best things to do in Iceland in Summer

Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, is an enthralling medley of a country. This Nordic island, despite its relatively small size, is brimming with volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls and dramatic canyons. While it’s a natural smorgasbord, Iceland also has centuries of cultural history dating back to the Vikings.

Summer, falling between June and September, is arguably one of the best times to visit the region. As the wildlife comes out to play and melted snow unveils new 4×4 routes, you can experience Iceland in its full glory.

Not sure where to start? Read on for your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Iceland in summer.

1. Go whale watching

whale watching in Iceland

Iceland is a whale-watching hotspot in summer. As the North Atlantic waters teem with life, the longer days and milder weather conditions make it an ideal time for whale watching tours.

From the capital, Reykjavik, to the northern town of Husavik, often dubbed the “Whale Watching Capital of Iceland”, various locations across the country provide visitors with the chance to see over 20 different whale species, including the minke, humpback, blue, and orca whales, alongside an abundance of other marine life such as dolphins, porpoises, and seabirds.

If a whale watching tour isn’t enough for the animal enthusiasts out there, make a stop at the Whales of Iceland Museum in Reykjavik.

Whale watching tours can cost from US$85 to US$150 depending on the size of the boat and size of the group. Most tours average around the price of US$90 per person.

2. Soak up the Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun in Iceland

The hallmark of summer in Iceland is, without a doubt, the Midnight Sun. Occurring in the summer months and near the solstice in June in particular, this phenomenon is when the region experiences up to 24 hours of daylight — meaning endless opportunities.

During summer in the northern hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted towards the Sun, resulting in extended daylight hours in regions close to or within the Arctic Circle, including Iceland, where the sun barely sets below the horizon before rising again.

This much sunshine means you have plenty of time on your hands. Take advantage of this natural wonder and explore the abundance that Iceland has to offer, whether it’s hiking among its breathtaking mountains or partying in Reykjavik, until the sun never goes down.

3. Discover the marvels of Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is a city in a class of its own. The capital of Iceland, and northernmost capital of the world, is marked by its colorful buildings and myriad architectural styles set against the backdrop of mountainous terrain.

While the city is only 273 km² in size, don’t mistake its smallness for a lack of interest. From the towering Hallgrimskirkja church to the Rainbow Street, you can explore all this and more on walking tours with Vikings or classic hop-on hop-off bus tours.

Major points of interest include the Perlan Museum, Sun Voyager sculpture and Harpa concert hall. Don’t miss out on a food tour for a taste of Icelandic cuisine, savoring specialties such as arctic char.

Walking tours and hop-on hop-off tours cost from around US$40 per person, while food tours cost around US$120 per person.

Read more: Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Reykjavik

4. Encounter the force of Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Gullfoss, meaning “Golden Falls”, is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beautiful waterfalls, located in the southwest part of the country. These stunning falls form part of the Hvítá river, which travels from the glacier Langjökull.

The cascades, divided between two stages, are a highlight of Golden Circle sightseeing tours. The first drop is about 11 meters high, followed by a larger plunge of 21 meters, into a canyon.

What makes Gullfoss particularly remarkable is the way it can be experienced from different vantage points, offering visitors spectacular views of its power.

There are many options to visit Gulfoss Waterfall from Reykjavík, largely on Golden Circle day tours. These cost from US$70 per person, and will take you to numerous other notable locations in the region.

5. Trek Thorsmork, the land of Thor

Thorsmork, Iceland

Only accessible in summer and via 4×4, Thorsmork is a breathtaking example of Iceland’s diverse natural beauty, and a top hiking destination. Named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder, the area is characterized by rocky mountain peaks, glacial rivers, and volcanic remnants, offering a variety of challenging and scenic hiking trails.

These trails range from shorter, more accessible walks to demanding treks, such as the famous Laugavegur trail that connects Thorsmork to Landmannalaugar, one of the country’s most celebrated multi-day hiking experiences in the Highlands.

Day trips to Thorsmork will offer your transportation to the area as well as guided hikes in the mountains. These can cost from US$350 for small group tours or US$1,000 for private jeep tours.

