17 Essential Iceland Summer Trip Planning Tips

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There’s no place as magical, captivating, and otherworldly as Iceland in summer. Famous for its surreal landscapes, it’s a wonderland with so many facets, featuring rugged fjords, towering mountains, glaciers, and hot springs. 

Although most of its attractions are accessible throughout the year, enjoying an Iceland summer vacation has a ton of perks. Not only will you benefit from warmer and longer days, but you’ll also enjoy a multitude of fascinating activities. 

We’ve been to Iceland during the summer months twice, spending a total of 4 weeks. In that timeframe, we’ve been rained on, snowed on, blown over, and sunburned. Iceland brings it all, and sometimes more.

These tips are meant to help you not only prepare, but also manage your expectations while planning a visit to this wonderfully amazing country.

17 Iceland Summer Tips to Use While Planning

1. Make Sure You Have Travel Insurance

Lina Stock in Seydisfjordur, Iceland in the summer
Exploring Seydifjordur on the east coast of Iceland

If you’re a regular reader then you know that we do not travel without travel insurance. With all that’s been going on in the world, we can’t stress enough how important it is to protect your trip and the money you spent on it.

There are a lot of options out there for insurance, but we use and stand by Allianz Travel Insurance. Full disclosure, we receive financial compensation as ambassadors for their company.

That said, we’ve been purchasing plans through them for the past 7 years and they have never let us down. Canceled flights, delayed flights, lost luggage, and a global pandemic, they’ve been there for us.

We purchase their AllTrips Premier annual plan that covers all of our trips over a 12-month period. If you take more than 2 trips a year, it’s worth considering an annual plan.

For single trips, we recommend looking at their OneTrip Prime or OneTrip Premier plans.

2. Book Well in Advance 

David and Lina Stock horse trekking in Iceland
Horse trekking often sells out months in advance during the summer!

Want to make your Iceland summer trip stress-free and affordable? A word of advice, book everything for your vacation in advance. From tours and car rentals to accommodations and flights, you need to book everything upfront for your trip. 

The longer you book and wait, the more you’ll pay, and the fewer choices you’ll have. The best hotels with excellent rates get fully booked first. And, you won’t find any superb deals for car rentals, upon arriving at the airport, if there are even any available. 

Remember that summer is the peak high season for tourism in Iceland. Planning in advance will go a long way toward helping you maximize your budget and have the best options for your trip.

3. Prepare for Endless Daylight in Summer 

Iceland summer hot pool near Akureyri
An Iceland summer sunset – taken at 2 AM!

The sun in Iceland never sets during summertime. If you visit Iceland in May, June, or July, you practically have 24 hours of sunshine and daylight. 

While it may seem a fun experience, some might not get any sleep in summer, especially since most accommodations and hotels don’t have full black-out curtains. 

So, bring a sleeping mask, and anything else that will help you get a good night’s sleep. 

4. Bring Your Hiking Boots & Hit the Trails

Hiking to Hengifoss in Icleand
Hiking to Hengifoss in summer

Summer is, no doubt, the best time to hike the majestic landscapes in Iceland. With a multitude of hiking trails and mountains, you’ll have to narrow your choices, and then pick the best ones for your Iceland summer trip. 

We recommend hiking Mount Esja, and enjoying the breathtaking vistas of Reykjavik. Afterward, explore the enticing Landmannalaugar in Iceland’s Highlands. You can also spot some wildlife at Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and hike glaciers in the Snæfellsjökull and Vatnajokull National Parks. 

When hiking in Iceland, make sure to prepare for all types of weather, and pack the important outdoor gear with you. We recommend bringing a windproof jacket, water bottle, a cap, activewear, and waterproof hiking shoes. 

5. Set a Budget for your Iceland Summer Trip 

Lina Stock hiking in Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland
Hiking a trail on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Like the other Scandinavian countries, Iceland isn’t a cheap destination. In fact, it is one of the most expensive places we’ve traveled, ranking up there with Greenland and Norway.

Set your budget in advance, but make sure it’s realistic. There are plenty of ways to make your money go further, but don’t get fooled into thinking it will be cheap.

