Summer is an amazing time to visit Iceland.
Purple and yellow wildflowers will be in bloom, waterfalls will be flowing at their peak, most of the roads will be free from ice, and the weather will be at its best.
Iceland has a really weird climate. It’s nearly touching the arctic circle, which makes you think that it would be freezing cold, right?
Wrong! Iceland actually lies in the path of the north atlantic current, which means that much of the island country is actually not as cold as you might think.
During the summer, temperatures in Reykjavik sit between 8ºC and 13ºC (47-56ºF). It’s cold, yes, but not that cold. Nothing that a few layers of clothing won’t fix.
When I visited Iceland last summer, I was a little confused about what items I should be cramming into my luggage. If you’re planning a summer trip to Iceland (and if you are, I am insanely jealous!), here’s a few tips on what to pack.
General packing tips:
Take layers. When the sun comes out in Iceland, it can feel hot. Take layers that you can easily take off and on when necessary. Most of the time I was wearing a tee, sweater, denim jacket, and scarf. I switched to a light puffy winter jacket on the particularly cold days or when we were driving down the coast.
Make your clothes interchangeable. As you’ll need to take a few heavy items like jeans and jackets, make sure your pants and tops are interchangeable so that you don’t have to take as many clothes. It’s ok to wear the same pair of jeans every day for a week as long as you have a few sweaters or jackets to change up your look.
What to pack:
Wind breaker or waterproof jacket. It can get windy in Iceland, especially on the coast and in the highlands, so you should definitely take a windbreaker or waterproof jacket that will keep you cosy and dry. This will also be useful if you’re planning on taking a sightseeing cruise or a zodiac ride.
Sweaters + light jackets. Lots of them. Sweaters and light jackets are great because they can easily be stripped off if you get too hot and layered up if you get too cold.
Shirts/tees. You’ll need a few shirts to wear under your sweaters as a base layer. You probably won’t need thermals, but a long sleeved shirt and a few tees will be useful.
Jeans or long pants. You won’t need anything shorter, believe me! Jeans or pants will be the best option for your bottom half as they’ll provide warmth and protection from the wind.
Waterproof boots/shoes. If you’re planning on doing any travel outside of Reykjavik, then you’ll need waterproof boots or shoes to walk on the wet ground around waterfalls or near the ocean. It also tends to rain on short notice in Iceland, so be prepared.
Comfortable walking shoes. I found that we did loads of walking in Iceland, whether it was around Reykjavik or to viewpoints along the Golden Circle or South Coast. I made the mistake of wearing ballet flats some days, which were totally inappropriate! Comfortable, closed walking shoes are a must.
Beanie or warm hat. This is a good way to keep your hair from getting blown about as well as staying warm. Even in the summer, you might need a beanie or warm hat.
Swimsuit. This might sound like a weird choice of packing item, but swimming in the thermal baths is an essential activity in Iceland! Take your swimsuit, and maybe a travel towel if you have one.
Sunglasses. It might be rare for the sun to show itself, but when it does, it can get bright. Take sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare, especially if you’re planning to do some road trips or a cruise.
Camera + spare batteries. Iceland is so damn spectacular that you’ll want to have you camera out all the time. If you’re into photography, take all the camera gear you own! And make sure you have spare batteries just in case.
Credit card or debit card. Nearly everywhere in Iceland will accept credit or debit cards with no minimum spend, so make sure you take cards that will work internationally.
What not to pack:
Summer clothes. Dresses, skirts, and shorts will probably be useless for the most part. I had some summer clothes with me as I was heading onwards to other Nordic countries that would be a little warmer, but I didn’t use any of them in Iceland. You won’t need them!
Sandals. Open shoes are a waste of space in your luggage as they will be inappropriate for both warmth and the Icelandic terrain. I did end up taking flip flops and used them once (when we went to the thermal baths) but I could easily have gotten by without them.
Cash. You don’t need to get cash out for Iceland as everywhere will accept credit or debit cards for payments. It’s actually illegal in Iceland for vendors to have a minimum spend on card, so even if you’re just getting a coffee or a skyr from the grocery store, you’ll be able to pay with card.