6. Search for adorable puffins

puffin watching in Iceland

While the whales in Iceland’s waters may make a bigger splash, the region’s puffins are as precious a sight. These birds tend to nest on rocky cliffs, meaning you’ll have to take a boat tour to find them.

It’s well worth it — admire these characterful birds in their natural habitat along with other birdlife, all while learning more about them from a qualified guide. Puffin watching tours can be combined with whale watching tours, making for a incredible wildlife experience in Iceland.

Puffin watching cruises from Reykjavik can cost from US$50 per person and up to US$180 per person. More expensive cruises are typically combined with whale watching excursions.

7. Swim between tectonic plates in Silfra Fissure

snorkeling in Silfra, Iceland

The Silfra Fissure is one of the most remarkable places on earth, and for a very good reason — it’s the only place in the world where you can dive between two tectonic plates.

Located in Thingvellir National Park and formed between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the Silfra Fissure offers an adventure unlike any other. Its famed for its unparalleled underwater visibility, and intriguing rock formations.

You can choose to snorkel or go scuba diving here, but make sure to wear a thick wetsuit — the waters are freezing!

Snorkeling tours at Silfra Fissure can cost from US$120 per person, while tours that include transport cost from US$200. Scuba diving tours cost from about US$250.

8. Ride purebred Icelandic horses

horse riding in Iceland during Summer
horse riding in Iceland during Summer

Explore the beauty of Iceland from the back of one of the most purebred horses in the world. Icelandic horses have retained their line for over 1,000 years, and are known for being small, sturdy, and incredibly resilient.

Horse riding tours offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in Iceland’s landscapes, ranging from lava fields to to meadows, while interacting with one of its most prideful symbols. These experiences place you right in nature, and connect you with the history of these animals, who have been around since the Vikings.

Icelandic horse riding tours from Reykjavik can cost from US$70 per person. Many horse riding excursions are in fact included as part of Golden Circle day tours, which cost from US$200 per person.

9. Stand in awe of Strokkur Geysir

Strokkur Geysir, Iceland

Strokkur Geysir, often simply called Strokkur, is one of Iceland’s most famous and active geysers, located in the geothermal area of the Haukadalur Valley. You’re also sure to catch in action — erupting every 6 to 10 minutes, Strokkur is highly reliable.

This is a dramatic display of nature’s power, as it shoots hot water and steam up to 20 meters into the air, historically reaching heights of up to 40 meters. The spectacle is both awe-inspiring and a reminder of the volcanic activity that shapes much of Iceland’s landscape.

Stokkur Geysir is a staple of Golden Circle tours, which can cost from US$80 per person.

10. Enter a natural painting in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar, Iceland

Landmannalaugar, nestled within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the highlands of Iceland, is renowned for its surreal beauty and strikingly diverse landscapes. This remote area is a mosaic of rhyolite mountains, whose vibrant colors span an array of oranges, pinks, greens, and yellows, created by the volcanic rock’s interaction with various minerals.

Only accessible in summer, Landmannalaugar is a must-visit for its incredible scenery. Whether you’re hiking, going on a jeep tour, or seeking photo opportunities, the area’s one-of-a-kind terrain and panoramic vistas make it a rugged paradise.

Day trips to Landmannalaugar from Reykjavik that include transport cost from US$170 per person, while private jeep tours to Landmannalaugar cost from US$1,000 for a small group.

11. Stroll along the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland

This world-renowned beach is distinguished by its black sand, which is formed from eroded volcanic rocks. Located near the small fishing village of Vík, Reynisfjara Beach offers a dramatic and moody landscape that contrasts sharply with the typical white sands of tropical islands.

One of the most iconic features of Reynisfjara is the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, jutting out of the ocean. The beach is also known for its basalt columnar formations, which resemble a step pyramid or organ pipes.

However, Reynisfjara’s beauty comes with a caution due to its notoriously dangerous sneaker waves. Safety signs and warnings are posted to remind visitors to keep a safe distance from the water.

Reynisfjara Beach is a feature of many South Coast tours from Reykjavik, which cost from  US$100 per person.

