I've already written an article about my favourite season in Iceland (winter :) ) and its most famous activities but I must say that summer is really great too. As a bird lover, summer is a dreamy season for birdwatching. Summer means also endless days, hikes, access to remote areas that you cannot reach during winter. Don't think about seeing the Northern Lights during summer but let's be fair, you will easily forget about them as there are so much more to do!
In this article, I will share some recommended activities as well as some very worthwhile excursions. This blog is not intended to be exhaustive, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me!
Iceland is known for its amazing wildlife, especially whales, birds and arctic foxes. Wildlife in Iceland is everywhere! I must admit that if glacier activities are my favourites in winter, birdwatching is my preferred pastime in the summer! There are many places all over Iceland for birdwatching :
If you're in the North, the Mývatn region is a paradise for bird lovers!
If you want to learn more about birds, you can also book a tour (see all the birdwatching tours here).
Tips: remember that puffins nest in Iceland from May to Mid-August. Some sites can be closed due to birds nesting (especially during May or early June). Remember not to disturb them (by getting too close). Watch out for the arctic terns and the skuas, they can be aggressive (meaning, you're too close from the nests). If they' attack you by swooping over you, don't attack them. Simply waive a hiking stick over the top of your head.
You can also book some combos tours that offer bird and whale watching - you can check the tours here.
Well, you can be extremely lucky or, you can go to the Westfjords and make arctic fox watching happen! :) In this area, the population of foxes is the most significant of the country. There's a well-known place called Hornstrandir, that is a nature reserve, where the fox is entirely protected. You can have a look at my blog here. Note that Hornstrandir is only accessible during summer months (end of June until the beginning of September).
Yes, you will tell me that it's not the first activity you're thinking about when travelling to Iceland in summer. But, when you arrive on the land of ice and fire, it's difficult to resist exploring one of the many glaciers. Almost all the glacier hikes I made were during summer time. I suggest that you take a look at my blog about this activity.
There are plenty of tours available all year long! If it's your first time on a glacier, just opt for the easiest tour. If you're driving by the South Coast, there are two main spots for glacier walks: Sólheimajökull and Skaftafell Nature Reserve. I would highly recommend stopping by Skaftafell, as it's one of my favourite spots and there are many things to do like many hiking trails (and the famous waterfall Svartifoss), you can check my blog here.
There are many hikes in Iceland but if you're in love with hikes, I highly recommend to walk the Laugavegur trail. It will lead you through the most amazing landscapes you could imagine. For more information about this hike, you can have a look at my blog here.
Also one of my favourite spot in the Highlands is Kerlingarfjöll. It's a mountain range in the Highlands of Iceland near the Kjölur highland road. You can find more information about the hikes in Kerlingarfjöll in my blog.
In summer 2018, I had the chance to be part of an amazing tour in Askja, departing from Myvatn. Askja is a caldera situated in a remote part of the central highlands, accessible by the road F88 east of Myvatn. The name Askja refers to a complex of nested calderas within the surrounding Dyngjufjöll mountains. If you want to travel to the moon, just go to Askja! You can find more information in my blog.
You can find all the Highlands tours here.
Well, if you can enjoy this activity all year long, you can access many more hot springs during the summer as most of the roads are open. You can find out all the hot springs spot on this site. Remember that some of them are on private properties and/or require payment.
My favourites are:
Mývatn Nature Baths in Mývatn: often called the Blue Lagoon of the north, I'd rather go there than to its cousin of the south. The only problem is that you will need to drive north and this lagoon is 6 hours drive from Reykjavik. But, it's worth the drive as Mývatn is a mini Iceland itself and has many must-sees. To get to the pool, you can check the google maps link here.
The Secret Lagoon in Flúðir. The Secret Lagoon this is one of my favourite spots to visit after completing a Golden Circle day tour. It's a great place to stay and stop before heading to the South Coast for example.
Lake Viti in Askja: ok, here is the unique place to take a bath: a lake in a volcano! I had the chance to take a tour which included this activity in summer 2018, and it was an amazing experience! Just remember to bring a towel and a swimsuit and the path leading to the lake is steep and muddy! Link to google maps.
Seljavallalaug on the South Coast: it's the 'first pool' of Iceland and typically, in the middle of nowhere. Driving from Reykjavik to Vik, the pool is located by a road on the left just before you reach Skógafoss, you need to go towards "Seljavellir" on a bumpy and small road. After the parking lot, you will need to walk 10 to 15 minutes before arriving at the pool. Link to google maps.
