The 10 Best Things to Do in Iceland in the Summer

The 10 Best Things to Do in Iceland in the Summer

From hiking diverse landscapes along the Laugavegur Trail to watching puffins navigate their surroundings in the Westman Islands, what are the best things to do in Iceland in the summer?

A summer trip in Iceland offers up plenty of activities for you to sink your teeth into. The season's true hidden gems make for excellent alternatives to winter's frozen spectacles while previously unexplorable regions thaw and become available. It's a wholly unique experience with its own extraordinary adventures.

Discover our list of Iceland's best summer experiences, including everything from horseback riding in Skagafjörður to traversing the remote Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

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1. Discover all the Natural Hot Springs

There are dozens of natural hot springs for you to discover. Make the most of summer's extra daylight hours by taking a dip in one of these mineral-rich, rejuvenating lagoons at the end of the day and feel your body wash over with their soothing energy. As soon as you enter, you'll never want to leave!

Head to the Blue Lagoon hot springs on Iceland's southern coast, perhaps the most iconic geothermal waters of them all. Holding over six million litres of water, there’s plenty of space for enjoying some quiet contemplation, relaxing with a Blue Lagoon cocktail or even indulging in an optional massage.

In addition to Blue Lagoon, other incredible geothermal pools include Lake Mývatn Nature Baths and Hvammsvík Hot Springs. The former draws on a centuries-old tradition, offering a natural experience, while the latter promises an authentic experience in unspoiled nature away from the crowds.

There's also the Secret Lagoon in Iceland. Its geothermal activities range from unwinding in the steamy waters to watching small geysers erupt from the pool. On top of this, why not add the tranquil Reykjavík hot springs to your adventure? Kvika Geothermal Footbath is ideal for testing the waters before diving in.

Nearby the city is Sky Lagoon, where you can experience true Icelandic bathing culture in the geothermal lagoon, embracing its calm and serene atmosphere while gazing out towards the picturesque ocean.

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2. Hike through the Highlands

Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the vast highlands. These wild and dramatic landscapes are only navigable in summer, as winter's heavy snow cuts off access to the paths, making it difficult to traverse and see the breathtaking natural wonders of beautiful waterfalls and vibrant rhyolite mountains.

One of the best Iceland hiking routes to explore during summer is Laugavegur Trail. Throughout the 34 miles of active volcanic scenery, you'll ascend black obsidian slopes and descend rugged green valleys.

Thingvellir National Park also features hiking trails. During an Icelandic summer in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's possible to hike to the cascading Öxarárfoss Waterfall or Lögberg rock outcropping.

Iceland's weather in the summer months make it perfect for hiking. It's a fantastic outdoor activity to immerse yourself in the country, especially as the highlands cover around 40% of its entire land mass! Journey to remarkable regions, including the likes of Landmannalaugar, Rjúpnavellir and Nýidalur.

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3. Go Horse Riding in the Valleys

Imagine galloping off into the horizon on your trusty steed, breathing in the fresh air and gazing out towards the midnight sun setting in the distance. Summer solstice is an ideal time for horseback riding in Iceland as you get to take your time exploring and touring between glaciers and along the stunning coast.

Skagafjörður horse riding is a great way to experience these types of unforgettable moments. The remote valley in North Iceland is often labelled as the 'cradle of Icelandic horsemanship', where many ancestors of the breed were born and raised. Nowadays, you're able to get to know the hardy Icelandic horse in its natural surroundings, riding out to peaceful areas such as Syðra-Skörðugil farm and Merkigil canyon.

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4. Spot Seals on the Beaches

Ytri Tunga is one of the best places to see seals in Iceland. In the summer months of June and July, you’ll have a great chance of seeing these sociable creatures hauled out on the dark rocks, snoozing away in the glowing sun. Unlike many of the beaches in Iceland, Ytri Tunga has golden sand, rather than black.

Alternatively, seals can sometimes be spotted at black sand beaches such as Grótta and Diamond Beach. They may even beach themselves on the melting icebergs, offering an incredible photograph opportunity.

Colonies tend to languish on the rocks or gather on the sands; you'll have a better chance of seeing them two hours before or after low tide, and when the weather is clearer, they'll spend more time out and about.

It’s also possible to go seal watching in Iceland at Vatnsnes Peninsula. Vatnsnes Peninsula is in North Iceland and is formed of three public seal viewing sites: Hvítserkur, Illugastaðir and Svalbarð, open and maintained by the Icelandic Seal Centre. Harbor seal and grey seal species are the most common here.

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5. Experience Sea Angling on the Bays

Only available during the summer, sea fishing in Iceland presents a marvellous way to experience nature's wild, wet and wonderful waters – with a panoramic backdrop to match. You can set off from Reykjavík's Old Harbour towards Faxaflói Bay, where an abundance of cod, haddock, rockfish and pollock all reside.

Lake Thingvallavatn, in Thingvellir National Park, is open for fishing from late April to mid September. Stretching across 84 square kilometres, it's the country's largest natural lake, providing plenty of space for you to enjoy your Iceland fishing trip. Brown trout, Arctic charr and three-spine stickleback can be found.

