM and pop. Headliners in the last editions featured global stars like Rita Ora, Patti Smith, The Black Eyed Peas and Cypress Hills.


The Opposite of Midnight Sun in Iceland


The midnight sun in Iceland is, undoubtedly, a remarkable thing to experience. Now, if you want to experience the absolute opposite, we suggest coming here in the winter for the Iceland 24-hour darkness. The same prerequisites apply, but just the opposite. In the wintertime, large parts of Iceland will be dark for up to 22 hours a day, since the North Pole will be “facing away” from the sun.


Luckily, you won’t have to live with something like a 24-hour night. The sun will still shine some light that will reach over the horizon around midday, even in Grímsey. Just like the midnight sun in Iceland comes with vibrant energy, the darkness in the winter comes with a sense of calm that invites you to sit by the fire watching the northern lights in a cabin with a cup of hot cocoa and cookies.


Iceland dark all day: Northern Lights

Wrapping Up: The Midnight Sun in Iceland


Just to summarize the most important parts of this:

  • How long is the midnight sun in Iceland?

Between the end of May and the middle of August. A little longer in the north.

  • How long does Iceland have 24-hour daylight?

For an entire month on Grímsey, and a couple of days in the southern part of Iceland.

  • Is Iceland dark all day in the winter?

In the northernmost parts of Iceland, you might have only 2 hours of daylight in the winter. But it will never be completely dark for a 24-hour period.


Be In Charge of Your Own Midnight Sun Trip


Knowing everything about the midnight sun in Iceland now, you are sure to be in the mood to visit the many attractions on the island! You can now see how they bask in the strange night light. Rent a car in Iceland to take you wherever you want to go to experience the midnight sun in Iceland. Make sure to pack sunglasses, though, as you will be driving off into the sunset – or, at least, just for a second.

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