Season Guide: Travelling and Driving in Iceland During Summer

A car driving in the Icelandic countryside.

Whether you‘ll be cycling, driving, or using public transport, travelling in Iceland, even during summertime, might differ from what you‘re used to. Road conditions, hilly landscape, unpredictable weather, and a limited public transport schedule are all part of that. To help you out, here is our summer guide to travelling and driving in Iceland.

Cycling in Iceland 

If you want to cycle in Iceland, summer offers the best conditions in terms of both weather and road conditions. Within cities and towns, people bike on sidewalks or bike lanes. Icelandic roads are not made with bicycles in mind, which means that when travelling outside towns and cities, you‘ll mostly have to cycle on the side of the road alongside driving cars. If this is your chosen way of travelling across the country, you must be highly aware of your surroundings. Cycling off-road/off-track is strictly prohibited. 

Plan ahead when opting for public transport

Public transport tends to run smoothly in Iceland during the summer, as weather and bad road conditions are far less likely to cause delays or cancellations. The main cause of delays during the summer is traffic, which is at its peak on Fridays and Sundays. Many public transport routes run less frequently during the summer, so make sure to check the schedule.

Driving around Iceland: Cities, towns and the countryside

There are three main types of roads in Iceland: asphalt, gravel, and mountain roads. During summer, a regular car with summer tires will do fine on both asphalt and most gravel roads. The main thing to remember is to slow down when going from asphalt to gravel so as not to lose control of the car. When meeting cars from the opposite direction, take it slow and stay as far to the right as possible, as gravel roads are often narrow. On all roads, beware that rapidly changing weather can quickly change driving conditions, and watch out for sheep crossing the road. 

Driving in the Highland 

Should you venture into the Highland or other mountain roads, you‘ll need a 4×4 jeep. Campervans and regular cars are NOT equipped for these roads. Be mindful that some mountain roads don‘t open until late in the summer. Vegagerðin has a live map of general road conditions, which roads require mountain vehicles, and which roads are open/closed.

Icelandic driving regulations

Driving regulations in Iceland might be different to what you‘re used to. For your own safety and that of others, please familiarise yourself with them. Here are the top rules to remember:

  • In Iceland, cars drive on the right side of the road and priority is given to the right. 
  • In double roundabouts, the traffic on the inner lane has priority over the outer lane.
  • The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 or 90 km/hour on rural paved areas, and 80 km/hour on rural gravel roads. Some roads may not be suitable for the legal maximum speed, in which case you might spot a sign like this, with a suggestive maximum speed:
  • All passengers must wear seatbelts, and children must have appropriate safety equipment. Car seats for children can usually be added when renting a car. 
  • Headlights are required to be on day and night.
  • Driving off road is strictly forbidden and can result in a very high fine.
  • It‘s illegal to drive after consuming ANY AMOUNT of alcohol or drugs.

For a comprehensive list of road signs, check out this guide.

Exploring Reykjavík in 24, 48 and 72 hours

View of Reykjavík from Hallgrímskirkja church.

Reykjavík, with its quaint houses, tasty restaurants, and countless museums, exhibitions, and galleries, is a marvellous option for a short city break. With a city this small, you can cover a lot of ground and manage a whole host of things in one to three days! 

But even in a small space like Reykjavík, it’s impossible to do absolutely everything, and picking from the numerous options can be an unwanted hassle. That’s why we created our 24, 48, and 72 hour Reykjavík itinerary. Whether you don’t enjoy planning or simply need some inspiration, we hope this guide will help you make the most of your trip! 

Day one: Geothermal baths, Icelandic food and sightseeing

Morning

If your accommodations don’t offer a complimentary breakfast, head to Sandholt, one of the oldest operating bakeries in Iceland. They offer hand-crafted pastries and sourdough bread, as well as a great breakfast menu comprising yoghurts, sandwiches, shakshuka, and other delicious dishes. 

After breakfast, spend the morning in a typical Icelandic way by going to Sundhöllin geothermal swimming pool, where the locals swim, have a ‘pottaspjall‘(an Icelandic word for chatting in the hot tub), and do some cold plunging. 

Sundhöllin swimming pool in Reykjavík.
Photo: Golli. Sundhöllin swimming pool in Reykjavík.