While standing there, looking overboard with fishing rod in hand, you can feel the peace of being at sea sweep over you, enveloping you in its warm embrace. Summer is the perfect time to embark on a fishing trip in Iceland as the sun beams down on you while you're reeling in the catch of the day to fry up later.

Head of Regent, Andrea, experienced her own Iceland fishing trip a few years back with nephew, Jack. They learned about the possible whales they could spot on a whale watching tour before the young fisherman caught two live specimens, releasing one and tucking into the other as a reward for his efforts.

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6. Watch Whales in the Fjords

The best places to see whales in Iceland are in North Iceland. Here, you can spot all different species of whale, from the blue whale to the minke whale and sperm whale. Watch them breech graciously from the crystal-clear waters surrounding you before they submerge underneath the surface below your boat.

In Reykjavík, you can see them all year round. The unique sea conditions mean that the waters are perfectly mixed between hot and cold, filling the fjords with krill and fish – the ideal breeding grounds.

Skjálfandi is a sheltered bay where the gentle giants are commonly seen between March and November. Rise and shine nice and early to make your way to their natural habitat, learning throughout the journey about their intriguing routines and customs. You may even see dolphins and a various range of birdlife.

Eyjafjörður is the longest fjord in Iceland and another home to whales. When visiting these waters, they feed mainly on krill, sand eels and small cod or herring, capelin and mackerel. Once the summer comes to an end, they venture off towards more tropical waters, where they mate and produce their offspring.

The south coast isn't a common site for whales during the summer. During winter, you may see beluga whales, who migrate when ice starts to form in the Arctic. But the best place to see them is in the north. Spotting them for the first time is a magical experience, one you'll be sure to cherish forever.

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7. Explore Remote Volcanoes and Reserves

A road trip to the country's far-flung volcanoes and reserves treats you to spectacular views of otherworldly lunar expanses and jagged, fjord-scored peninsulas. These natural landscapes are only accessible during summer, when the pristine ice defrosts and the lush greenery blooms in its place.

In the central highlands, you'll discover Askja Caldera. Volcanic activity hasn't occurred here since 1961. Nowadays, the volcanic crater sits dormant, a peaceful spot for exploring its stunning scenery.

If you're a nature lover, you'll love Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Epic waterfalls descend thunderously down the mountains and sheer cliffsides plummet towards the crashing sea, a pure paradise for hikers.

While embarking on your adventure, you'll find that you're the only person for miles around, the only thing between you and your thoughts being nature. Discover vibrant fields and towering peaks; rugged valleys and sun-kissed oceans; and a host of Arctic wildlife scouring the mighty environments for food and water.

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8. Search for Puffins across the Island

Looking out over the rocky cliffs towards the sea, the Atlantic puffin checks its surroundings before diving into the waters below and using the calming waves to rest. A day trip to Borgarfjörður Eystri in East Iceland is a great way of seeing these feathery creatures, of which 10,000 pairs nest here every summer.

Over in the south, the Westman Islands are perhaps the best places to see puffins in Iceland. Puffin populations in the peninsula sit at over an estimated one million, which you can search for between April and August when the colonies emerge for nesting season. The young pufflings tend to get distracted by the streetlights and get lost in town, leading to families rescuing and returning them back to the wild.

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9. Drive an ATV through the Mountains

Embark on an exhilarating ATV tour in Iceland, feeling the power of the engine at your fingertips. Throughout these types of road trips, you'll head deep into the mountains, conquering rugged trails and riding over dramatic lava fields. It's a fun activity that you and your whole family or friends can enjoy.

Iceland's temperature in the summer months means clearer paths to explore, from Mt. Hafrafell to Hafravatn Lake or Mt. Úlfarsfell, all while enjoying the phenomenal views passing you by along the way.

In some areas, you can see the sparkling Eyjafjallajökull glacier. In others, you get to visit the Geothermal Powerplant or gaze out towards Reykjavík from atop one of the towering mountains looming over the city.

As you zoom throughout the volcanic mountain trails and picturesque Icelandic landscapes, feel the wind blow through your hair. Summer time lights up the terrain before you, presenting you with a clear path of where to drive, and granting you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the typical Nordic surrounds.

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10. Relax by Swimming in the Local Pools

Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool, overlooking the south coast, has a magnificent view of the surrounding green mountains – a peaceful, remote spot where very few people congregate at any one time. Community pools like this can be found across Iceland and are perfect for cooling off in the summer.

Some of the best swimming pools in Iceland can be found in Reykjavík. The largest is at Laugardalslaug in the north of the city, a more modern and family friendly space the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Vesturbæjarlaug is a great alternative, where local Icelanders meet to discuss politics, culture and life.

Secret Lagoon is the oldest known pool in Iceland, which dates all the way back to 1891. The natural pool, known locally as Gamla Laugin, was made at Hverahólmi, a geothermal area near Flúðir. Its waters flow continuously, providing a warm and clean swim at between 38-40°C all year round.

Swimming is a key part of the culture, so a visit in the summer would be incomplete without testing out the waters. The smaller communities have a homely atmosphere, where everyone knows each other. So, be like an Icelander and get to know the locals a little more. It is the third happiest place on Earth after all!

Experience Your Summer Holidays in Iceland with Regent

Speak with our Regent Travel Specialists to add these summer activities in Iceland to your itinerary. We'll help you plan your adventure from start to finish.

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