Iceland in August: Weather,
Northern Lights & 10 Top Things to do!
Text by: Egill Halldorsson
This is the ultimate guide to plan your AMAZING Iceland holiday in August 2019.
According to numerous studies, August is the single best time to visit Iceland. And as a local, I couldn't agree more. So, if you just booked your tickets, congratulations!
If you want to know more about visiting Iceland in August; such as the average weather, Northern Lights activity in August & the top 10 absolute best things to do ...
Then you'll love this actionable Iceland in August guide. I will do my best to share all my local tips with you.
First, let's begin with what you should expect from this Iceland in August blog:
- Is August a good time to visit Iceland?
- Weather in Iceland in August - all you need to know
- Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in August?
- Best tours in August that depart from Reykjavik
- Events in Iceland in August
- Two local things that you should not miss ...
Don't miss out
August is high season in Iceland. The best tours get fully booked weeks or months in advance. Take a look at our handpicked selection of the best tours that depart from Reykjavik in August. You need to book in advance!
Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Iceland South Coast.
Is August a good time
to visit Iceland?
Absolutely! August is the last official month of summer in Iceland and the perfect time to be visiting Iceland. Especially if you like adventures, local events and outdoor activities.
In August, we locals in Iceland try to use every possible opportunity to soak up the sun, warm weather & summer vibes! July & August are the warmest months of the year, making it a fantastic month for all kinds of adventures and especially camping. I will make sure to share with you the best things to do in August.
There are also tons of amazing things to do (events, festivals etc.) going on all around the country and inside Reykjavik in August. But I will tell you more about these later.
If you are more of an urban kid than a nature hippie, then August is also the perfect month for you! Of course, exploring the countryside is a must do while in Iceland and it shouldn’t be missed out on by anyone!
Iceland Weather in August
Along with July, August is the warmest month of the year in Iceland. The average temperature in August in Iceland lurks around 10-15°C (50-59 F) but we do have the occasional "super-warm" summer days when the temperature can shoot to a whopping 20°C degrees!
And of course, it goes without saying but when that happens, we literally call in sick for work and make sure to spend the entire day out, bathing in the sun!
But of course, Iceland is still Iceland. You should always expect to encounter some rain here and there + the arctic wind might be lingering around, but still, August is normally not a very wet month.
In August, the hours of daylight are quite normal. In mid June the midnight sun is at it's peak - and the sun doesn't set at all. But in August there is full daylight for approx. 16 hours every day. Oh, what a bliss!
A few dark hours also creates a nice hope for us to spot the Northern Lights in August. More on that below ...
Austurvöllur park. Central Reykjavik.
What to wear in Iceland in august
In August, you will see locals stroll around Reykjavik wearing nothing but shorts and t-shirts. However, I will personally recommend you to prepare much better than that.
Since it won't be very cold in August, you won't need to bring anything heavy. But here is quick packing list for what to take with you when visiting Iceland in August:
- Shorts, t-shirts and light clothing for warm summer days.
- Something stylish to wear in down town Reykjavik for wandering around town, dinners, events etc.
- Fleece sweaters, Icelandic wool sweaters or light jackets. Perfect for exploring nature and to wear in the evenings.
- Something wind and rain proof. Definitely a jacket but pants would be a smart move too! You'll never know what the Icelandic weather has in store for you.
- Hat & gloves. Better to have it than not, the warmest month in Iceland is not very warm after all.
- Good hiking shoes to wear as you explore.
- Swimwear. A MUST! One of the best thing about Iceland are our many swimming pools and natural hot springs. Better come prepared ... or go around skinny dipping all around Iceland.
- My personal recommendation: I always like to have a base layer / thermal shirt and pants with me. Just in case or to wear underneath. It's just so nice to have that extra layer of comfort!
Kirkjufell mountain. Snæfellsnes peninsula, N/W Iceland.
Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in August?
The short answer is yes!
However, August is technically out of the main "Northern Lights season" which is from September-April. Still, the Northern Lights are seen every year in August.
August is a relatively bright month with 16 hours of daylight each day. And you can't see the Northern Lights unless it is dark. But with each day in August, it get's darker and your odds of seeing the Northern Lights increase as the month progresses.
