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August is one of the best months to visit Iceland. When I visited in August 2021, I found sunny blue skies and long days perfect for exploring. Here’s the inside scoop on everything you need to know before visiting Iceland in August — including what to do and where to stay!
I must admit: I wasn’t too impressed with my flight’s arrival in Iceland last August. As we approached the airport, I glued my face to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the island’s otherworldly landscape. I was looking for a volcano, a snow-capped mountain, a glacier, the Blue Lagoon, anything. It was a gray morning. The more I squinted, the less I could see through the foggy plane window. Finally, when I could make out some land, all I saw was a flat, dark-colored lava field.
Thankfully, the week I spent in Iceland in August was nothing like this underwhelming landing. It was quite literally the opposite. Visiting Iceland was one of the best trips of my life.
Find out what it’s like to travel to the land of ice and fire in the summer. Warning: You’ll want to book your ticket as soon as you’re done reading.
Is August a good time to visit Iceland?
I don’t know about you, but I always pictured Iceland as an icy destination. As in, really cold all year round. Yet on my trip to Iceland in August, I found out that’s not the case!
July and August are the warmest months of the year on the island. While August marks the end of summer, temperatures are still mild throughout the month. I might’ve just gotten lucky, but I had several sunny days during my trip. It was the perfect weather for road tripping through the country.
It’s worth noting that the summer months represent Iceland’s peak tourism season. You can expect crowds at the most famous sites along the Golden Circle as well as the South Coast’s waterfalls.
When I visited Iceland in August 2021, travel was still slower than usual due to the pandemic. I didn’t find the roads or tourist sites crowded at all. The farther we drove from Reykjavik, the quieter it became.
Be sure to check with Iceland’s tourism board about the many festivals happening in August. Aside from various local festivals around the island, the Reykjavík marathon, pride parade and cultural night are also held in August.
If you want to visit during a less popular time, shoulder season (May or September) might be a good bet.
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Is there a “Midnight Sun” in Iceland in August?
Imagine a place where the sun never sets. You see the sun hanging over the horizon, and when you look down at your watch, it’s past 1 a.m.
This is the “Midnight Sun” in Iceland!
The Midnight Sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the height of summer in Iceland — when the sun remains visible 24 hours a day.
The science behind it all is pretty fascinating: It’s due to the manner in which the earth circles the sun. The earth’s axis is tilted away from the sun for 6 months during winter, and it tilts back toward the sun for 6 months during summer. For places located north and south of the Arctic Circle, the result is long days in the summer and very short days in the winter.
The peak of Iceland’s midnight sun happens around the summer solstice, which usually falls on June 21.
In August, the day starts to shorten — but not by much! You’ll still have anywhere from 14 to 18 hours of daylight. The sun typically rises between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and sets between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Does it actually get dark in Iceland in August?
I arrived in Iceland on August 5. The sun set around 11 p.m. on that first day, meaning I probably missed the midnight sun just by a few days. A week later, the sun was already setting around 10 p.m. I only caught the sunrise once, and it was around 4:20 a.m.
During my visit, I had an average of 16 to 18 hours of daylight. This was super disorienting — we never knew what time it was! — but also amazing. My friend and I were out exploring until 10/11 p.m. every day. This meant we had dinner around midnight and typically slept in a little later than usual while traveling.
Nights start to get darker in August than in June and July — which is better for spotting the Northern Lights.
Tip: Explore popular spots in the later hours of the day to find them less crowded. You have plenty of daylight anyway!
Can I see the northern lights in Iceland in August?
You might! The Northern Lights season begins in August. However, the sky needs to be dark to spot them. Since there are only a few hours of darkness in August, it’s not the best month to see them.
With each day that passes in August, the nights get darker, and your odds of seeing the lights increase. Visiting Iceland toward the end of August makes more sense if you really want to spot the Northern Lights while still enjoying the long summer days.
Weather in Iceland in August
August is one of the warmest months in Iceland. While I was there, I heard locals talking about how we were getting record-breaking heat! And they were right: A new heat record was set in East Iceland in August.
Overall, though, the temperatures were mild and the days were sunny. We had some rain and cooler temperatures as we drove east, but nothing too extreme.
Although I should warn you that it’s very possible to experience all four seasons in one day in Iceland. The weather here can be very unpredictable, which is why it’s important to pack a range of warm- and cool-weather clothing — more on that below!
I’ve also heard horror stories about Iceland’s wind, which can be so strong it rips your car door right off. This is yet another reason why I loved visiting Iceland in August when the weather is a lot milder.
What’s the average temperature in Iceland in August?
Let’s talk about actual temps: The average daily temperature hovers around 50-59°F (10-15°C) throughout August in Iceland. On super-warm days, though, it can leap up to 77°F (25°C).
