The Midnight Sun in Iceland

Date 18 June 2023

The Midnight Sun in Iceland

The Midnight Sun in Iceland

Thanks to its high latitude, from late June to end of July, Iceland and particularly in the north of the island enjoy full 24-hour daylight.

The midnight sun is observed almost all summer in Iceland, but on June 21, the summer solstice, comes the longest day of the year in Iceland. This day is literally endless, and the sky remains a blanket white, this is what we call a polar day.

What is the midnight sun?

Soleil de minuit en Islande

The phenomenon is simple to understand: the Earth rotates on its own axis, and around the axis of the Sun, but the northern part of the globe's axis is tilted towards the Sun in summer. Depending on the time of year, Iceland is illuminated very differently by the sun due to the tilt and rotation of the earth.

Thus, during the peak of summer, the sun is present almost 24 hours in the sky, from horizon to horizon and back and night never comes. Obviously, the opposite phenomenon occurs in winter and Iceland experiences long weeks in almost total darkness.

If you watch the sun set without every setting on the horizon (and without giving off much warmth, it feels like...), it almost seems to “bounce” on the horizon without ever finally sinking behind it. And while the light it gives off is simply magical, it tends to mess with the body's circadian rhythm, which is sometimes a bit disturbing at bedtime.

In a nutshell, this means that the colours you see at sunset in your home latitude, those blazing pinks and violets and oranges in every shade, here you see them for hours on end.

Learn more about the daylight hours in Iceland on our page about the weather in Iceland.

When to see the midnight sun in Iceland

Soleil de minuit Islande

For about a week in June, you can enjoy the peak of the midnight sun. The summer solstice on June 21 is common to Iceland and all the countries of the Northern Hemisphere, and on December 22 for those in the Southern Hemisphere.

That is just the peak, with the polar days, but that doesn't mean you can only observe the midnight sun during the week around June 21. The midnight sun is a feature of the sky from early June to mid-July, and more generally the days are very long from mid-May to August with those extended sunset colors. Although once again the ideal viewing point is the north, west and northwest coast of Iceland, you can enjoy the phenomena from anywhere on the island with a horizon.

  • In early June, the sun rises around 3:30AM and sets around 11:30PM.
  • In early July, the sun rises around 3AM and sets around 11:50PM.
  • In early August, the sun rises around 4:30AM and sets around 8:30PM.

The closer a country is to the North Pole, the greater the number of polar days.

This means particularly long days in summer, which means twice as much time to do excursions and hikes and really pack your summer day schedule. There's nothing like parking near a tourist hotspot at 11 pm with the sky awash in bright, photogenic light and barely anyone there to spoil your photo.

Numerous guided tours towards Húsavik or off Grímsey in the north of the country will take you to observe this phenomenon unknown to most of the world. Photo lovers are thrilled at this time of year, the light is absolutely exceptional, and you likely have never seen anything like it.

Of course, the eternal day can be a bit confusing and cost you a bit of sleep, but being able to take a photo of a sunset, and an hour later a sunrise is worth a few stolen hours of sleep.

Where to see the midnight sun in Iceland

Soleil de minuit en Islande

While it can be observed almost everywhere in Iceland, provided the horizon is not obscured by a mountain, there are some picture-perfect places.

  • Overall, the north and west coasts are ideal to get the best view of the phenomenon. Specifically, besides Húsavik and Grimsey, we would recommend a lesser known option: Rauðinúpur. This remote viewing station is on a small cliff with a breathtaking view of the Arctic Ocean.
  • In the northwestern fjords, the Látrabjarg cliffs are also great for viewing the midnight sun, while the numerous fishing ports could also provide a beautiful frame for your shot.
  • On the Snaefellsnes peninsula, sites such as RifHellissandur or Stykkishólmur are perfect and very popular with photographers. The village of Akranes near Reykjavík is also a top spot.
  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall is absolutely ideal and famous for shots from behind the waterfall with the midnight sun in the background.
  • Also, the Jökulsárlón lagoon and its icebergs are really showcased by the midnight sun.
  • Finally, a swim in the Blue Lagoon on a summer evening is unforgettable, with this silvery light like something out of a fairy tale.

Photographing the midnight sun

Midnight sun in Vatsnes

For ideal results, it is important to follow a few tips:

  • Clouds are a canvas, so aim to capture a mixture of clouds and blue skies to favor beautiful colors.
  • Technically, it is preferable to underexpose the photo for a better rendering, and of course use a tripod.
  • Also, if possible, avoid cutting the reflection of the sun on the water out of your frame, rather use the water to your advantage.
  • In terms of light, you're still looking at the sun, so it is possible to go down to 100 or 200 in ISO.
  • Finally, as far as framing is concerned, avoid centering the sun.