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How to Survive the Midnight Sun in Iceland

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Lots of tourists come to Iceland during the summer months, not only because the weather is better than in wintertime, but also because they want to experience sleeping under the midnight sun. Yes, winter in Iceland is famous for its northern lights show, but summer in Iceland is even more beautiful. Iceland has started to become known as the land of the midnight sun.

Have you ever experienced a real sleepless city?

During June and July the sunlight hours are at their maximum. So if you want to experience a real sleepless city, people partying all night long with daylight turned on, then you should come to Reykjavik, Iceland, in the summertime. The daylight stays on for 24 hours, even if it’s cloudy. If you are lucky and it’s a sunny day, you will need to wear your sunglasses through the night. I’m not kidding, that’s what the middle of summer in Iceland looks like. The inconvenient thing is that you may have a hard time falling asleep in all that daylight. Those who stay in Iceland for an extended period usually get used to this season shift. Isn’t it so interesting that when you plan to go to sleep, outside it looks like the middle of day?

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When does the daylight start to lengthen in Iceland?

Every year from the end of February, the days start to grow longer and longer. May, June and July, are the brightest months each year. If the weather is good, it is the best time of year to see the midnight sun. Even if it’s a cloudy or rainy day, the sky is still really bright. Starting from the end of August the length of the days will go back to normal little by little until winter comes. Usually in these three months, sunrise is pretty early. In the middle of May, the sunrise is around 4 a.m. in the morning and sunset is around 11 p.m. in the evening.

Summer solstice this year in Iceland is the 20th of June. Just three days after the Icelandic national day (17th of June). That’s when Iceland has the most sunlight hours. In Reykjavik, the sun will start to set after midnight (00:03), and rise up again before 3 a.m. (02:55). So the brightness will stay for 24 hours even though the sun ducks behind the horizon for a little while. On the other hand, winter solstice is exactly the opposite. Around the 22nd of December each year there will only be about 4 hours of daylight. Big difference, isn’t it?

Some other Scandinavian countries also experience the midnight sun. For example parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Greenland. Even Alaska and Russia have their share of the midnight sun. The closer you are to the North Pole, the more sunny hours you have during the summertime in the northern hemisphere.

There are even some places where the sun never sets.

Midnight sun photography is something I always dream of. I love taking pictures during this time. You can even find midnight sun tours in Iceland specifically for photography among many other tour selections.

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Celebrations during the longest months in Iceland

Do Icelanders celebrate the longest day? The answer is YES. Of course, Icelanders are such a party-loving nation. There are many events held every June. For example, different kinds of music festivals. One of the most popular music festivals is called Secret Solstice and is a midnight sun music festival. The last few years it’s been the second biggest music event of the year. Only Iceland Airwaves, which is held each fall, is bigger. Many local and foreign bands play during that festival.

The Icelandic national day is the 17th of June. On that day every town has its own celebration with lots of activities and entertainment, especially for kids. Many Icelanders go downtown (in whatever town they are in) and enjoy the entertainment and meeting others. Entertainment typically includes musical performances, acrobatic shows, food markets, and games for kids. Not only will the kids have fun, but the adults will also enjoy the break from work.

Many Icelanders would also like to celebrate the summer solstice in their own way. Traveling to the countryside and staying in a summerhouse with family and friends is my best choice. There you can enjoy the untainted nature, the quiet, and revel in the beauty of the midnight sun, isn’t that so neat!

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How do Icelanders sleep through the midnight sun?

Well, many local Icelanders are already used to sleeping in the daylight. Those who prefer the dark furnish their homes with curtains that don’t allow any light in. One of the most used curtains here in Iceland are roller blinds. They block the daylight pretty well and are widely used, especially in bedrooms. Thick curtains are also used and many of them block the light quite well. But if you are born and raised in Iceland, none of this really matters because the bright night is just part of everyday life.

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Be sure to follow the Sunglasses at midnight photo series where you can see magnificent pictures of the Icelandic midnight sun.

And let me know in the comments if you have experienced either summer or winter solstice in Iceland and what you thought of it? Did you manage to sleep? 😉

  1. The only way to sleep in summer is to leave Iceland for the duration of your sleep.
    Even if you do something with the light, there will always be the one dude renovating his house at 2 AM or the kids playing around the town at 3 AM. That’s simply the reality here – you sleep at night, you live during the day. We are somewhat like brown bears – we sleep out almost all of the winter, while we live out almost all of the summer.


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