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Northern Lights over Kirkjufell mountain

The Ultimate Guide to Iceland in August

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The Ultimate Guide to Iceland in August

Find out everything you need to know about Iceland in August in this complete guide. What’s there to do in Iceland in August? What wildlife can you see? What’s the weather like in Iceland in August? What sites are worth visiting? Can you see the northern lights in Iceland in August? Continue reading for all you need to know about planning an August vacation in Iceland.

Visiting Iceland in August

Is August a Good Time to Go to Iceland?

What’s Iceland like in August? August is one of the hottest months of the year—not only because of the weather, which competes with Iceland in July but because of the many events. Something is going on almost every weekend.

It’s lovely to visit Iceland in August because the whole country is your oyster, with all the roads accessible. The only drawback is that this is also Iceland’s busiest tourist season.

Midnight Sun in Iceland in August

Midnight sun in the beginning of August

Everyone in Iceland waits in anticipation each year for August, the peak of the summer season. The midnight sun approaches its end, bringing back the beautiful (dark) night skies the Icelanders haven't seen for months.

Although the midnight sun, which the Icelandic summer is known for, is widely considered a magical phenomenon, the locals welcome a bit of darkness to make up for some sleepless summer nights.

Northern Lights in Iceland in August

Northern Lights over Kirkjufell mountain

Iceland at the end of August has a few hours of pitch-black darkness. This is when the season’s first northern lights appear, although it's still a matter of luck whether you’ll see it.

Seeing the northern lights requires solar activities, no cloud cover, and a dark sky. This is why they begin to appear again in late August, but it’s not the best time to see the northern lights.

Best Things To Do in Iceland in August

Icelandic horses grazing in a summer field

What to see in Iceland in August? With the pleasant weather in Iceland in August, almost every activity is available and exceptionally beautiful under the midnight sun. If you’re an adventure lover, traveling to Iceland in August is an excellent idea because it’s the prime road trip and hiking time.

Road Trip in August

Where to go in Iceland in August? All roads around the country are open, aside from any sudden snowstorm or landslide. So this late summer month is the optimal time to rent a car and head out on a self-drive tour, where you can control your journey and navigate the island with greater ease.

Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic Highlands

Those who have time can travel along the Ring Road from town to town while catching a few local events in and out of the capital. There's also the famous Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle route, that can be done year-round. You can find more inspiration with our list of adventure holidays.

There's nothing quite like driving cross-country during this season—it's a high summer activity that everyone loves—and there's nothing like a road trip to awaken the senses.

Hiking in Iceland in August

One of the top things to do in Iceland in August is hiking. It's backpacking prime time since the weather and road conditions are perfect.

Visiting Thorsmork in Iceland in August

The best place to go hiking in Iceland during the summer is in the Highlands. It’s inaccessible during the winter months and where the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnukur mountain, is located. Another popular option is the trails around Landmannalaugar, known for its beautiful rhyolite mountain.

There are many guided hiking tours you can take or easy day hikes you can do around Reykjavik and beyond. Our guide on hiking in Iceland covers the best trails and what you should know.

Puffin and Whale Watching in Iceland in August

Let sleeping birds lie

August marks the closing of the Atlantic puffin nesting season in Iceland. Each year, they migrate to Iceland between April and September to nest on Iceland's many islands and coastal cliffs. You'll find them at Latrabjarg in the Westfjords, the Westman Islands, Dyrholaey on the South Coast, and Grimsey in the north, among other places. 

The puffins in Iceland have an unmistakable allure due to their striking appearance and sweet nature. They aren't easily spooked, so once you locate them, you can approach them with care, remembering that they're precious wild animals that should be treated with great dignity and respect: they're not tourist attractions.

Many puffin tours are combined with whale watching as well. While you can spot whales in Iceland throughout the year, the chances are higher between March and November. Common summer season species include humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, and white-beaked dolphins.

Iceland’s August temperatures are warmer, but bring a waterproof and windproof jacket because it can still be wet and rainy!

Kayaking in Iceland in August

Iceland is known for its scenic coastline with black sandy beaches and glacier lagoons, with sweeping mountain and ice cap views. Kayaking is a great way to explore them up close and an alternative to hiking. 

Many tours range from easy to difficult, from a guided two-hour kayaking tour under Mt. Kirkjufell on the Snaefellsnes peninsula to a three-day kayaking and camping adventure in the beautiful and remote Westfjords.

It’s also a great way to get close to the wildlife. You can also kayak under the midnight sun, which is a surreal experience.

River Rafting in August in Iceland

River rafting in Iceland in August

Most people probably aren’t as aware of Iceland’s river rafting options as its stunning waterfalls. But being home to one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls is a testimony to the flows and rapids of Iceland’s rivers.

River rafting is a unique way to see the process of glaciers melting and flowing into the ocean. You can river raft down the Hvita river that flows from the Langjokull glacier in the south. And the Austari Jokulsa river (West Glacial river) and the Vestari Jokulsa river (East Glacial River) flow from the Hofsjokull glacier in the north.

