North Iceland in Summer: Things to Do & See in 2023

North Iceland in Summer: Things to Do & See in 2023

A place where dramatic nature reigns supreme, there’s enough to see and do in North Iceland to fuel a lifetime of adventure. 

The height of summer is a popular time to explore, when most visitors flock to the otherworldly landscapes of the south shore, take a dip in the Blue Lagoon and explore the capital city, Reykjavik.

For that reason, you may find it’s a good time of year to go off the beaten path and explore Iceland's more remote sights in the north, which are equally, if not more breathtaking.

And with new, direct flights on Nice Air from Stansted to Akureyri, North Iceland, it's never been easier to reach this fascinating part of the country to explore all of its wonders.

Head for the Arctic Coast Way to get off the tourist trail, and along the way come across Iceland’s 'Diamond Circle', a 250km route which is the north’s answer to the famous Golden Circle. Take in the region’s unearthly landscapes, quaint villages and incredible wildlife in ideal weather conditions and without the crowds.

Whether you choose one of our guided Small Group Tours or a fly-drive tour to explore at your own pace, a helpful starter list has been created by our Iceland experts so you can discover what there is to see and do during your North Iceland holiday.


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What is it like in North Iceland in Summer ?

With longer, warmer days as well as an array of outdoor activities, there are plenty of reasons why you should visit North Iceland in the summer.

The best time to visit is between May and September if you want to take on activities in the great outdoors without overheating. The average temperature for July is 11°C with 21 daylight hours, so there's ample time to see as much of North Iceland as possible. 

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Best Things to Do & See in North Iceland 

There are endless gems to discover on North Iceland's Diamond Circle route, including Europe’s most powerful waterfall, moonlike lava fields pierced with bubbling hot springs and whale-filled bays. 

You can also explore rustic fishing villages, indulge at geothermal spas and ride Icelandic horses across blissfully remote valleys.

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Go Whale-Watching in Húsavík

You may recognise the seafront town of Húsavík from the 2020 Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga with Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell.

It's one of the most charming places to visit in North Iceland and is considered to be the best whale-watching location in the area. The warmth of the summer sun brings vibrant life and plenty of food to the fjord, attracting around 23 different species of cetaceans including minke, dolphins, larger-than-life humpbacks and even the occasional blue whale.

Sail in a traditional schooner, take an adrenaline-pumping ride in a RIB boat or board one of the new fleet of electric-powered boats to reduce your carbon footprint, gliding silently through the sea for minimal disturbance to the whales.

During your time in the Whale Capital of Iceland, tour Husavik Whale Museum, home to a 22m long skeleton of a Blue Whale. Then, soak tired muscles under the Midnight Sun in the geothermally heated swimming baths at GeoSea, with the stunning peaks of Víknafjöll as your backdrop.

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Marvel at the Diamond Circle Waterfalls

Goðafoss and Dettifoss are both part of the Diamond Circle route and happen to be two of the most majestic waterfalls in Iceland.

Known as “The Waterfall of the Gods”, Goðafoss waterfall is a North Iceland wonder, where water from the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 meters.

This waterfall is not only spectacular, but it’s also of great cultural importance. In 1,000 AD, a lawmaker named Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. After his decision, Þorgeir cast his statues of the pagan gods into the waterfall to mark this change, thus giving the falls its name which it retains today.

Then, stand in awe as you take in Dettifoss waterfall - the largest and most powerful falls in Europe. An impressive 500 cubic meters of water fed by the powerful glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum crash over its edge every second, which makes for dramatic viewing. You may even feel the spray from the river as it rises up from the depths of the canyon.

These falls are particularly captivating in the summer as thundering water reflects the setting sun and photo opportunities are at their best. 

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Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn and its ethereal surroundings should be at the top of your North Iceland 'things to see' list. Formed over 2,000 years ago from a basaltic lava eruption, Mývatn is an expanse of shallow water stretching over 14 sq miles.

Visit the numerous bubbling yellow mud pools at Hveraströnd Sulfur Springs, formed when the eruption disrupted the flow of the Laxa River and the basin was filled with underground water.

Then, spot volcanic geology with towering lava formations and small caves at Dimmuborgir, pseudo-craters at Skutustadir and the one-kilometre crater of Hverfjall.

