Northern Lights over Kirkjufell mountain

Iceland in August | The Ultimate Guide & How COVID-19 Influences Travel

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Iceland in August | The Ultimate Guide & How COVID-19 Influences Travel

Are you thinking of visiting Iceland in August? What is the weather like in Iceland in August? What wildlife can you see? What sites can you take in? Are there any fascinating events to experience? How would COVID-19 affect my trip? Continue reading for all you need to know about an August vacation in Iceland.

August is one of the hottest months of the year in Iceland—not only because of its weather, which can compete with July's warm temperatures, but also because of its cluster of festivals and events, with something going on virtually every weekend. The locals flock out of their villages to enjoy both.  

Every man, woman, and child in Iceland wait in anticipation each year for August, the peak of the summer season. After the summer solstice (when the sun is at its highest altitude), in August, 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.



Midnight sun in the beginning of August

By the end of August, Iceland has a few hours of pitch-black darkness. These remind us of the upcoming evenings filled with the enchanting Northern Lights, which you can glimpse in late August on crisp, clear nights.

But before you arrive in this land of summer adventure, let’s take a look at how the conditions around COVID-19 might affect your trip.

 

COVID-19’s Impact on August Travel in Iceland

Quite contrary to the situation in 2020, Iceland in August is very open to travelers. Those with vaccinations, certification of antibodies, or coming from an approved country are welcome to enter without quarantine or testing, only having to fill out an online pre-registration form. Furthermore, mask mandates and social distancing restrictions have been lifted as of June 2021, making it a great place to come to enjoy the freedoms of a post-pandemic world.

As such, all summer excursions such as river rafting, snorkeling, glacier hiking, and highland trekking are all running as normal, without reduced capacity. Furthermore, you'll be able to head to the bars, pools, museums, and galleries without having to avoid all social contact.

Those who still have concerns over COVID-19 can, of course, find plenty of open spaces far from other people in the island's nature, particularly if heading to the Westfjords, interior, or on a camping trip. Booking a self-drive adventure is also a great way to escape the crowds.

If you’re planning your trip to Iceland in August, be sure to check out our COVID-19 information page for all the insider tips.

Northern Lights over Kirkjufell mountain

 

Things to do in Iceland in August

Icelandic horses grazing in a summer field

Self-Driving in August

Although you can do a number of activities year-round, like visiting the Blue Lagoon, taking adventure holidays, or traversing the famed Golden Circle route, there are a few adventures that only open up in summer. 

In August, all of the roads are open--a sudden snowstorm or landslide notwithstanding--so this late summer month is the optimal time to rent a car and head out on a self-drive tour, whereon you can control your journey and navigate the island with greater ease. 

Landmannalaugar in the Icelandic Highlands

Prime Backpacking Season

If you're planning on visiting Iceland in August as a backpacker, you've picked the right time of year: it's arguably backpacking prime time since the weather and road conditions are perfect. 

With just a little bit of planning, you can create the perfect Iceland adventure in August and travel the ring road from town to town, all while catching a few local events both in and out of the capital.

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. Break out your tent and or rent a cottage during your trip to reconnect with nature.

Festivals

If you're planning on visiting Iceland in August, you'll not only enjoy the fair weather, but you'll also have access to innumerable exciting local activities. August has everything from festivals to sporting competitions and outdoor markets. 

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. 

Thjodhatid in the Westman Islands

The most prominent of all these events is Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum; an annual festival that's been held in the lush volcanic terrain of the Westman Islands for over a century. Originally the festival was a collection of sports events, but it soon evolved into a sizeable open-air music festival featuring a vast array of Icelandic musicians. 

During Þjóðhátíð, the isolated fishing town of Heimaey Island comes to life as visitors from the mainland flock to Herjólfsdalur Valley by air and sea 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 folksongs 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 the town of Ísafjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland. A sporting event unlike any other, Mýrarboltinn 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 formidable pit of mud, with foul play permitted by the rulebook. 

While the match is going on, there are also many concerts and parties in and around the fjord-town of Ísafjörður, making it one of the prime places to travel to for a holiday. 

Innipukinn in Reykjavik & Other Events

Harpa is at the centre of Reykjavik's culture.

There's hardly a corner of the island that doesn't hold a festival during the first weekend in August. In the 'Capital of the North,' AkureyriEin með öllu ("One with All") takes place, a town festival boasting of various sporting events, competitions, concerts, and an outdoor market, and a carnival.