According to the international river rafting standard, the Hvita and Vestari Jokulsa rivers are Class II rivers with moderately rough water. The Austari Jokulsa river (East Glacier River) is a more challenging Class IV with long and powerful rapids.

Have a look at the best river rafting tours in Iceland, some of which are combined with other adventurous activities like this ATV with canyon river rafting trip.

Snorkeling and Diving in Iceland in August

Snorkeling and scuba diving in Iceland in August

Iceland’s temperature in August is at its warmest, so if you’re afraid of the cold, this is a great time to snorkel and dive. But it’s still a requirement to dive in a drysuit, although you can still free dive or snorkel in a wetsuit.

Iceland’s best place to dive is the Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park, part of the rift between Eurasia and American tectonic plates. You can read all about the requirements and other suitable places in our guide to snorkeling and diving in Iceland.

Glacier Tours in Iceland in August

Glacier tours in Iceland in August

Glacier tours in Iceland in the summer months are still operational. You can get up close and personal to the ice caps that cover 11 percent of the country’s landmass. The glaciers are not as blue as in the winter since the higher temperature in Iceland in August means they're melting.

You can take a glacier hike or speed across its surface on a snowmobiling tour. A less physically challenging option is visiting a glacier ice tunnel where your guide can tell you about these spectacular natural formations.

Festivals and Holidays in August in Iceland

If you're planning on visiting Iceland in August, there are festivals, holidays, sporting competitions, and outdoor markets. It stands to reason that Icelanders are trying to make the most out of the end of the midnight sun and the sunny weather in Iceland in August.

There's hardly a corner of the island that doesn't hold a festival during the first weekend in August. Check out the annual festivals before deciding which places to visit in Iceland in August.

Verslunarmannahelgi Bank Holiday Weekend

The first Monday of August marks a bank holiday in Iceland. The weekend that came before it is called Verslunarmannahelgi (“Weekend of the Merchants”).

These three days of summer are beloved for their wild events and diverse festivals, which take place across the country. If you plan to travel to Iceland in August, you might want to make it this first weekend.

Thjodhatid in the Westman Islands

The most popular of all these events is Thjodhatid i Eyjum, an annual festival first held in 1874. It’s set in the lush volcanic terrain of the Westman Islands. Initially, the festival was a collection of sports events, but it soon evolved into a sizable open-air music festival featuring a vast array of Icelandic musicians. 

During the Thjodhatid festival, the isolated fishing town of Heimaey Island comes to life as visitors from the mainland flock to Herjolfsdalur valley to enjoy camping, concerts, fireworks, and spectacular views. 

For the past few years, tourists have started making the journey to the festival to take in this modern Icelandic celebration of medieval Icelandic culture, belting out traditional Icelandic folk songs in their best Icelandic accents. 

Myrarboltinn in Isafjordur

Even in the Westfjords, you can find festivals.

Another major event during the first weekend of August is the annual European championship in swamp soccer, held in Isafjordur in the Westfjords of Iceland. A sporting event unlike any other, Myrarboltinn was imported from Finland back in 2004 and has since gained nationwide popularity.

Interested participants sign up in teams, flaunting their banners and jerseys with Viking-like pride. This event is arguably the dirtiest sporting event in existence, taking place in a pit of mud, with foul play permitted by the rulebook. 

While the match is happening, there are many concerts and parties in Isafjordur, making it one of the best places to travel for a holiday.

Innipukinn in Reykjavik in August

Harpa is at the centre of Reykjavik's culture.

If you aren't up for traveling to the countryside for a festival weekend, the Reykjavik-based Innipukinn (“Homebody”) is for you. Innipukinn is a live music event that runs for three days but only between 4-11 p.m.

You'll see beautiful landscapes on your festival-frenzy

Ein Med Ollu in Akureyri

In the “Capital of the North,” Akureyri, Ein med ollu ("One with All") takes place, a town festival boasting of various sporting events, competitions, concerts, an outdoor market, and a carnival.

Sildardagar Festival in Siglufjordur

Further north, in the fishing town of Siglufjordur, you'll find the Sildardagar festival. This event is held to celebrate herring fishers of the past and present and is perfect for history lovers.

Neistaflug Festival in Eastfjords

Meanwhile, deep in the Eastfjords, the tiny town of Neskaupstadur has a more family-friendly festival Neistaflug, with music, entertainment, and golf and fly fishing tournaments.

Saeludagar Festival in Vatnaskogur Woods

Saeludagar is another family-friendly festival held in the scenic Vatnaskogur woods. There, you'll find plenty of opportunities for the kids to learn and play, an entire weekend of bliss in a kid's paradise.

Fiskidagurinn Mikli | The Great Fish Day

The Great Fish day occurs in Iceland's month of August.Photo from Kayak Fishing Adventure by Mt. Kirkjufell

Iceland is a nation built on fishing. Icelanders are very proud of their fishermen (and fisherwomen) predecessors. Fishing is how they survived in a harsh climate on land and sea.

The most notable festival celebrating fisherfolk is Fiskidagurinn mikli ("The Great Fish Day"). It takes place the weekend after the Verslunarmannahelgi weekend. The festivities, including live music and fireworks, center around a gigantic seafood buffet free to everyone attending.

