The Midnight Sun in Iceland and the Neverending Sunset

Most visitors know that the Northern Lights can be seen at this latitude, but not many have heard about the Midnight Sun in Iceland. Let's explore the unique phenomenon of the sun never setting during the summer months in Iceland!

midnight sun in Iceland

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    Iceland offers visitors many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. One of these unique experiences is the Midnight Sun in Iceland.

    In this article, we explain exactly what the Midnight Sun is, when, and where to catch this phenomenon. We'll give you a few helpful hints on how to deal with some of the drawbacks as well as the perks this phenomenon brings. So, without any further delay, let’s jump into it.

    What is the Midnight Sun in Iceland?  

    The Midnight Sun in Iceland is a natural occurrence, during which the sun never actually sets fully in a 24-hour cycle. So, does Iceland have 24-hour daylight then? Well, yes, but probably not in the way you imagine. 

    There is a misconception that the sun remains in the sky during this time, but that is simply not the case. Imagine what it looks like right after the sun disappears over the horizon. You can’t see the sun anymore, but there’s still plenty of daylight to see and do things.

    midnight sun Iceland

    When Can You Experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland?

    Iceland experiences 24-hour daylight from mid to end June, known as the midnight sun period, with the sun setting past midnight.

    To experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland, the best time is generally between the 15th - 30th of June when daylight hours are longer. So, planning your trip also depends on the daylight hours of each month, especially if you also want to see the Northern Lights.

    Iceland Daylight by Month

    Unlike other places in Scandinavia, Iceland doesn't experience 24 hours of darkness, even in winter. However, when it comes to daylight, hours vary greatly between summer and winter. Cities may vary slightly, but these are the daylight hours you can expect in the capital of Reykjavík:




    Total Daylight Hours

    January in Iceland

    10:50 am

    04:23 pm

    5 hours 33 minutes

    February in Iceland

    09:19 am

    06:03 pm

    8 hours 44 minutes

    March in Iceland

    07:42 am

    07:30 pm

    11 hours 47 minutes

    April in Iceland

    05:52 am

    09:02 pm

    15 hours 11 minutes

    May in Iceland

    04:08 am

    10:39 pm

    18 hours 32 minutes

    June in Iceland

    02:49 am

    12:06 am

    21 hours 16 minutes

    July in Iceland

    03:37 am

    11:30 pm

    19 hours 53 minutes

    August in Iceland

    05:16 am

    09:47 pm

    16 hours 31 minutes

    September in Iceland

    06:48 am

    07:56 pm

    13 hours 8 minutes

    October in Iceland

    08:15 am

    06:10 pm

    9 hours 55 minutes

    November in Iceland

    09:53 am

    04:31 pm

    6 hours 38 minutes

    December in Iceland

    11:11 am

    03:34 pm

    4 hours 23 minutes


    Why Does the Midnight Sun Happen (According to Norse Mythology)?

    Sol and Mani are a brother and sister duo. Sol races across the sky in her chariot during daylight hours (or rather, she is the reason there is light during the day in the first place). And Mani takes over during the nighttime. The reason these two are in such haste is that they are being chased by another pair of wolf brothers.

    Sköll, the one wolf, chases after Sol, and the other, Hati, chases after Mani. What exactly will happen once they get caught remains unclear. It is said to signal Ragnarok and a tumultuous time during which the cosmos plummets back into chaos. 

    Whenever darkness starts falling over the sun (an eclipse), it is a sign that Sköll has nearly caught up to Sol.

    There is no specific story regarding the Midnight Sun. Still, we can only assume that the Midnight Sun might be a time that Sol has left Sköll behind. It as left so far in her chariot rearview mirror that the wolf needs almost half a month to catch up to her again. Or maybe that’s his annual leave days? Even a sun-chasing wolf deserves some downtime sometimes.

    midnight sun meaning

    Why Does the Midnight Sun Happen? (Really)

    Explaining the reason behind the Midnight Sun phenomenon can be a bore for those without an interest in science and geology. To put it in layman’s terms, there are two reasons that make this occurrence possible in Iceland:

    • The country’s position on the planet. Iceland is one of the countries situated in the highest position on the globe with an extreme northern latitude. It is this position that also establishes Iceland’s timezone (UTC+00:00).
    • The earth rotates on a tilted axis. To easily understand this, think of one of those earth globes and how it spins around. It spins at a bit of an angle (in other words, a “tilted axis”).

    The above-mentioned allows for the sun to spend a lot of time above the horizon, and even not to set completely. This article is focused only on the Midnight Sun in Iceland. Despite that, know the same geological rules apply to other places south of the Antarctic Circle and north of the Arctic Circle during the summer months. 

    These other places include Northern Sweden, Northern Finland, Northern Norway, and Greenland.

    Iceland sunlight hours

    The Ying & Yang Effect of Iceland

    Iceland is a country of contrast. The Land of Fire and Ice offers up both frosty sceneries along with bubbling natural hot springs and flowing red, hot, lava. And when it comes to the summer’s Midnight Sun, this rule of thumb is no different. 

    During the winter months, Iceland experiences the opposite extreme. The country has limited sunlight hours but allows a chance to witness the breathtaking Northern Lights. During the winter, the weather in Iceland has a typical winter wonderland feel to it, but daylight hours are very few.

    As you can see from the above-mentioned data, you can expect only 4–5 hours of daylight every day. You should really be prepared for semi-permanent darkness. But as is the case with never-ending Iceland sunlight hours, the darkness also holds its own perks.

    The winter darkness is the backdrop for one of the most spectacular light displays on earth - the Northern Lights. Watching the bright neon waves snake across the sky is something that’s on many a bucket list! And those who experience a Midnight Sun in Iceland often make sure to return for its polar opposite phenomenon.

