Iceland in August: Weather & Temperature, Things to Do + Northern Lights

With a name as cold as ice, one might wonder what is so great about Iceland in August. But I can bet that tons of people have no clue that this small country is fueled by volcanic activity, visible tectonic plates, and Northern Lights. If you want to visit this Igloo capital, then you might wonder when to visit and if summer even exists there. Well, you can finally get some sleep after answering this and many more questions. So, let’s keep going; the fun has yet to start!

Weird Name

The name of this strange land literally means a land that is full of ice! I wonder if the Viking, Hrafna-Floki Vilgerdarson, thought of a more creative name for this Nordic country before settling on the dull name of Iceland. But we are not here to rag on the name of this country, but don’t names like Frostyland or Empire of Cold sound more appealing? I personally would have loved to visit a place like that, but I guess we’ll have settle for Iceland.

Is August a Good Time to Visit Iceland?

Out of all the months of the year, August is without a doubt the best time to visit Iceland. It is the perfect time to enjoy the warm weather before autumn begins to rear its ugly head. August is the warmest month of the year, followed by July. You can go backpacking throughout the country, visit the Reykjavik festivals, or do whatever else your heart desires. The cliff and mountain views in the summertime are amazing, especially since there are extra-long days of sunlight.

Weather in August in Iceland

Rain can put a damper on your Iceland holiday, and it can rain at least half the month of August. Rainfall usually doesn’t last for the whole day in August, though, so you can be free to enjoy outdoor activities once the rain goes away. No extreme heat or humidity occurs in Iceland, which can be a relief to some people. Clear skies and a moderate UV index are a huge plus to consider when visiting in August. 

What is the Temperature in Iceland in August?

Each day in August is sure to bring out different temperatures and weather conditions. The average daytime temperature can spike up to 57 degrees Fahrenheit (~14 °C) in August, with a record high temperature of 73 °F (~23 °C). By the time night falls, the air will begin to feel chilly with temperatures dropping to 45 °F (~7 °C).

Average Temperature in Reykjavik by months

Average Temperature in Reykjavik by months

Daylight in August in Iceland

A typical August day in Iceland will show you at least 16 hours of daylight. The bright sunlight can begin beaming as early as 4:30 A.M. in August, and it can “go to sleep” at 10:30 P.M. Between the off and on rain, each day sees a minimum of 5 hours of sunlight a day. But hey, if you ask me, that isn’t too bad. The short hours of sunlight are definitely compensated for by the late sunsets! 

What are the Northern Lights?

One of the most beautiful and natural phenomenon that sweeps through the Iceland sky is the Northern Lights. Sure, you have probably heard of these lights, but what in the world are they? Before reading up on the Aurora Borealis (another name for Northern Lights), I thought we could only see them in sci-fi movies. But Northern Lights can be seen above the magnetic poles in the northern and southern hemispheres, like Iceland. Gas particles from the earth and particles from the sun clash together to make this really cool effect of lights. 

These lights appear in different colors, but the most common is green. There have been photos and records of people seeing purple, red, and even pink colors in the late-night sky in Iceland. A bunch of things need to happen for the Northern Lights to appear. For example, there shouldn’t be many or any clouds, there has to be the perfect amount of sun activity, the night needs to be at its darkest, and there needs to be a barely visible moon. 

Can I See the Northern Lights in Iceland in August?

As much as I want to say that you can witness the Northern Lights in Iceland in August, the real answer is no. The peak months to see this awesome phenomenon is from October to April. Following up on what I mentioned earlier, the month of August has extremely late sunsets, which doesn’t give the night sky enough darkness for the Northern Lights to appear. Some people have claimed to see these amazing lights in late August, which can be possible if the weather conditions and timing are just right.

But If I were you, I wouldn’t give up hope on seeing these Northern Lights. Northern Lights can sometimes be hidden underneath the bright sun of a summer’s day. The lingering sun from a late-August day can make the Northern Lights appear faint in color. If you are fortunate enough to be in Iceland at the end of August, a glimpse of the Northern Lights might brighten your evening. 

What to Wear in August in Iceland

Summer is the best time to wear your favorite miniskirts, wedges, sandals, shorts, and bathing suit! If you are looking for tropical weather in Iceland, then you are going to be disappointment. The key to dressing in August in Iceland is to wear lots of layers. Start your day off with capri pants, a t-shirt, and a light sweater. As the day progresses, you can add or remove layers as you see fit.