Last year, the hottest day of the year hit nearly 85°F (29°C) — possibly the highest temperature ever recorded during August, according to one meteorologist.
Is it rainy or snowy?
You probably won’t encounter any snow in Iceland in August, unless you hike into the highlands. Rain, on the other hand, is more probable. It usually rains 23 days out of the whole month of August — which sounds like a lot, but from my personal experience, Iceland’s weather can be very sporadic.
There’s a local saying that goes something like “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.” I found that to be the case most of the time. It would rain for 20 minutes, then stop. The sun would come out for an hour. Then the rain might return. And over and over again. Overall, though, I experienced more sunny days than rainy ones.
Is Iceland sunny in August?
In my experience, yes! It was very sunny when I visited. Just look at this:
What to pack for Iceland in August
Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the weather in Iceland… you’re probably more confused about how to pack than ever.
I admit that I packed way too much winter gear for my trip to Iceland in August. Again, I was preparing for frigid temperatures — I should’ve read more blog posts like this one, ha — and instead was rewarded with cool days and a few sunny ones sprinkled in between.
When you’re planning what to pack for Iceland, though, there are a few things to consider beyond just the weather. The waterfalls, for instance. They’re as majestic and massive as you think they are, and you will most definitely get soaked by at least one of them. For this reason, it’s crucial to bring a rain jacket, even if it’s not raining. Water-proof hiking shoes are a good idea, too.
Here’s an Iceland packing list to get you started:
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Waterproof jacket or rain jacket (my travel pick)
- Hiking pants
- Weather-proof leggings (my travel pick)
- Regular socks
- Thick socks
- Sleep mask
- Flip Flops/waterproof sandals
- Waterproof hiking boots (my travel pick)
Best things to do in Iceland in August
What can you do in Iceland in August? Just about EVERYTHING! From hiking an active volcano to whale-watching, the travel experiences I had in Iceland in August were among my most memorable yet.
1. Visit the Blue & Sky Lagoons in Reykjavik
Iceland is home to many geothermal spas, and the most famous are the Blue Lagoon and the newly opened Sky Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon’s creamy blue water is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The lagoon is located in the middle of a dark lava field, which makes the color of the water appear even brighter. The temperature of the water is a warm 102°F (39°C) year-round. You can try different mud masks, grab a drink from the swim-up bar, or just wade around until your jet lag wears off. The Blue Lagoon is only 14 miles from the airport, so many people choose to make it their first or last stop of the trip.
The Sky Lagoon is Iceland’s newest geothermal attraction. It opened in 2021 with a Game of Thrones-esque atmosphere and an infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also a swim-up bar, as well as an epic sauna overlooking the sea.
2. Drive the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a 186-mile (300 km) route to three of Iceland’s most popular natural sites. You can drive the Golden Circle yourself or hop on a full-day tour.
- Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park: This is where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart — making it one of the few places in the world where you can walk (or swim) between continents.
- Geysir Geothermal Area: This highly active geothermal area is home to two famous geysers: Geysir and Strokkur. While Geysir himself is inactive at the moment, Strokkur erupts every 5 to 10 minutes. Tip: Stop at the nearby restaurant/gift shop to warm up with a hot bowl of soup.
- Gullfoss Waterfall: This is one of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland. Be ready to get soaked!
- Here’s an additional stop on your Golden Circle road trip: Kerið Crater (Kerid Crater) is a volcanic crater with a deep-blue lake found inside.
3. Hike an active volcano
Four months before my visit to Iceland, a new volcano erupted to life just 35 minutes from the Reykjavik airport. The eruption marked the first time in eight centuries that lava flowed on the Reykjanes peninsula. The new volcano, known as Fagradalsfjall, is just three miles from the Blue Lagoon, making it easily accessible for adventurous hikers.
4. Visit Mt. Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss
Over on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, you’ll find Iceland’s most photographed mountain. If Mt. Kirkjufell looks familiar, it’s because it’s often used as a postcard photo to promote visiting Iceland. Or maybe you’re recognizing it from Game of Thrones. Either way, the mountain is just as beautiful in person. There’s a specific viewpoint where you can get the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall falling directly in front of the mountain, as the iconic photos often show.
5. Go whale watching
While you’re exploring the Snæfellsnes peninsula, hop on a whale-watching tour! The peninsula’s coastline is a great place to spot sperm whales, orcas, minke, humpback, and pilot whales. I personally did the tour with LakiTours in Olafsvik and loved it. They gave us these funny waterproof bodysuits to wear during the trip, and we saw several whales during the 3-hour journey.
We could tell Skogafoss would be spectacular as soon as we turned off the road into the path that led us closer to the falls. We could see the falls from the road — and they looked massive. As we approached the waterfall on foot, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Two rainbows brightly danced across the powerful gush of water. It was hands-down one of the most beautiful natural phenomena I have ever witnessed during my travels.
