Midnight Sun in Iceland
Every year between June 16 and June 29th, the bright Icelandic sky experiences 24 hours of sunlight. This year it falls on Thursday, June 23, 2023.
The date changes every year, give or take a few days. But, have you ever dreamed of a full day of exploration without having to worry about the sun going down? Us too and this Thursday is the time to do it! Just don’t forget to pack a very thick sleeping mask. We are going to break down why this phenomenon happens and how you can take advantage of it. Keep reading to learn all about Iceland’s Midnight Sun.
Iceland's Sun Year Round
First, let’s go over some facts about Iceland, its sun habits, and of course, the Midnight Sun. Normally, between May and August, hours in the evening have more light than usual, with the sunset moving closer to midnight.
There are on average twenty hours of daylight during these months. This also prompts a lot of tourism, especially for visitors who are indulging in a summer road trip. The extra daylight hours provide additional exploring time, without the risk of getting lost in the dark. The months that resemble “normal hours'' are March, April, September, and October. These months have average sunset times between 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM.
In the winter months, the daylight hours are the opposite. The shortest hours of daylight happen between December and January. During this time, you will only see four to five hours of daylight on average. Then on December 21st, things began to look up, slowly. Every day 1-3 minutes of daylight are added until we eventually get to the Midnight Sun in June.
This does not happen in the town of Ísafjörður. Which is located in the Westfjords region of northwest Iceland. Every year around November 24th, the sun will not rise past their tall mountain tops. This means it is a very dark two months for them. Then in late January the sun finally rises over the mountains, creating Sun Day. The day is normally celebrated with “sun coffee” and pancakes.
Even though the whole country experiences the Midnight Sun, some parts of Iceland get a more intense version of it. Towns such as Akureyri or Ísafjörður will have longer days of sunlight due to their far north locations.
The more northern locations will also have different sunset and sunrise times than the southern part. For example, Reykjavik will have the sunset just after midnight with another sunrise close to 3 a.m. During this time, the sky will not get to a completely dark stage.
Why does the midnight sun happen?
When the Earth's axis tilts towards the sun, the midnight sun occurs in the summer. In the Northern Hemisphere this normally always happens around the 21st of June, annually. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, then plan on seeing this around the 23rd of December. Since Iceland’s close to the Arctic Circle, it falls on the Northern Hemisphere list.
Is Iceland the only place that experiences the midnight sun?
Not specifically, however, it is an amazing event that is rare. Other countries include Greenland, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Northern Russia, and the North and South Poles. The dates all vary in these countries. Svalbard, Norway’s midnight sun happens for a much longer period than Iceland. The sun doesn’t set between April 20th and August 22nd. This would be a great place to invest in some heavy-duty blackout curtains! With 195 countries in the world, it appears to be an uncommon event for most of them. So, it is no wonder why the Icelandic people turn this unique experience into a celebration.
Now that we learned about the Midnight Sun, let’s talk about how you can take advantage of it. This is the ideal time to plan that summer road trip you have been putting off. Especially if you have a lot of stops planned. Driving The Ring Road would be a great idea during the month of June. The 828-mile road takes an average of six days to drive in the summer.
The extended daylight will provide you with some extra time to hike and explore. You can even try a full daylight camping trip. I am sure it won’t be the same without the twinkling stars. But, you also do not have to worry about hearing any creepy sounds at night in a pitch-black setting. A win, win our opinion.
You could also use this time to take on some of the longer hikes in Iceland. Let’s be real, there is nothing worse than rushing to a summit, just to run back down before the sun sets.
You can plan to try out one of the multi-day hikes Iceland has to offer. The Laugavegur Trail is one of the most sought-after multi-day hikes in the country. Why do you ask? Well, you will pass through some stunning places. Including the highland region of Iceland, lush valleys, glaciers, and even a volcanic landscape. There are even mountain huts located along the route where you can stop to relax for a while sharing some stories with fellow hikers.
The Landmannalaugar hut and campground is the most recommended place to stay overnight. The ground floor has large sleeping quarters that include bunk beds and a kitchen. The kitchen is fully equipped with gas stoves so you can prepare your meals for the rest of your journey.