Noon

Go to Kaffi Loki for lunch, where you can taste some of the most traditional Icelandic food: Icelandic lamb soup, gratinated mashed fish, homemade flatbread with smoked lamb, and fermented shark, amongst others.

An excellent way to get to know Reykjavík in your limited time is by taking a free or private walking tour. This way, you won’t have to be stressed out and glued to your phone, trying to figure out the fastest way between attractions. You can simply enjoy the walk while absorbing Icelandic history and culture. 

Afternoon

If you’re hungry after the walk, we suggest making your way to Hressingarskálinn café for a traditional ‘rjómaterta’ or ‘Hressóterta’ (whipped cream cake). This is an old-fashioned staple when it comes to celebrations in Iceland.

For those looking to take a piece of Iceland home with them, use the afternoon to do some shopping. Check out Eymundsson bookstore, Vínberið candy store, or Lucky Records music shop, all of which offer a variety of Icelandic products.

Evening

For a fancy dinner, book a table at Sumac (preferably a few days in advance). They offer mouth-watering food inspired by the Middle East. Pick your own combination of small dishes or opt for a fixed menu. For a less fancy but just as delicious dinner, try Dragon Dim Sum, a Chinese- and Taiwan-inspired dim sum bar by the old harbour.

Not ready to call it a day? Check out Hús máls og menningar, a cultural house and bar located in a former bookshop on Laugavegur street. With live music every night, this is a great place to prolong the evening.

Day two: Unusual museums and the food hall culture

Morning

Start the day with breakfast at Reykjavík Roasters in Ásmundarsalur, a non-profit art space with constantly rotating exhibitions. 

Next up is the Sculpture garden at the Einar Jónsson Museum, a lovely free attraction featuring 26 replicas of Einar’s statues. Einar was one of the artists who laid the foundation for modern art in Iceland. 

After the garden stroll, head down to The Icelandic Phallological Museum. This unusual museum, “dedicated to collecting, studying, and presenting actual phalluses and all things phallic”, was founded in 1997 and has become a top-rated attraction in downtown Reykjavík.

Noon

For lunch, it’s time for an Icelandic classic: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur at Tryggvagata street. This hot dog stand has been serving Icelanders Icelandic hot dogs since 1937. Ask for ‘one with everything’ for the most authentic experience.

Bæjarins Bestu hot dog stand in Reykjavík.
Bæjarins Beztu hot dog stand in Reykjavík.

While you’re digesting your hot dog, pop down to the Reykjavík Punk Museum, a tiny museum located in an old public bathroom where you can learn about the Icelandic punk scene. 

Afternoon

Spend the afternoon in Perlan, one of Reykjavík’s famous landmarks. Inside, you’ll find a fascinating nature exploratorium, as well as an observation deck, planetarium, café, restaurant, bar, and ice cream parlour. 

Evening

In the past few years, a myriad of food halls has popped up all over Reykjavík. Hlemmur Mathöll, one of the first, is a particularly fun one to visit, as it used to be a bus station. If you don’t see a restaurant you like, try Pósthús, located in a former post office, or Hafnartorg Gallery down by the Reykjavík harbour.

A busy day at Gallerí Hafnartorg food hall.
Photo: Golli. A busy day at Gallerí Hafnartorg food hall.

How about a movie after dinner? Bíó Paradís is a unique and small movie theatre in downtown Reykjavík where you can get popcorn and wine while watching critically acclaimed and foreign movies. It has a vibe you won’t find in other Icelandic cinemas and is definitely worth a visit. If you’re not in the mood for movies, check out Bullsey or Skor, where you can grab a drink and play a fun game of darts.

Day three: The National Museum, a typical Icelandic ice cream and Flyover Iceland

Morning

Have a refreshing acai bowl from Maikai for breakfast before walking or taking the bus to The National Museum of Iceland

Noon

When you’re done soaking up the Icelandic history, it’s time for lunch at SÓNÓ matseljur. SÓNÓ is a seasonal vegetarian restaurant situated in the fabulous Nordic House, which was designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. It’s well worth taking a walk around the house after lunch. 

Head back downtown through the beautiful surrounding area, past Tjörnin pond and through the charming neighbourhood of Þingholtin.

