Is travel about to return for many of us? Is Iceland 2021 no longer a dream? Could it actually be a reality? For many of our customers it is certainly feeling that way. So with the summer just around the corner I thought it was important to give you a snap shot of some of the things to look forward to in 2021.
ICELAND 2021 | TOP 5 THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
In short, there is so much to look forward to in 2021!
So if you’re one of the lucky ones who can make it to Iceland this year, then read on. I’m intentionally going to avoid too much talk of the pandemic and visitor numbers during this blog post. I think it’s safe to say that there will be far fewer people in Iceland than normal for a long time to come. No point labouring that point too much here.
Instead, I’m going to provide a small list of some of Hidden Iceland’s favourite moments of the year. From the lambing season to welcoming the puffins to Northern Lights hunting to ice cave exploration.
It would seem that there’s plenty to look forward to in our Empty Iceland in 2021.
Fun fact! Did you know that there are more sheep in Iceland than there are people. Around 480,000 in fact, compared to the 356,000 humans. So when the lambing season creeps around in late April to early June it is quite the scene to behold.
If you visited Iceland in the winter, you’d be forgiven for thinking there were no sheep at all. That’s because the farmers have carefully herded them into the barns to protect them from the cold and the snow. But come spring time, it’s warm enough to let the sheep into the fields and start the birthing process.
For these choice few weeks, predominantly in May, there will be dozens and dozens of lambs bouncing around the farms trying to find their feet with their worried mothers in toe.
At Hidden Iceland we are so eager to share this with you that on our Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 Day Tour tour we make sure that our overnight hotel is on one of these farms, Lilja Guesthouse. This is a newly built, spacious and modern guest house is slap bang in the middle of the working farm.
To immerse yourself in nature all you have to do is pop around to the old farm building. If you’re lucky, the farmer may let you get involved. At the very least there’ll be plenty of lambs to play with during your short stay.
Beware though, if you come to Iceland even just a few weeks later (mid-June) all of the lambs and sheep will have been released into the wild to roam free for the summer. There’s plenty of empty land out there so why not let the sheep use it until it gets too cold. By that point, you’re more likely to see them sunbathing on the roads holding up traffic than you are to see them at the farm house.
It’s something we look forward to so much each year. It signals the start of summer so why wouldn’t we be excited!
The Midnight Sun
So the official date, where daylight is at its maximum, is the 21st of June. However, from mid May until mid August you’re not likely to get full darkness at all. This might cause some to struggle to fall asleep but for us tour guides it is such a great time of year to showcase all of Iceland’s attractions. Aside from the great weather, simply having more daylight hours to play with is a blessing. The midnight sun for Iceland in 2021 can’t come sooner really.
But what is the midnight sun?
Well, this may come as no surprise but it simply means that the sun is still in the sky at midnight. This is due to how far north Iceland is in terms of latitude (64 to 66 Degrees North). Right at the edge of the Arctic Circle. However, the term is used to cover the entire perpetual daylight season as opposed to the few weeks around the solstice when the sun is literally still up at midnight. After all, if the sun only just drops below the horizon for a few hours you’re going to have plenty of light left over to not get dark.
So where is the best place to see the midnight sun?
Aside from aiming to come as close to the 21st of June as possible, I personally recommend going north. You can see the midnight sun phenomenon from the south too but it’s only in the north that you can watch the sun touch the ocean. The sun then drops beneath the horizon for one brief moment and then rises again in one fluid motion. I can’t imagine many people being able to say they have seen a sun rise and sun set at virtually the same time.
The best way to experience this in Iceland in 2021 is to do the ring road around the island, making sure you are north on the 21st of June and travelling around the whole country. Alternatively, you can join on our 4 day Westfjords tour instead which is in the north west of Iceland. Trust me, there are plenty of tall cliffs and deep fjords to capture the midnight sun in all its glory.
Anyone who has seen a clumsy looking puffin up close, trying to land on their precarious perch on the side of an Icelandic cliff face will know what I mean when I say that these little clowns of the sea are mesmerising. They’re also hilarious in equal measures too.
But what makes the Puffin so special?
Well firstly, the Atlantic Puffin is a beautiful bird. Its bright orange, red and yellow beak is easily recognisable from a distance and their frantic flapping to keep them in the air is unmistakable too. Though, in my opinion, I think one big reason that these little birds are so sought after is that they are one of the few animals that effortlessly swap their habitat from the ocean to the land. Even the penguins of Antarctica can’t claim that.