Therefore, here is my recommendation to you:
- Don't plan your whole trip around seeing the Northern Lights. Plan your trip to be perfect in every other way. But you can follow this Northern Lights forecast - and IF the lights are active during your stay and you get so lucky to see the aurora borealis. Then it will be a bonus :)
- Your chance to see the Northern Lights are higher if you visit closer to the end of August and will only be visible after dark!
Kirkjufell mountain during night with Northern Lights. Snæfellsnes peninsula, N/W Iceland.
Best tours to do in August departing from Reykjavik
There are plenty of amazing things to do when visiting Iceland in August!
And below I will list a few of my personal favourite tours that I believe are an absolute MUST DO when visiting Iceland in the summer:
#1 Reykjavik Food Walk
The Reykjavik Food Walk is the #1 tour to do in Reykjavik both in my personal opinion but also according to 1.800+ 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor.
The Reykjavik Food Walk is a 3-hour food, history and city tour with a local legend. In the tour you walk around down town Reykjavik and should expect to:
- Truly experience Reykjavik & see all the highlights of the city.
- Visit 5-6 authentic local restaurants.
- Have 10+ amazing Icelandic cuisines.
- Learn our stories, traditions and make new friends :)
The Reykjavik Food Walk is perfect if you want to experience the real Reykjavik and of course,
if you like food, you'll be in heaven!
Travellers recommend that you do the Reykjavik Food Walk on your first day, or early in your trip.
#2 Iceland South Coast tour
INCREDIBLE waterfalls, a gigantic black sand beach, crazy lava formations, small coastal towns, glaciers & more ... You might even got a chance to see puffins!
What makes Iceland so truly special is our beautiful & untouched nature.
Therefore, exploring Iceland's natural wonders should definitely be at the top of your Iceland to-do list. With that being said, you might want to begin your journey by taking on the absolutely breathtaking South Coast of Iceland.
The attractions I mentioned above definitely speak for themselves - but while visiting Iceland in August you might also get a chance to spot the famous Atlantic puffins! Puffins always nest in the cliffs on the South Coast but usually migrate in the end of August.
Sounds like fun? Then you will love this tour around the South Coast.
This is actually one of my personal favourite area to explore in Iceland. It is packed with amazing natural attractions and it is super easily to access from Reykjavik - you can explore it in a day trip from the city.
#3 the WONDERS of Snæfellsnes
Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a true gem of Icelandic nature.
Located just north of Reykjavik, locals claim that the peninsula offers every piece of incredible Icelandic nature in the same small peninsula. What does that mean? Well, in a relatively small area you will find ...
The huge Snæfellsjökull glacier, natural hot springs, black sand beaches, white sand beaches, crazy lava formations, lava caves, incredible coastlines, beautiful coastal towns and more!
The tagline for this tour is: "If you have only one day to experience all the incredible natural beauty of Iceland, look no further – The Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour was created for you!".
Good thing to know: Snæfellsnes peninsula is somewhat out of the beaten path. Most travellers only explore South-Iceland for the Golden Circle and/or South Coast tours. Therefore, Snæfellsnes is always much less crowded and you might just find yourself to be alone with nature.
PS. Snæfellsnes is the home of Kirkjufell mountain, the beautiful church shaped mountain that I shared a picture of earlier in this blog!
#4 Whale & Puffin tours
Would you like to make friends with Icelandic whales & puffins?
The peak season for whales & puffins in Iceland is from May-August. And I recommend you to use the opportunity well and try to make friends with these most beautiful creatures on earth.
Reykjavik is one of the best locations in Europe to see whales - and Iceland is the home of 8-10 million puffins each year!
Here are 3 highly recommended Puffin and/or Whale tours:
1. The Best Puffin tour in Iceland: Everyone wants to see the incredibly beautiful Atlantic puffin. This tour gets you closer to the puffins than any other tour in Iceland!
2. Whale Watching from Reykjavik: Sail out at one of the best locations in Europe for breathtaking views, whales, dolphins and birdlife. Departing from the heart of Reykjavik!
