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Summers in Iceland – embracing the heat in the land of fire and ice

The complete guide to Icelandic summer

What is summer in Iceland like? Unveil the allure of Icelandic summers, where locals savour the extended days and milder temperatures. This engaging guide will provide you with an insider’s perspective on Icelanders’ favourite summer pastimes, enabling you to experience the season like a local.
Guide summer Iceland

When does summer arrive in Iceland, and what can you expect from the weather?

Summer in Iceland typically runs from June to August, with average temperatures ranging between 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). As the season progresses, you’ll have the opportunity to bask in endless daylight, thanks to the Midnight Sun. This natural phenomenon gifts up to 24 hours of daylight in the northern parts of Iceland around the summer solstice.

It’s essential to prepare for the ever-changing Icelandic weather by dressing in layers and packing versatile clothing. Rain showers can come and go quickly, and the temperature may fluctuate throughout the day, so be ready to adapt to the shifting conditions.

Guide summer Iceland
Sky Lagoon Reykjavík Iceland hot spring thermal bath

What are the best outdoor activities during Icelandic summers?

Locals love spending time outdoors, and the summer months offer plenty of opportunities for adventure. Hiking and exploring Iceland’s natural beauty top the list, as the warmer weather makes it an ideal time to conquer breathtaking trails. Popular hiking destinations include Landmannalaugar, known for its colourful rhyolite mountains, and the striking landscapes of Þórsmörk.

Horseback riding is another popular activity, allowing you to experience the unique Icelandic horse culture firsthand. The Icelandic horse, a breed known for its strength, resilience, and unique tölt gait, is deeply rooted in the country’s history. Organized riding tours are available throughout the country, offering riders of all skill levels the chance to bond with these remarkable animals.

Fishing and angling in rivers and lakes are beloved pastimes, with locals taking advantage of the abundant salmon, trout and Arctic char populations. Fishing permits are required, but visitors can join guided fishing tours to make the most of their experience.

Whale-watching and puffin spotting make for unforgettable experiences, with the summer months being the prime time for sightings. Whale-watching tours are available in various coastal towns, such as Húsavík and Reykjavík. Meanwhile, puffin colonies can be found in locations like the Westman Islands, Látrabjarg Cliffs and Papey Island.

Finally, don’t forget to unwind in outdoor swimming pools and geothermal hot springs, which can be found throughout the country. Iceland’s abundance of geothermal energy means that these warm and relaxing pools are open year-round, offering locals and visitors alike the chance to soak in stunning surroundings. Read our article on Iceland’s best hot springs and thermal baths.

Lunga Seyðisfjörður Iceland art festival

How do Icelanders celebrate traditional summer events?

Icelandic summers are filled with lively events and festivals that locals love to participate in. National Day, or Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, is celebrated on June 17th, commemorating the country’s independence. Parades, concerts and various festivities take place across the country, with Reykjavik hosting the largest celebrations.

Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, is another significant occasion, with locals gathering to mark the event through various traditions and festivities. Bonfires, outdoor concerts and late-night gatherings are common, as people enjoy the magical atmosphere created by the Midnight Sun.

Music and arts festivals are also a popular part of the Icelandic summer experience. Events like Secret Solstice music festival in Reykjavik, LungA art festival in Seyðisfjörður and Eistnaflug heavy metal festival in Neskaupstaður bring together both locals and international visitors to enjoy a diverse range of music genres, workshops and performances.

Brautarholt Iceland golf course

What sports do locals enjoy during the summer months?

Icelanders are passionate about sports and summer offers ample opportunities to engage in various activities. Soccer is immensely popular, with the Icelandic soccer league, Úrvalsdeild, in full swing during the summer months. Locals often attend matches to support their favourite teams and revel in the excitement of the games.

Golfing is another cherished summer pastime, with golf courses scattered throughout the country. Golfers have the unique opportunity to tee off under the Midnight Sun, making for a memorable experience on Iceland’s stunning greens.

