During the summer, Iceland can feel like a different country. This sparsely populated rock is rich in tradition. Locals tend to become quite lively during the warmer months.
What they lack in sun, Icelanders make up for with friendliness. Other than Norwegian settlers, this remote civilization has been able to foster a unique identity in peace for centuries. Now, Iceland is open for business—an increasingly popular tourist destination!
The warmer seasons are an ideal time to go exploring (although we can’t promise blazing sunshine). Did you know there are things to do outside of Reykjavík? The following are 5 of the best places to visit in Iceland in summer.
1. Whale watching at Faxa Bay
Known locally as Faxaflói, this bay is the perfect spot to go on a whale tour. With easy transport from Reykjavik hotels, many companies offer day trips to see these creatures by boat.
Aside from learning some interesting biological facts from local tour operators, the trip is a great opportunity to learn about Iceland’s seafaring traditions. Setting off from the harbour, it’s not unusual for visitors to see porpoises, dolphins, and humpbacks on their voyage to deeper waters.
With options for shorter and longer cruises, it’s possible to tailor your trip for the season. Going in summer will let you soak in the sun while giving you the best wildlife visibility.
Although the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa might be one of the more well-known attractions, Iceland is home to some of the most striking natural features on earth.
Svartifoss is a waterfall found in the Skaftafell national park. Surrounded by basalt column formations, the otherworldly appearance was an inspiration for the famous Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík.
So, what makes this a particularly summery destination? Being a national park, Skaftafell offers hikers a place to camp, giving visitors a chance to commune with this beautiful, mysterious landscape. During warmer months, the area is actually well-known for its pleasant climate and sunny skies.
Jökulsárlón lagoon lies in the same area. An equally alien landscape, visitors can enjoy the sky-blue ice formations floating in dappled waters.
Always ready for tourists, locals provide great food, walking tours, easy transportation, accommodation, and even ice-climbing for the more adventurous! There’s no reason to slum it—unless you’re specifically looking for an outdoors experience (they can do that too).
3. Drive the Golden Circle
Looking to get the most out of your trip? Many tourists cite driving the Golden Circle route as one of the best options for people on shorter layovers. Charting a 300km journey around some of the country’s most memorable landmarks, going on holiday just to hop back in the car could be more exciting than you think.
It’s possible to go it alone, giving you control over how much time you spend at each location, or you can easily join an organised tour.
Because traffic is almost nonexistent, apart from the odd sheep, driving is eminently relaxing. Icelandic terrain is majestic, but easy for vehicles.
With some of the most famous places included geysers at Haukadalur and the Kerið lake, driving time is usually between 2-4 hours. Obviously stopping to soak everything in can lengthen journeys significantly. Travelling in summer gives you the best views and easiest driving conditions.
If you’re looking for that authentic, volcanic landscape Iceland is famous for, Landmannalaugar should be your top destination.
With rhyolite mountains streaked with differently coloured sediments like a geological canvas, and the expansive, barren plains of lava fields, Landmannalaugar is as beautiful as it is foreboding. The landscape really comes alive during summer.
So, what’s the best way to get around? Horse riding. Every summer, Icelandic riding comes into its own. Not just a novelty, the lack of roads means these indigenous animals are needed to access some of the more remote destinations in the area.
If that’s not your cup of tea, the region is famous for its hiking routes. ‘Laugavegur’ is the name of the South-West Icelandic trekking route, starting in Landmannalaugar. Normally completed over 2-4 days, the 55km path covers a number of different, beautiful landscapes, ending up in Þórsmörk.
5. Maelifell Volcano
The Maelifell Volcano in Myrdalsjökull could be one of the most visually stunning locations on this list, if not the whole of Europe. Aside from the parks and hot springs of the surrounding area, the volcano itself rises from the plains in an almost perfect cone shape.
Why visit in summer? As temperatures rise, snow melts, revealing a mossy surface. The emerald green formation juts out of the landscape like a piece of jewellery. More importantly, remaining winter ice can make the journey to the mount impossible.
Perfectly tying into Iceland’s volcanic history, this geological structure seems almost otherworldly as it looks across the barren plains.
Rising 800 meters, this volcano is located in Southern Iceland and is one of the harder places for tourists to visit. Typically only accessible by a long jeep journey, this destination is only for the most adventurous—but inarguably worth the effort.
Source: Ævar Guðmundsson
With tourism being one of Iceland’s main industries, amenities for visitors are excellent. With good information, friendly locals, and excellent transport, most destinations are worth a visit.