See also: 30 Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Vik, Iceland

12. Bathe in the Blue Lagoon

hot springs in Iceland

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most famous and visited geothermal spas. Rich in minerals like silica and sulfur, the waters are renowned for their healing properties and benefiting skin conditions.

The lagoon’s striking milky-blue color, which contrasts beautifully against the black lava rocks surrounding it, is due to the high silica content in the water. Temperatures in the swimming area average a comfortable 37–39°C (98–102°F).

But while the Blue Lagoon may be one of the more well-known geothermal spots, it’s certainly not the only one to experience. The Laugarvatn Fontana, offers a unique vista, while at Secret Lagoon and Krauma Geothermal Baths, you can enjoy a natural geothermal pools.

13. Zoom through the countryside on a quad tour

quad tour in Iceland during Summer
quad tour in Iceland during Summer

Quad tours in Iceland are your ticket some of the most thrilling adventures on the island. On the back of an ATV, you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time, going places you might not otherwise be able to visit.

Whether you go riding up Reykjavik Peak or along the black beaches of the Southern Coast, these tours are easily accessible and expose you to Iceland’s countryside. For an even more unique experience, you can go on a Midnight Sun ride, heading out in the evening to catch the sun as it dips.

Short, 1-hour quad tours cost from US$100 per person, while 2-4 hour tours can cost from US$140 per person.

14. Step inside a lava tunnel

Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel, Iceland

Step inside the remnants of a volcanic eruption at the Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel. Formed 5,200 years ago during the Leitahraun eruption, this lava tube is a fascinating example of the power of nature, and one of Iceland’s most unparalleled tour options.

Walk along the path where lava once flowed and admire the unique beauty it left behind. The main tunnel spans 900 meters and is 10 meters high and 30 meters wide, making it accessible for those who may feel claustrophobic.

A standard tour of the lava tunnel costs from US$55 per person, while tours that include transport to and from Reykjavik cost from US$100 per person.

15. See the best of Iceland on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

If you’re short on time but wish to discover as much of Iceland as possible, why not journey to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula? Known as ‘Iceland in Miniature’, the peninsula is home to many of the island’s most stunning natural features.

Snæfellsnes is renowned for its Snæfellsjökull National Park and volcano, basalt columnar cliffs at Arnarstapi, and the picturesque Kirkjufell mountain, one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. It’s just a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, making for an easy day trip.

Tours to Snæfellsnes Peninsula from Reykjavik that include transport cost from US$120 per person, with private tours costing from US$1,100 per group.

16. Explore a volcanic tapestry at Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Born out of a volcanic eruption, Lake Myvatn is today a thriving ecosystem. Known for its  nature baths, intriguing craters, and lava fields, it’s particularly celebrated for its abundant birdlife.

This region is one of Iceland’s most important bird-watching sites, especially renowned for its diverse duck species, making it a paradise for ornithologists and nature enthusiasts. It’s also a highlight of Diamond Circle tours from Akureyri.

Not to be missed nearby is Hverir, a geothermal hotspot where the earth gurgles and hot steam emerges from the fumaroles.

Day trips to Lake Myvatn from Akureyri cost from US$150 per person, while Diamond Circle tours including Lake Myvatn cost from US$180 per person.

17. Zip line through epic canyons

zip lining in Iceland

Iceland is replate with breathtaking gorges, valleys and canyons. One of the best ways of experiencing this scenery is to go soaring straight over it. Zip lining tours across the island will take you over Grafargil Canyon’s rushing waters or Glass River Canyon in Akureyri, among others, allowing you to spy waterfalls and glaciers while getting your heart pumping.

Tours often include short hikes to the starting points, allowing you to enjoy the natural surroundings and learn about the local geography and ecology from your guides. These excursions can vary in length and intensity, with some offering multiple zip lines that traverse different parts of the landscape.

Zip lining tours in Akureyri are typically priced at US$90 per person. These excursions include qualified guides as well as the relevant safety gear.

