Iceland has been on the top of everyone’s bucket list for the past year with the rise of movies, TV-shows, and social media posts bringing this once overlooked island nation to the forefront of every traveler’s mind. A fantastic blend of charming small towns and cities, magical landscapes, rich heritage, and a variety of adventures, it’s hard to find a traveler who doesn’t want to visit Iceland.
And as summer vacation nears in the Northern Hemisphere, millions of travelers are looking to hop up north to this amazing island from June to August. From massive crowds to skyrocketing hotel rates, the pristine beauty of Iceland can take quite a toll on your savings. That being said, if you’re still game to travel to Iceland this summer, then read on for a breakdown of the good, the bad, and the stunning for a summer trip to Iceland.
The Good? Warm Weather in Iceland
Ignore the name and put away that winter coat of yours, because summer in Iceland is all about shorts. The dry and sunny days let you roll up your sleeves and explore the vast landscapes that Iceland has to offer.
This good weather and lack of any major predators make Iceland a camper’s paradise. In most areas you can pitch a tent on the side of the road and enjoy the amazing weather.
Summer also opens up the highland roads, letting you visit the most unique and untouched regions of Iceland, that are otherwise closed due to weather or glaciers.
The Bad? Everyone Wants to Visit Iceland
Everyone wants to go to Iceland, raising accommodation prices, crowding tour buses, and locking out hotel spaces. If you’re looking for seclusion and the serenity of nature, then you should definitely plan for autumn or spring. Major hot spots like the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon are sold out well in advanced – plus their overcrowded with tourists. And the one thing that a tourist hates is another tourist.
The Stunning? A Land of Magic
So we’re weary of saying their’s an ugly side to Iceland, as the landscape is truly heart-stopping, but there are a few things that may not be for everyone. It’ll truly stun you with how unique it is, and that might just be what some travelers want to avoid.
We’re talking about the famous Midnight Sun, a period where the sun is bright in the sky at midnight. Located near the arctic where this phenomenon occurs, Iceland summer nights mean absolutely no darkness. You hotel will definitely have blackout curtains to help you sleep through the extra light, but some may find it hard to adjust to the sunny evenings and mornings. Some of us will love this experience, as we’ll be able to hike, party, and explore all day and night. Plus, the glow over the horizon makes for some enchanting photography.
What should I do?
For one, book early. Like right now. If you want a hotel, if you want a tour, if you want to rent a car, book now or never. Getting a hotel or tour day of is almost impossible, especially if you’re planning to visit the most famous sites, like the Golden Circle tour (which is a bit more spectacular in winter), the Blue Lagoon, or Jojkulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
What to do then? Get off the beaten path. As we mentioned above, the highlands will be open up in Summer, granting you access to some of the most ruggedest landscapes in Iceland where you can enjoy some isolation with nature. This is the perfect opportunity for a day trip from Reykjavik to the Landmannalauger Mountains, right in the heart of the highlands.
There are also numerous smaller hot springs, glacier hikes, geysers, and caves to explore throughout the island, so consider skipping the most famous ones for the most overlooked.
Glacier rivers offer a wealth of rafting opportunities, and the most popular is Hvita River. Don’t let it’s popularity steer you away; this is one of the must for rafting enthusiastic and first-timers.
Also consider avoiding Reykjavik and heading up north to Akueyri, a small but still lovely city. From here you can see Iceland’s diverse northern landscape that mirrors the Golden Circle on a day trip to Detiffoss and Godafoss Waterfall
And while you’re out roaming the wilderness, visit a local stable for a horseback riding tour with Iceland’s famous horses. Uniquely breed to the island, they’re almost pony-sized, making them less intimidating to new riders, and specially breed to handle the rough terrain.
Summer Events in Iceland
Icelanders know how to party like no other nation (okay, maybe Australians), and with the clear weather of Summer travelers come from all over the world to experience their festivals.
If you’re up for escaping the city for the day (and with the crowds, you might just have to) you should consider heading north of Reykjavik to Borgarfjodur Eystri, home to only 110 inhabitants. In late July (29th for 2017) this small village comes to life with world famous bands at Bræðslan Music Festival. The locals are extremely friendly and the camping opportunities are endless. Previous years included Of Monsters and Men, Belle and Sebastian, Mammút, and various international and Icelandic artists.
Hoping to get further away from the city? Travel to East Iceland and take in LungA, a small Seyðisfjörður art festival that’s steadily been growing each year with workshops, markets, art exhibits, and concerts. It takes place in mid-July and is a perfect pair with Bræðslan Music Festival
The first Monday of August features Verslunarmannahelgi, a bank holiday and host to a handful of festivals, including Ein með öllu in Akureyr, Innipukinn in Reykjavik, and Thjodhatid in the Westmman Islands, where the population of 4,000 quadruples to 16,000 for just 3 days. Expect music, camping, barbecuing, dancing, and even a bit of romance. Westman Islands are also perfect for a quick day trip from Reykjavik.
Just a week later you’ll also have Reykjavik Pride, one of the largest festivals in Iceland, and is a major celebration for the LGBTQ community in Iceland. From drag shows to massive parties, everyone participates, whether or not they consider themselves in the LGBTQ community. Even the mayor joins in on the fun by dressing in drag for the event. This year it’ll run from August 8th to the 13th.
And just a week later you’ll have Menningarnott, a cultural festival on the 19th of August. Like the others this festival involves music, dance, and parties, but also pop-up shops, art shows, and free entrances to most galleries and museums.
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