For 9 months of the year, the Atlantic puffin and its offspring (the adorably named, puffling) float in the open ocean, constantly feeding. They can dive up to 60 metres beneath the surface of the waves and catch over 50 small fish in their beaks in one go. Then when it’s time to mate, they fly north to the cliff edges of Iceland where they’ll spend a busy 3 months constantly fishing and caring for their young.
When should I come to Iceland in 2021 if I want to guarantee seeing them?
There are over 10 million Atlantic puffins in Iceland during mating season so you would be hard done to miss them. Some will tell you that the first puffin arrives as early as April and stays as late as early September. But in my opinion, if you want to virtually guarantee seeing them then aim for mid-June to mid-August.
Oh and make sure you pick the tours that focus on these little guys for at least some of the time such as our Volcanic Westman Islands day trip or our 4 Day Wild Westfjords tour.
Northern Lights Hunting
There’s a reason we call it Northern Lights hunting. It’s because you are absolutely not guaranteed to see them when you come to Iceland. There are so many factors that play a part in you seeing them or not seeing them.
The Northern Lights is a complicated process to begin with. Initially, the sun sends electrically charged particles to Earth via solar winds. When those particles hit the atmosphere some will break through the magnetosphere and reach our sky. It’s only once these particles come into contact with Oxygen and Nitrogen atoms that they ionise them. This causes them to glow and create the light show that you see so often in the movies.
So if it’s not guaranteed to see them then what can I do?
Sadly, sometimes the sun simply won’t send enough particles to interact with the atmosphere. There’s nothing you can do about that. This means no matter how clever you are with your timing and location, you still won’t see anything. However, the main thing to contend with is simply the weather. If its cloudy you’re probably not seeing much. You can’t really do much about that part either other than picking the right month and hoping for the best.
So the ‘best’ time of year for hunting the Northern Lights runs from early September all the way to early April. This is, quite simply, when it’s dark in Iceland. However, I would hasten to say that coming in the dead of winter will raise your chances of having a cloudy night too. In fact, statistically speaking you’re actually more likely to see the Northern Lights closer to the equinox (September/ October) than the solstice. The weather is arguably better during these times too.
One thing is for sure, if you get to see the Northern Lights in all their fiery goodness while in Iceland in 2021 you will not be let down. We recommend, rather than doing a night time tour between sleeping in the city, you should try and combine it with an adventurous day. Maybe you can see the sights of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on day 1. Spend the night in a secluded hotel searching for the Northern Lights from just outside yoru hotel room. Then on the second day continue your exploration and try some whale watching.
Ice Cave Discovery
Last but certainly not least, ice cave season! This is my personal favourite time of year. I am a glacier guide after all, so discovering new structures on my favourite glaciers barely feels like work.
You can safely hike on glaciers all year round, like on our South Coast: Fire and Ice tour and our 2 day Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. However, it’s only during the coldest days of the year that ice caves are able to be explored.
Why are ice caves only found in winter?
The main reason for this is that most ice caves are created during the summer as the melting glacier water carves out cavities in the ice. Then in winter, the ice stops melting and these water filled hollows are emptied out. This is the basic mechanics for creating a strong ice cave.
From November to late March, you can safely explore them. They change each year so to say what we think winter 2021’s ice cave will look like is too difficult. All we guarantee is if we find an ice cave then it’ll be big enough to walk around in and blue enough to rub your eyes in disbelief.
To explore the blue ice caves in the south east of Iceland with us you can join our overnight 2 day Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Ice Cave tour or take on a more intimate feel and try out our private 3 day Essential South Iceland tour which provides a little more flexibility to try and spot those elusive Northern Lights too. Wouldn’t that be just the perfect trip?
Iceland in 2021 Summary
So it would seem that there is plenty to look forward to in Iceland in 2021. The top five moments above are just some of my personal favourites. I didn’t even get around to mentioning the migrating whales in summer, the Christmas and New Year celebrations or berry picking in autumn. Trust me, there’s many more after that too!
So come over (when it’s right for you) and check out all that Iceland in 2021 has to offer.
To book a scheduled departure tour you can check out our Hidden Iceland tours here. If you prefer something a little more personalised you can check out our private tours. Or, if you like the flexibility of driving around the island yourself then you can check out our self-drive itineraries. After all that, if you are still undecided for what to do in Iceland in 2021 then simply drop us a line using our contact form. We’ll take care of the rest!
See you soon!
Hi, I’m Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.
I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. My passion for the outdoors, science, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about Iceland. I have been interviewed in Forbes, Conde Nast Traveller and Travel Pulse on various subjects.