Iceland in summer is almost a different country than in winter. Summer is the most popular season for tourists as the long summer days will give you time to see as many sights as you can fit into your schedule.
And of course, the temperatures are milder and this is the season of the famed midnight sun.
June 21, the summer solstice, is technically the longest day of the year, but summer officially starts as early as April for Icelanders.
The first Thursday after April 18 is known locally as "Sumardagurinn fyrsti". It is a public holiday that symbolizes the start of the official summer for Icelanders. In fact, according to the old Icelandic calendar, this day is celebrated on the 3rd Thursday in April.
Locals get together to celebrate in a variety of festive events to celebrate the end of winter. Icelanders don't miss this chance to parade through the streets with great fanfare and exchange gifts, so kids absolutely love this holiday. In fact, one of the oldest local traditions that families still follow consists in distributing gifts on the first day of summer. In homage to their heritage, Icelanders often attend readings of poems or passages from the famous sagas.
According to legend, “frost meets summer”, which means that if it freezes the night before summer, the summer will be good!
Summer in Iceland is very mild comparatively. Additional information and details about daylight hours and temperatures can be found on our weather page.
If you travel to Iceland for two weeks, don't expect two weeks of good weather.
It's just not realistic. The temperature record recorded in Reykjavík is 25.7 °C, and that about as frequent as the northern lights at the peak of summer. Temperatures between July and August generally range from 10° to 15° but can drop much lower at night.
Local weather unpredictable and changes fast even in summer with wind, rain and even snow in the highlands. Although the amount of sunshine is higher in July and August, June is the driest month on average.
You need to plan ahead in case your sight-seeing plans are ruined by the weather. It can turn at the drop of a hat in Iceland and you can very well go from rain to dazzling blue sky then back to rain in a few minutes.
Summer is the best period for big road-trips. Many major roads are closed in winter and do not reopen until late April. As for the trails that get you to the highlands, they only open between late June and early July, so you have to plan your driving itinerary and hikes accordingly!
In fact, many hikes are only possible in summer because the slopes can be highly dangerous in winter. Indeed, some paths become literally inaccessible as the mud and snow turn them into jagged, slippery messes. So summer is the best time for hiking safely.
By the end of April, the grass begins to shift from yellow to reach a vivid bright green that lights up the land from late May to the late August. The contrasts are simply magnificent at this time of the year. The flowers, such as the beautiful lupins, begin to take shape and fill the fields with their royal purples.
Summer is the only season where you can experience the famous midnight sun. The long days from May to late July are balmy and quite convenient as they allow visitors to explore the wilderness safely until very late in the evenings.
The ethereal light of the sun barely cresting the horizon is typical of these northern hemisphere countries and is prized by by photographers for its unique silver character.
With the flora, wildlife also returns to the stage of Icelandic landscapes in early summer, especially birds. The symbol of Iceland is the Atlantic Puffin and this is when the cute little seabirds take the stage for a show that lasts from June to mid-August when they head south towards milder climes.
Iceland in May
Contrary to popular belief, the month of May is great time to go to Iceland. It is on the cooler side compared to mid-summer months, but there are a few reasons why it has appeal. The contrasts are particularly magnificent at this time of year, with the mosses and grasses at their most verdant, and it is a rather dry month.
The peaks are still beautifully snow-capped and some inland roads open in mid-May. The days are very long with over 19 hours of daylight at the end of the month, which is ideal for huge sight-seeing days! By late May the sun rises at 3:30AM and sets around 11:30PM, which is quite a lot of daylight.
Another major advantage in May is the low tourist influx: You won't have to book so far in advance and prices are much lower than in summer holidays be it for car rentals, accommodations, or even restaurants.
Iceland in June
June is one of the most popular months to visit Iceland, being is a bit cooler than July and August but still presenting the vivid contrasts of the spring's abundance of flora. It is also the driest month, which can be a dealbreaker for some.
The fields are in bloom and the grass is bright, almost acid green. The peaks are still snowy for a great effect, and it is also the month of the year when the famed inland trails finally open. Although some are still unsafe until July, the vast majority are open in June.
June 17 is Icelandic National Day which means some very enthusiastic celebrations as all Icelanders head out to take part in the festivities.
This is the month with the longest days (see table above) which allows you to make the most of every waking minute, and of course features the magical midnight sun.
Finally, June is the last month before school vacations when the invasion of the tourists begins in earnest.
Iceland in July
July will be the favourite month for visitors who hate the cold as it is the mildest month of the year in Iceland. Warmer than June, July still offers long enough days to observe the midnight sun.
All trails are open in July and it's the perfect month to really explore the most remote areas of the highlands. When it comes to hiking, spotting wildlife, and really covering a lot of ground, July is your best bet.
The downside of July is the peak tourist season which means all prices are hiked up, including accommodation and car rentals.
Iceland in August
The month of August, or at least late August, means the end of the Icelandic summer. As of August 15 puffins take off to find land with a milder climate. August also marks the reappearance of actual night if only for a short moment.
The sun always sets very late early in the month and the temperatures remain almost as mild as in July, so it remains an ideal month for hiking and exploring the highlands in 4x4 because all the trails are open.
August is very busy and hotel and car rental rates are higher than the rest of the year. Be sure to book very well in advance!