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Iceland in February | Everything You Need to Know 

Iceland in February | Everything You Need to Know 

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The auroras over Jökulsárlón in February

What is there to do in Iceland in February? What is the weather like, and how dark will it be? Are the major natural attractions still open and will tours still be running throughout the month? Continue reading to learn all about Iceland in February.

In February, most of Iceland's landscapes and towns are blanketed in snow.

With more hours of darkness than light each day, it's an optimal time to look out for the Northern Lights.

Despite the quasi-arctic climate, much of Iceland in February is still as accessible as at other times of the year. It is possible to drive the entire Ring Road during February, but you can also base yourself in one place and visit many of the country's most iconic attractions from there.

That said, travellers should be aware that February can still be dangerous.

There can be frequently hazardous road conditions, unpredictable weather, and darkness without much road lighting.

See Iceland's prime attractions clad in ice with a 12 Day Winter Self Drive Tour

Many of these destinations will be much quieter than during the high season. In fact, for the past few years, February has been among Iceland’s least crowded months.

What to Do in Iceland in February

Those who heartily embrace the cold will find a wealth of things to occupy their time in an Icelandic February.

Many activities are held exclusively in winter, like ice caving in Vatnajökull Glacier and Northern Lights hunting.

Others, like snorkelling in Silfra, develop a magical new charm in the snow and ice.

Here are our recommendations for things to do in Iceland in February.

Northern Lights Hunting in Iceland in February

The Northern Lights over Buðir on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

The vast majority of travellers coming to Iceland throughout winter are likely to see the Northern Lights.

February is one of the best times to marvel at the Northern Lights because of the reduced cloud cover and dark skies.

February 1st

  • Time of sunrise: 10:07
  • Time of sunset: 17:16
  • Hours of daylight: 7 hours 9 minutes

February 28th

  • Time of sunrise: 08:38
  • Time of sunset: 18:43
  • Hours of daylight: 10 hours 5 minutes

The Northern Lights over Þingvellir National Park, a site on the Golden Circle.

The two magical ingredients to a Northern Lights hunt are clear skies and good solar activity.

The best spots to see the lights are outside of Reykjavík, and you can easily leave the city on a guided Northern Lights tour or on a Northern Lights cruise.

If you book a Northern Lights tour, it's best to take it as soon as you get here, rather than waiting.

That way, if you don't see them (they are, after all, unpredictable), you can reuse your ticket (for most operators) to take Northern Lights tours until you do.

You'll want as many shots as possible, which means making time and being flexible if you don't see them the first time.

If you go hunting for the Northern Lights yourself, check out the aurora forecast (anything above a ‘KP3’ is considered to be worth setting out for) and the cloud cover forecast.

If you’re into your photography it’s also worth making sure you have the right equipment and understand the right settings for photographing the Aurora Borealis. Usually, the main requirement is staying patient while you wait.

Ice Caving in Iceland in February

An ice cave under Vatnajökull glacier reveals the incredible blue world within.

Another winter-exclusive activity in Iceland is ice caving in the naturally formed tunnels beneath Vatnajökull glacier, the largest icecap in Europe.

This opportunity is incredibly rare, due to the sparsity of glaciers, their inaccessibility, and the particular conditions required for their formation.

These caves can be reached between mid-October or early November and March every year in Iceland. Make sure to check with your tour operator to see when they start conducting excursions.

One of the factors that can limit the accessibility of ice caves is rainfall. After flooding, they are structurally unsound, and tours have to be cancelled.

Though February is a rather wet month, the average level of precipitation is slightly lower than throughout the rest of winter, making it one of the more promising times to book a tour.

If you wish to explore an ice cave, you must be part of a guided group. Some notable trips to the ice caves are two days long, and other ice cave tours are three days long.

These tours will also introduce you to the surrounding sights of the region and Iceland’s famous South Coast. They will include Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

Whale Watching in Iceland in February

Baleen whales are uncommon in winter, but still out there.Photo from Winter Whale Watching

Whale watching is conducted from Reykjavík throughout the year.

There are over twenty species of cetacean that frequent Iceland’s waters. Many of these species stay throughout the entire winter season.

White-beaked dolphins, known for their social nature and acrobatic antics, are the most common species, and many of them feed and play in Faxafloi bay.

Harbour porpoises, however, are harder to spot than White-beaked dolphins, even though they are also resident year-round.

There are also Orcas, Pilot whales, and Beaked whales that are all spotted on tours throughout February, as well as Minke whales that didn't migrate.