Birdwatchers are also attracted to the Lake Mývatn area, home to many endemic birds including the common scooter, gadwall and shoveler.

At the end of your tour, why not treat yourself to a soak in the naturally heated waters of a geothermal pool? At Mývatn Nature Baths, the waters are rich in minerals and sulphur, thought to soothe a variety of skin conditions. 

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Ásbyrgi canyon

At the northern tip of Vatnajökull National Park, Ásbyrgi Canyon is a horseshoe-shaped gorge in the north-east of Iceland, steeped in folklore. Said to be formed by a mythical hoof-print, marvel at the canyon’s 100m high vertical cliffs as you follow well-maintained paths through dense woodland below.

There are also many horse-riding tracks in the vicinity of Ásbyrgi, with paths both along the floor of the cage and on top of the steep cliffs.

If you're on a North Iceland fly-drive tour, continue on a tour to the peninsula of Langanes where you can visit the tiny villages of Thórshöfn and Bakkafjörður, soak in the great outdoor heated pool at Selárdalur, see the third-largest gannet nesting site in the world and explore the abandoned Saudaneskirkja Church built in 1888.

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Visit a Herring Boom Town

Siglufjörður is a pretty harbour town of about 1,300 people on the tip of the Troll Peninsula. During the summer months, some 2,000 birds of 16 to 18 species can usually be found in the area and there are plenty of scenic hiking trails surrounded by steep mountains and beautiful valleys.

It's an area of natural beauty but also an important cultural hub, home to the Folk Music Museum, the Folk Music Festival and the award-winning Síldarminjasafnið Herring Era Museum.

The latter is the largest marine and industrial museum in Europe, where visitors can learn about the pursuit of the "silver darlings", the processing of that valuable commodity and the lives of the “Herring Girls”.

Wander past ships and boats from the 1950s and on good summer days, observe the herring salting process in action at the salting station. 

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Experience North Iceland's newest geothermal spa

A holiday to North Iceland wouldn't be complete without a visit to its newest spa - Forest Lagoon.

Located a few minutes' drive from Akureyri in Vaðlaskógur forest, this sustainable geothermal spa has amazing views of the fjord and mountain ranges from its infinity-edge pools. On site, there are also swim-up bars, a sauna and cafe-bistro, all surrounded by beautiful spruce trees. 

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Visit an Icelandic Horse Farm

There are many farmhouses dotted amongst windy fjordside pastures in northern Iceland, many of which offer horse-riding excursions for every level of expertise. The beautiful rural landscape of Skagafjörður is known as the cradle of Icelandic horsemanship. It's the centre of horse breeding in Iceland and the only region in the country where the horses outnumber the humans! 

Discover this amazing place, surrounded by the flat-topped mountains of the Tröllaskagi peninsula on the back of the country's most loved companion, the charismatic Icelandic horse.

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Explore the capital Akureyri

Akureyri, Iceland's 'Capital of the North', is the gateway to some of the country's best experiences.

It's the second largest town in Iceland after Reykjavík, with trendy cafes, art galleries, original buildings dating back to 1827 and, most importantly, delicious ice cream.

Relax in the sun with a frozen treat from legendary Brynja parlour — something of an Akureyri institution — then take the short downhill stroll to the amazing botanical garden.

The world’s northernmost botanical garden Lystigarðurinn, is a delightful spot for a fragrant stroll in the sunshine. Given the gardens’ proximity to the Arctic Circle, you'll be surprised by the wealth of flora here.

If you're around Akureyri in the evening, explore the variety of cafes, restaurants and bars under the beautiful light of the midnight sun. 

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Learn about farm life on the Troll Peninsula

Nearly everywhere in Iceland feels remote, but Deplar Farm on the Troll Peninsula is particularly secluded.

Formerly an old sheep farm, the hotel is centred around luxury accommodation and unique experiences in the outdoors. During your stay, you are assigned an Experience Manager who will create a bespoke itinerary for you, which could comprise everything from kayaking, mountain biking and salmon fishing, to whale watching and hiking in the summer.

Read all about Regent Product Manager Andrea's stay at Deplar Farm here.

To start planning your own North Iceland adventure, please get in touch with our Iceland Travel Specialists for a bespoke itinerary.

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