What can you do and see in Iceland in July? Is it true the sun never sets, or can you still see the Northern Lights? What tours run and what places are accessible? Continue reading for all you need to know about your midsummer vacation to Iceland in July.
Iceland is at its peak in July. Summer is truly in full-swing, the days only grow dark towards the end of the month, and almost every road in the country is open to being traversed, at least in a four-by-four vehicle. For these reasons, it is an incredibly popular time to visit the country.
The opportunities in Iceland that come with the onset of summer are numerous. Visitors can indulge in a wide variety of tours, catering to all tastes, and need not fear problems associated with the winter months, such as particularly dangerous roads, brutal weather (although it still can be unpredictable) and missing tours due to unfavourable conditions.
It is a great time for those who love the great outdoors to come, as the Highlands are open once more, there are many multi-day hikes available, and camping is a possibility.
The only thing you miss out on seeing during a holiday in July to Iceland is the chance to capture the aurora borealis; although the lights are dancing in the sky, you need complete darkness to see them, which never occurs under the midnight sun.
Even so, your time here will be so packed with adventure, relaxation and culture due to the flexibility the constant day allows, you won’t head home feeling like you’ve missed a thing.
Things to do in Iceland in July
When it comes to what to do in July, the list really is endless. You could spend weeks traversing Iceland, seeing as many sites and doing as many activities as possible, and still have an array of things you didn’t have time to get to do.
When making plans for a holiday during this month, therefore, it is important to prioritise what you want to focus on; some come seeking to immerse themselves in nature, others seek adrenaline, some are focused on enjoying the culture and festivals. There really are options for everyone.
Camping in Iceland in July
Camping in Iceland is an incredibly popular pastime in July, amongst both locals and visitors. Campsites all across the country are open to guests and fill up with those seeking the sun, nature, and a great atmosphere. Camping also makes travelling Iceland a possibility for those on a budget.
Most Icelandic campsites are immersed in incredible locations, putting you right near all of the most important sites in the area.
Camping in Iceland is great but comes with rather strict rules. Camping on someone’s property or in a National Park is illegal and will result in fines; camping one night on untilled land is allowed, but only if no waste is left behind and you do not start an open fire.
If you rent a campervan or car with a rooftop tent, this is not an option; you must stay in a campsite. You can bring all your camping equipment with you to Iceland, or, to save on luggage, rent it while you are here.
Hiking in Iceland in July
Another activity that is perfect to undertake during the summer months of Iceland is going on a guided hiking tour. While, of course, some trails are open throughout the year, the most spectacular are only open between June and September.
Avid hikers have a wealth of multi-day treks to choose from. The most popular and renowned route is the famous Laugavegur and Fimmvörðháls trail, which takes you from the spectacular highland region of Landmannalaugar to the verdant ‘Valley of Thor’, Þórsmörk.
The hike usually takes between five and six days, but sections of it can be done over three or four days. You stay within cabins en route, and will be introduced to many glaciers, volcanoes, lava fields, forests, lakes, rivers and more.
There are many single-day hikes for those eager to see some incredible natural areas but do not wish to stay overnight. These go to places such as Landmannalaugar, Fimmvörðháls, Þórsmörk, Mývatn, Mount Snæfell and Reykjadalur, to name a few.
- See also: Hiking in Iceland
Midnight Sun Activities in Iceland in July
An opportunity that only exists in Iceland in June and July is sightseeing beneath the Midnight Sun. The endless hours of light that come in the summer months means that there is no natural time to begin or finish your exploration of destinations, allowing you truly make the most of the many sites around the country.
By partaking in a sightseeing tour after normal hours, you are likely to miss out on many of the crowds at the popular sites; considering how busy July can get, this is an extremely notable point. While places such as Geysir and Gullfoss can be heaving with people around noon, at midnight, when seen on this Golden Circle tour, there is hardly another soul around.
Those with a passion for photography who wish to truly milk the beauty of the everlasting day could even look into this 10-day photography workshop through this country’s incredible landscapes by night.