Afternoon

If there’s one thing the Icelandic people love, it’s ice cream. All year round, no matter the temperature or weather, a typical Icelandic activity is going for an ice cream drive. Swap out your afternoon coffee for a classic soft serve in a dip, a delicious ‘bragðarefur’ blizzard or a creamy Italian scoop.

Two people eating ice cream in the snow.
Photo: Golli. Two people eating ice cream in the snow.

Make your way to Flyover Iceland for a fantastic trip that covers the whole of Iceland. This is an amazing experience, even for those who have already travelled around the island. If you get easily motion sick, the Whales of Iceland exhibition is an excellent alternative.

Evening

For your final evening in Reykjavík, grab some street food at LeKock, a restaurant inspired by childhood memories and travels. Enjoy sensational but simple food in a laid-back atmosphere and play one of the many board games available. If you’d rather have a fine dining experience, Oto is the place to go, but remember to book in advance! With its Japanese Italian fusion cooking and excellent choice of music, you’re bound to have a fantastic final night.

If you don’t fancy going to bed just yet, Tipsy is a fabulous place for a last cheer, and Kaffibrennslan café is a cosy one for a quiet evening coffee and a slice of cake. 

Cocktails in the making at Tipsy, Reykjavík.
Photo: Golli. Cocktails in the making at Tipsy, Reykjavík.

Nauthólsvík Beach in Reykjavík, Iceland

Nauthólsvík Beach in Reykjavík, Iceland

What is Nauthólsvík?

Nauthólsvík is a recreational area in Reykjavík. It includes a yellow sand beach in a sectioned-off bay. On the shore is a 30-39°C [86-102°F] hot tub and a pool with a temperature of 38°C [100°F]. The sectioned-off lagoon has a temperature of 15-19°C [59-66°F]. Aside from the Siglunes Sailing Club, Nauthólsvík has clubs for water sports, diving, and open-water swimming.

The Nauthólsvík bathing area first opened in 2000, to the joy of locals. Imported golden sand had been pumped onto the man-made beach to give it a Mediterranean look since Icelandic beaches are usually black. A stone barrier sections off the coast, where geothermal water meets the cold water from the bay. Walking on the golden sand and stepping into the warm sea gave locals a taste of summer travel.

Nauthólsvík has a service centre with changing and showering facilities and a snack bar. During the winter, Nauthólsvík is open Tuesday-Friday from 11 AM to 7 PM and Saturdays from 11 AM to 4 PM. On Sundays and Mondays, the beach and its facilities are closed. During the summer, The entry fee to Nauthólsvík is ISK 890 [$6.50, €6]. You can rent a towel and a bathing suit in the reception for a fee.

Dining in Nauthólsvík

Besides the snack bar at the service centre, there are two restaurants by Nauthólsvík: Bragginn Bar and Nauthóll. Bragginn Bar is a new restaurant that offers drinks, hamburgers, tacos and chicken wings. It is located in a renovated 1940s military barracks. Their kitchen is open on Wednesdays from 11:30 AM to 8 PM and Thursday to Saturday from 11:30 AM to 8:30 PM. The bar’s closing time varies. The other restaurant, Nauthóll, serves Icelandic cuisine, such as lamb, fish and salads. They serve brunch, dinner, desserts and coffee and are open daily from 11 AM to 10 PM. Both restaurants have indoor and outdoor seating, including views of the bay.

How do I get to Nauthólsvík?

Getting to Nauthólsvík from the city centre is quite simple. If you take the bus, you can take line 8 from Gamla Hringbraut, across the street from the BSÍ bus terminal in downtown Reykjavík. The ride is about 15 minutes long, and as of 2024, the fare is ISK 630 [$4.60, €4.20], payable through the Klapp bus app or with exact change on the bus. Nauthólsvík is about 2.2 km [1.4 mi] from the BSÍ bus terminal, so the ride is about five minutes if you go by car. You can also walk down Nauthólsvegur street, which intersects with Hringbraut road by the bus terminal.

 

What Is Iceland Like in the Spring and Fall?