The Laugavegur Trail is 32 miles long and takes an average of four days to complete with stops and a few overnight adventures. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that is best taken on during Iceland’s Midnight Sun.
If backpacking and multi-day trips are not your scene, that is okay too. You can take advantage of one of Iceland's longer day hikes instead. The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River hike is a favorite hike for travelers and locals. It is only five miles long and takes an average of 3 hours to complete. It is located next to Hveragerði which is only a 40 minutes drive from Reykjavík. The hike brings you through an active geothermal area known for its hot spring river which sits in The Reykjadalur Valley. There is something magical about hiking to a natural hot spring. It can be even more magical when you know that it is completely free and open year-round. But taking on this hike during the Midnight Sun can make it unique. You can hike to the hot springs in the evening and even soak in them past midnight. Without getting stuck finding your way back in the dark.
Let’s Celebrate the midnight sun!
It is time to celebrate this once-a-year festivity. There are plenty of enjoyable events taking place throughout the country. From concerts to island hopping to a fitness event. Registration is still open for some, while others can be a fun event to watch. Keep reading to pick your Midnight Sun event.
Summer Solstice Festival in Grímsey
June 17th-June 20th
Grimsey is a small Icelandic island. Located about 24 miles off the north coast of Iceland, straddling the Arctic Circle. Every year they celebrate the Midnight Sun by holding a Summer Solstice Festival. The festival takes place from June 17th to June 20th, with different events daily. On Thursday, June 17th, the festival kicks off with a concert at the restaurant Krían which takes place at 9:00 PM. Friday has a variety of events from the swimming pool in Grímsey opening to a boat sailing around Grímsey in the afternoon. Then on Saturday, June 19th you can take a walk with a guide around the island, before indulging in the seafood evening organized by Kvenfélag Baugur. Finally, end your Summer Solstice weekend with a campfire and singing at the beach by Básavík. You can review the full event schedule here.
You can get to Grimsey by taking a flight or a ferry. The ferry is the most common option, leaving from Dalvík to Grimsey. Tickets can only be booked online and on a self-service computer at Sæfari's service.
Suzuki Midnight Sun Run
Taking place in the Laugardalur valley, Reykjavík is the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run. There are three different distances offered: half marathon, 10k, and 5k. There is nothing more special than going the distance during the Midnight Sun. This is one of the only races that start in the evening hours. The 10K and 21.1K start promptly at 10:00 PM, while the 5K starts at 10:30 PM. The runs begin in the streets of the valley of Laugardalur but after that, the course mostly follows paths. You then go through residential neighborhoods and the Elliðaárdalur valley. The valley run provides views of the famous salmon rivers Elliðaár. For half marathon runners, the course will take you by lake Rauðavatn before you run through a golf course in the newly built residential area Grafarholt.
There is an entry fee that differs per distance. Every entry ticket includes Gatorade drinks and water, which will be available at the finish line. A pool party in Laugardals swimming pool after the race. Prizes for the first three runners in each distance and the first runner in each age group. Timing, bib number, and a rented chip for timing and a course patrol. Take on this race and complete a fitness goal that you've been working towards. Also, did we mention that there is a delicious hot dog stand waiting for you at the finish line? Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur will be there, serving up some vegan and regular hot dogs for the runners. The only time of the year when midnight snacks are encouraged!
Arctic Open Golf Tournament
June 23rd-June 25th
Did you ever want to play a game of midnight golf? The Akureyri Golf Club has got you covered. Join this international tournament which is also known as The Arctic Open Golf Championship. The highest number of international players they have seen is 120! The tournament is for all skill levels from amateurs to professionals. The course is also quite impressive, with a 36-hole tournament that is played under the Stableford point system. It takes place over 2 days and nights, with 18 holes each day. The Arctic Open starts on June 23rd with a tee-off time between 1:30 PM - 12:50 AM. The schedule repeats for June 24th with a rewards ceremony on June 25th. It is a perfect event for golf enthusiasts or those looking to ramp up their golfing skills. You can review the whole event schedule on the website here.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and chase Iceland’s Midnight Sun.
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