Of course, it is possible to rent a car and travel around Iceland yourself by night; just make sure that you work your nocturnal travels in with your hotel check-in/check-out times.
- See also: Midnight Sun in Iceland
Glacier Tours in Iceland in July
Photo from Sólheimajökull Ice Climb and Glacier Hike
Taking tours upon Iceland’s incredible glaciers is possible throughout the year, but in July, when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, they radiate beauty, and tours upon them are far more relaxing and the views more rewarding.
Glacier hikes can be done on almost all of Iceland’s glaciers throughout July. Classic tours such as those up Sólheimajökull, Vatnajökull and Skaftafellsjökull are still running, and there are few that are only possible during the summer months.
- See also: Glaciers and Glacier Hiking in Iceland
Another way to enjoy the glaciers throughout July is by snowmobile. These tours usually are conducted on Langjökull glacier, leaving either from Gullfoss Waterfall or Reykjavík, the latter often in combination with a Golden Circle tour. In summer, it is also possible to take this snowmobiling tour on Vatnajökull.
For any tour on a glacier, in spite of it being July, bring warm optional clothes and sturdy hiking boots. It is also a great idea to bring sunglasses too, as the sun reflecting off of the ice can be somewhat blinding.
Snorkelling and Diving in Iceland in July
Photo from Whale Watching and Snorkelling Excursion
Like the glacier tours listed above, snorkelling and diving excursions can be conducted throughout the year. The advantage of taking such a tour in July, however, is that getting changed in and out of gear is a lot more comfortable, beautiful algae decorates Silfra (the main location for such activities), and sunlight will increase the already incredible visibility.
To partake in a snorkelling or diving tour, participants must meet a few requirements. These can be identified in the table below.
|Drysuit Snorkel||Wetsuit Snorkel||Drysuit Dive|
|Min Height||145 cm||150 cm||150 cm|
|Min Weight||45 kg||50 kg||45 kg|
|Must be a swimmer||Must be a swimmer|| At least 10 logged
drysuit diver OR
Be a certified dry-
This tour cannot be taken by pregnant women. Those over 45 who smoke a pipe or drink heavily, and those with circulatory, respiratory or neurological problems, may also need a waiver.
As can be seen in the table above, it is possible to snorkel in a wetsuit or a drysuit; diving, however, is only permitted in a drysuit. This is because the water averages at 2° Celsius, and while wetsuit equipment is sufficient in a snorkel, it can very easily become too much when submerged at depth for a prolonged period.
Photo from Diving Silfra Day Tour
Most snorkelling and diving in July is conducted in Silfra fissure, a beautiful gorge in Þingvellir National Park where the water emerges crystal clear, with visibility exceeding 100 metres.
- See also: Diving and Snorkelling in Silra
Horse Riding in Iceland in July
Going on a horse riding tour is a popular activity year round, but becomes much easier in summer months like July, when inclement weather is less likely to dampen your tour.
Instead, you can focus on the curious, intelligent, friendly animal you are travelling with, and soak up the traditional Icelandic experience, imagining what it was like to an early settler in times gone by.
These tours can be taken all over the country; many leave from Reykjavík while others leave from Northern destinations like Húsavík. In the East Fjords, there is, in fact, a horse-ride that is conducted exclusively in July, and will introduce you to many beautiful sites.
As with the tours listed above, horse-riding can be conducted with excursions such as glacier hiking in a combination day tour from Reykjavík.
Lava Caving in Iceland in July
Lava Caving is an excellent activity to enjoy in July in Iceland. The snow that blocked the entrances of many of the caves in winter will have passed, and the ice on the ground that can make exploring them hazardous is usually gone.
Popular caves that have walkways throughout to make traversing them much easier include Raufarhólshellir and Viðgelmir; the more ambitious may wish to head to Leiðarendi instead, which requires a degree of climbing and crawling to navigate.
To make a full day out of a lava-caving tour, you can combine it with this exploration of the South Coast of Iceland, which includes a glacier hike and an option to take a fat-bike ride. This tour, meanwhile, will show you more geology than what can be found in a lava tube, by whisking you across the Reykjanes Peninsula to all of its major sites.