See also: 38 Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Akureyri, Iceland

18. Soar over active volcanoes in a helicopter

helicopter tour in Iceland

Get a birds-eye-view of active volcanoes on an Icelandic helicopter tour. These flights take you over sites such as Fagradalsfjall, with opportunities to see flowing lava, hot steam and bubbling craters.

While an eruption may not always be on the cards, a helicopter ride can also take you to other geothermal areas to see springs and lava fields. On certain tours, you can disembark from the helicopter and take photos.

Your knowledgeable pilot will be able to fill you in on the fascinating geographic sites, making these flights more than just a one-of-a-kind journey.

Helicopter tours from Reykjavik from US$300 per person, while private helicopter rides cost around US$2,000 for a group of four people.

19. Sail into Icelandic waters

boat tour in Iceland during Summer

Whales, puffins, glaciers, you name it. Boat tours in Iceland offer some of the most incredible sightseeing opportunities, and a chance to appreciate the true natural abundance of the island.

Summer is the perfect time to see the coastal ecosystem at its peak, as whales migrate through the waters and puffins flit among the cliffs. And just because it’s warmer doesn’t mean there aren’t icebergs to be seen. Boat tours to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon will take you as close as possible to the glacier and ice formations, including the glittering chunks on Diamond Beach.

The price of boat tours in Iceland depends on the type of excursion. Puffin tours cost from US$50 per person, while whale watching cruises cost from US$85 per person. Cruises out of Reykjavik to locations such as Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon cost from US$100 per person.

Read more: Best Day Trips from Reykjavik for first time visitors

20. Raft along gushing rivers

rafting in Iceland

Ready to go thrashing down glacial waters? Rafting tours in Iceland are among the most invigorating outdoor activities, taking you along surging rivers, some of which lead into the country’s most powerful waterfalls.

Whether you seek more gentle, family-friendly Grade 2 rapids on the West Glacial River, or the heart-pumping excitement of the Grade 4 torrents of the East Glacial River, you’re guaranteed to have an adventure. Make sure to bring warm clothing along — the water gets pretty chilly.

River rafting tours in Iceland cost between US$100 and US$200 per person depending on the length of the tour and other inclusions.

21. Walk the rim of Kerid Crater

Kerid Crater, Iceland

Kerid Crater is a sight to behold in summer, when the vivid aquamarine colors of its waters contrast with the red, iron-rich hues of the caldera walls. This makes it a prime spot for photography, walks along the rim, and strolls down to the water’s edge.

A stop on many Golden Circle tours, Kerid Crater provides insight into Iceland’s geographical history. It’s believed to have formed during the collapse of a magma chamber, and dates back thousands of years.

Tours to Kerid Crater typically form part of excursions along the Golden Circle, which cost from US$70 per person.

22. Journey into North Iceland through Akureyri

Akureyri, Iceland

Known as the “Capital of North Iceland”, Akureyri is gateway to this stunning part of the island. The town itself, nestled at the head of Iceland’s longest fjord and surrounded by mountains, is quaint and charming. A top spot for whale watching, other focal points include the Akureyri Church and Akureyri Botanical Garden.

While Akureyri is Iceland’s second-largest city, it boasts a population of only around 20,000 people. Despite its small size, the town has a rich culture and creative scene, which can be explored at the Akureyri Art Museum.

Akureyri also serves as an ideal base for exploring the natural wonders of North Iceland. Join a Diamond Circle tour to visit Lake Myvatn, Godafoss Waterfall and Dettifoss Waterfall, one of the most powerful in Europe.

23. Uncover history at Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

A fundamental part of Icelandic heritage and a highlight on Golden Circle tours, Thingvellir National Park is a must-visit. This reserve is a protected national shrine and UNESCO World Heritage site due to the fact that it served as a major assembly point for the Althing, one of the oldest surviving parliaments.

It’s also a place of natural and geographical abundance. Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where tectonic plates meet, it’s home to the famous Silfra Fissure and Lake Thingvellir, a fertile locale for vegetation and invertebrates.

While there are no entrance fees to Thingvellir National Park, you do have to pay for parking. Tours to Thingvellir are often included as part of Golden Circle day trips, which cost from US$70 per person.