3. Puffin, Whale & Reykjavik tour: Sail in a special RIB-safari boat & get up close & personal with Whales, Puffins and more wildlife. Enjoy panoramic views of Reykjavik on the way back.
PS. It is very popular to do a Whale and Puffin tour in the morning - and to join the
Reykjavik Food Walk in the afternoon!
#5 Reykjavik Nightlife
The Reykjavik nightlife has got famous amongst travellers and for a good reason ...
In down town Reykjavik you will find 100+ bars in one street, crowded with party hungry locals, and travellers from all over the world. A booming cocktail culture & exploding micro brewing scene!
If you want to experience the absolute best of the Reykjavik nightlife you should join the Reykjavik Bar Crawl that we at Wake Up Reykjavik host every Friday and Saturday night.
However, if you are only in town for a weekday night, don't worry. The Reykjavik Beer tour runs weekday nights and offers an absolutely crazy night out with a local where you will try 10+ Icelandic beers and experience Reykjavik in a completely different way!
See you on a night out in Reykjavik!
#6 the Golden Circle
The enormous Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir the erupting hot spring (image above), Thingvellir national park and more ... simply a must do!
The single most popular tour in Iceland, and for a good reason. Explore the highlights of Icelandic nature in the best ‘see it all, do it all’ tour from Reykjavik!
Just outside Reykjavik - and in only a few hours you can see "all the highlights of Iceland". The Golden Circle is recommended by everyone that have visited Iceland. There is simply nothing like it.
#7 Glacier Hike & Ice Climbing
Go for a true adventure. When visiting Iceland, how does it sound to Hike on untouched ice formations, look for ice caves & test your ice climbing skills?
Did you think you could only visit Glaciers in the winter? Think again, because the summer is the absolute best time to explore the glaciers if you ask me.
This tour takes you to Sólheimajökull glacier, a heaven made of ice that is approx. 2,5 hours away from Reykjavik. From there you will spend a total of 4 hours on the glacier, hiking and fully experiencing Iceland.
#8 Buggy Mountain tour
Fasten your seatbelts and head for the mountains! In this tour you will explore Iceland's unique nature from a completely different view ...
Lastly, I will include this tour as a bonus. The 2hr Buggy Mountain Adventure is one of my absolute personal favourites and I have done it too often to count.
Here you will take a seat in a powerful Buggy car and set off from Reykjavik and into the nearby highlands and off-roads. I just love to be alone in nature this way. You will go further than any tour buses and see the surroundings of Reykjavik in a completely new way.
PS. A big pro for this tour is that the Buggy base camp is only 10 minutes drive from most hotels/apartments in central Reykjavik. Therefore, perfect to add to your days spent in Reykjavik.
Events & festivals
in Iceland in August
When looking up the best things to do in Iceland, I always recommend my friends to research what events or festivals are going on. And luckily for you, August might actually be the best month of the year for festivals!
Iceland is super awesome in August and some of our largest festivals of the year take place this month. And here below, I will share with you my favourites.
One of the largest festival in Iceland takes place in the beautiful Westman Islands during the first weekend of August. And if you ask me, I'll tell you that this is the single greatest festival in Iceland!
This festival and many more around Iceland take place during a weekend that is called Verslunarmannahelgin (Shopkeepers holiday), which is the weekend before first Monday in August. This weekend tends to be the most popular weekend each year for locals in Reykjavik to escape the city, do road trips and camp with friends - and celebrate the last days of summer.
Þjóðhátið is a huge music festival, held in the incredibly beautiful Westman islands. Around 15.000 locals join the party every year and make sure to sing, drink & dance like never before from Thursday-Monday.
The main events include some of Iceland's most beloved music bands & artists, fireworks, games, competitions and huge bonfires that surround the whole valley where the festival is held.
The Westman Islands can be seen from the South Coast of Iceland and the best way to get there is via Herjólfur, the local ferry. It is also possible to book direct flights from Reykjavik airport. If thinking about joining the festival, please keep in mind that ferry tickets usually get sold out months in advance and staying in the Westman Islands is usually only possible with camping.
But the Shopkeepers holiday is not only celebrated in the Westman Islands ...