- See also: Caves in Iceland
Whale and Puffin Watching in Iceland in July
If you wish to see the most incredible creatures of the deep such as minke whales, humpback whales, and even sperm, fin and the mighty blue whale, there is no better option than whale-watching in Iceland in July. By this time of the year, all of these creatures have returned from their summer breeding grounds to feed, and can be found in many places around the country.
The same is true for Iceland’s puffins. The last of them return from feeding in June, and the earliest to leave start to depart in August, so July is the optimal time to catch them.
- See also: Whale Watching in Iceland
From Reykjavík, there are whale-watching tours that are incredibly easy to partake in, and only take a few hours from your holiday. The reasonably good weather in July means that sightings are very common, and few tours will return without at least seeing puffins on the water and a pod of white-beaked dolphins or harbour porpoises.
If you take a whale-watching tour and do not see a cetacean, you can take it again for free until you do.
The best whale-watching tours not only in Iceland but in arguably all of Europe depart from Húsavík in Iceland’s North. The amount of food in Skjálfandi bay, where the tours are conducted, means you are likely to see multiple humpbacks engaging in activities such as feeding, breaching and fluking.
Photo from Husavik Traditional Whale Watching
From the nearby Akureyri, it is also possible to take whale-watching tours.
In summer, whale-watching can even be done from the shores of Iceland, if not overly reliably. Whale sightings from the coast are regular in the Westfjords, East Fjords, and the Snæfellnes Peninsula, especially on the northern side that overlooks the herring grounds of Breiðafjorður; this is the most likely place you will see orcas.
Spotting puffins from land is much easier, however. They congregate in certain spots around the country every year and can be seen in their thousands at locations such as Látrabjarg in the Westfjords, Dyrhólaey in the South, and the Tjörnes Peninsula in the North.
- See also: The Wildlife and Animals of Iceland
Festivals in Iceland in July
Photo from Nightlife in Reykjavík
Throughout the summer months in Iceland, the entire country becomes alive with festivals, appealing to people of all interests and backgrounds, and July is no exception. There are many events going on, most occurring outside of Reykjavík.
In the Westfjords, in the first weekend of July, is the Rauðasandur Festival. Conducted on the beautiful red-sand beach under the midnight sun, this music festival provides a beautiful combination of nature and culture, and all proceeds go into the protection and development of the area.
In the town of Skalholt, on different days from the 8th of July to the 6th of August, you can see the annual summer concerts, which attract around 4000 people every year. This festival is unique compared to others, as it promotes innovative church music and music from the 17th and 18th Centuries, as opposed to more modern, conventional tunes.
Those who love rock and metal should attend the increasingly popular Eistnaflug festival, from the 11th to 14th of July. This concert is held in Neskaupstaður in East Iceland. Also in East Iceland, you could attend the concert Bræðslan in Borgafjörður Eystri, which occurs over the last weekend of July and is held inside a historic, disused fish factory.
Multiple festivals also occur in the town of Seydisfjörður, also in Iceland’s East. The Bláa Kirkjan Concert Series is conducted in the town’s quaint blue church, with events going on throughout July and August, and it is a lot more intimate than many other events. The Lung-A festival, meanwhile, is a lot more lively; it is an art event that aims to push community spirit and focus on the talents of youth.
In the last weekend of July, you could head to the western town of Reykholt for their Chamber Music Festival, to witness four concerts. One of these concerts is done in conjunction with the Snorrastofa Centre, a centre of learning about the medieval writer, historian and chieftain Snorri Sturluson, giving it a distinctly historic twist.
And finally, in Reykjavík, you could visit the Kexport Festival, a block party on the Saturday of the third week of July. This music marathon covers many genres and is a very popular event amongst the capital’s residents and visitors.
- See also: Top 10 Festivals in Iceland
What to See in Iceland in July
Throughout the bright days under the midnight sun, you can see a huge amount of Iceland’s incredible sites, all around the country.