Hraunfossar Waterfalls in Iceland

Icelandic nature during shoulder seasons

During fall, Iceland’s nature takes on a unique palate of orange, maroon, and moss green, making autumn in Iceland a treat for your eyes. During the spring, the empty branches start blooming after a long winter’s rest, and the grass turns green again. Both fall and spring are excellent times to observe the rich birdlife of Iceland, as migrant birds pass through during this time. The well-known Atlantic Puffins arrive in April and stay until September. You can see the puffins in several places, but the most convenient way is to take a boat tour to Akurey island or Lundey island from Reykjavík harbour.

The weather in Iceland during fall and spring

During any season, Iceland’s weather can change often and quickly. Sometimes, you can even experience all four seasons in just one day! For this reason, it is best to be prepared and regularly check for weather updates and road conditions. In the fall, the average temperature is 4-7°C [39-45°F], and in the spring, 0-7°C [32-45°F]. In the spring, the daylight is, on average, 15 hours. During fall, it averages 10 hours. Fall and spring bring more rain than the other seasons, so bringing water-resistant coats and footwear may be a good idea.

The roads in Iceland

Route 1, often referred to as “the ring road”, will take you around the island with clear road signs and paved roads. However, some remote locations may only be accessible by gravel roads. You will not be able to travel to the Highland, as the F-roads that take you there are only open from June to August.

Foggy road in Iceland
Photo: Golli.

Driving safe

Due to rainfall, water can accumulate in the roads’ tyre tracks or other dips, causing hydroplaning. If this happens, slow down by letting go of the accelerator and pump lightly on the break if needed. Note that rain, fog, and snow can reduce visibility, especially during the darker hours. Make sure to never stop in the middle of the road or enter closed roads; it is illegal and can cause serious accidents. In case of an emergency, call 112. Make sure to bring essentials such as warm clothing, snacks and beverages, and to have a GPS/map at hand. It is good to familiarise yourself with Icelandic road signs before driving. For information regarding weather and road conditions, you can call 1777. With some preparation and research, you can have a safe and adventurous journey!

Northern lights in Iceland during spring and fall

Late fall and early spring are good times to see the northern lights, though never guaranteed. You can catch them yourself from wherever the skies are clear, but tours are available to see the northern lights shining brighter from better vantage points. The tours usually run from mid-September to mid-April, as the rest of the year brings too much daylight to see the aurora. You can view the northern lights forecast here. Note that the white areas on the map indicate clear skies and a higher chance of seeing them. You will see numbers in the upper right corner representing their activity level.

What is there to do in the spring and fall in Iceland?

Inside:

Iceland offers a diverse range of museums. In Reykjavík, Perlan museum has interesting interactive exhibitions presenting virtual northern lights and a man-made glacier, in addition to educational exhibitions on natural history and geology. Other museums in Reykjavík include the Maritime Museum, the Whale Museum, the National Museum of Iceland, and the Reykjavík Art Museum. Iceland offers a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can experience both Icelandic and foreign cuisine. You can browse Iceland’s unique art, clothing, and jewellery designs in local shops around the country.

Perlan Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland
Photo: Perlan Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland

Outside:

Hikes in areas such as Heiðmörk nature reserve and Þingvellir national park will bring you a new appreciation of the scenic nature of Iceland through lava, moss, lakes, and rich history. Road trips to the villages and towns of Iceland are a great way to experience authentic Icelandic culture. To keep warm during cold days, submerge yourself in some of Iceland’s many geothermal pools and lagoons. Mountains, black sand beaches, waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers are some of the natural wonders of Iceland worth exploring, whether on your own or by going on various excursions.

As summer and winter are the peak seasons of tourism in Iceland, fall and spring are more affordable for flights and accommodation while bringing fewer crowds. Whether chasing the aurora, exploring Iceland’s nature and its wildlife, or immersing yourself in the local culture, the shoulder seasons provide fascinating scenery for a vacation to remember.

 

Before You Go: How to Pack for Winter in Iceland

A person with two children walking in heavy snow.

Iceland in the wintertime is a marvellous experience. With its northern lights, stormy weather, snow-covered mountains and cosy darkness, it’s the perfect place to get the winter vibes. That being said, it can also be cold and wet, making appropriate clothing a critical part of your trip.  As the Icelanders say, there is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong attire. So, before you go, here is our guide on what to pack for your winter trip to Iceland.