The most expensive Iceland summer expenses are organized activities, dining out, and accommodations. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. Be realistic about your budget so you can enjoy the best Iceland has to offer in the summer.

6. You Won’t see the Northern Lights in Summer 

David and Lina Stock in the Icelandic Highlands during summer
But you’ll have long days of light to explore amazing places like this

Believe it or not, the number one question people ask us is if you can see the Northern Lights in Iceland during the summer months.

Unfortunately, you won’t see the dazzling Aurora Borealis in summer. Even though the Northern Lights are active year-round, there are not enough hours of darkness to see this captivating natural phenomenon in summer. 

If it’s on your Iceland travel bucket list, you’ll want to visit Iceland during late fall, and winter for your best visibility chances.

7. Bring Waterproof, Warm, and Light Clothing 

Lina Stock at Dettifoss in Iceland
Sporting all the rain layers while exploring Iceland!

The temperatures in Iceland, from June to August, are comfortably cool, ranging between 55 and 60 °F. So, ditch the ski pants and thick winter coats for layers like leggings, sweaters, and shirts. 

Since Iceland’s summer weather is unpredictable, weatherproof gear is an absolute must. And, this will come in handy when exploring spouting geysers and thundering waterfalls. 

If you plan on taking a dip in the country’s geothermal pools and hot springs, bring your flip-flops and swimsuit. 

8. Sample Some Summer Delicacies 

Dish soup in Dalvik, Iceland
Fish soup in a small cafe on the Ring Road

The summer months are ideal for trying Icelandic dishes featuring fresh meat as well as produce, like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. These months are also perfect for Arctic char and brown trout. 

And, you can sample the country’s authentic summer delicacies by taking a food walk in Reykjavik. 

Höfn, in late June and early July, celebrates its annual lobster festival, Humarhátíð. While local fishermen are hauling massive langoustine bundles, this fishing town enjoys festive activities with plenty of drinking, dancing, and music. 

9. Immerse Yourself in Reykjavik’s Cultural Events 

Reykjavik, Iceland in Summer
Reykjavik is beautiful in the summer months

Reykjavik, every August, celebrates Culture Night (Menningarnótt) to commemorate the beginning of its theater and museum season. 

On this special day, the city’s downtown area comes alive with exhibitions and street performances, allowing everybody to experience Reykjavik’s culture for everyone’s favorite price of zero dollars. 

A lot of the town’s friendly residents embrace this festive hospitality spirit by opening their houses to the public. They call this tradition vöfflukaffi, and it includes serving coffee and waffles to house visitors. 

The Culture Night ends on a positive note with a breathtaking fireworks display by the town’s harbor. 

10. Book A Whale Watching or Puffin Tour

Atlantic Puffin colony on Iceland east coast
Visiting an Atlantic Puffin colony on Iceland’s east coast

Iceland is one of the world’s best places to go on a whale-watching tour. With ideal weather conditions, whale watching tours are less likely to be canceled in summer. 

As a bonus, you’ll see a larger array of marine creatures since tons of migratory whales, such as humpback whales and minke, head to polar oceans to feast on the bountiful zooplankton and krill in Iceland during summer. 

Additionally, you can also view Atlantic Puffins in certain areas of Iceland during the summer months. This small sea bird nests on land during the summer, making photography and viewing opportunities possible.  

11. Go Cashless 

Lina Stock at the Forest Lagoon in Akureyri, Iceland
Enjoying the cashless system at the Forest Lagoon in Akureyri

You don’t have to bring a whole lot of cash on your Iceland summer vacation. Nordic nations are known for their cashless payment, and this country is no exception. 

Paying by a debit or credit card is practically possible everywhere in the country. In Thingvellir National Park, you may even pay the bathroom fee of 1.5 EUR via credit card. 

In Iceland, you may use all major debit and credit cards. Mastercard and VISA, however, are the best. Diner’s Club and Amex aren’t widely accepted.

We spent 3 weeks in Iceland this summer and literally never touched an Icelandic Krona. We were able to use our credit cards everywhere. By doing this, we also enjoyed the best exchange rates, too.