Although classic tourist trails such as the Golden Circle and South Coast are just as great as they are at other times of the year (and perhaps even somewhat better, considering tracks like those encircling Seljalandsfoss and leading down to Gullfoss are opened), it is the usually harder-to-reach destinations that are most worth celebrating.
The roads of the East, for example, are not reliably open throughout winter, due to snowfall, flooding and potential avalanches. This all changes in July, however; you will be able to wind along the East Fjords and cross over mighty mountain peaks with little to no trouble, especially in a four-wheel-drive. It should be possible to reach quaint and beautiful places, like the villages of Borgafjörður Eystri and Bakkafjörður.
Opportunities in the North also increase dramatically. For example, though Lake Mývatn can be explored year-round, places such as Víti crater and the dramatic Krafla lava fields are inaccessible in winter due to snow; not in July, however. The waters of the lake also fill with avian life, making it a great destination amongst birdwatchers.
Northern destinations that are harder to reach in the winter months also become accessible. The roads around the Vatnsnes Peninsula, a popular destination for seal-watching, are much easier to traverse, for example.
- See also: Seals and Seal Watching in Iceland
The Westfjords throughout winter are quite difficult to travel around. Locals from the smallest villages often have to connect to the outside world via boat. In summer, however, the vast majority of its sites are easily reached by road, such as the iconic Dynjandi waterfall. Even the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, the most remote, sparsely populated part of the country, can be reached in July.
The aforementioned Látrabjarg bird cliffs require a special mention here. Not only are they easy to get to, but they are full of life, with thousands upon thousands of individuals from dozens of species present. The main allure here in July is that you can get within arm’s reach of the fearless, adorable puffins nesting.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a lot easier to drive throughout summer too. The mountain passes become clear of snow, allowing you to hop between destinations such as Mount Kirkjufell on the northern side and Ytri Tunga beach on the south without having to go around the entire headland.
The final sightseeing locations that are especially incredible during July are the Highlands. Only accessible in a four-wheel-drive, routes such as the Kjölur Highland Road and Sprengisandur are open, allowing you to see the little-travelled interior of this beautiful country.
Places such as the renowned region of Landmannalaugar and the lesser-known but still awe-inspiring area of Hveravellir are opened for travellers to come and witness. At both of these, you can hike to some spectacular sites and bathe in gorgeous hot-springs, as well as go camping.
- See also: The 5 Best Hot Springs in Iceland
What to know about Iceland in July
Before coming to Iceland in July, it is wise to be aware of what to expect from the country. In general, it is light and the weather is more than reasonable, but there are a few things to watch out for.
Sunlight in Iceland in July
Firstly, the sun does not shine all the way through July. The summer equinox is on June 21st, so by the end of the month, the sun will set for a few hours. On July 1st, the sun will not be visible from 23:56 to 03:06 (although the sky will still be very light), while on the 31st, it will set at 22.33 and rises at 04:31. Even at this time, however, it will not be dark enough to see the Northern Lights without specialist equipment.
Weather in Iceland in July
In July, the average temperature in the capital, Reykjavík, is just under 12° Celsius (54° Fahrenheit), but temperatures have been recorded as high as 25.7° Celsius (78° Fahrenheit) and as low as 3.5° Celsius (38° Fahrenheit) since the turn of the millennium.
Although you can expect warmth and sun, you can also expect cloudy skies, wind and rain. July is the third driest month on average, but has an average precipitation of 50mm, so waterproof gear is also recommended. Though uncommon, it is wise to prepare for snow if travelling to certain parts of the Highlands and the Westfjords.
The Icelandic Meteorology Office's Website will tell you the conditions across the country at any given time, and it is essential to check it before any departure, especially if driving yourself.
Furthermore, though most roads are open, unseasonable snow or flooding may still close a few of them. The Road and Coastal Administration's website provides around the clock information on road conditions in Iceland.
- See also: The Ultimate Guide to Driving in Iceland
Travelling the Highlands in Iceland in July
If you are travelling into the Highlands to hike and camp, no matter your level of experience, you should register your travel plans. This way, if you are away longer than intended, appropriate measures can be made to locate you and ensure that you are OK.
