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Experiencing the Midnight Sun in Iceland

In few places on earth is such a small island packed with so much wonder as in Iceland. In fact the natural wonders of Iceland are the country’s main draw. Though it’s only about the size of the US state of Ohio, the country is teeming with waterfalls, mountains, beaches, fjords, geysirs and hot springs, caves, and other geological oddities. In winter, brilliant streaks of colored lights illuminate the night sky during periods of aurora borealis activity. And in summer, the daylight hours stretch until the sun barely sets, in what is know as the time of the Midnight Sun.

Understandably, many tourists time their visit to Iceland to take advantage of this unique phenomenon. There’s just something surreal about standing in broad daylight at 11pm, plus all those extra hours of daylight mean more time for sightseeing. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland to experience the Midnight Sun, here’s what you need to know.

  • Reykjavik and the more southern areas of Iceland don’t get a true Midnight Sun. Actually the sun sets for only 2-3 hours each night from mid-June to early July. The true Midnight Sun generally occurs only for a week or two and only in the far north of Iceland. For example, in June, night lasts in Reykjavik from 11:30pm to 3:30am. In Isafjordur, there’s a brief period of the Midnight Sun, and in Akureyri in July, night only lasts from 12:30am to 1:55am. By mid-August, sunrise and sunset return to more normal patterns.
  • It’s going to cost you. Summer is peak travel time in Iceland and and everything costs more. Flights to Iceland are at their most expensive and hotels, tour operators and car rental companies charge high-season rates.  Iceland is becoming one of the most popular European summer destinations and that means more crowds to contend with as well.
  • The Midnight Sun is not as warm as the midday sun. Just because it’s sunny out, doesn’t mean it’s not nighttime and chilly. If you’re going out in the Midnight Sun, remember to dress appropriately.
  • The Midnight Sun can be deceiving. When it’s nearly midnight and still bright out, you can get a bit discombobulated. Make sure you are still getting enough rest (particularly if you are driving late into the night) and try to stick to somewhat regular sleep patterns.
  • It can be hard to sleep during the Midnight Sun. Bring an eye mask to help block out the light when it’s time to go to bed.

Photo by aa440