Have you ever walked behind a waterfall? It’s a pretty incredible feeling. There’s a pathway that stretches around Seljalandsfoss, allowing you to fully encircle it in the summer. The waterfall is especially spectacular during sunset when the sun’s golden rays bounce off the water and create a beautiful palette of colors.
8. Visit Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Vik
Reynisfjara is a black sand beach in Vik, a charming seaside town in Iceland. It’s one of the most popular stops on road trips along the country’s South Coast. The beach is known for its tall basalt columns and distinctive sea stacks home to thousands of nesting seabirds — including puffins! You can also drive over to the nearby Dyrhólaey rock arch and cliffs to see tons of puffins up close.
9. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Iceland’s famous glacier lagoon is known as Jokulsarlon. It sits south of Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe. The lagoon is formed by melted glacial water — a direct result of global warming — and increases in size every year. As icebergs break away from the glacier, they fall into the lagoon and slowly drift out to sea. The lagoon connects with the ocean and is actually composed of both seawater and freshwater, which gives it that unique blue color. You can spot seals here year-round.
10. Diamond Beach
Giant chunks of ice sit on the black sands of Diamond Beach, making it one of the most unique beaches in the world. Located right next to the Glacier Lagoon, the icebergs that float from the lagoon out to the ocean often wash up on shore. It’s an incredible thing to see: giant pieces of ice that once belonged to a glacier slowly melting away on black sand.
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Where to stay in Iceland in August
The best way to visit Iceland in August is to rent a car and road trip around the island. You’ll stay in hotels or Airbnbs along the way, and I do recommend booking these stays ahead of time. The summer months, including August, are peak tourism season in Iceland. Accommodations get booked up really fast, so it’s a good idea to plan well ahead of time.
Keep in mind that most accommodations in Iceland are simple yet comfortable. There aren’t many “luxury” options, especially not the level of luxury found in Europe or in the U.S.
Where to stay in Reykjavik, Iceland
You’ll find the most range of options in the capital city of Reykjavik, where you’ll fly into. There are tons of restaurants, bars, and shops in downtown Reykjavik. If you wanted to stay in the same hotel throughout your entire stay, you could choose Reykjavik as your base and take day trips to explore the surrounding area. Although I do recommend road tripping and staying in different places along the way.
You’ll likely still spend a night or two in Reykjavik, even if you’re road tripping like I did — so let’s take a look at the best hotel options.
Best hotels in Reykjavik
SNORRI’S GUESTHOUSE — GREAT VALUE
COZY STUDIO APT IN BOHOLT — WHERE I STAYED
REYKJAVIK RESIDENCE APARTMENT HOTEL — BEST RATED ON BOOKING.COM
THE REYKJAVIK EDITION — LUXURY (the only 5-star hotel on the island)
Where to stay in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
If you want to spend a day or two exploring the Snæfellsnes peninsula — to see Mt. Kirkjufell, Kirkjufellsfoss and go whale watching — here are a couple of great places to stay. I personally stayed at Hotel Rjukandi, a small and comfortable property right on the side of the road to the peninsula. It was very well located, the rooms were modern, and the shower was hot. The breakfast in the morning was an excellent way to fuel a full day of exploration!
Best Hotels In Snæfellsnes
Where to stay in Vik, Iceland
Many travelers stop in Vik while exploring Iceland’s South Coast. Vik is a charming seaside village with few hotel options, but it’s located right next to the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. It’s also just 30 minutes from Skogafoss.
Best Hotels in Vik
Where to stay near the Glacier Lagoon (Jökulsárlón)
The drive from Reykjavik to the Glacier Lagoon is a long one. You may want to spend a night here to break up the trip as you continue around the island. This was as far east as I went on my Iceland trip in August.
Best Hotels near the Glacier Lagoon
Best tours in Iceland
From a guided glacier hike to whale watching, these are the most popular tours to join in Iceland in August.
Festivals happening in Iceland in August
Reykjavík Culture Night: This is when the streets of downtown Reykjavík Europe erupt in celebration of Iceland’s diverse cultural scene, including free events throughout the day like outdoor concerts, film screenings, photography exhibits, street performances and a firework show by the harbor.
Reykjavík Marathon: The Iceland marathon attracts over 10,000 runners from all over the world — and all participants gain free access to all of Reykjavic’s thermal baths and swimming pools after the races.
Reykjavík Pride: The colorful Reykjavík Pride festival supports LGBTQ+ communities with an opening ceremony party, concerts, dances and a citywide parade.
Iceland is a true bucket-list destination. I hope this guide to Iceland in August helps you make your dream trip to Iceland come true! If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to drop them below.