When you think of the phrase “Midnight Sun”, what do you think of? I personally think it would be a great name for a band or an online username. It just sounds cool. In reality, the phrase Midnight Sun is a naturally occurring phenomenon that occurs every summer in Iceland. August officially marks the dog days of summer; the days are rapidly becoming shorter and, as the Starks of Winterfell famously say, “Winter is Coming.” So, in honor of summer coming to a close, let’s examine what the midnight sun in Iceland is, and why it is incredible.
Midnight Sun In Iceland – What Causes It
I never enjoyed science in school. If called on, I would try my best to sound smart. Remember, if you are ever at a loss for words (in life or academia), you can always say “indubitably” and nod slowly while you rub your chin. Trust me it works. I am going to try to do my best to explain what causes Iceland’s Midnight Sun. The reason why our country is blanketed with continuous light during May, June, and July is due to the summer solstice. And the earth’s proximity to the sun. And…other science things…indubitably.
Each year, on this lovely planet we call earth, we experience two solstices: a summer solstice and a winter solstice. Respectively, these are the longest and shortest days of the year. They also unofficially mark the beginning of summer and winter. In the Northern Hemisphere (where is Iceland is), the summer solstice takes place in June, and the winter solstice takes place in December. Since we are so close to the arctic circle, and thus the most northern region of the Northern Hemisphere, the effects of the solstice are dramatic and pronounced. Our days aren’t just longer, they appear to be never-ending. Which is awesome! But, the opposite effect happens in winter, where it seems like the sun will never rise again. Science…indubitably.
Now that I have explained the bare bones of “Earth Science and Iceland 101” let’s break it down in layman’s terms.
Summer Solstice and Iceland’s Midnight Sun
If you were able to stay awake during my quick science lecture, congratulations! You powered through, and you are a real champ! But let us speak plainly: the Midnight Sun is incredible! Do you ever feel like there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you want to do? Come to Iceland during June. The days last for almost 24 hours straight, and on the solstice, there is actually available light for the entire day. On the 21st of June (the summer solstice) the sun sets, but not entirely below the horizon. And it produces an amazing array of colors that radiate across the sky. Pinks, yellows, blues, and reds bleed across the heavens, and it is an otherworldly experience. If you find yourself in Iceland during these summer months, I have some insider tips on how to best enjoy the Midnight Sun.
Things To Do During the Midnight Sun in Iceland – In The City
Option #1: Take a walk! Did I build up the suspense too much? Sorry, it’s true though. I find that the most straightforward answer is usually the best. With the sun staying in the sky till midnight, it is a great opportunity to explore the city or countryside. If you are staying in Reykjavik, there is no better time to scout out every little nook and cranny hiding in the city. Also, your photos will look incredible because the light is so soft and flattering.
Option #2: Grab a drink! There is a twofold reason for this recommendation. Firstly, who doesn’t love a cold crispy freshly brewed local Icelandic beer? I see no hands raised so I will continue. With the extra hours of sunlight, head to a bar and enjoy a beer outside. There are plenty of beer gardens to choose from, and you can have a beer at midnight, outside, while soaking up some rays. Generally, everyone is extra happy during the Midnight Sun and solstice, and it is an excellent opportunity to make some Icelandic friends! The bars stay open late here in Iceland, especially in Reykjavik, so grab some sunglasses, order a beer, and mingle with some friendly Icelanders while you enjoy those midnight sunrays.
The second reason for grabbing a drink is much more practical: the Midnight Sun makes it incredibly difficult to sleep. If you aren’t from Scandinavia, you will have a hard time catching some Zs. Having a few beers, responsibly, will ease the pain of trying to go to sleep. Your body will be exhausted, but your mind will have a hard time rectifying the amount of light still out.
Things To Do During the Midnight Sun in Iceland – In The Countryside
Option #1: Travel to a popular tourist destination. I promise you I am not phoning it in with this recommendation. Iceland during the summer months, or as we say the high season, has become a bastion for adventurous tourists. In recent years, our enchanting Nordic island has experienced a tourism boom, the likes of which few countries have experienced. Tourism has been a godsend for our economy, but sometimes our most popular locations for sightseeing become overrun with curious travelers. If you opt for a midnight expedition to either a waterfall, like Gullfoss or a black sand beach, like the Diamond Beach, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised to find exponentially fewer people around. This will give you a chance to take in all of the natural splendor that comes from experiencing these breathtaking locations.
Option #2: Go for a midnight hike! This is following the same logic as traveling to a popular tourist destination. During the Midnight Sun, you will have the wilderness to yourself. Being able to peacefully enjoy all that nature has to offer, without having to run into other people, is a rewarding and liberating experience. Grab those hiking poles, a big bottle of water, and your hiking shoes, and head in the great outdoors.
Sleeping During the Midnight Sun
Now for the bad news. The extra light to explore, the insane sunsets, and the extra time to enjoy our Icelandic beer gardens all mean that you are going to have a tough time sleeping. As I mentioned earlier, if you aren’t from this part of the world, trying to get some shuteye will be a herculean task. Fear not! I have some tips for the sleepless tourist visiting Iceland during the midnight sun.
The key is to block out the light. You are going to want to make sure that your accommodation has extra thick curtains or something of the like. Most places will list if they offer any special extras to help you fall asleep during the solstice. If not, I always recommend buying or bringing a heavy duty sleeping mask. Every time I travel I always bring a sleep mask. I have friends who think I am crazy, but I am usually the most well-rested traveler in the room wherever I go. If you do opt for a sleep mask make sure it blocks out all light. Not some light. Not most light. All light.
The Midnight Sun In Iceland
If you are bummed that you have missed the Midnight Sun in Iceland don’t worry; even if you missed it this year, you can always come back next year! We will still be here! Experiencing the Midnight Sun is like many other aspects of visiting Iceland: it is uniquely Icelandic, and you will remember it for the rest of your life. Next summer, if you have no plans, and are seeking adventure, look into buying a ticket to Iceland. Tickets and travel packages have never been cheaper, our beer has never been colder, our landscapes have never been more stunning, so what are you waiting for! Take an adventure to Iceland you will never forget!