If you're only staying a short while in Iceland, you can go to the famous Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is easily accessible from the airport and even if you don't have a car, there's always a way to get there by bus. You can find all day tours to the Blue lagoon here.
When thinking about going for kayak or canoe, you may think about a calm river but maybe not about a glacier lagoon! Yes, you can go kayaking in Jökulsárlón, in Fjallsárlón but you can also go sea kayaking - my favourite spot is the Westfjords. There, you could kayak among whales! :) Find all the kayaking tours here.
If you're feeling more adventurous, you could also opt for a rafting tour. But if you want to live a magical experience, I highly recommend going snorkelling or diving in Silfra fissure. It will be unique for you as you will just be in between two continents! It's one of the best activity you can do in Iceland for sure!
Here's a non-exhaustive list of excursions you can book :
The Golden Circle: You will visit the famous geyser Strokkur, Gullfoss waterfall and go across Þingvellir National Park. All these spots are must-sees if you're travelling to Iceland. it's a day tour you can easily book if you're not staying a long time in Iceland. All the Golden Circle tours here and a day tour here.
The South coast is maybe my favourite sightseeing route as you drive from smokey landscapes in Hveragerði, to the endless waterfalls landscapes, the glaciers, the black sand beaches, the lava desert... until Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The South Coast and it highlights are certainly worth a visit.
Mývatn: if you're planning to go to Iceland, I highly recommend you to drive through Mývatn. It's a tiny Iceland where you will find a wonderful geothermal area, a crater where you can walk around the top (1km!), the lava field Dimmuborgir and its weirdly shaped lavarocks, a mini Blue lagoon and a massive lake where you can observe many species of birds!
The Highlands: there are many places worth to visit in the Highlands. You can find more informations about Landmannalaugar here, Kerlingarfjöll here and Askja here. I love the roughness of the landscapes in the Highlands and definitely, recommend you to either go for a hike or an excursion. In summer, the colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar are a must-see. You can find all the day tours here.
On the top of my list is Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon! Jökulsárlón is a must-see and a site you not shall but must visit. It's magical and you won't forget your stop by this place. In this blog is all the informations about which activities you can do while in the Jökulsárlón area (I even share a free activity!). Remember to cross the road and go by the icy Diamond Beach ;)
Raufarhólshellir : what's this weird name? Raufarhólshellir is one of these excursions you will remember. It's a lava tunnel that offers 2 different kind of excursions, one classic tour and one "extreme" will lead you through the tunnel in total darkness for 3 to 4 hours. In this blog, you will find all the informations you need to know :)
Contact me for more information.
Well, you can also decide to go on your own! There are so many waterfalls in Iceland in many amazing landscapes that it will be difficult to make an exhaustive list. But here are my favorite waterfalls and places :
Gullfoss, Öxarárfoss and Faxafoss on the Golden Circle - while going to visit Geysir, you will go through the Þingvellir National Park and find a small crater Kerið. It's known as the "Grand" Golden Circle :)
Seljalandfoss, Skógafoss and all the waterfalls in the south. You won't regret driving through the South Coast as you will pass black sand beaches, glaciers, lava fields and a black desert called sandur.
Dettifoss and Goðafoss - in between, you will find one of the jewels of the north, Mývatn. In this area, you will find a tiny Iceland portfolio: craters, lava fields, geothermal areas... it's an amazing place!
If you plan travelling through Iceland, always check and double check these websites: https://en.vedur.is/ (weather forecast), http://www.road.is/ (check the map at the top of the website, it shows the road conditions in all the regions of Iceland)
Rent a 4x4 if you want to drive around Iceland and visit the Highlands. Off-road driving is strictly illegal.
Remember that nature is fragile and that it's really important to stay on marked paths. Moss, grass and small trees are extremely delicates and won't grow back with people repeatedly walking on them. Even if you want the "perfect" picture, stay on the path!
Same advice for birds and foxes; respect animals and don't get too close to them even if you find foxes really friendly. Don't give them any food! Same advice for icelandic horses.
Respect all the signs you will find on your way, for example, the 'No Drone Zones'.
Don't put yourself in danger (like standing by a cliff watching birds :) )
Always take warm and waterproof clothes with you - even if it's summer and especially if you're planning on hiking for a few hours outside.
Have a nice trip! Góða ferð!