Further north, in the fishing town of Siglufjörður, you'll find the Síldardagar festival, which may be for the more historically-minded. This event is held in celebration of herring fishers of the past and present.

Meanwhile, deep in the Eastfjords, the tiny town of Neskaupstaður administers Neistaflug, a family-friendly festival of music, entertainment, and golf and fly fishing tournaments. 

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

You'll see beautiful landscapes on your festival-frenzy

Since some of us aren't always up for traveling to the countryside for a festival weekend, the Reykjavik-based Innipúkinn ('Homebody') emerged. Innipúkinn is a  live music event that's not only held in the capital city but also, for added comfort, held indoors. Now that's cozy. 



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. And Icelanders are very proud of their fisherman (and fisherwoman) predecessors. Our endurance was shaped by our ancestor's ability to survive in a harsh climate on land and sea.

The most notable festival in celebration of fisherfolk is Fiskidagurinn mikli ("The Great Fish Day"). It takes place the weekend after Verslunarmannahelgi weekend. The festivities, which include live music and fireworks, center around a gigantic seafood buffet free of charge 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 Dalvík on the Tröllaskagi Peninsula.

Dalvík 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. 



Cultural Events in Reykjavik

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

You don't have to leave the city to find adventure in Iceland in August. Many locals enjoy Reykjavik's colorful streets during this season when many of the city's residents have left for hiking or camping trips. 

But still, in August, two of the largest cultural events of the year take place. 

Menningarnott | Reykjavik Culture Night

Harpa Concert Hall is a centre of culture in Reykjavík.

Menningarnótt ('Culture Night') is an immensely popular event in Reykjavík City, with the allure of a carnival. It even competes with Icelandic Independence Day in terms of attendance. On Menningarnótt, residents of the capital join forces to build a one-night-only art-spectacular, packed with arts and cultural events, as well as indoor and outdoor concerts. The venues are many and varied: museums, cafés, clubs, restaurants, parks, theatres,  and, of course, the city's streets. 

Come nightfall, Culture Night closes in one of the biggest parties of the year, stretching from one end of Reykjavik to the other. 



Menningarnótt takes place annually on the first Saturday after  August 18, and there is no better day to get to know the full extent of the culture of Reykjavík. 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 Reykjavík Pride Parade, in which the former mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, has made an appearance. 

The Pride Parade in Iceland is one of the most attended events of the year, with roughly 1/3 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 is the first time in history that a president has officially participated in a Pride Parade, standing for tolerance and equality in a revolutionary way. 



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


Things to know about Iceland in August

The North Atlantic Puffin

There's a reason that Iceland is one of the more popular traveling destinations in the world today; the country boasts of myriad natural wonders, such as majestic glaciers, cascading waterfallsvolcanoes, and bubbling hot springs. And the best part of visiting Iceland in August? The weather won't get in the way of your adventures. 

Weather in August in Iceland

The waterfall Skógafoss on the south coast of Iceland

For Icelanders, August 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. 

Because Iceland is a maritime climate, the average temperature in August is generally no lower than  10° Celsius and no higher than 15° Celsius (50°-59° Fahrenheit). The island is prime real estate for erratic weather, located at the meeting point of a cold (arctic) air mass and a warm air stream from the south.

In a single day, the weather can change from sunshine to hail, to rain, to sunshine, and then light snow--even in summer. But more generally, weather in the south of Iceland in August oscillates between grey clouds and rain, called úði, and bright sunlight. 

The wind factor is important to note, though. Even on a 15° Celsius afternoon with sunshine, coastal winds cut between the buildings in a razor-like fashion. They can chill down even the warmest afternoon, so it's important to bring the right clothing. The quintessential Icelandic sweater, the traditional lopapeysa, is a perfectly breathable piece of clothing that offers ample insulation from sudden winds. 



Wildlife in August

Let sleeping birds lie

August marks the closing of Atlantic Puffin nesting season in Iceland; they migrate to Iceland each year between April and September to nest on Iceland's many islands and coastal cliffs. You'll find them at Látrabjarg in the Westfjords, the Westman Islands, Dyrhólaey on the South Coast, and Grímsey 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 with care, remembering that they are precious wild animals that should be treated with great dignity and respect: they are not tourist attractions. 

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 peace and 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.

Should you choose to camp as you travel, 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 we are stewards of the land. 

If you prefer a guided tour to go it alone, we offer multiple money-saving packages that include accommodation and transportation, as well as detailed itineraries to fill your days.