Trail running and mountain biking are also popular activities, with locals taking advantage of the beautiful terrain and favourable weather. Numerous trails are available for all skill levels, from leisurely runs through scenic landscapes to challenging routes that test one’s endurance.

Guide summer Iceland
Guide summer Iceland

How do locals take advantage of the longer daylight hours?

Icelanders are no strangers to making the most of the Midnight Sun and the longer daylight hours open up a world of possibilities for outdoor activities and gatherings. Midnight Sun hikes offer a unique way to explore the country’s enchanting landscapes under the ethereal glow of near-constant daylight.

BBQs and picnics are also popular during the summer months, with friends and families coming together in parks and green spaces to savour the warmth and share delicious food. Camping is another favourite pastime, allowing locals to immerse themselves in Iceland’s diverse landscapes, from verdant valleys to rugged coastlines.

Hangikjöt Iceland cuisine food

What are the best summer foods and drinks to try in Iceland?

Summer in Iceland brings a variety of delicious seasonal dishes and beverages to sample. Traditional Icelandic summer foods include “hangikjöt” (smoked lamb) and “plokkfiskur” (a fish stew made from boiled cod or haddock, mixed with potatoes and béchamel sauce). Fresh seafood is abundant during the summer months, with specialities like langoustines, Arctic char and Atlantic salmon on the menu at many restaurants.

Local beverages to try during the summer include Icelandic beers and “bjórlíki”, a beer-like concoction made from non-alcoholic beer and spirits. Don’t forget to sample the famous Icelandic schnapps, “brennivín”, which is often enjoyed chilled or mixed into cocktails.

Gullfoss Iceland travel guide
Sky Lagoon Reykjavík Iceland hot spring thermal bath

What are the top geographic locations favoured by locals during summer?

Icelanders appreciate the beauty of their country and often venture out to explore its stunning landscapes. Some of the most beloved summer destinations include the Golden Circle, which features Þingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall.

The southern Suðurland region is also popular, with landmarks such as Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Reynisfjara black sand beach, and the charming village of Vík.

The Vestfirðir peninsula, in the west, is home to the awe-inspiring Dynjandi Waterfall, Látrabjarg Cliffs (a popular puffin nesting site), and Rauðasandur Beach with its unique red sands.

In Austurland, to the east, you can explore picturesque Seyðisfjörður, visit Petra’s Stone Collection in Stöðvarfjörður and spot puffins at Borgarfjörður Eystri.

Northern Iceland – regions Norðurland Vestra and Norðurland Eystra – boasts attractions such as Akureyri, Lake Mývatn and Húsavík, a prime whale-watching location. Lastly, the Highlands offer remote and rugged landscapes like Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk and Kerlingarfjöll, drawing visitors in search of adventure and natural beauty.

Harpa Concert Hall Reykjavík Iceland architecture

How do locals enjoy summer in the city?

Summer in Reykjavík, Akureyri and other urban areas of Iceland is all about embracing the outdoors and vibrant atmosphere. Outdoor festivals and concerts are common, providing opportunities for locals to enjoy live music and performances under the Midnight Sun. Reykjavík’s Harpa Concert Hall hosts various events during the summer, both inside the hall and in the surrounding outdoor spaces.

Strolling and cycling around city parks and green spaces become popular activities, with locals taking advantage of the pleasant weather to explore their cities on foot or by bike. Reykjavík’s Laugardalur Park is a favourite destination for family outings, sporting activities, and leisurely walks. With warmer temperatures, many cafes, bars and restaurants set up outdoor seating areas, creating a lively and inviting atmosphere for patrons. Locals love to dine al fresco, savouring Icelandic cuisine while enjoying the fresh air and extended daylight hours.

Art lovers can explore the vibrant street art scene and local galleries that flourish during the summer months. Reykjavík, in particular, boasts a thriving street art culture, with colourful murals adorning buildings throughout the city. Weekend flea markets and local shops become bustling hubs of activity, where locals and tourists alike can browse for unique treasures and souvenirs. Reykjavík’s Kolaportið flea market is a popular destination for those seeking second-hand goods, antiques and local handicrafts.

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