Furthermore, those creatures that did migrate begin to return to Iceland's coasts in February.

Two Minke Whales, pictured in Faxafloi bay. Usually, they are only found alone.Photo from Whale Watching Tour from Reykjavík

Whale watching tours, like Northern Lights tours, might be cancelled due to bad weather or you may not spot any marine life. If that's the case, you'll also be offered another trip for free.

Be sure to take this excursion early on in your holiday so that you can repeat the tour if necessary and avoid any disappointment.

If you are partaking in a whale watching tour, be sure to bring warm clothes to brace against the sea winds.

Most operators will provide overalls that you can wear over your clothes for added comfort.

Lava Caving in Iceland in February

Snow pouring into a lava cave.Photo from Raufarhólshellir | Standard Lava Tunnel Tour

Lava caving is an especially fun activity during February, although it's a little more daunting than in the summer months.

The reason for the added appeal during February is the beautiful structures of ice that form inside the tunnels.

Because lava rock is very porous, water trickles slowly through it. When the water seeps through the ceilings in the caves, it often freezes in the sub-zero temperatures before dropping, slowly forming beautiful icicles.

The water that does seep through often freezes when it hits the ground, forming equally mesmerising ice shapes.

This creates a glitter effect for those exploring within and allows for some magical photos.

It can also, however, make the ground particularly slippery. So, only those who feel confident on uneven surfaces should partake.

You will, however, always be provided with crampons and a helmet so you don’t need to worry about bringing any further safety equipment with you.

Viðgelmir cave has vast, colourful spaces.Photo from Vidgelmir Cave Explorer

Those seeking an easier trip should look into touring either Raufarhólshellir or Víðgelmir.

Both of these are wide and open, requiring no climbing or crawling, and they have walkways throughout to make your trip easier.

The more daring should look into taking a tour of Leiðarendi, which requires scrambling through small spaces and, after a particularly heavy snowfall, entry via a very narrow slide.

Snorkelling in Iceland in February

The incredible underwater world of Silfra

Snorkelling in Iceland in February may seem like an activity only for daredevils, but with modern drysuit equipment, it becomes possible for almost anyone.

The snorkelling location, Silfra, is open year-round, and it's widely considered one of the top ten dive sites in the world.

Silfra is located in Þingvellir National Park. It's a ravine filled with crystal clear spring-water, with visibility that exceeds one hundred metres, thrusting you into a world of magical blue light and fascinating geology.

Silfra beneath the auroras.

The only thing that can make this activity more wonderful is being surrounded by snow and ice while you swim.

Snorkelling in a winter wonderland is a unique opportunity that can only be experienced in very few places around the world, and even fewer directly between 2 dividing tectonic plates. 

Diving in Silfra is also possible, but the participants must be qualified drysuit divers, or have ten officially logged drysuit dives over the past two years.

The conditions to snorkel in Silfra are as follows:

  • You must be over 16 years old
  • You must be able to swim
  • You must be taller than 145 cm and heavier than 45 kg
  • You must have a medical waiver if over 60
  • You must have a medical waiver if over 45 and a heavy drinker or pipe smoker
  • You must have a medical waiver if there are underlying neurological, circulatory or respiratory problems
  • You must not be pregnant 

Glacier Hiking in Iceland in February

Glacier hiking runs throughout the year and is rewarding whenever you go.

Its appeal in the month of February, however, comes from the electric blue ice that armours the glaciers in midwinter, and the ice caves that form across them.

The two main glaciers that are open for glacier hiking in February are Sólheimajökull glacier and Svinafellsjökull glacier, both in South Iceland.

With an experienced glacier guide, you can immerse yourself in these fascinating features and learn a great deal about the geology of Iceland.

Horseback Riding in Iceland in February

Iceland horses have no issue with winter weather.

One thousand years of evolutionary isolation have turned the Icelandic horse into a strong and resilient animal even in February's cold.

Unless the conditions are bordering a blizzard, they are more than happy to be outside, socialising and playing in the snow. Horse riding tours are available throughout the year.

Horseback riding is a great way to immerse yourself into the winter landscapes of Iceland and to comprehend the history of a nation that relied on these steeds for their survival and prosperity.

In fact, riding an Icelandic Horse is one of the most Icelandic experiences that you can partake in when visiting our shores, and one not to miss.

Other than evolving to develop a resistance to the cold, they also developed a high level of curiosity and intelligence. This makes them an absolute pleasure to spend a morning or afternoon with.

You will often pass by drivers out in the countryside who have stopped specifically to take pictures of Icelandic Horses with their picturesque looks and stances.