All around Iceland are vibrant festivals, each with their very own niche. For those staying in Reykjavik for the weekend, then Innipúkinn is the main event.
Held in down town Reykjavik, you should expect a full weekend of music, music & more music!
Gay Pride in Reykjavik!
Reykjavik is a truly colourful city, but try visiting Reykjavik during Gay pride!
There is nothing like it ...
Gay Pride in Iceland is hands down one of the biggest events in Iceland of the year!
Over 100.000 locals come together (yes, you read that correctly! Approx. 1/3 of the population) and celebrate the LGBT community with parades, arts, music, and glitter.
Locals often paint the streets in rainbow colours and set up flags and posters. We often do this around 1 week before the actual celebration day, just to make the celebration last a tiny bit longer – it’s that fun! Yes, there are concerts and of course, the wildest parties ever during this celebration!
Gay Pride Reykjavik 2019 is held from August 8th - 17th. With the main event on August 17th.
If you are in Iceland during Gay Pride, I recommend you to plan to have a Reykjavik day!
Menningarnótt - Culture Night
The Icelandic Culture Night (“Menningarnótt” in Icelandic) is another HUGE August festival in Reykjavik. Menningarnótt is always held on the second or third Saturday in August, with dates changing from year to year. The big day in 2019 is Saturday, August 24th.
This is when the whole city turns into a big culture hub, with art shows, music concerts and events literally all day, all around Reykjavik.
All day you will find numerous events taking place everywhere around Reykjavik. Everything from music, art exhibitions, shows, poetry and more. The best part, everything is free. Even the museums in Reykjavik open their doors for everyone to enjoy :)
The highlight of Menningarnótt is in the evening when huge concerts take place in front of Arnarhóll hill and fireworks light up the sky form Harpa, music & conference hall.
Last but not least ...
Two personal recommendations
#1 Visit the Swimming pools
There is no activity more of a local thing to do in Reykjavik than visiting our absolutely fantastic public swimming pools.
In Reykjavik there are 10+ swimming pools and in the whole country there are more than 70!
Each pools usually has at least one regular swimming pool (don't worry, they are heated), one or more saunas and plenty of jacuzzis or hotpots. Some visit to swim while other just visit the hot tubs and chat with other pool guests.
Personally, I visit 2-5 times every week with friends or alone. And my own favourite combo is to swim, rest in the sauna and finally hop into a freezing cold ice bath that most pools also have!
The three most popular pools in Reykjavik, that are all close to down town Reykjavik are Laugardalslaug (image above), Sundhöll Reykjavíkur (right in down town, close to Hallgrímskirkja church) and finally, Vesturbæjarlaug.
All the pools are easy to find, ask the next local you find. Furthermore, it is a super cheap activity and cost 950 ISK per adult/150 ISK per children. However, if you plan to visit a few times, you could buy a return visit card and get up to 50% discount.
#2 Eat at Hlemmur Mathöll
My second best local recommendation is to enjoy the amazing food that Reykjavik has to offer.
One of my most favourite places to eat in Reykjavik is Hlemmur Mathöll.
Hlemmur is an old bus station that was recently renovated and turned into an amazing Icelandic food court. Today, you will find 10 amazing restaurants in Hlemmur, all offering their own specialities.
My favourite restaurant in Hlemmur Mathöll is "Skál" and it is a total must visit. There you will find real, authentic Icelandic food but made in a quick, cheap and super modern and casual manner. Everything from creative small bites to lamb, arctic char & unique desserts.
happy planning, happy exploring!
Well, this was my Iceland in August blog post.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that you found this list helpful, learned something new or got inspired to make the most of your Iceland in August holiday. Furthermore, I do hope that once you get here, you will fall in love and enjoy your stay in Iceland as much as I enjoy living here.
Please get in touch in the comments if you liked the article or would like to ask me any questions. Also, you can share this with your friends to hopefully inspire them too to visit Iceland. Hope to see you soon!
Iceland in August: How is the weather in Iceland in August? What are the top things to do? Can you See the Northern Lights? In this blog I do my very best to answer all the questions you might have about visiting Iceland in August.