You will want to pack versatile clothing:

  • You should take something wind and rain proof. Not only a jacket but pants as well.
  • Hat and gloves.
  • Fleece or wool sweaters.
  • Light jacket.
  • Good hiking boots.
  • Swimwear! There are a lot of natural hot springs and swimming pools.
What to Wear in Iceland.jpg

For those of you who like to get a summer’s tan, remember that you should always wear sun protection. The weather temperatures may not be optimal for sunbathing, but you could definitely get a sunburn if not properly protected. One thing that people forget to protect is their head! Whether you have hair or are a proud baldy, wear a hat to prevent sunburns and headaches from being under the sun for extended periods of time. 

What to Pack for Iceland in August

You are certainly going to want to pack the essentials for your trip to Iceland in August. I highly doubt anyone will forget their phone charger, but remember to pack a universal power adapter. It is up to you what kind of hygiene products to bring, but shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste and body wash are just a few products to make the list. You’ll probably want to take a big suitcase – read or review to choose the best suitcase for Iceland.

And don’t forget your:

  • Electronics
  • Travel documentation
  • Passport
  • Emergency contacts

How to get Around Iceland

Let’s not pretend that visiting a new place isn’t scary or daunting in some ways. You will be in unfamiliar territory and probably have no idea how to get around. I bet we have all been in that situation. It is the absolute worst when you are trying to get to one place and find yourself in the complete opposite direction. But to be honest, if you were to get a little lost in Iceland, the locals are always there to give you a nudge in the right direction. 

Speaking of direction, there are several transportation options that will get you where you need to go. First off, you cannot book an Uber in Iceland because they don’t exist there. Traveling by plane is the most efficient way to get to Iceland from another country. But while in Iceland, you can get around by booking a tour or renting a vehicle. There are three main bus companies that can take you where you want and for cheap. You can also travel via ferries, bike, or hitchhiking, but I wouldn’t vouch for the latter option. 

If you want to keep it simple, remember to use this list for your transportation options:

  1. Rent a car (best option)
  2. Take a bus
  3. Bicycle
  4. Travel by plane
  5. Ride the ferries
  6. Hitchhike (less desirable option)

Top 11 Things to Do in Iceland in August

If you are wondering what to do while exploring Iceland in August, then your question shall be answered! The month of August is the best time of year to do many things that are not available throughout the year. 

Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

1. Enjoy Backpacking across the Country

So, you are a young adult looking to explore the world but on a budget. I totally get it; that’s why backpacking across the country is a great way to get the best of all places. You might not want to settle down in the capital city but explore the glaciers and Iceland’s Ring Road. You might want to check out the volcanic craters, Snaelfellsnes National Park or Ondverdarnes. Iceland is your “oyster,” so you best get to exploring. 

2. Go on a Whale-Watching Tour

There are plenty of whale-watching tours throughout Iceland to keep you occupied for days. A relaxing sailing adventure from Reykjavik will give you high spirits as you scour the water to find a humpback whale or dolphins. Most tour guides speak English, but always double check with the type of tour you have booked. You can find you guide here.

3. Take in a Local Festival

No matter in which town or village you find yourself in, you can celebrate the annual Merchants’ Weekend. The first weekend in August, the local people organize a festival of activities, including live music, food stands, markets, and more. The most common festival to visit is the Innipukin festival in Reykjavik. 

4. Check out the Swamp Football Championship

Probably one of the strangest things you will see in Iceland is the Swamp Football Championship. No, I am not joking; there is a legit football (soccer) game that takes place in the swamp. This is the weirdest but most interesting way to play soccer. This championship usually occurs in the first week of August in the village of Isafjorour. 

5. Visit the Gay Pride Festival in Reykjavik

This year, between the 8th and 17th of August, the Reykjavik Gay Pride Festival is in full swing. Go out and celebrate your gay pride or the pride of your loved ones. If you believe everyone should be treated equally, then what better way to support the LGBTQ community than with some fun at this festival.

6. Visit the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Known as one of the “greatest wonders of nature in Iceland,” it might not be a bad idea to visit this lagoon. This lake is located in the southeast of Iceland close to the Vatnajokull National Park. I am not going to lie; the way the ocean and dropped icebergs meet is really beautiful. Unfortunately, global warming has caused this lagoon to double in size within the last 15 years. Why not get your chance to see these glaciers before global warming takes them away?

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

7. Go on a River Rafting Tour

The place to be for a spectacular river rafting tour is Hvita River. All the cool kids head down to this river to experience the rush of river rafting combined with a hot sauna experience. You’re definitely going to want to dress for the occasion, which means no formal wear but warm clothes and a bathing suit!