The basics of dressing for the Icelandic winter 

The first thing you should do before you start packing is check the weather forecast. While the average temperature during winter in Iceland is 0 °C [32 °F], the actual temperature may be anywhere from -10°C [14 °F] or lower to 5°C [41 °F]. Adding to that, the varying levels of wind change your perception of the cold. This means that a still day at -5 °C [23 °F] might feel perfectly lovely, but a windy one at 0 °C [32 °F] will feel bitterly cold. Due to this unpredictability, layering is the way to go here. Bring:

  • Long trousers
  • Long sleeved tops
  • A woollen sweater
  • A thick winter jacket
  • Thermal underwear, particularly if you‘re not used to the cold
  • A warm hat
  • Gloves
  • A scarf 
  • Water-resistant winter boots
  • Woollen socks
  • Overtrousers to fend off rain and snow – these can be either a thin shell or, if the forecast looks extremely frosty, ski pants.

For the adventurous spirit

Knowing what you‘ll be doing is crucial when dressing for outdoor activities in Iceland. Are you hiking a glacier or doing some other high-energy activity? Pack:

  • A thermal baselayer
  • Woollen socks
  • A woollen sweater
  • Comfortable pants 
  • A breathable, water-resistant jacket
  • Overtrousers of the same sort
  • Good hiking shoes
  • A warm hat
  • Mittens
  • A scarf or warm buff

Avoid heavy-duty and non-breathable jackets and overpants. Those will make you sweat more and trap moisture inside your clothes, lessening your chance of staying warm. If you‘re worried about getting cold, bring an extra sweater or fleece jacket in your backpack.

If you‘re primarily going to be standing/sitting still or moving very slowly, e.g. when looking for the northern lights, bundle up a bit more with a down jacket, parka or extra sweater, as well as ski pants. 

In both cases, prioritise wool and leave cotton at home. Wool will keep you warm even when wet, whereas cotton will not. 

Other items to consider

  • You‘ll want to bring your reusable water bottle along, as Icelandic tap water is drinkable and high quality wherever you are. There‘s no need to spend unnecessary money on bottled water from the store. 
  • Bringing sunglasses is extremely important for drivers! It might seem odd, considering the winter sun is only up for a few hours in Iceland, but with the sun’s lower position in the sky, it‘s more likely to be in line with your eyes. This can leave you half-blind to your surroundings, which is extremely hazardous when driving.
  • For those planning to ski, spend time on a glacier, or go on a boat trip, you should pack a bottle of sunscreen. The sun reflects in the snow and water, increasing exposure to UV radiation. 
  • Moisturisers and lip balms are lifesavers when cold and windy, as those conditions tend to dry out the skin.
  • Bring extra gloves, socks, and a hat if your luggage has room. It‘s nice to have something dry to put on if you get caught in a snowstorm or heavy rain.
  • Lastly, bring your bathing suit to enjoy Iceland’s geothermal baths and natural hot springs!

Common Questions About Iceland

The Icelandic flag

Where is Iceland?

Iceland is an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It sits directly on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and comprises two major tectonic plates, the Eurasian and North American. Coupled with the volcanic hotspot underneath the island, this results in frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

How big is Iceland, and how many people live there? 

In terms of area, Iceland is about 103,000 square kilometres [39,769 square miles]. In population numbers, Iceland is the size of an average European city, with around 400.000 inhabitants. Most of those live in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, or the surrounding area. 

How Do I Get to Iceland?

There are two ways to travel to Iceland. You can fly with one of the numerous airlines that fly there or you can sail with M/S Norröna, a ferry that offers weekly fares from Denmark to the east of Iceland. Additionally, numerous cruise ships offer trips to and around the island. 

Is Iceland Expensive?

For most people, Iceland will be more expensive than their home country. The cost of living is high, and there are some things in particular, such as alcohol, eating out, and planned tours, that are very expensive. The good news is that there are also many free attractions to enjoy! If you‘re here on a budget, skip the planned tours and just head out on your own. Couple that with an Airbnb, where you can cook your own meals, and you‘ll save yourself considerable amounts.  

Do people tip in Iceland? 

It‘s not the custom in Iceland to tip. Some restaurants and coffee shops have jars for tipping, but as customer service wages in Iceland are good, this is not something you should feel obligated to do.