If you’re after a picture yourself, remember to make sure you stop and pullover somewhere safe off the main road to avoid causing any unnecessary accidents.

Sightseeing in Iceland in February

Although much of Iceland’s interior and parts of the Westfjords are inaccessible throughout winter, many destinations are still accessible for sightseeing.

In fact, it is possible to traverse the entire ring road, either as part of a guided package or by driving yourself.

Most travellers coming to Iceland seek its beautiful natural sites, and in February, you won't be disappointed.

Below are four of our hand-picked personal recommendations for the best sightseeing destinations in February.

The Golden Circle in Iceland in February

Gullfoss in winter, surrounded by ice.

Iceland’s most popular tourist trail consists of three sites: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

Each is renowned for its dramatic beauty and unique charm, and most visitors to Iceland make an opportunity to see them. That's still the case in February.

Þingvellir is beautiful under a thick blanket of snow, and many of its features, such as the waterfall Öxaráfoss, are at least partially frozen.

The heat beneath the ground at the Geysir Geothermal Area makes it a plateau of multi-coloured earth within a sea of powdery white.

Also at this time of year, Gullfoss will have adorned the rocks that surround it with crowns of frost, which glisten beautifully beside the powerfully surging water.

Gullfoss can become even more spectacular if you’re able to get just the right conditions for a shimmering rainbow.

The South Coast in Iceland in February

The Diamond Beach near Jökulsárlón, where the icebergs wash ashore

After the Golden Circle, the area that most visitors tend to flock to is the South Coast.

The reason is simple - it has an enormous range of landscapes and landmarks.

There are the waterfalls  Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the glaciers Sólheimajökull and Vatnajökull, the volcanos Eyjafjallajökull, Katla and Hekla, and awe-inspiring sites such as Skaftafell Nature Reserve, Reynisfjara black sand beach, the plane wreckage at Sólheimasandur, and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. 

The South Coast is incredibly popular throughout the year.

One thing to be aware of, if sightseeing in February, is the wild coast at Reynisfjara beach.

There is no landmass between this coastline and Antarctica, meaning that the waves have travelled a great distance, gathering strength.

The waves can emerge unpredictably and have taken many people out to sea before, leading several to their deaths.

Heed the warning signs, and marvel at the waves from a safe distance.

Lake Mývatn in Iceland in February

A hot spring in Lake Mývatn.

The Lake Mývatn region of North Iceland is a particularly great sightseeing destination in winter, especially for fans of the HBO Series Game of Thrones.

Scenes ‘North of the Wall’, such as the wildling camp of Mance Rayder and Gjótagjá cave, were filmed here, as was the subterranean love scene between Ygritte and Jon Snow.

Geological formations protrude from the lake’s frozen surface, and the snow-topped lava at Dimmuborgir, also called the Dark Fortress, creates a fascinating, ice-clad spectacle.

Snaefellsnes in Iceland in February

Mount Kirkjufell in the depths of winter.

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a 90-kilometre stretch often called ‘Iceland in Miniature’.

Travellers here, no matter the time of year, can expect volcanoes, mountains, lava fields, stunning beaches, geological formations, fields, and historic villages.

In February, the mountains of the peninsula will undoubtedly be covered in snow, the rivers and waterfalls at least partially frozen, and the craggy coasts, captivating.

In this month, it's also not at all uncommon to spot orcas from the shore. Snæfellsnes, in particular, is the best spot at viewing them at this time of year.

Festivals in Iceland

While most come to Iceland seeking its natural wonders, many also come for the vibrant festival scene of Reykjavík.

Not a month goes by without events gripping the capital, drawing visitors and locals alike.

Events such as Sónar, Airwaves, Secret Solstice and Reykjavík Pride, which are not in February, are all internationally renowned.

However, the three listed below are still very popular, unique, and culturally fascinating which occur in February:

1. Winter Lights Festival

The Pool Night of the Winter Lights FestivalPhoto from The Winter Lights Festival - Vetrarhátið 2014

The Winter Lights Festival occurs on the first weekend of every February. It’s a celebration of the lengthening of the days and the beauty of the wintery world.

The festival begins when lights across the city are turned on. It’s then followed by days of events that cover everything from music to sports, art to history, and industry to culture.

Two unmissable nights are Museum Night (February 2nd) and Pool Night (February 3rd) when the city’s museums and public pools feature some unique entertainment.

