How, Where and When to See the Midnight Sun in Iceland: Your Complete Guide

How, Where and When to See the Midnight Sun in Iceland: Your Complete Guide

26.06.2019 | Kaelene Spence

Imagine the most beautiful sunset you have seen. Now imagine viewing that sunset for hours. Sounds pretty magical right? You can make this a reality with a visit up to Iceland during the summer months when the country enjoys the long bright days thanks to an amazing natural phenomenon.

The Midnight Sun in Iceland

The midnight sun in Iceland

To help you make the most of your Iceland adventure under the midnight sun this post is full of everything you need to know about the bright summer days, including how to still get a few hours of sleep during the bright nights.

What is the Midnight Sun?

The midnight sun, in brief, is when the sun is visible at midnight in either the Arctic or Antarctic Circle. This natural phenomenon is caused due to the tilt in the Earth’s axis causing longer hours of sunlight in the higher latitude locations, such as the lucky Iceland.

In Iceland, you will start to feel the winter darkness fade away in March as the days quickly get longer and longer. By the end of the month you can expect to have 13.5 hours with sunset occurring around 8pm, a drastic difference from the only 7 hours of daylight in February. The days will continue to get longer and longer each day until summer solstice which occurs between the 20th-22nd of June.

For a better idea of what type of daylight hours to expect when traveling to Iceland during the spring and summer months here is an overview.

April 15 Sunrise: 6:00 Sunset: 21:00 Daylight = 15 hrs
May 15 Sunrise: 4:15 Sunset: 22:35 Daylight = 18.5 hrs
June 15 Sunrise: 3:00 Sunset: Midnight Daylight = 21 hrs
July 15 Sunrise: 3:40 Sunset: 23:25 Daylight = 19.75 hrs
August 15 Sunrise: 5:15 Sunset: 21:45 Daylight = 16.5 hrs
Sept. 15 Sunrise: 6:50 Sunset: 19:55 Daylight = 13 hrs

The midnight sun in Iceland

How to sleep during the Midnight Sun?

The long bright days are great for fitting in as many adventures around Iceland as possible, but it can make sleeping a bit tricky. Those first few days in Iceland your body clock will likely be completely thrown off with both the time change of being in a new time zone and the endlessly bright nights. While it is fun to experience the phenomenon of never-ending daylight you will probably want to get some sleep while in Iceland to give you energy for all the amazing Icelandic adventures you have planned.

With the help of the below tricks and tips you will be snoozing away under the midnight sun with no problem.

Block out the light

The most important step, especially if you are a light sleeper, make sure your bedroom/sleeping area has dark curtains. Check with your accommodation before arriving to Iceland to find out if this will be provided for you. If not you can try the DIY version by putting a blanket over the blinds to help darken the room. Packing a sleep eye mask is another good alternative to help block out the light in your bedroom. 

Limit light exposure close to bedtime

Try to go into your bedroom at least 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep. Going into the darker room will help adjust your body clock that it is indeed nighttime and it is time to start winding down.

Keep track of the time

This might sound kind of crazy, who wants to keep track of time on vacation? However, when you don’t have the clear transition from daytime to nighttime happening outside it can very quickly become past your bedtime without you realizing it. Using an alarm, or having someone in your group be in charge of watching the clock after dinner time, will help keep you on a somewhat normal bedtime schedule. The midnight sun is a tricky thing and can make you think Midnight is in fact only 8 pm!

Wake up at the same time every day

Again, we know you are on vacation and a bonus of this is not having to stick to any type of routine. But, if you are struggling to get to sleep at a decent time getting up every day at the same time can help your natural body clock adjust to the sleep window you are aiming for. And if you need more motivation, just imagine the cup of coffee you can enjoy while taking in the Icelandic nature views.

Get out there and enjoy the midnight sun!

You can sleep when your home, how often will you be somewhere that has almost 24 hours of daylight to explore?

The midnight sun in Iceland

How Iceland Celebrates Summer Solstice

Summer solstice occurs each year between June 20th to 22nd, however in Iceland summer solstice is celebrated on June 24th with a holiday called Jónsmessa, also known as Midsummer Night. According to Icelandic folklore, June 24th is one of four magical nights of the year in Iceland. During this magical night it is believed that cows can speak, seals will take on human form, and rolling around naked in the grass can cure people of their ailments.

While we have not yet heard any cows speak, and don’t exactly recommend rolling around naked in the grass, there are plenty of other events to enjoy around Iceland to celebrate this magical holiday. Here are a few ideas of events to add to your list if you will be visiting Iceland during the period of summer solstice:
Dance under the midnight sun at the Secret Solstice music festival
A newer musical festival in Iceland, but one that has quickly grown into one of the most popular festivals in the country. There are several stages and a range of music, popular artists and up-and-coming talent, Icelandic and international artists. The party really never does end when it doesn’t get dark out!

Midnight sun celebrations in Iceland

Go for a Midnight run

During this period of long bright nights, you will find several organized races around Iceland that you can participate in. For those in Reykjavik check out the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run. This race will take you through Laugardalur valley and at the end you can enjoy a late night soak in one of Reykjavik’s most popular local pools. A memorable race that is perfect for any runner’s bucket list, how often can you go out running late at night and still have the sun shining down on you?

