During the winter months the Northern Lights are a spectacle to be seen in Iceland, but the summer months in Iceland bring another natural phenomena that is just as impressive: the midnight sun.
Starting in late May and lasting until July, the midnight sun brightens up the night sky in Iceland with vibrant shades of colors. I don’t know if I will ever get used to having the sun shining at 2 am, but the beautiful colors the midnight sun brings to the evening sky makes those sleepless nights long forgotten.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the midnight sun; though the focus is on Iceland, the midnight sun happens in other places in the extreme north and south as well.
What is the midnight sun?
The midnight sun, in simple terms, is when the sun is visible at midnight in either the Arctic or Antarctic Circle. This natural phenomena occurs due to the tilt in the Earth’s axis causing longer hours of sunlight in the higher latitude locations, such as Iceland.
In Iceland the midnight sun is visible starting in late May until July. During the summer solstice, around June 21st, the sun is visible for almost 24 hours in Reykjavik with the sun setting just after midnight and rising again before 3am.
To paint a picture of the midnight sun, think of it has a day that never ends, where the sunset and sunrise come together to create one beautifully colored sky. The shades of orange, pink and reds the midnight sun creates will be one sunset/sunrise you will always remember.
How to sleep during the midnight sun?
While the long bright days are great for fitting in as many adventures around Iceland as possible, it can make sleeping a bit tricky. Be prepared for your body clock to be completely thrown off those first few days in Iceland. When the sun doesn’t set the day doesn’t have to end right?
If you do enjoy your rest fear not, I have picked up a few tricks over the years to make sleeping during the midnight sun no problem.
The most important step, especially if you are a light sleeper, is to make sure your bedroom/sleeping area has dark curtains. If your sleeping area is still too bright try putting a blanket or thick towel over the blinds to help darken the room. Otherwise you may find yourself waking up at 3am when the sun rises again.
Go into your bedroom at least 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep. Going into the darker room will help your inner body clock known that it is indeed nighttime and is time to start winding down.
Keep to your normal sleeping habits. While this is tricky to do while on vacation if you are finding yourself having a hard time sleeping try and stick to a schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
Get out there and enjoy the midnight sun; you can sleep when you are home! How often will you be somewhere that has almost 24 hours of daylight to explore in? Check the end of this post for ideas of different activities you can do under the midnight sun.
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 skyline, or down on the beach watching the fiery sun slowly dip below the horizon before peeking back up again, as long as you just look towards the skies you will enjoy a gorgeous show.
Here are a few of my favorite places to take in the midnight sun around Iceland.
Grotta lighthouse: While in Reykjavik, head to the Grotta lighthouse just a few minutes away from city center. There is a warm foot pool you can soak your feet in while watching the Midnight sun slowly sink down below the horizon, almost as if it is dipping into the ocean.
Mt. Kirkjufell: Viewing the midnight sun at Mt. Kirkjufell on the Snæfellsnes peninsula while be one of the most magical sunsets you will ever see. Take in the different colors of the sun while it lights up the famous view Mt. Kirkjufell and three waterfalls all at once.
Goðafoss: While traveling in the north of Iceland spend one late evening/early morning taking in the midnight sun at one of the most incredible waterfalls in Iceland, Goðafoss. If you are a photographer, or just enjoy taking pretty pictures, this is one time you won’t want to forget your camera. The best part, you will have a few hours of the gorgeous colors of the sunset/sunrise to capture your perfect shot.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: The Glacier Lagoon is one of the most picturesque places in Iceland, so why not make it extra special with a late night stop here with the glaciers sparkling under the midnight sun.
On any beach: The midnight sun is gorgeous from wherever you will view it, but to me I think it is best enjoyed while sitting on a beach somewhere in Iceland. There is just something extra special about watching the lingering sun sink down below the horizon over the water.
Things to do under the Midnight Sun
From music festivals to hiking there is something for everyone to enjoy under the midnight sun. If you will be in Iceland during the midnight sun here are a few events and activities to check out:
Go to a music festival. Dance under the Midnight sun at the Secret Solstice music festival. Secret Solstice is a new festival in Iceland but is quickly growing 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.
Go for a run. How often can you go out running late at night and still have the sun shining down on you? If you are a running enthusiastic sign up for Suzuki Midnight Sun Run. It will be one of the most memorable races you will participate in.
Check out the nightlife. The Reykjavik nightlife is a must experience in Iceland, and the fact that the sun doesn’t ever truly go down just means the party keeps on going. While it will be strange to come out of a bar to bright daylight the sunlight will keep you energized to dance the night away.
Head out for a hike. 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.
Take a whale watching tour. End a day of adventuring with a relaxing boat ride out to see some whales playing under the midnight sun. You will have a prime viewing spot for taking in all the colors of the Midnight sun sparkling across the water.
One thing is for sure, the Icelandic sky knows how to put on a show. From the dancing Northern Lights to the vibrant colors of the midnight sun beauty is all around in Iceland.
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