24. Catch the beauty of Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Fjadrargljufur Canyon, Iceland

While Fjadrargljufur Canyon may be known for featuring in one of Justin Bieber’s music videos, it’s more than a picturesque backdrop. Cared over thousands of years, it’s an ancient natural wonder, and a lush beauty in the summer.

Despite its recent rise in fame, efforts have been made to protect Fjadrargljufur and its delicate ecosystem from the impact of increased foot traffic. Visitors are encouraged to stay on marked trails and respect the natural environment to ensure the preservation of this incredible sight.

You don’t have to pay to visit Fjadrargljufur Canyon, but you will be required to pay for parking at the nearby lot.

25. Chase the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss

Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls in Summer

Located in the South Coast, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss are two of Iceland’s most magnificent waterfalls, situated just a 30 minute drive away from each other.

Skogafoss, which is 25 meters wide and 60 meters tall, is one of the biggest in the country. When the sun comes out, rainbows often reflect in the light, making summer an ideal time to visit.

Seljalandsfoss, which also falls from a height of 60 meters is notable for the fact that walk right around it, and feel the full force of the water.

Day trips to the South Cost typically include visits to either Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss, or even both. These excursions can cost from US$100 per person.

26. Drive into the unknown on a super jeep tour

jeep tour in Iceland during Summer

Due to the rough terrain of Iceland, most places, such as the exquisite Highlands, are only accessible by 4×4 during the summer. If you’re intimidated by the task of driving bumpy, unfamiliar areas, super jeep tours are available to take you where you otherwise may not be able to go.

Many of these tours go to Thorsmork, Landmannalaugar or along the Golden Circle. On the way, you’ll have opportunities to go hiking or have a dip in a hot spring. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll see some of the best of the island without the stress of navigation.

Super jeep tours that travel along the Golden Circle or to Thorsmork or Landmannalaugar  cost from around US$300, while private jeep tours can cost from US$1,200.

27. Take photos at the DC-3 Plane Wreck

DC-3 Plane Wreck during Summer, Iceland

Among the myriad natural attractions of Iceland, the DC-3 Plane Wreck stands out. Since the plane crashed in 1973 on the black sand beach of Sólheimasandur, it’s become a haunting and iconic site.

With its eerie silhouette, the wreck has become a major draw for photographers, adventurers, and curious visitors. While the cause of the crash is unknown, some speculate the Icelandic ice may have played a part.

The wreck has taken on an almost mythical status, often depicted as a symbol of isolation and the raw, untamed spirit of Iceland’s landscape.

In order to reach the wreck, you will have to park on the side of a highway and walk approximately 1 hour towards it. Alternatively, there is a paid shuttle that will drive you to it. Many South Coast tours include the DC-3 plane wreck as part of their itinerary, and these cost from US$130 per person.

28. Travel into the past at Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival

Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival, Iceland
Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival, Iceland

While the Viking Age may be over, that doesn’t mean you can’t still experience its culture. At the Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival held in June, the era of Vikings is brought back to life, with historical reenactments, traditional Viking crafts, music, and festivities.

Participants and guests dress in period attire, adding to the authenticity and atmosphere of the event. One of the festival’s highlights is the Viking market, where artisans and craftsmen display and sell a wide range of traditional goods, including jewelry, leatherwork, weapons, and clothing. These items are often handmade using techniques that have been passed down through generations.

Held in Víðistaðatún Park, the festival lasts between 5 and 6 days and admission is free, making it possible for all to attend.

Wanting more?

This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experiencing Iceland in the summer. For even more ideas, check out TourScanner’s guide to the Best Things to Do in Iceland. If you’re interested in a more snowy exploration of the country, have a look at our guide to the Fun Things to Do in Iceland in Winter.

Happy travels!

Amy Pieterse is a South African writer and editor with a background in journalism. She grew up going on safaris in the Kruger National Park, which imbued in her a love of nature, and led her to traverse South Africa's landscapes on numerous hiking expeditions. Travels to cities like New York City, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and Florence have given her a deeper understanding of global cultures and a taste for new experiences. On the weekends, you'll find her exploring her backyard, Cape Town.