Iceland is open for travel: check volcano updates here

Iceland Summer Solstice Celebrations

How & Where to Celebrate Midsummer in Iceland

|June 21, 2023
Anhelina is a travel writer with over five years of experience specializing in Iceland. With a background in foreign languages and translation, she conducts in-depth research to provide readers with detailed insights into Iceland's landscapes, culture, and hidden gems.

Are you ready for an extraordinary adventure in Iceland? Well, you're in luck! June in Iceland is a magical time filled with enchanting celebrations. Let's dive into the whimsical world of Summer Solstice and Jonsmessa, the Icelandic Midsummer!


June in Iceland is a magical time, and Icelanders embrace two unique celebrations during this month. The Summer Solstice takes place between the 20th and 22nd of June each year. It is a truly unparalleled experience, as with the Midnight Sun illuminating the sky, it is the longest day of the year, showcasing the captivating beauty of 24-hour daylight. 

It's like stepping into a dream where time loses its meaning.

After the Summer Solstice, Icelanders participate in the festivities of Jonsmessa, or Midsummer Night, celebrated on June 24th.

So, if you visit Iceland in summer, you are lucky to land in the middle of Summer Solstice celebrations! It’s an opportunity to embrace the extraordinary and experience the country's rich cultural heritage. 

During this time, the boundaries between the natural and supernatural worlds (just as the night and day) blur, and the wonders of Iceland's folklore come alive.

Embrace Jonsmessa – The Icelandic Midsummer

Icelandic Lupins Near Mountains Golden Circle

Lupines In the Icelandic Landscape

In addition to the Summer Solstice celebrations, Iceland has its traditional midsummer festival called Jonsmessa, which takes place on June 24th every year.

Jonsmessa, named after John the Baptist, is a mysterious night believed to have supernatural powers. According to folklore, there are stories of cows that can speak, stones that float, and playful elves that sneak around. 

Jonsmessa is deeply rooted in Icelandic folklore and combines pagan traditions with a Christian influence. Embracing this unique festival can add an extra layer of cultural immersion to your Summer Solstice experience.

Icelandic Road Trip ruing Midsummer Celebration in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Midsummer in Iceland is also particularly special due to the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun. With 24-hour daylight, Icelanders often spend the night outdoors, enjoying the ethereal glow of the sun during the late evening and early morning hours.

Participate in Bonfires and Magical Beliefs

Jonsmessa is often celebrated with bonfires, just like the Summer Solstice. In best Scandinavian traditions, communities organize bonfire gatherings where locals and visitors come together to enjoy the warmth of the fire, sing songs, and share stories. According to Icelandic folklore, Jonsmessa is a night of magic and mystery when supernatural beings are believed to roam freely. People may perform rituals and customs, such as jumping through the bonfire for good luck or rolling naked in the morning dew to maintain youthful beauty.

Midsummer Festival Jónsmessa Celebration in Iceland

Midsummernight in Iceland

Enjoy Traditional Icelandic Music and Dance

Music and dance are integral parts of Icelandic culture, and Jonsmessa offers an opportunity to witness and participate in traditional performances. Look for local events featuring folk musicians playing traditional Icelandic instruments like the langspil and fiðla. Traditional dances, such as the "Rimur", a poetic ballad accompanied by dance movements, may also be showcased during Jonsmessa celebrations. Engage in the festivities, let loose, and dance to the rhythmic tunes of Icelandic folk music.

Taste Traditional Foods and Drinks

Festival and Celebrations in Summer Iceland

Traditional Local Dishes in Iceland

Festive meals featuring traditional Icelandic cuisine are usually prepared to mark the occasion of the Midsummer. This may include traditional local dishes like grilled lamb, smoked fish, and various seafood delicacies. Local beverages such as Icelandic schnapps or the traditional birch liqueur called "Brennivín" are also enjoyed during the celebrations. Give it a go!

Connect with the Local Community

Jonsmessa is a time when communities come together to celebrate and connect. Attend local events, chat with the locals, and embrace the opportunity to learn about their customs and traditions.