2. Reykjavík Rainbow Pride

The Kings and Queens of Drag Súgur performing at the Masquerade Ball. From left to right: Aurora Borealis, Russel Brund, Turner Strait and Wanda Star.Photo Credit: Pink Iceland

While Reykjavík’s main pride celebration (Pride Week and Pride Parade) occurs in August, there is the more intimate Pride gathering - the Rainbow Festival which occurs in February.

Quite different from summer pride, the Rainbow Festival brings people out into the country as much as possible, to make the most of Iceland’s February landscapes and Northern Lights.

That said, there is a Welcome Party at Kiki and the legendary Pink Masquerade Ball, which are abuzz with entertainment and fantastic costuming.

3. Stockfish Film Festival

Stockfish Film Festival is an international event, where over thirty arthouse films produced locally and around the rest of the world are shown in the cinema Bío Paradís.

This is a great opportunity for individuals in different film industries to network, and for the rest of us to enjoy some compelling cinema.

Not only that, but workshops, lectures, classes, and panels run throughout the 11-day festival.

What to Know About Iceland in February

The weather in Iceland can be volatile, to put it lightly.Photo from Things to do during storms in Iceland'

Those coming to Iceland in February are sure to have an incredible time immersing themselves in the quiet, wintry landscapes and thriving city culture.

You should be aware of several things before arriving. These issues relate to keeping yourself safe, and most of them regard driving and the weather.

Driving in Iceland in February

Iceland’s roads, though usually well-maintained, can be perilous.

In the winter months, they become caked in ice and lined with snowdrifts. Heavy rain, snowfall and omnipresent darkness can seriously obscure vision, and strong winds can destabilise vehicles.

It is therefore essential that you only rent a car if you have experience driving in hazardous conditions and icy, rural roads. We recommend a four-wheel-drive vehicle for this time of year

It's not possible to have chains on your tires, but you should absolutely request studded tires.

All cars will have winter tires or likely have studded tires (meaning, they have nails in them to add traction).

Vestrahorn is right by the sea, but even the salty air cannot protect the ground from snow

Because February is a quieter season, if you were to have an accident or to be stranded in the countryside, there is a chance that you may not be found for hours or days.

You can stock your vehicle with a charged phone, fresh water, food and blankets in preparation before venturing out from Reykjavik.

But you can also register your travel plans so that if you are missing, you can more easily be located.

It is also very important to check the weather website to see the conditions wherever you're driving.

You should make sure to check the conditions every morning before travelling as some areas are particularly vulnerable to dangers, such as avalanches in certain areas.

The roads website, meanwhile, will tell you which roads are open at any given time.

As previously noted, the roads into the Highlands, and many through the Westfjords, will certainly be closed because they are labelled ‘F-Roads’, which are only open during summer. 

Don't be complacent, watch where you park to avoid getting stuck in the snow.

Towing charges are not included in most insurance packages and you will have to pay a hefty fee for assistance if required.

It is absolutely essential that you never cross a road that's cordoned off, and it's absolutely crucial that you never drive off-road.

Doing such a thing in summer is ridiculous and damaging enough (not to mention illegal with huge fines and potential prison time), but in winter conditions, it is likely fatal.

Weather in Iceland in February

The average temperature in February in the capital, Reykjavík, is 1°C (33.8° F). It's also one of the country's wetter months, with an average of 83mm precipitation.

Goðafoss in winter, wrapped in snow.

February weather is notorious for its unpredictable turns, and you'll probably get caught in snow, wind, and rain during your stay, possibly on the same day.

The long nights are cold and dark, though the hours of light will continue to increase during your trip by 9 minutes every day.

Snow, once settled, brings light to the dark. On clear cold nights, the Northern Lights are most visible, so bundle up and turn your eyes toward the sky. 

You should bring thermal underwear, warm layers, waterproof and preferably windproof, outer layers, scarves, hats, gloves, and sturdy shoes, preferably hiking boots.

Suggested Itineraries for Iceland in February

Reynisfjara beach, covered in snow, is more dangerous in winter than usually.

Now that you know all there is to know about touring Iceland In February, we'd like to suggest a couple of hand-picked itineraries to help you make the most of your stay.

These suggestions are based on the number of days you have in Iceland, and can easily be amended to better suit your tastes, plans and budget.

The Stopover Traveller

The botanical gardens in Reykjavík in winter.

The "stopover traveller" arrives in Iceland at midday on a Friday and takes a Flybus from Keflavík International Airport to the Blue Lagoon. Here, they can soak in the azure waters to unwind from their flight.