Local fish producers supply the ingredients, while town residents come together for the preparations and, later, the celebration. The festival takes place each August in the municipality of Dalvik on the Trollaskagi Peninsula.

Dalvik sits close to the largest town in the north, Akureyri, and is well worth a visit—but be sure to go there in August for an unrivaled all-you-can-eat local experience.

What To Do in Reykjavik in August

Reykjavík bathed in the glow of the Midnight Sun illuminating Hallgrímskirkja church.

There are many things to see in Reykjavik in August. Many of the city's residents have left for hiking or camping trips to make the most of the August weather, leaving the colorful streets of the capital less crowded.

But don’t count staying in Reykjavik out just because of Iceland’s lovely August weather since two of the most significant cultural events of the year take place. 

Menningarnott | Reykjavik Culture Night

Harpa Concert Hall is a centre of culture in Reykjavík.

Menningarnott (“Culture Night”) is a popular event in Reykjavik city that draws more people than a carnival, and it even competes with Icelandic Independence Day in terms of attendance.

On Menningarnott, residents of the capital join forces to build a one-night-only art spectacular packed with arts and cultural events and indoor and outdoor concerts. Events take place in museums, cafes, clubs, restaurants, parks, theaters, and, of course, the city's streets. 

The Culture Night closes with one of the year’s biggest parties, which stretches from one end of Reykjavik to the other.

Menningarnott takes place annually on the first Saturday after Aug. 18, and there's no better day to get to know the full extent of the culture of Reykjavik. Let the music lead you from venue to venue, and don't forget to look up at the sky around midnight for a spectacular fireworks display.

Reykjavik Pride Festival

The second week and weekend of August are dedicated to Iceland's LGBTQIA+ Community. The city celebrates and honors people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations with its annual Reykjavik Pride Parade.

The Pride Parade in Iceland is one of the most attended events, with roughly a third of the nation showing up to support and celebrate love.

In 2016, the president himself addressed spectators and event participants—and once again, Iceland's executive leadership set the standard for the rest of the world. It's the first time in history that a president has officially participated in a Pride Parade, standing for tolerance and equality in a revolutionary way.

The festival isn't just a one-day parade but a weeklong celebration with exciting events, concerts, film screenings, drag performances, and other live shows. And everyone, absolutely everyone, is welcome.

Weather in Iceland in August

The North Atlantic Puffin

One of the things Iceland is famous for is the unpredictable weather. The country boasts of myriad natural wonders, such as majestic glaciers, cascading waterfalls, volcanoes, and bubbling hot springs. And the best part of visiting Iceland in August? The weather won't get in the way of your adventures.

The waterfall Skógafoss on the south coast of Iceland

In August, Iceland’s weather is a small and magical window of the year when the nights are getting dark, but the days are still sunny and temperate. The weather in Iceland in August is mild, sunny, and just a little bit drizzly. 

The Temperature in Iceland in August

Because Iceland has a maritime climate, the average temperature in August is generally no lower than 50 F (10 C) and no higher than 59 F (15 C). The island is at the meeting point of a cold (arctic) air mass and a warm air stream from the south, which causes unpredictable weather.

On a single day, the weather can change from sunshine to hail, rain, sun, and light snow, even in summer. But more generally, the weather in the south of Iceland in August changes between gray clouds and rain, called udi, and bright sunlight. 

The wind factor is vital to note. On a 59 F (15 C) afternoon with sunshine, coastal winds cut between the buildings like razors. They can chill down even the warmest afternoon, so it's essential to bring the proper clothing.

The quintessential Icelandic sweater, the traditional lopapeysa, is perfectly breathable clothing that offers ample insulation from sudden winds.

What to Pack for Iceland in August

Iceland in August is one of the warmest months. But the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, and if you plan to go hiking or on glacier tours, you still need to pack some warm layers and have a proper jacket.

The long hours of daylight might sound nice, but you’ll be exposed to the sun for longer, which means you need to be prepared for that, too.

  • Waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Warm layers like a light fleece or Icelandic sweater
  • Hiking boots
  • Cap, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Bathing suit
  • Festival outfits
  • T-shirts and summer clothes
  • Hats, gloves, and thermals for hiking and glacier tours

Accommodation and Activities in Iceland in August

Lighthouse Grótta in Reykjavík on a summer night

August is the peak season in Iceland, so the most popular locations might be crowded. Still, there are always corners of the island where you can find quiet, especially if you rent a car or book a room in a country hotel or even an entire cabin. But you'll need to book well in advance to ensure that you have a place to stay for the night.

Camping in Iceland in August

The lovely August Iceland weather means that camping is possible. But remember to camp at an authorized camping ground and be mindful of the natural wonders around you. A good rule of thumb for traveling in Iceland is that if it seems like you shouldn't do it, don't. The natural environment here is precious.

Suppose you prefer a guided tour to go it alone. In that case, we offer many great summer tours and vacation packages that include accommodation and transportation, as well as detailed itineraries to fill your days.

Did we answer all your questions about things to see in Iceland in August? Or about the August weather in Iceland? Let us know in the comment if you have a question for us!