Is Iceland cold? 

Judging by the name, one might think Iceland is extremely cold and covered in snow all year round. This is not the case at all! Over the year, temperatures usually fluctuate between -10 °C [14 °F] and 20 °C [68 °F], with the coldest month being January and the warmest July. Storms, often accompanied by snow or rain, are frequent from September to March. Wind and precipitation are less common during summer, and if you‘re lucky, you might even catch some excellent sunny, warm weather days.

Is Iceland safe? 

Yes, it is. In fact, for 14 years in a row, Iceland has been ranked number one on the Global Peace Index

Are Icelanders LGBTQ+ Friendly?

Iceland is considered among the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries to visit, and the Icelandic people are usually very open and accepting towards LGBTQ+ communities. Reykjavík Pride, a week-long annual celebration held in August, attracts tens of thousands of people. 

What is the best time of year to visit Iceland?

Well, it depends on your preferences. Do you crave bright and magical summer nights or the cosy darkness of winter? Would you like a chance to encounter a blizzard and see the northern lights, or do you wish to experience the extraordinary Highland, spot some whales and visit remote fjords? In Iceland, each season has something unique to offer!

 

In Focus: Prisons in Iceland

litla hraun prison iceland

On September 25, 2023, Justice Minister Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir announced a series of reforms to Iceland’s prisons. They included increasing the number of rooms in women’s prison Sogn from 21 to 35 and revisions to the Enforcement Act. The biggest news, however, was that the country’s largest prison, Litla-Hraun, would be replaced with new facilities, projected […]

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Reports of Sexual Violence Decreased by 15% in Iceland

police station Hlemmur

The number of reported incidents of sexual violence in Iceland has decreased significantly, according to a newly-published report from the National Police Commissioner’s Office. In 2023, a total of 521 offences were reported to police, a decrease of 15% compared to the average over the last three years. About 45% of victims were children.

Sexual offences against children decrease

There have not been so few reports of sexual offences to police in Iceland since 2017. In 2018, 570 sexual offences were reported, an increase of 18% from the previous year. Over 600 offences were reported in 2019, 2021, and 2022. The number of reports of rape and sexual violence against children decreased significantly last year, according to the report, while reports of rape decreased by 13% compared to the average over the previous three years.

While reports of child abuse increased by 21% compared to the three-year average, reports of sexual offences against children decreased by 20%.

Only 10.3% of victims report to police

In the 2019-2023 Law Enforcement Plan, Icelandic Police have made it a goal to decrease the rate of sexual violence while increasing the rate of reporting. In a victim survey conducted in 2023 which asked about respondents’ experiences from the year 2022, 1.9% stated they had been sexually assaulted and only 10.3% of those victims had reported the incidents to police.

Survivors call for shorter processing times and harsher sentences

Those who do report sexual abuse in Iceland have complained of long processing times: sexual assault cases take around two years to go through the justice system in Iceland. A new organised interest group for sexual abuse survivors was established in Iceland last year with the aim of improving survivors’ legal standing. The group has called for shortening case processing times for sexual offences as well as less lenient sentencing for perpetrators.

Help and support through 112

Sexual violence and abuse in Iceland can always be reported via the emergency phone line 112 or on the 112 webchat. The 112 website has extensive information on how to recognise abuse and ways to get help and support in Iceland. Support is available to all, regardless of immigration or legal status in Iceland.

The Imagine Peace Tower in Viðey, Iceland

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland

The Imagine Peace Tower is a light installation in Iceland designed by Yoko Ono in memory of her husband, John Lennon, and their continued campaign for world peace. The light projector comprises six light tunnels surrounded by slanted mirrors and nine beams with a combined power of 70kW. From the 10 m [33 ft] wide wishing well, the dense light beams are reflected up to 4,000 m [13,120 ft] in the air. The artwork is funded and maintained by Ono, Reykjavík City, Reykjavík Art Museum and Reykjavík Energy. It is sustainably powered using geothermal energy. Engraved in the tower’s mount is “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages, referencing Lennon’s song Imagine.