Once they've enjoyed a silica mask and a good relax, they should head to their Reykjavík hotel, and settle in.

There they’ll have time to wander the sites of the city before having dinner in one of its unique restaurants before bed.

Reykjavík by night

Since the stopover traveller is only in Iceland until the next Monday, they’ll want to make the most of their time, even if it's February.

For that reason, they should decide to book a two-day tour that will take them across the South Coast, allowing them to see its many sites and to explore an ice cave.

They will thus wake up early on Saturday, to meet their guide, hop into the minibus, and start their tour.

They'll get to see many of the South’s great sites: its waterfalls, its black sand beaches, and the incredible Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

As they will reach this final destination later in the day, they'll hunt for the Northern Lights while checking out the Glacier Lagoon. 

Enjoying the Northern Lights dance above Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in greens, blues, purples and reds is one of the most breath-taking sights any traveller can behold.

The incredible blue of an ice cave

The next morning, they'll be taken to the edge of Vatnajökull glacier to explore.

This otherworldly experience, through tunnels of ethereal blue ice, will no doubt be the highlight of their holiday.

After marvelling at one of nature’s greatest wonders, they'll head back along the South Coast to Reykjavík.

Once in the capital, they’ll check back into their hotel, then head out for a little taste of the city’s nightlife.

The stopover traveller will likely have planned their departure for late afternoon on Monday, having time for a quick tour in the morning. They will use this time to opt into a morning horse-ride tour.

After this authentic Icelandic adventure is complete, they catch a Flybus back to the airport, marking the end of their short but rewarding holiday to Iceland in February.

If the stopover traveller were to have one extra day, they should use it to see the famous sites of the Golden Circle.

The Getaway Traveller

Kirkjufell covered in ice.

The "getaway traveller" will come to Iceland for a minimum of ten days, to fully immerse themselves in February’s winter landscapes.

They’d be best to consider taking a 10-day winter self-drive tour around Iceland, or another 10-day self-drive that would allow them to spend more time in the southwest of the country.

However, they will likely have little experience on icy roads, so could instead opt to look into packages and guided tours.

Aldeyarfoss in the North.

The getaway traveller should consider two packages:

  1. 9-day minibus excursion - includes the Ring Road, the East Fjords and Lake Mývatn
  2. 10-day tour - immerse in the south, part of the Highlands, and the West, including the Snæfellnes Peninsula

This getaway traveller, however, should aim to see the northern sites like Mývatn without missing the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Buying a package, therefore, is the easiest way to organise this trip by utilising expert itineraries based on your length of time when visiting Iceland in February.

The opening of an ice cave

As soon as the getaway traveller lands at Keflavík Airport, they should head straight to the Blue Lagoon before settling into their accommodation in Reykjavík for the evening.

Planning for an early night is suggested because, the next morning, they'll embark on a seven-day tour of the Golden Circle and South Coast, where they'll hike a glacier and explore an incredible ice cave.

They’ll then get the chance of seeing the remote beauty of the East Fjords as they head toward Mývatn in the North of Iceland.

On the seventh day, they’ll get to visit the charming town of Akureyri, before flying back to Reykjavík that evening.

If the Northern Lights have evaded them during their tour so far, they should head out and catch them when back in Reykjavik with the perfect Northern Lights tour.

Northern Lights over the lighthouse Grótta, in the Greater Reykjavík Area.

The last part of the country left to see will be the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

They should, therefore, take a guided day tour. This will take them to all the major sites, such as Snæfellsjökull glacier, the Lóndrangar basalt formation, and Mount Kirkjufell.

If staying one extra day, they could turn this into a two-day tour instead. This will give them more time to take in all of the remaining amazing sights of 'Iceland in Miniature' as well as go on a lava-caving excursion.

The tenth day will be the departure day. But because the getaway traveller has not yet had a chance to explore the capital, they should spend the morning wandering the streets of Reykjavík.

They should use the opportunity to take in the city - its many museums, galleries, and shops beneath a blanket of snow that a visit to Reykjavik in February is likely to bring. Then it's off to the airport!

Öxarárfoss in winter.

To conclude, although Iceland is still cold and dark in February, it's still a very beautiful place and the people are warm and welcoming.

In fact, considering the ever-growing balance between night and day, the relative lack of crowds, and wealth of winter activities, the month has a charm that's sure to make your holiday special.

Whether you’re planning on a stopover or a couple of weeks visiting Iceland in February there are a wealth of wonderful places to see and activities to do. We’d love to hear your questions and experiences of visiting Iceland in February in the comments below.