Many imagining Iceland think of it as one of Europe’s ultimate winter destinations. And with its snowy landscapes, icy waterfalls and mesmerising Northern Lights, it certainly has much to offer in the colder months. But for the people of Iceland, summertime is the cause of much celebration, with ‘The First Day of Summer’ even being a national holiday. So if you’re struggling to decide when to book your trip, and want to know what the locals are so excited for, here’s why you should visit Iceland in summer.
You can experience the Midnight Sun
After the cold and dark days of winter, summer’s warmer temperatures and lighter days are welcomed by all. But thanks to Iceland’s position just below the Arctic Circle, this country’s summer nights are much shorter than most.
Between the 20th to 22nd June, Iceland’s summer solstice sees daylight last for almost 24 hours. As the longest day of the year, the sun sets just after midnight, before rising again as early as 3 am. So whilst winter may bring the Northern Lights, summer brings the Midnight Sun. And this kind of natural phenomena is equally as impressive.
It’s the season for wildlife
Whale watching is one of Iceland’s biggest draws and summer is the ideal season to go. From April to September over 20 species of Cetacea can be seen on either side of the island, including Humpbacks, Orca, Mink and the mighty Blue Whale.
Iceland’s coast is not only home to the world’s largest animal, but also one of the most unmistakable bird species. Between April to August every year, the Westman Islands are transformed into the largest puffin colony in the world. And if you visit in early August, you may be able to spot local families returning lost orange-beaked babies to the wild.
There’s plenty of summer festivals
Thanks to the late night sun, the summer months see Iceland’s festival scene come alive. Held over the summer solstice weekend, the renowned Secret Solstice draws both local and international crowds. The festival showcases established artists as well as up-and-coming talent over four days and was named one of the top festivals on Earth by Time Magazine.
Alongside its music festivals, Iceland hosts a number of other exciting and somewhat unusual summer events. For golfers there’s the Arctic Open, while for history lovers there’s the Viking Festival in Hafnarfjörður. The oldest event of its kind in Iceland, the festival sees demonstrations of various aspects of viking culture in an extraordinary celebration of Iceland’s Norse heritage.
More museums are open
Whilst there are some museums open year-round, many of the museums, visitor centres and art galleries outside of Reykjavik are only open during the summer. The Árnessýsla Heritage Museum for example, is only open from May to September. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Iceland, this folk museum displays artefacts relating to local life from the mid 19th-20th centuries.
Similarly, the Icelandic Wartime Museum only opens daily from June to August. Iceland was situated in a strategically important location during World War II and provided stations for British military personnel. The museum features diverse exhibits revealing how Icelandic life was touched by the war, with fascinating recordings of Icelanders and UK soldiers revealing their wartime stories.
The hiking is better
Alongside the obvious warmer temperatures, there are numerous perks of hiking Iceland in the summer. For one, as the days are longer there’s more time to explore. And with the daylight lasting until midnight, there’s certainly no need to worry about getting back before dark.
You’ll also be able to get much closer to Iceland’s breathtaking waterfalls. During the winter, the ground around them is often too frozen or slippery. However, in the summer months, it is far easier to get that perfect photo opportunity.
In addition, more hiking routes become accessible and you can join the Icelanders spending a night camping amongst the wilderness. Waking up to the sunrise over Iceland’s rugged fjords is one of the most memorable ways to start your day.
The country becomes more accessible
Whether on foot or by car, summer is the time to explore Iceland’s most untouched landscapes. Many minor roads, especially those in the mountains, are closed due to snow and ice from September to June. And the Central Highlands, including Landmannalaugar, are only accessible during the summer season.
But once the highland roads are open, it’s access all areas. The Hveravellir hot spring, Lakagígar craters and crater lake Víti are among the attractions you can only see in summer. However, the summer window can be as short as a few weeks, so be sure to time your Icelandic road trip well.
Feeling inspired to visit Iceland this summer? Check out our range of group tours.