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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 visiting Iceland in August in this complete guide. There is plenty to do in Iceland in August, and we’ve created a comprehensive guide to give you all the best tips. Learn about what wildlife you can see, what the weather is like in Iceland in August, what sites are worth visiting during your trip, and whether you’ll be able to see the northern lights. Continue reading for all you need to know about planning an August vacation in Iceland.

Is August a good time to visit Iceland?

August is one of the hottest months of the year in Iceland, competing with July as Iceland’s warmest time to visit. Not only is the weather finer and warmer than other times of year, but Iceland has many events to check out throughout August. Something is going on almost every weekend.

It’s lovely to visit Iceland in August because the whole country is still fresh and green, with full accessibility. The winter weather in Iceland restricts access to some regions due to the extreme weather, snow, and ice, but this isn’t so much of a concern during the summer months. The only drawback is that this is also Iceland’s busiest tourist season, meaning it will be a little more crowded and some things may be more expensive.

Midnight Sun in Iceland in August

Midnight sun in the beginning of August

Each year, everyone in Iceland waits in anticipation for August — the peak of the summer season. As the month progresses, the midnight sun approaches its end and brings back the beautiful (dark) night skies Icelanders haven't seen for months.

So does it actually get dark in Iceland in August?

That depends on when in August you visit. If you’re coming to Iceland especially to see the midnight sun, aim to plan your trip for early August, as the days are slightly longer and gradually get shorter as the month goes on. The midnight sun is dwindling by late August and the nights are becoming longer again. So by the end of August, you can expect about 16 hours of daylight.

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.

Can I see the northern lights in Iceland in August?

Northern Lights over Kirkjufell mountain

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

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 if the northern lights are high on your must-see list, August isn’t the best time to see the northern lights.



Weather in Iceland in August

The North Atlantic Puffin

Iceland is well-known for its 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 is that 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 occasionally just a little bit drizzly.

Generally, the weather in the south of Iceland in August changes between grey clouds, rain and bright sunlight. That said, on a single day, the weather can change from sunshine to hail, rain, sun, and even light snow. Even in summer!

Temperatures 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.

The wind factor is vital to note. On a 59 F (15 C) afternoon with sunshine, coastal winds 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.

Is Iceland rainy or snowy in August?

Even though the weather is at its most pleasant through July and August in Iceland, this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to stay dry. Average rainfall in August in Iceland is around 62mm (2.4 inches), so be prepared for sporadic light showers, and maybe even hail or snow if you head north or to the mountains.



What to Pack for Iceland in August

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

Best things to do in Iceland in August

Icelandic horses grazing in a summer field

Want to know the top things to see and do in Iceland in August? With the pleasant weather in Iceland in August, almost every activity is available. And under exceptionally beautiful skies, thanks to 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 across Iceland in August

In the summer months, all the roads around the country are open, aside from any hit by a 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 decide your own 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. You can also visit the famous Blue Lagoon and travel the Golden Circle route, which can be done year-round. You can find more inspiration for planning your self-drive itinerary with our list of adventure holidays in Iceland.



Hiking in Iceland in August

One of the top things to do in Iceland in August is hiking. It's the perfect time of year for backpacking in Iceland since the weather and road conditions are optimal, meaning all parts of Iceland’s varied landscape are more accessible than at other times of year.

Visiting Thorsmork in Iceland in August

Hiking the Highlands 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 it’s where you’ll find the highest peak in Iceland; Hvannadalshnukur mountain. Another popular option is the trails around Landmannalaugar, known for its beautiful rhyolite mountain.

There are many guided hiking tours you can book in August, or you can choose from various easy day hikes around Reykjavik and beyond. Our guide to hiking in Iceland covers the best trails and everything you should know.

Berry picking while hiking in Iceland in August

Iceland has several native species of edible berry that are ripe for picking in August. While out on your hike, keep an eye out for crowberries, whortleberries, and blueberries. It’s perfectly acceptable to pick berries from public uncultivated lands across Iceland, but be mindful not to encroach on private land in the hunt for these sweet treats.

Be sure to do a little research into what berries to avoid as well. While most of the wild berries found across Iceland are safe for consumption, there are a few that can be toxic, such as the red berries of the yew tree.

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.

Be sure to bring a waterproof and windproof jacket because it can still be wet and rainy, especially out at sea!

Kayaking in Iceland in August

Iceland’s scenic coastline is renowned for its black sandy beaches and glacier lagoons, with views of sweeping mountains and ice caps. Kayaking is a great way to explore them up close and to get an alternative view to what you can see while 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.

Not only is it a great way to get close to the wildlife, but 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

A lesser-known but exciting option for a trip in August is one of Iceland’s river rafting tours. 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, which flows from the Langjokull glacier in the south, while 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 some of the best river rafting tours in Iceland, many of which are combined with other adventurous activities, like this ATV with canyon river rafting trip.

Jet boat tours in Iceland in August

Another great way to experience Iceland’s beautiful scenery in the summer sun is with an exciting jet boat tour. With calmer conditions at sea, this is the ideal time to get out for an exhilarating blast along Iceland’s rivers and fjords or to visit some of the less accessible spots around the coast. There are a variety of short RIB boat sightseeing tours and longer combination tours that mix a jet boat ride with other activities, such as an ATV tour or a longer, scenic tour of the Golden Circle.

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 not a fan of the cold, this is a great time to snorkel and dive. But it’s still a requirement to SCUBA dive in a drysuit, although you can still free dive or snorkel in a wetsuit if you would like.

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.

Swimming pools and hot springs in August in Iceland

For a more leisurely way to get wet in Iceland, do as the locals do and visit one of the country’s many swimming pools. Most are sourced by Iceland’s natural geothermal waters, making them a comfortable, warm temperature all year round.

One of the most accessible pools in Reykjavik is Laugardalslaug. As well as an Olympic-sized pool, it has geothermal hot tubs, water slides, a steam room, and a sauna.

There are also many natural hot spring pools all over Iceland, which offer a great way to relax midway through a hike in the countryside. Some of them are on private land and require permission from the landowner to enter, so be sure to talk to locals and get advice on where to go. Alternatively, you can book a guided hot spring tour so you can guarantee you won’t be inadvertently trespassing.

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland in August

The famous Blue Lagoon is a luxurious man-made geothermal spa which has become one of Iceland’s most visited attractions. It’s conveniently located just 30.9 miles (49.8 kilometers) from Reykjavik and 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) from Keflavik International Airport, which is why many tourists like to book a visit as soon as they arrive, or before their flight home.

Be sure to book in advance, though, especially since August is prime tourist time in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon has limited capacity per day, so pre-booking means you won’t miss out.

 

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 to check out. 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.

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.

Neistaflug Festival in Eastfjords

Deep in the Eastfjords, the tiny town of Neskaupstadur has a more family-friendly festival—Neistaflug—with music, entertainment, 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.

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 any time. 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 several 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. Two of the most significant cultural events of the year take place in the capital city. 

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. 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 spectacular packed with arts and cultural events including 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 August 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.



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.


Accommodation 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 some peace and quiet, especially if you rent a car or book to stay in a country hotel or a secluded cabin. Just remember 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 weather in Iceland means that camping is a great—and cheaper—way to spend your nights. 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 and protected.

Did we answer all your questions about things to see and do in Iceland in August? Let us know in the comments below if there’s anything you want to find out about, or if you have a question for us.