8. Take in a Fireworks Show

If you were able to make it to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, then stay put for an awesome fireworks show. This annual show mixes the bright lights of the fireworks with the natural beauty of the lagoon. You should probably take your wallet with you because this special event charges people to attend. You know this show has to be good because your shelling out “big” bucks to watch it. 

9. Take part in the Annual Marathon plus Cultural Festival

If you love running, then why not take part in the Reykjavik Marathon? It is a great place to meet new people, challenge yourself, and enjoy the later festivities of the Cultural Night Festival. No one said that you can’t enjoy two things at once. So, slip into your workout gear and show the Icelanders what you are made of! 

1. Go on a Volcano Hike

How close is too close when going on a volcano hike? Make all your friends jealous by going on a hike to Thorsmork Volcano. This type of hike is not for the weak at heart because it can be challenging. But with those challenges, you can get to see the Eyjafjallajokull and Fimmvorduhals volcanoes. The big kicker is that a well-organized hiking tour will allow you to take a peek at the Magno and Modi craters. 

2. Beer Tasting and Brewery Tour

What kind of trip would you have if you did not visit a brewery? It is not my place to say whether or not you should go on this type of tour, but “when in Rome” (technically Reykjavik), right? A quick history lesson about the Olgerdin Brewery, the years of prohibition, and the making of the Icelandic beer should be enough to put you in high spirits. You can taste the different malt beers, Brennivin schnapps, and even the beer substitute that was consumed during the Icelandic prohibition. 

Bonus: Catch a Glimpse of the Northern Lights

Like I stated earlier, a view of the Northern Lights might be on your radar, but it is not always a guarantee. These sparkly lights might make an appearance at the end of August. So, keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best!

Northern Lights Iceland
Northern Lights Iceland

Festivals in Iceland in August

Like most summer festivals around the world, they all revolve around culture and having a good time. It is definitely important to remember that each month in the summer has its own festivals. For example, the famous Lobster Festival takes place in Hofn, Iceland at the end of June. Preparing for a festival like this would do us no good if we weren’t visiting in June. 

The month of August is a special time for festivals in Iceland. To kick off a bank holiday, which is the first weekend in August, people enjoy local concerts and food stands in Reykjavik at the Innipukinn Festival. The Westman Islands host the amazing music festival, þjóðhátíð. And if you are into free food, then you shouldn’t miss the Great Fish Day fest on the first or second Saturday of August. The end of August in Reykjavik usually goes out with a bang with the Reykjavik Culture Night

Atlantic Puffin and Whales in Iceland in August

Iceland is home to the cutest little seabirds called Atlantic puffins. These precious creatures have the cutest pale gray cheeks, black crowns, and red and black beaks. These birds have attracted bird lovers and scientists from around the world during the summer months. Puffins spend most of their life at sea and only head to shore to lay eggs. August is a great time to see these birds in their natural state, especially in places such as the Westman Islands, South Iceland, and Vik.

Atlantic puffin - Iceland
Atlantic puffin

I bet you have wanted to go whale watching at some point in your life but never knew where to go. Well, Iceland in the summer is a great place to be for spotting these enormous sea creatures. There a fewer storms and calm winds in August that allow for the whale watching tours to get you as close to the whales as possible. Some of the easily spotted whales in August are Fin, Blue, Humpback, and Minke whales. 

Explore the Westman Islands 

The Vestmannaeyjar Islands, preferably known as the Westman Islands, is comprised of 15 mini islands, but not all of them are habitable. Here is a brief, interesting history of these islands: There are at least 70 volcanoes that surround these islands (both above and below sea). A volcanic eruption in 1973 by Eldfell volcano destroyed one fifth of the town of Vestmannaeyjabaer. Heimaey is known as the “Home Island” because it is the only island that is inhabited. 

These islands are the best spots in Iceland to spot the different flora and fauna of the country, including flat-fish, seals, lobsters, puffins, and kittiwakes. For all you young adults who remember the movie Free Willy, then you should know that Heimaey was the home of Keiko, the killer whale, between 1998 to 2003. Sports enthusiasts, should be happy to hear how amazing the football (aka soccer) and golf teams are. Wouldn’t it be cool to say that you played at one of the top 200 golf courses in Europe?

As I would have predicted, you have made it to the end and you’re probably checking out flights for Iceland as we speak. The warm month of August will soon be upon us, and I don’t think you’ll want to miss the chance to see Atlantic puffins in action. I can vouch all the amazing things Iceland has to offer during August. A chance to spot the Northern Lights, a trip to the Blue Lagoon, and the sublime festivals have got people hooked on visiting Iceland in August this year. Maybe you’d like to be one of them? 

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