Summertime in Iceland is a magical time, a time for midnight sun, midsummer, bonfires and city-wide parades. As the winter snows thaw out, it’s the best time to travel the island and marvel at the sights. You can see locals out on the streets licking ice cream of all flavors. Many folks also take advantage of the sunny (but still cold!) weather to rent a summerhome for the weekend, or go camping out in the highlands. WIT Iceland Correspondent Wailana shares her tips for Summer on the Is-land.
Just remember that summer is the most popular! Hopefully by this time you have your hotel booked, because space is slim in Reykjavik!
Weather: Yes, technically it’s summer, but if weather in Iceland is anything, it’s unpredictable. Days go from rainy to sunny to overcast in a matter of minutes—so always bring layers! Heading out for a relaxing stroll on charming Laugavegur Street? Bring your windbreaker! Wear a sweater and long underwear or stockings. Or better yet: pick up a lopapeysa–a traditional Icelandic wool sweater–while you’re here. Don’t forget to pack a good pair of hiking boots, as the best of Iceland is out in the rugged countryside.
Don’t forget to bring:
– A Camera. Iceland’s landscapes is famously breathtaking and ridiculously photogenic. A standard DSLR will typically do, but if you’re a real photo-fiend pick up a tripod for moving objects like waterfalls or puffins. In June, the light never fully disappears from the sky—meaning all your photographer mates will love it here.
– If you intend to do any roadtripping, make sure you bring a map and GPS. If you have sprung for an international data plan, great—if not, pick up a paper map. The map should be updated to 2016 and show which roads are paved, as some of the rugged and gravel roads here are inaccessible to cars with two-wheel drive. It should also show locations for gas stations, as these can be a few hours’ apart.
– Pack your sunglasses and sunblock, to protect from the sun’s rays bouncing off the glaciers and snow. Don’t forget your swimsuit and towel too–hot springs and hot pots are all the rage in Iceland!
Explore the Outdoors: With 24 hours of daylight, summer in Iceland is all about the outdoors. Hills are green and lush, waterfalls are gushing, and the glacier lagoon breaks up into little spectacular pieces. The highlands are accessible, giving you access to less known and less touched parts of Iceland. Go trekking in remote Hornstrandir, or if you’re a bit more adventurous, do a multi-day hike in Landmannalaugar or Thorsmork Valley. This is also the best season for sea-fishing, puffin-spotting, whale-watching and horseback-riding. Whale season runs from April to September, so lookout for those humpbacks, minke whales, dolphins, porpoises and orcas—boats depart from both Reykjavik and Husavik. Fly a helicopter over to the Westman Isles—known for 1973 eruption of Eldfell Volcano, which led to the evacuation of the entire population to the mainland. You can still see buildings buried under ash!
Festivals: Summer in Iceland means festivals: with art exhibitions and street performances galore. Independence Day (June 17) means parades and face-paint and Midsummer (June 21) sees many private bonfires and a feast at Thingvellir led by the Icelandic pagan society. Don’t miss the Viking Festival in Hafnarfjordur, usually just before the summer solstice. Here you can munch on traditional foods like Icelandic pancake, and enjoy Viking-style jewelry, crafts, and staged battles. Other notable festivals are the Secret Solstice music event, the Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum on the Westman Islands, Eistnaflug rock and metal festival, Gay Pride Parade, and Menningarnótt or Culture Night in Reykjavik.