Q: My husband and I are planning to go to Iceland in mid or late August. We’d rather avoid going during big festivals or holidays. Can you tell me what holidays or festivals there are in August? We’re also planning to do the Ring Road. Most information tells us we need ten days to do that. Would seven days be enough if we skip hiking or other big activities? My husband is into photography and we’re in our early 60s. We’re thinking of glacier trekking and going into the dormant volcano. Can we do that? We’re in decent shape. Thank you for your advice.
A: August is a great time to visit the country. The first weekend in August, this year August 6-8, is Merchants’ Holiday (Monday after the first weekend in August is a public holiday), when Icelanders take to the roads to camp, stay at summerhouses and party at festivals all over Iceland. The largest of those is the National Festival (þjóðhátíð) in Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands). Expect a lot of traffic on the roads this weekend.
The second weekend in August, many people travel to Dalvík, North Iceland, for The Great Fish Day, where entertainment is offered and free fish soup served. There are numerous other festivals in August, but none that would affect traffic to any extent.
In Reykjavík, the largest August festivals are Reykjavík Pride (hinsegin dagar), which draws up to one third of the country’s population, this year August 2-7, and Culture Night (menningarnótt), this year on August 20.
Many people like to take ten days to travel around the country on the Ring Road, but if you’re not planning to do much hiking, seven should be quite enough. It all depends on how much exploring you plan to do. The good thing about traveling in August is that you’ll have plenty of daylight and you can enjoy the view late into the night.
The abundance of light makes photographing very interesting in the summer, but please take care to park your car off the road when you stop to take photos to avoid creating a hazardous situation. With the increasing number of tourists visiting the country, and August being during the peak season, there can be quite a lot of traffic on the roads. Several companies offer glacier walks, both short and long with varying levels of difficulty. To name just a few, there is Extreme Iceland, Icelandic Mountain Guides, Mountaineers of Iceland and Arctic Adventures.
You can check out the website of Inside the Volcano for information on the different tours they offer. The hike to the volcano is 3 km (2 miles) each way. The company states on its website: “The hike is classified as moderate in difficulty, roughly 2 on a scale of 5. Most of the way it is a straight walk with limited elevation. There is a hiking trail for the longest part of the walk, but the surface can be hilly and uneven. The last 10 minutes of the hike are the most challenging, with an elevation of around 100m/350ft ... You don’t need any particular skills or prior hiking experience in order to do the hike, but you need to be in decent shape.”
For all tours, it’s always best to contact the companies directly with any concerns or questions.
Here is a link to an important app, intended to ensure your safety while traveling.