I recently returned from Iceland this summer and wanted to share my experience. If you can remember I went for the first time back in the dead of winter(January). Here’s a link for my winter guide if you haven’t seen it. Iceland is very interesting in the fact that it rarely has Spring. Spring comes and goes before you know it. Summer in Iceland can become quite chilly but it is a totally different world compared to what winter looks and feels like. Summer brings cooler weather, lambs, Puffins and fields wild flowers to the island. It’s an amazing site to witness and the best way to see it all is by camping of course! The longest day of the year was on June 21st this year with a whopping 21 hours of daylight! Summer is the best time to enjoy the midnight sun, when the days are super long and nights are bright as evenings. The sun never really sets as it lingers around the horizon before it rises again. Sunrise and sunsets are simultaneous and the colors they produce are stunning! Driving during ‘nighttime’ is my favorite way to avoid crowds and you seemingly have the whole island to yourself. It’s simply incredible.
Lupine fields can be found everywhere but mainly concentrated around Vik. My favorite fields are the ones with snow capped mountains in the background. The one in the photo above was taken close to Svinafellsjokull. If you are coming from Reykjavik, the field is on your left a little after the gravel road that turns into the glacier. Don’t worry, you can’t miss it! Svinafellsjokull is another sight to see. It’s the only glacier you can come up close to(not climb onto) without a tour guide. GPS coordinates: 64°00’31.0″N, 16°52’49.1″W Lupines usually bloom end the of May until mid-July. I had a stopover in Iceland this past week(July 17th) coming back from Paris and the lupines were still in bloom when I saw them at the airport!
There’s many tourists attractions that can be seen in the summer or winter. A few of my favorites that I always return to in the southern parts of the island are Thingvellir, Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Black sand beach, Jokusarlon, Stokksnes, Kirkjufell and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The photo below was taken at 2:30am when the sun was beginning to rise. The Vestrahorn mountains are a sight to see above the black sand beach and sand dunes. The camping site at Seljalandsfoss was among one of our favorites. The facility is small but clean and the waterfalls are literally in their backyard! There’s many camping options in Iceland and I’ll list all the places we were at below.
A few less visited places among my favorites are Fjallsarlon, Brúarfoss, Fajadrarglujufur canyon, Kvernufoss, and Látrabjarg in the western fjords. Fjallsarlon is a smaller glacier but just as stunning if not more than it’s more popular half Jokusarlon. Kvernufoss is close to Skogafoss. You can park by the Skogar museum, and there is a small foot path that goes along the river through the gorge and leads to the waterfall. Brúarfoss is a gorgeous small waterfall famous for its blue water. Hidden somewhere among the farms, it can be a bit hard to find this hidden gem especially in the winter when the path and road is covered under the snow.
If you’re looking for Brúarfoss, there’s no official parking but they is a spot that will fit 2-3 cars at the beginning of the trail. There is a bridge at the beginning of the trail with a sign for Brúarfoss. There is a spot where you’ll park your car about 20 meters away. GPS coordinates: 64°15’48.372″N 20°30’34.308″W. Follow the foot path and once you hit an opening among the trees, go right and you’ll see another bridge on the left in about 50 meters. Under that bridge is Brúarfoss.
Summer also means Puffin season! These cute little critters can be spotted in many places around the island. But the easiest place to spot a colony of them without a tour is on the western fjords. It’s a bit of a drive on dirt and gravel roads and around high cliffs which can be bit nerve racking for unexperienced drivers. We were able to do in a 2WD though a bit uncomfortable. Látrabjarg is the most western part of Europe and in the Spring and Summer a large colony of Puffins can be found here. Usually they arrive from April and are gone by mid-August.
Our favorite drive is through the eastern fjords. The views are stunning! Once you get closer to Myvatn, the landscape changes to be a bit more rocky. We visited Godafoss, which was a favorite and stopped by Dettifoss and Selfoss. Mývatn nature baths is a great alternative to the Blue Lagoon which I find a bit more costly. There is a natural hot spring by a beach which we found but seems to be unused for some time now. It’s a small pool which someone made and the hot water comes through a pipe from under the ground. You can control the temperature of the tub through the hose. The steam comes out from the ground nearby and can clearly be seen, but the pool is cold. It seems as if no one has maintained the pool.
For those interested in camping, it’s a great option to see the island without spending a fortune. Campsites range about 10-30 USD/night/person depending on the facility. It is possible to camp in the wild but avoid private properties and sites that do not allow camping such as Jokusarlon and other major attractions. Typically, camping in registered campsites is preferred to not destroy the delicate moss that grows in Iceland. We rented our equipment from Iceland camping equipment and they were great! I was able to pick it up after hours easily and return was also a cinch.
5 great campsites we frequented (counter-clockwise).
- Reykjavík Campsite: A great campsite to begin your trip. There is a “free-for-all” shelf with propane and food from guests who are donating their leftover supplies. Hot showers are free and untimed. Coin laundry is also available. Cost: 2,200 ISK/adult/night
- Hamragardar: A campsite in walking distance to Seljalandsfoss. A bit small but showers are available (300ISK for 3 mins). Coin laundry also available. I wasn’t able to shower here because the showers close at a certain time (I believe 1pm). Cost: 1,300 ISK/adult/night
- Viking Cafe in Stokksnes: We stopped by here but did not camp here as we had camped by the glacier the night before. I wish we knew about this campsite because it’s small but very convenient. Hot showers are available and untimed. You can also pay to use the restrooms and showers without sleeping here. It’s close to Hofn and great if you’re trying to stop by here to photograph the Vestrahorn mountains.
- Vogar Campsite in Myvatn: A large campsite with hot showers and close to Myvatn Nature Baths and other attractions. If you’re looking for the caves from Game of Thrones, we were only able to find one of the 2! The water is cool like a swimming pool and not like a geothermal pool as some have mentioned. 1,500 ISK/adult/night.
- Hamrar Campsite: A big campsite in Akureyri. It’s a great site with clean, unlimited hot showers and a play area with obstacle courses! There’s also a kitchen though rather small but laundry is available. Cost: 1,400 ISK/adult/night
There are many more sites, but we didn’t frequent them. I guess you could say we were a bit sleep deprived trying to make the most of the midnight sun. Iceland is such an amazing and diverse country and summer brings a lot more opportunity to explore. We came in early June this year but next time I’ll be sure to return in July to explore the highlands on the F-roads. If you plan on coming to Iceland next summer, be sure to look at when the F-roads are open. Many do not open until late June or early July which makes it impossible to see Landmannalaugar. Road conditions can be found on road.is.