The artwork is directly related to another piece by Ono, Wish Tree, which has been ongoing since 1996. She invites people to write their wishes and hang them on branches of trees native to their country. The Wish Tree has since become digital. She collects the wishes herself, totalling over a million. The wishes are buried in the base of the Imagine Peace tower: the wishing well. The beam of light then symbolically illuminates the wishes up into the sky. You can send in your own wish here.

The Imagine Peace Tower’s lighting times

The tower was first lit in 2007 on John Lennon’s birthday, October 9th. Every year, it lights up on October 9th and shuts off on December 8th, the date of Lennon’s passing. In addition, it is lit from winter solstice until New Year’s Day and on Yoko Ono’s birthday, February 18th. Lastly, it lights up for one week during the spring equinox: the dates of Lennon and Ono’s wedding and honeymoon.

Why Iceland?

Iceland continues to hold the title of the most peaceful country, as ranked by The Global Peace Index. Therefore, Yoko Ono felt it was the right location for the Imagine Peace Tower. Ono has spent a lot of time in Iceland and was made an honorary citizen of Reykjavík in 2013.

Where is the Imagine Peace Tower?

The light installation is located in Viðey, a small island off the coast of Reykjavík. In the summer, ferries to Viðey are available daily from both Reykjavík harbour and the Skarfabakki pier in Laugarnes, Reykjavík. In the winter, the ferry only departs from Skarfabakki pier on Saturdays and Sundays. As of 2024, the price for the boat ride is ISK 2,100 [$15, €14] in the winter and 2,300 [$17, €15.50] in the summer. Guided tours of Viðey island and the Imagine Peace Tower are available year-round.

 

Before You Go: How to Pack for the Icelandic Summer

Two people walking along Akureyri coastal path.

Summer in Iceland can be the best thing ever, with beautiful, not-too-cold sunny days and endless bright nights. But it can also be quite rainy, somewhat foggy, a bit windy, or even all of those in the span of 24 hours. So, how do you know what to wear for your summer trip to Iceland? Well, it depends on where you‘re going and what you‘re doing. If glacier trips and hikes in the Highland are on the itinerary, the things in your suitcase will be slightly different from what you might pack for a city trip in Reykjavík. Let‘s take a look at some of our best packing advice.

The basics of dressing for the Icelandic summer

One might assume that it‘s always cold in Iceland, and while that is somewhat true, it‘s not freezing cold all year around. In the summer season, typically considered to last from late May/early June through August, temperatures will likely be in the 8-15°C [46-59°F] range. Depending on other weather factors, such as wind and sun, these might feel both warmer and cooler. This is why the key to dressing successfully here in Iceland is layers.

For the upper half, have something sleeveless or thin as your baselayer, add a thicker jumper or cardigan, and finally, a jacket or coat, ideally water and wind-resistant. This way, you can easily adjust to circumstances. For the lower half, bring pants or tights. If the forecast looks good, you might want to bring shorts, and if the forecast looks particularly rainy, water resistant overtrousers. For footwear, bring both lighter shoes, such as sandals or sneakers, and some that are slightly more waterproof. For those who tend to feel easily cold, pack a pair of thin mittens and something to cover your ears.

Adventure add-ins

If your plan is to venture far out into nature or up to the Highland, there are some additional things that you should or might want to pack. Thermal underwear is the first on that list, followed by a warm sweater, preferably made of wool, as that will keep you warm even if caught in a downpour. Stay away from cotton clothes, which will get very cold when wet. A water and wind-resistant jacket and overtrousers are essential, as well as waterproof hiking shoes. Throw in a pair of mittens, a hat or headband and some extra socks as well. 

Additional items that might come in handy

As you might have heard, the water in Iceland is exceptional and drinkable no matter where you are. Bring your refillable water bottle to avoid buying bottled water at the store. In terms of enjoying the water, pack your bathing suit to enjoy Iceland’s geothermal baths and natural hot springs! You should also pack sunscreen, particularly if you‘re going to spend time on a glacier or by the sea, as the sun reflects in the snow and water, increasing your exposure to UV radiation. Lastly, you might consider bringing insect repellent spray, as the Icelandic summer comes with midges, a tiny species of flies that bite. They tend to be in areas where trees or other things offer a shield from the wind. The midges are not dangerous, but you might experience slight swelling and itching if you’re sensitive.