Summer solstice and Midsummer Eve are quite magical here in Iceland when the midnight sun barely sets and then rises again.
In June this far up north the summer nights are bright and the day is endless. And on the longest day of the year, the 21st of June, the sun sets at midnight and then almost immediately rises again.
Top photo: Summer Solstice at Viðey island
Photographing the sunset from Laugarnestangi at 23:54
We Icelanders stay up late on this day and try to watch the midnight sunset.
In 2023 we who live in Reykjavík were in luck as after a very long period of rain and gloomy weather the 21st of June was warm and sunny all day long.
Only in the evening, it started getting cloudy, but the clouds looked like cotton balls and only added to the beauty of the sunset.
Summer Solstice 2023:
At Summer Solstice the midday sun stops rising by each day. It starts getting lower in the sky and the days get shorter.
The reversal happens on what is called the Solstice minute, in the morning of the 21st of June. And then it gradually gets darker until on the 21st of December we only get a couple of hours of light.
So we cherish these bright nights after the long winter darkness. And we, who live here, never get used to this, it is just something that we try to adapt to.
And I can tell you that it is much easier to adapt to beautiful bright nights than the endless winter darkness.
Summer Solstice at Skarfaklettur in Reykjavík
We don't do much to celebrate Summer Solstice here in Iceland apart from staying awake and enjoying this brightest day and night of the year, but since 1985 there has been a Summer Solstice walk in Reykjavík.
It wasn't until this year 2023 that I joined this walk on Viðey island with my father-in-law and husband where the Summer Solstice had been celebrated several times before. Around 100 people attended the event.
Viðey island in Reykjavík
Viðey island is an island the size of Monaco only a 5-minute ferry ride from Skarfabakki harbour in Reykjavík.
The free event was hosted by Borgarsögusafn Reykjavíkur - the Reykjavík City Museum and lasted for 3 hours.
People preparing to go on the Summer Solstice walk on Viðey island
We came well prepared wearing a parka, mittens and a cape, and something warm to drink as this is Iceland after all.
But the weather stayed awesome for the whole duration of our 3-hour walk. What a difference a day makes :)
The weather in Iceland is so fickle that we just count our blessings when it is not windy and rainy during outdoor events.
Watching the sunset from Viðey island
We got a guided tour of the island, on which you can see Viðeyjarstofa, Iceland's oldest house and the first concrete house in Iceland, built in 1752-1755. And the archaeological dig for an old monastery.
But I guess that amongst our foreign guests, it is best known as being the island where the Imagine Peace Tower is located.
It is lit on John Lennon's birthday on the 9th of October and turned off on the day he was shot on the 8th of December. It is also lit from the 31st of December until the 6th of January. And at some other times as well.
Summer Solstice at Skarfaklettur
After the ferry ride back we stopped by Skarfaklettur rock by Skarfabakki harbour until midnight and watched the sunset.
If you visit Reykjavík on this day you will notice a myriad of people dotted all by the seaside looking west at the sun setting. It is quite a magical sight.
Given that the sky is clear, of course, and the sunset can be seen.
The sun almost setting at midnight
One year on Summer Solstice we went up north to Drangey island to watch the sunset from that steep rock where Iceland's longest surviving outlaw Grettir the Strong ended his life in the 11th century.
But as fate has it then it was foggy with very little visibility, so one never knows from where it is best to watch the sunset on Summer Solstice.
The following day in Reykjavík after the beautiful sunset on Summer Solstice at Viðey island it started raining again for days on end.
You will see people dotted along the seaside watching the sunset
We on the southwest corner of Iceland sometimes get what we call Rigningasumarið mikla - or the Summer of the Great Rain, while the east and north get a heatwave.
But we are very grateful for the few days of sunshine we get, especially at Summer Solstice.
Jónsmessa - Midsummer Eve in Reykjavík
Watching the sunset from Laugarnestangi next to the Raven's Nest
Midsummer Eve is nowadays more and more celebrated in Iceland and maybe more than the Summer Solstice. The Jón in the name Jónsmessa refers to John the Baptist.
On Midsummer Eve it is considered to be very healthy to roll around naked in the dew. All your illnesses are supposed to be cured by doing this and you won't get ill for the whole next year.
Midsummer Night at the Raven's Nest in Reykjavík
And I remember back when my girlfriends and I were teenagers that it was customary to put freshly picked flowers under our pillow and we would then dream about the man we were supposed to marry.
We have some old folklore about things that happen on Midsummer Eve, like seals that shed their skin on that night and take on human form. Some of them even got married to a human and had kids, but escaped back to the sea to their seal children.
And you can even find wishing stones and other stones of magic that float up on ponds or lakes on this magical night.
Mt. Drápuhlíðarfjall on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland
In Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Compilation of Folklore by Jón Árnason, some of the locations of magical stones are mentioned, like at Mt. Drápuhlíðarfjall on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Another such place is at Kofri on Arnarnes in Álftafjörður in the Westfjords. And on Mt. Tindastóll in North Iceland.
And Mt. Baula which can be seen from the ring-road when you drive up north.
Midsummer Eve on Laugarnestangi in Reykjavík
Midsummer Eve is more widely celebrated abroad than in Iceland. When living abroad I had no idea at first why the beach was dotted with bonfires in Spain and there were bonfires and celebrations in Norway when I was living there for a while.
The only time I have taken part in a Midsummer Eve celebration is at the director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson's house a few years ago. There was dancing on the roof and a bonfire and great fun.
The Raven's Nest
Hrafn Gunnlaugsson is well-known for his many Viking films and he has a heathen temple in his home. A very colourful and likable character.
You might know his house by the sea on Laugarnestangi in Reykjavík. It is sometimes called the Raven's Nest and it is different looking with all kinds of recycled sculptures and stuff.
It is one of the strangest-looking houses in Reykjavík and many curious people timidly approach the house to have a closer look.
Watching the sunset from Laugarnestangi in Reykjavík
I love visiting the house. Hrafn is my husband's second cousin and we have visited the Raven's Nest on numerous occasions.
Have fun in Reykjavík on Summer Solstice and on Midsummer Eve, and I hope that the sun will be shining :)
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