Participate in the Arctic Open Golf Tournament

Golfing in Iceland might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking of activities to do in Iceland, but it should be because Iceland is full of some stunning golf courses! Add in the magic of the midnight sun and you will have one unique golfing adventure. This tournament, located in the town of Akureyri in the north of Iceland is open to all levels of golfers and has hosted golfers from all over the world during this unique tournament.
These events are only ideas for things to do during the period of summer solstice. Don’t worry, we have even more adventure packed ideas of activities to do under the midnight sun all summer long, keep reading to learn more.

Where to get the best view of the Midnight Sun in Iceland

With something as beautiful as the midnight sun you don’t have to look hard for a good place to view it. Whether you are in the city taking in the vibrant colors lighting up the buildings, or down on the beach watching the fiery sun slowly dip below the horizon before peeking back up, as long as you just look towards the skies you will enjoy a gorgeous show.
But… if you want a really amazing show here are a few ideas of where to make the experience extra special.

Grótta Lighthouse

For those staying in Reykjavik, the Grotta lighthouse is just a few minutes away from the city center and is the perfect place in the city to view the midnight sun. Here you will find enjoy views of mountains, glaciers and the city skyline all added to the never-ending horizon of the ocean. Enjoy a stroll along the ocean-side walkway, bring a blanket to sit out on the beach, or soak your feet in the small pool while watching the midnight sun slowly sink down below the horizon like it is dipping into the ocean.

Ocean view under the midnight sun in Iceland

Goðafoss Waterfall

If you are a photographer, or just enjoy taking pretty pictures, this is one time you won’t want to forget your camera. The waterfall itself is picturesque, but add the vibrant colors of the midnight sun and you have the makings for an incredibly photo-shoot. And the best part, you will have a few hours of the gorgeous colors of the sunset/sunrise to capture your perfect shot. While this waterfall is extra special any waterfall under the midnight sun will be a breathtaking view.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

With sparkling ice chunks floating around and a black sand beach to stroll along this stop is a must anytime of the year. Make a visit here during the late night hours though and the surroundings take on an even more mythical sparkle. Not only will you get to enjoy the area with far fewer visitors, you also will see the array of colors the midnight sun creates bounce off the shimmering ice. And if you are visiting this area during the second weekend of August you will be in for a special treat as there is an annual fireworks show that truly lights up the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

Mt. Kirkjufell

When exploring the West of Iceland a stop at the iconic Mt. Kirkjufell on the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a must. Make the experience extra memorable with a late night visit to this popular stop where you will enjoy fewer people around, as well as watching the different colors of the midnight sun dance across Mt. Kirkjufell.

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Things to do under the Midnight Sun

Icelanders waste no time (or should we say daylight) during the summer months making sure they spend as much time out and about as possible. When you live in the Arctic you have to make the most out of the midnight sun before the winter darkness returns! From music festivals to hiking there is something for everyone to enjoy in the middle of the night.
If you will be in Iceland during the summer here a few events and activities to do under the midnight sun to make your time in Iceland that much more memorable.

Hit the hiking trails

Take your Iceland hiking experience to the next level with a midnight sun hiking trip. Climb up the mountain while watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon, and take in the sunrise on your way back down. The colors in the sky will just make the landscape around you that much more dazzling. A few different hiking trails that would be perfect for enjoying under the midnight sun:

  • Mt Esja in Reykjavik
  • The Highland trails such as the Laugavegur Trek
  • Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Be sure to check out this post for more hiking trails to check out during the summer.

Hiking under the midnight sun in Iceland

Go for a swim

In a hot spring to be more specific! This is a true Icelandic experience and one you will want to repeat every night of your trip. What better way to end a day of exploring Iceland then soaking away in a hot spring with nothing but nature surrounding you and the midnight sun lighting the way? Add in a cold beverage of choice and you are in your own hot spring paradise.

Here are a few different hot spring locations to enjoy on your trip (just be sure to leave nature as lovely as you found it):

  • Reykjadalur hot spring located in Hveragerði, a town just outside of Reykjavik.
  • Hellulaug hot spring located in the Westfjords near Hotel Flókalundur.
  • Landmannalaugar hot spring, conveniently located in the camping area in the Landmannalaugar valley so you can go straight from the hiking trails to the warm water.

For even more hot spring and swimming pool locations head over to this post.

Join a Tour

What better time to try out a unique tour in Iceland than midnight?! Take advantage of the long days and fit in a tour before calling it a night. Not only will you likely be dealing with smaller group sizes but you also get the bonus of enjoying the tour under the beautiful midnight sun. Here are a few tour ideas to get your planning started!

  • Kayaking around Snæfellsnes. The views of the midnight sun dipping past the horizon will be unforgettable.
  • Horseback riding around the Icelandic countryside. Because what better way to enjoy the midnight sun than with an adorable travel companion.
  • Whale and Puffin watching. How peaceful does it sound to watch these magnificent animals play around under the calm of the midnight sun?

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Explore Iceland!

And finally, the reason you are traveling to Iceland in the first place, get out and explore! With the number of visitors coming to Iceland each summer rapidly growing there can be quite the crowd at popular attractions during the daytime. Beat the crowds and do some exploring in the wee hours of the night and enjoy some of Iceland’s most famous spots with little to no one else around!

If you want to experience the midnight sun, you might be interested in our article about why you should visit Iceland in the summer


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