Explore Iceland Under the Midnight Sun - Hotel Rangá


The snow-covered volcano, Hekla, underneath Iceland's midnight sun.

Explore Iceland Under the Midnight Sun

Book at Hotel Rangá and explore Iceland under the midnight sun. Read and learn how to best experience this epic phenomenon.

Summer is one of the best seasons to visit Iceland. Lupines bloom purple, fields become green and the temperatures get warmer. Even better, travelers can explore Iceland under the midnight sun. The sky stays light for hours on end which means that there is even more time to go on adventures. Keep reading to learn more about Iceland’s midnight sun.

Hotel Rangá lit by Iceland's midnight sun.
Iceland’s midnight sun. Photo by Paige Deasley.

What is Iceland’s midnight sun?

The midnight sun refers to the phenomenon of experiencing daylight at midnight. This occurs because the sun never fully sets, shining bright despite the late hour. But why does it happen? When the Earth’s axis tilts towards the sun, locations that are closer to the earth’s poles experience longer days. Because Iceland is close to the Arctic Circle, we see the midnight sun during our summer months.

When can you see the midnight sun in Iceland?

Technically, the midnight sun–sun shining exactly at midnight–is only visible from mid to late June. However, Iceland’s long summer days begin in May and continue until August. For example, in May we experience between 18-20 hours of daylight. Even in August there are still approximately 16 hours of daylight per day.

Iceland's midnight sun shining in oranges and yellows over mountains.
Iceland’s midnight sun makes summer nights endless. Photo by Paige Deasley.

Does the midnight sun ever set?

Technically, the midnight sun does set–even on the longest day of the year. However, there is almost no darkness, especially during the month of June just before and after the summer solstice. This gives guests at Hotel Rangá plenty of daylight to explore Iceland under the midnight sun.

The snow-covered volcano, Hekla, underneath Iceland's midnight sun.
The snow-covered Hekla volcano underneath Iceland’s midnight sun. Photo by Olivia Synnervik.

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is Iceland’s longest day of the year. This always falls right around June 21st. On this day, the sun sets around midnight and rises again at about 3 in the morning. However, there is no true darkness during the entire night—the light might fade, but a hazy dusk lingers all night long.

The midnight sun shining across the Icelandic landscape.
Iceland’s famous midnight sun. Photo by Olivia Synnervik.

What is Jónsmessa?

In Iceland, Jónsmessa is a traditional celebration of midsummer held on June 24. This is right around the brightest night of the year–Iceland’s summer solstice or sumarsólstöður. Strange things are said to happen on Jónsmessa: cows talk, seals walk and elves are out and about.

Roll naked in the morning dew

Don’t be surprised if you see some nudists running around after midnight on Jónsmessa! Folklore says that good health will bless those who roll naked in the dew-covered grass. You should also make a wish while you cover yourself in dew–there is a good chance it will come true.

A field of purple lupine flowers underneath the midnight sun.
Purple lupine flowers blooming underneath the midnight sun. Photo by Olivia Synnervik.

Powerful stones

While you’re rolling in the morning dew, be sure to search for special stones with magical powers. One story says that there is a wish stone in the pond on top of Baula in Borgarfjörður. Anyone who touches the stone will have their wishes fulfilled; however, the stone is only visible on Midsummer’s Eve.

Love under the midnight sun

In Iceland, legend says that if a young maiden puts seven flowers under her pillow on Midsummer’s Eve she will see her fiance’s face in her dreams.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall seen from behind underneath the midnight sun.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall underneath the midnight sun. Photo by Olivia Synnervik.

Herbs that can heal

Midsummer’s Eve is also said to be the best time of year to pick healing herbs. In fact, lore says that orchid grass (Dactylorhiza maculata) picked on Midsummer’s Eve can be used to win someone’s love. All you have to do is put one end of the plant under your beloved’s pillow and sleep with the other beneath your own.


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Where can we watch the midnight sun at Hotel Rangá?

We highly recommend that our guests grab a cocktail from the Rangá Bar and then relax in one of our geothermal hot tubs. Look at the beautiful Rangá River while you sip your drink–at any time of the day or night. Or take a midnight walk alongside the river, cocktail in hand. If you stay out late enough, you will see the sky grow dusky and hazy. But there will always be more than enough light to guide your way.

Woman stands in the stream near Gljúfrabúi waterfall underneath Iceland's midnight sun.
A visit to Gljúfrabúi waterfall underneath the midnight sun. Photo by Olivia Synnervik.

Where can we experience the midnight sun in south Iceland?

There is nothing quite like taking a midnight road trip to explore Iceland’s south coast under the midnight sun. You can visit some of Iceland’s most famous tourist sites and avoid the crowds. First, take a stop at the waterfall Seljalandsfoss and then visit its neighbor, Gljúfrabúi. Keep driving east until you reach the magnificent Skógafoss waterfall. From there, you can continue to Dyrhólaey promontory and Reynisfjara black sand beach. There is something spellbinding about experiencing these natural wonders underneath Iceland’s midnight sun.

Hotel Rangá's stargazing observatory underneath Iceland's midnight sun.
During an Icelandic summer, the sun just barely sets. Photo by Olivia Synnervik.

What is midnight sun photography?

Iceland’s midnight sun creates a particularly special environment for photography. Photographers praise the quality of light that is found just before sunset and just after sunrise. This type of light is usually only visible for about one hour and referred to as the “golden hour” or “magic hour.”

If the weather cooperates, an Icelandic summer night can be filled with hours of this lovely, soft light. In fact, many professional photographers travel to Iceland during the summertime just to shoot under these unique conditions. However, anyone can take advantage of the endless “golden hours” and get some truly beautiful shots.

Geothermal hot tubs located outside Hotel Rangá at sunset.
There are three geothermal hot tubs located outside Hotel Rangá. Photo by Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir.

How do you sleep during the midnight sun?

Hotel Rangá provides sleeping masks for all of our guests. These can be extremely helpful for those who are not used to sleeping during almost 24/7 daylight. Of course, all of our rooms also have dark curtains. Close your curtains and dim your lights while you are winding down before bed. This will create a good environment for sleep and relaxation.

So is Iceland incredibly dark during the wintertime?

A bit! In contrast to the summer’s bright nights, an Icelandic winter features early sunsets and late sunrises. During the winter solstice–around December 21–there are only about 4 hours of daylight. Despite the shorter days, there are lots of winter activities to enjoy: snowmobiling, super jeep tours and horseback riding. And of course, shorter days and longer nights means more opportunities to see the incredible northern lights.

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