It is said that on the magical night of Midsummer, cows gain the ability to speak, seals transform into humans, and magical stones emerge from the depths of ponds. However, be wary of encountering these otherworldly beings, particularly the elves, who may attempt to lure an unsuspecting human like yourself into their realm!

Longest Summer Day Midsummer Celebration in Iceland

Flower Wreaths in Midsommar Celebration

One peculiar belief associated with Jonsmessa is the healing qualities attributed to rolling around naked in the dew. While this tradition may sound unusual to outsiders, it is regarded as a means of harnessing the mystical powers of the night. Yes, you heard that right! But this is one ritual best kept private, away from the eyes of the general public.

Engaging with the Icelandic community during Jonsmessa can deepen your understanding of the country's culture and create lasting memories. And if you want a true full immersion into the Icelandic culture, visit the remote Wilderness Center in east Iceland!

Secret Solstice Festival

Secret Solstice Festival, one of Iceland's highly anticipated music festivals, will no longer be taking place. The festival, which gained international recognition for its impressive lineup of renowned artists and unique concept of celebrating music under the Midnight Sun, has unfortunately been discontinued. There will be no Secret Solstice Festival Iceland 2023.


The Secret Solstice Festival took place in Laugardalur, a beautiful park near the historical center of Reykjavík, and featured six stages named after Norse mythology. Over the years, it attracted both local and international artists, offering attendees an unforgettable music experience in a breathtaking setting (like the glacier rave in 2018!).

Events and Festivals in Iceland During Summer

Moments from Secret Solstice Festival

However, Iceland still offers a wealth of cultural events and natural wonders to explore throughout the year! The vibrant music scene in Iceland continues to thrive, and there are numerous other festivals and events that showcase the country's musical talent and cultural heritage.

What Else Is There to Do Around the Summer Solstice

During the longest days of the year, the answer is obvious — unlimited exploring. Go hiking, waterfall hunting, glacier exploring, and road-tripping!

For example, if you had too many drinks the night before, every local knows that snorkeling in Silfra is the best hangover cure around. As you let the slow current move you effortlessly along, the 4°C clear water will completely refresh you. Don’t worry about the cold; your dry suit keeps you warm. The water is so clear that you have the impression that you are flying between the different parts of Silfra as magical scenery unfolds beneath you.

Around Reykjavík, you can also join a whale watching tour for around three hours, allowing you to observe these sea giants in their natural habitat. 

Puffins can also be spotted at this time of the year, so hopping on a boat is a lovely way to see these wild birds who congregate around the Icelandic shores in the summertime. 

If you want a great exploring experience, then you should definitely join a Golden Circle tour where you will discover Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir), watch a powerful geyser erupting at Geysir, and see Gullfoss, the most popular waterfall in Iceland. All around the Golden Circle route, you will see stunning and varied scenery and interesting sights.

Famous Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland on Summer Time

Waterfall in South Coast Iceland

The South Coast tour will give you a day that is completely dreamlike as you see wonderful views of Sólheimajökull glacier, visit Reynisfjara black sand beach, Seljalandsfoss, the waterfall which has a pathway leading behind the tumbling falls, the village of Vík and many more of the beautiful places Iceland has to offer. You can never be disappointed in exploring Southern Iceland!

Other great outdoor activities include snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier, in the middle of nowhere, where you will be surrounded by snow, ice, and mountains. Another option is ice hiking/climbing on the Sólheimajökull glacier. Sólheimajökull will introduce you to a black-and-white world where glacial ice meets rough dark volcanic ash.

Conclusion

Jonsmessa, the Icelandic Midsummer, provides an enchanting and culturally immersive experience during the Summer Solstice celebrations. 

You can participate in bonfires, embrace magical beliefs, enjoy traditional music and dance, experience the magical atmosphere, taste Jonsmessa treats, and connect with the local community; you can fully immerse yourself in Iceland's rich traditions and folklore. 

Embrace the spirit of Jonsmessa and create cherished memories as you celebrate the Midnight Sun and the Icelandic Midsummer!

For more cultural experiences, explore our authentic Iceland tours.

 

Recommended tours

Related blog posts