12. Tour the Highlands of Iceland 

Iceland's Highlands in the summer near Landmannalaugar
Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands near Landmannalaugar

The Highlands of Iceland are impassable in winter. And, that means summer is the best time to explore this stunning, vast, and remote region in Iceland. 

This region will reward you with majestic views over towering volcanoes, mountains, and vast glaciers. 

The roads, for the most part, open in the middle part of June, depending on the snow and weather. By late September, these roads are closed. 

If you like to hike, some of the best trails in the country can be found in the Highlands. Additionally, you can book jeep tours, and horse treks that explore this area.

13. Know More about the F-roads 

F-road water crossing in Iceland
F-roads in Iceland are no joke

The F-roads in Iceland are secondary roads, and mostly gravel. But, not all F-roads are created equal. While most F-roads are simple gravel pathways, some are supremely bumpy, and others have tough river crossings. 

You need a 4×4 or a 4WD to drive an F-road, which is only open between June and September. And, some of these roads even need a 4×4 super jeep. 

If you’re planning to drive these roads, do a little research, and find out which F-roads are suited for a small 4×4 and regular 4WD. And please, pretty please, don’t be the person that tries to take their rental car on these roads. It never ends well.

14. Find Out When to Rent a 4×4 or 4WD 

Iceland 4x4 in the Highlands
We hired a company with a 4×4 to take us to the Highlands

You don’t have to use a 4×4 or 4WD every time you drive in Iceland. The Ring Road, for instance, is well-paved and most tourist attractions along this popular route are easily accessible by a regular 2WD vehicle. 

If, however, you’re traveling in winter to Iceland, we recommend renting a 4×4 or a 4WD. 

Also, if you want to explore underrated and hidden spots (like the Highlands) in Iceland in summer, consider renting a 4×4 or 4WD. 

15. Getting Mobile Data Access 

David Stock at Seljalandsfoss in Iceland
Yes, you can visit epic places like this and have cell service

There’s excellent mobile coverage throughout the country, even in the more remote parts of Iceland. Except for some wilderness areas in the Icelandic Highlands, there’s superb mobile data coverage everywhere in Iceland. 

To get mobile data access, get a prepaid Iceland SIM card, which is available in Reykjavik and at the airport. These SIM cards will give you high-speed data access at affordable rates. But, your smartphone has to be unlocked to use the country’s local SIM cards. 

It’s possible your at-home cell carrier allows you to activate an International plan. We’ve found that buying local SIM cards is usually cheaper, especially if you are a heavy data user.

Plans like T-Mobile or Google Fi (this is what we have) allow international roaming at no extra charge in Iceland.

16. Explore Off the Beaten Path 

Lina Stock glacier hiking in Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland
Book a private glacier tour and explore Vatnajokull National Park

Iceland is a popular destination, and most of its attractions are quite busy in summer. The Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik, and the main destinations along the south coast are crowded throughout the year. 

On the plus side, there are tons of fascinating places in Iceland that are yet to be overrun by foreign tourists. If you want to experience the local life and savor the beauty of nature without the crowds, head to Hvitserkur, Haifoss Waterfall, Dynjandi Waterfall, and Raudasandur Beach. 

Furthermore, you may head to Raudasandur Beach, Trollaskagi Peninsula, Siglufjordur, Westman Islands, and Reykjanes Peninsula. 

17. Don’t Buy Bottled Water 

Kirkufell in the Snaefellsness Peninsula of Iceland
Water runs from glaciers all over Iceland and is filtered for consumption

To save some cash on water, drink the country’s tap water. It’s delicious and safe. Just don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle for your day trip, and fill it with tap water. 

There’s no need to buy bottled water in this country. Every restaurant in Iceland serves tap water for free. You’ll be literally wasting money if you buy bottled water.

This article is sponsored by Allianz Travel Insurance. As ambassadors we receive financial compensation. However, all opinions, stories, advice, and insane love for Iceland are 100% ours, as always.

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America's adventure couple Lina and David Stock of Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel Blog gives essential Iceland planning tips that every visitor should know.


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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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