Travel Iceland: The Best Summer Adventures

It seems like half the people on my Instagram feed are in Iceland lately. And while I’m definitely not the slightest bit jealous, it got me thinking about the best things Iceland has to offer in the summer.

If you’re headed north of 60° this summer, here are some of my favorite Icelandic adventures:

1. Explore some lava fields.

Iceland Lava FieldMoss-covered lava fields

I don’t care who you are, lava is the coolest thing. Awaken your inner fourth grader and get excited ’bout it, because lava flows are everywhere in Iceland. Bonus points for finding a lava tube to explore or hiking to see the steam rise off of a still-hot eruption site.

2. Go off-roading in an adventure-mobile.

Adventure mobile, IcelandCar, Sunset Iceland

For my time in Iceland, the adventure mobile of choice was a badass bus with the world’s best driver, Tryggvi. I wasn’t previously aware that you could drive a bus full of people and luggage right through a river, but that’s Iceland for you. If you don’t happen to be traveling with 20 other people (weird), then there are plenty of more reasonably sized vehicles to get your adventure-driving on in.

3. Hike everything.

Iceland Glacier HikeEsja Hike, Iceland

As much fun as tearing it up in a rugged Jeep is, I’d argue the absolute best parts of Iceland are reached on two feet. There is no shortage of wild places there, and I suggest you walk until you find them. But if you want to make it back to the hostel in time for happy hour, Esja mountain is a short trip from Reykjavik and the views are definitely worth the thigh-burning climb (pictured above).

4. Explore colorful Reykjavik.

Reykjavik streetIcelandic Band plays in Reykjavik

Few cities I’ve been to can match the quirky charm of Reykjavik. Wander around until you stumble upon an awesome Icelandic band playing at a street fair, visit one of the many local pools for the best people-watching around, and end up at the most popular hot dog stand in the city (you’ll know it when you see the line).

6. Swim in a geothermal pool… in a fissure.

Iceland Geothermal poolFissure, Iceland

To climb down a ladder into a completely dark cave with no sense of what’s around, you’ve got to have a little faith. Luckily, rather than a pit of snakes, there was a wide pool of perfectly warm and clear water at the bottom, and the sound of voices to guide you into the main cavern. Once you made it through a small tunnel, the fissure opens up around you, shinning light into the water you’re treading in and turning it the most spectacular shade of turquoise. This was my experience swimming in a fissure near Mývatn, and all I have to say is climb that ladder if you get the chance- you won’t regret it.

7. Go on a glacier walk.

Glacier hike, IcelandIcepicks on Glacier, Iceland

Other than the chance to look hardcore wearing crampons and carrying an ice axe, walking on a glacier is special for a lot of reasons. To stand on the edge of this living, moving body of ice, stare down its crevasses and drink the freshest water you’ve ever had from its streams is incredibly unique- and becoming even more so as they begin to disappear.

8. Find epic places to wake up in.

Icelandic CabinIceland campground

That awesome view might mean you wake up with a sheep trying to eat your tent here or there, but hey, worth it. It’s not hard in Iceland, but pitch your tent or find a bed somewhere that will leave you a little breathless while you drink your morning coffee and you won’t be sorry.

9. Glacial Lagoons.

Glacial Lagoon, IcelandIce falls, Iceland

I mean, look at them! People braver than I might be tempted to jump in, but the well-known Jökulsárlón lagoon offers boat tours so that you can get near the ice without actually getting wet. Some, like the one above, even have icefalls that you can occasionally hear the thundering boom of ice falling down. Also, they’re pretty ideal for brushing up on your rock-skipping skills.

10.  Catch the Midnight sun.

Midnight sun, IcelandSunset, Iceland

Arguably one the most unique things about being just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle in the summer is the midnight sun. After weeks of playing frisbee in the 11pm sunshine, complete darkness starts to feel like a novelty. The only downside is the many I-slept-through-my-alarm-and-possibly-the-entire-day panic attacks you’ll have, only to discover it’s 3:00AM*. Invest in a sleep mask.

*The upside to this downside: getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and encountering someone who clearly thought it was a reasonable morning hour, got dressed, and maybe even ate breakfast before realizing their unfortunate mistake. The confusion is priceless.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

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