Iceland has fast become one of the most Insta-enviable destinations in the world, with many determined to have their own picturesque Nordic adventure. But the magical northern lights and white wonderland experiences mean most people visit in the colder months and see Iceland as a destination only meant for cooler times of year.
I was one such person, attached to the idea that wrapping up in thermals in the depths of winter was the only way to see the country. It turns out I was wrong, and there are many reasons why a visit to Iceland in summer is just as cool.
The increase in temperature is an obvious reason why it might be better to visit Iceland between June and September. While summer in Iceland never actually gets scorching (20°C is usually its max) it does heat up and there are real benefits to exploring the country without fear of frostbite.
Whale watching, lagoon visits and the black sands of Vik are all Icelandic musts, but they’re so much better to see without the icicles on your eyelids.
Snow is still around
I know that a big part of a trip to Iceland is seeing the snow, owning an Icelandic jumper and looking extra cute in a fur-trimmed coat. You want the selfies on the snowmobiles and pictures of the snow-capped peaks. The best part about a summer trip is that you can still have all these things.
Sure, it’s a little warmer and your fingers have more feeling, but it is Ice-land after all, which means that on this small island you’re never too far away from the cold stuff. A short ride from Gulfoss will have you in the Langjökull glacier, where you can try your hand at snowmobiling year-round, and an icy whale-watching boat trip across the Arctic to spot Big Willy means you’ll definitely still need that knitted sweater.
Spring between the springs
A big part of an Icelandic adventure is visiting the geothermal baths and hot springs. There’s the Blue Lagoon, the Jarðböðinn Nature Bathsand the Fontana Baths, as well as lots of hotels based around their ability to give you access to the bubbling waters.
While the water will be warm no matter the month, the benefit to a summertime visit is that you can walk between pools, hop in and out of the saunas and even skinny dip in the sea without your body having to suffer the freezing temperatures.
If you’re brave enough to take it from the warmth of the spa to the chill of the sea, then why not do so on a surfboard? You may not believe it but, come the summer, Iceland and the Arctic Sea have some perfect places for donning a wetsuit and hitting the waves.
Just a short drive from Reykjavik you can reach some quiet bays and enjoy a solo surf, with hot springs ready to warm your chilled bones once you’re finished.
Watch the wildlife
Did you know that Iceland has the largest single puffin colony in the world? It’s a random fact but it’s true, and the cute orange-beaked birds are also fans of the sunshine, which means they don’t stick around for winter. Catch them between April and August flying around the coastal areas or islands like the Westmann Isles.
Party all night
In the summer months, much of Iceland sees almost 21 hours of sunlight. Rising at 3am and setting at 12am, this late night sun gives you license to stay up late, drink shark shots and search for your Game of Thrones icons. While you don’t necessarily need to visit Iceland in the summer to stay up late, there’s something about the bright light in those early hours that keeps you moving until the morning. Of course, most bars don’t adhere to 24-hour serving but you can socialise in your hostel and even visit some attractions when they’ll certainly be a lot less crowded.
When it comes to summer festivals, it gets even better. At the likes of Secret Solstice and Innipukinn Festival it’s hard to keep track of time, there’s no losing your tent in the dark and the late-night brightness gives the festival a magical feel.
Road tripping is really the best way to see Iceland. It keeps costs down to a backpacker’s budget and means you aren’t confined to organised day trips from Reykjavik. You can work to your own timetable, stopping wherever you fancy, and you get to see parts of the country you otherwise wouldn’t.
The plus side to doing this in summer is the massive safety factor. Snow-free roads, clear screens and the option of winding down the window mean a better drive all round.
Reach the unreachable
There are some parts of the country’s interior that you really can’t reach in winter because the road conditions are just too bad. Come July and it’s access all areas, meaning you can see the likes of the Lakagígar craters, the Hveravellir hot lake and geothermal waters of Víti. Leave it until winter and these are top attractions you wouldn’t be able to see.