Suggested Itineraries for Iceland in July
Now you know all there is to do, see and know about Iceland in July, it is possible to look into creating a holiday that will allow you to make the most of your time here.
How you plan your trip to Iceland in July depends entirely on what you desire. Many wish to encircle the country, some by driving themselves, to tailor their trip to their own needs, and others by being driven, to take away pressures of organisation and to ensure their road safety. Some may wish to stay in Reykjavík and visit all the locations they want to on day tours from the capital.
Self-Drive Itineraries for Iceland in July
Let’s begin by looking into self-drive tours. While of course, it is possible to rent a car, choose what activities you want to do, plan your route and book your accommodation yourself, it is often much easier and more desirable to book a self-drive package.
This way, you have the freedom to travel to the sites you want, without worrying about all the organisation. A detailed itinerary will help you find the best places to head to each day.
The minimum amount of time recommended to take the ring-road in over summer is between six or seven days, and the shortest self-drives reflect this. They will let you see all four sides of the country, and while they require long drives each day, they will take you to the majority of locations worth seeing. It is also possible to add activities into your days, such as glacier hiking, whale watching and a boat tour on Jökulsárlón.
Those with a little longer to spend in Iceland, however, will find that they can reach more sites. This ten-day tour, for example, will also introduce travellers to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, while these thirteen- and fourteen-day trips will allow you to see both the peninsula and the Westfjords.
If you want to drive yourself, but will not have time to see the whole circle of the country, you can take a self-drive tailored to where you want to go. Over five days, you could enjoy the sites of the Golden Circle and South Coast in depth, including time at Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Also over five days, you could explore the many sites of the west including Snæfellsnes.
Those who are on a tighter budget - or just those who love the great outdoors - could also partake in a self-drive circle of Iceland where they camp at each destination. This could be done in anything from eight days to fourteen, again depending on what you want to see and experience.
Guided Packages in Iceland in July
Guided packages appeal more to certain individuals, as they remove the stresses associated with driving. Like the self-drives, these packages will allow you to see more at a slower pace the longer they are.
While none of these will take you to the Westfjords as well as the ring-road, this twelve-day package will show you the circle of the country and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. There are other options to take the ring-road in lesser amounts of time, such as this one which will cover it in six, action-packed days, and this one that will cover it in seven.
A particularly notable opportunity in July is the option to book a package to Iceland and have a full day spent in Greenland, in which flights are included. These packages can go over five, six, seven or eight days.
Other Options for Iceland in July
If you wish to remain based in Reykjavík, however, and take guided tours out at your own pleasure, you could make your own itinerary based on your interests. This following agenda is just of suggestions based on seven days in Iceland, and you can amend it how you like.
On day one, you will arrive at Keflavík Airport, and take the Flybus to the Blue Lagoon. After bathing in the beautiful waters, and giving yourself a revitalising silica face mask, you will take the bus to Reykjavík and settle into your hotel. To complete your day, you will head to the Old Harbour for an evening whale-watch under the midnight sun.
For your second day, you will take the near-essential sightseeing tour of the Golden Circle; not wanting to miss out on any adventure, however, you will combine it with a lava caving adventure. You will continue your sightseeing and adventure on day three with a tour of the South Coast with a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull glacier.
Your fourth day can be spent recharging in Reykjavík, enjoying the city under the sun and getting to know the restaurants, boutiques, museums, galleries and bars. If you still have energy, you could take two buses over to Mount Esjan, and take a pleasant and reasonably comfortable hike to the top.
On day five, you will take a tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and spend a full, long, action-packed day exploring its many sites. On your penultimate day in Iceland, you will elect to see more of the glaciers and take a tour of snowmobiling on Langjökull.
On day seven, it will be time to leave Iceland, but not before a morning tour to Hveragerði, where you will hike through the Reykjadalur valley to bathe in some natural hot-springs. You will then return to Keflavík completing your immersive holiday to Iceland.