    Iceland winter darkness

    The Winter & Summer Solstice

    The above-mentioned opposites reach their Ying & Yang extremes during what we refer to as the Winter and Summer Solstice:

    The Winter Solstice

    The Winter Solstice is the day in winter with the longest “night”. In Iceland, this occurs on the 21st of December, when the sun only rises at roughly 11:21 and already sets again at 15:30. As you can imagine, this extended period of darkness is absolutely prime-time for those who wish to see the Northern Lights.

    The Summer Solstice

    The Summer Solstice is the day in summer with the longest “day”. In Iceland, this occurs on the 21st of June. Even though the sun might take a quick dip behind the horizon, it never really becomes dark, and therefore it’s the very epitome of experiencing the Midnight Sun.

    Iceland summer solstice

    Where to Experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland

    Needless to say, one can experience the Midnight Sun all across the island, but there are certain spots that are some of the best seats in the house in terms of some magnificent Midnight Sun views and vibes. These include:

    sunset in Iceland

    Tips & Tricks for Your Midnight Sun in Iceland Experience

    If this is your first time experiencing the Midnight Sun in Iceland, these are some helpful tips:

    Safeguard Sleeping Patterns

    Although the Midnight Sun is an amazing experience, it can really mess with some people’s sleep cycles. For those who are sensitive to light or need sufficient sleep, we recommend setting an alarm for bedtime. And also using a sleep mask to avoid being constantly awakened by the constant light.

    Be Careful of Itinerary Burnout

    It is incredibly tempting to take full advantage of all these extra daylight hours and create a jam-packed trip itinerary. But this is a big mistake many travelers to the island make and they end up burnt out by the third day. You can still use an extra hour or two to your advantage but allow for plenty of downtime and enough sleep to regain your energy.

    Check Your Accommodation

    If you’re wondering “how do you sleep during daylight sun in Iceland?” some accommodations are more prepared than just advising visitors to bring sleep masks. So, when booking your accommodation on the island, remember to ask whether the house/room is furnished with thick curtains that don’t allow any light in or whether it has roller blinds.

    Remember Your Sunglasses

    This should go without saying, but it’s one of those things that are so obvious, people often forget. Sunglasses are essential against the Iceland summer daylight sun.

    Does Iceland have 24 hour daylight

    Bring Earplugs

    Many locals will tell you that Icelanders have adapted their sleep schedule according to the seasons and daylight hours. So it’s not odd to have a neighbor who thinks renovating his house at 2 am is normal. Some earplugs will combat most disturbances.

    Find the Right Settings

    The secret to a good Midnight Sun in Iceland photo is setting your White Balance to “Daylight”. Play around with the shutter speed ‘till you find an exposure where the foreground can be seen, and the sun is not completely burned out. If you want to learn how to do this from a pro, book a spot on one of the popular Iceland photo tours.

    Use Natural Sleep Aids

    There’s definitely no need to start pumping your body full of chemicals or mess around with your Melatonin (the sleep hormone) by drinking pills. This might seem like a fool-proof short-term solution, but can have side effects such as constantly feeling groggy or suffering from chemical imbalances that can start mimicking serious mental health illnesses such as Depression.

    Try to do things as naturally as possible. And if you really feel like you need a helping hand, pour yourself a big glass of Cherry juice before bed. Cherries contain natural Melatonin, which might just give you that little shove into snoozeland you need.

    how do you sleep during daylight sun

    Things to Do During the Midnight Sun in Iceland

    Attractions and activities in Iceland take full advantage of the longer daylight hours, and Icelanders will use any excuse when it comes to celebrations and festivities. So, if you’re wondering what to do during these extra Iceland sunshine hours, here are a few ideas:

    • Take a hike! Some of the favorite trails include Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, Mount Esja, and the Laugavegur Trek.
    • Take a dip in one of Iceland’s hot springs, such as Landmannalaugar or Reykjadalur.
    • Go horseback riding on one of the legendary Icelandic horses. You will find plenty of horseback riding tours on the island.
    • Ride a snowmobile across a glacier (remember how we mentioned Jökulsarlong Glacier Lagoon as a good Midnight Sun viewing spot?).
    • If you’re an animal lover, you should be very excited. The time one can experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland overlaps with the Iceland Puffins’ breeding season and the return of Iceland’s migratory whales. You can go Puffin and whale watching by yourself or join a tour group.
    • Go kayaking around Snæfellsnes (another place offering unforgettable Midnight Sun views).
    • Extend the length of your road trip by taking advantage of a few extra driving hours. You can rent a car in Reykjavík after you arrive on the island.
    • Take part in the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavík.
    • Go camping (this will not only be super fun but will also dramatically cut down on accommodation costs).
    • Dive or snorkel between two continents at the infamous Silfra Fissure. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to show a valid diver’s license and have some experience under your belt if you opt for diving the Fissure. Otherwise, you’ll need to fall in with the rest of the snorkelers.
    • Attend festivals such as the Secret Solstice, an Icelandic music and culture festival.

    midnight sun

    What Makes the Midnight Sun so Special?

    What gives the Midnight Sun its real meaning is not just the fact that it’s quite an amazing natural occurrence to experience in majestic settings all across the island. It’s the incredible energy and sense of community during these days.

    There is a tangible excitement in the air in a country that suddenly doesn’t sleep for a couple of days. Experiencing the Midnight Sun in Iceland will give new meaning to the saying “Carpe diem!” (“Seize the day!”). And even though the Midnight Sun doesn’t last forever, the memories created certainly will.

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