Find out everything you need to know about visiting Iceland in February. Learn about the weather and what to pack. Read on to learn how to prepare for your trip and the best things to do, like whale watching, chasing the northern lights, exploring glacier caves, and other fun activities.
In February, snow will have blanketed most of Iceland's landscapes and towns. With more hours of darkness than light each day, it's an optimal time to see the northern lights.
Despite the quasi-arctic climate, much of Iceland in February is still as accessible as other times of the year. It's 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, travelers should be aware that driving in Iceland in February can still be dangerous. Road conditions are frequently hazardous, weather can be unpredictable, it's very dark, and there's little road lighting outside of population centers.
See Iceland's prime attractions clad in ice with a 12 Day Winter Self-Drive Tour
During February in Iceland, many popular 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, which makes it a great time to plan your trip to avoid the crowds.
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, mainly with regards to driving and the weather.
Iceland's roads, though usually well-maintained, can be hazardous.
In the winter months, they're ice-layered and lined with snowdrifts. Heavy rain, snowfall, and omnipresent darkness can obscure vision, and strong winds can destabilize vehicles.
Therefore, it's essential that you only rent a car if you have experience driving in hazardous conditions and on icy, rural roads. We strongly recommend a four-wheel-drive car rental for this time of year.
It's not possible to have chains on your tires, but all cars will have winter tires. Most car rental companies offer studded tires (tires with nails to add traction). We recommend that you request studded tires if they're not included with your rental.
Since February is a quiet tourism month, if you were to have an accident or become stranded in the countryside, there's a chance that rescue teams may not find you for hours or days. You should stock your vehicle with a charged phone, water, food, and blankets in preparation before venturing out from Reykjavik.
You can also register your travel plans so that you can more easily be located if something goes wrong. It's also essential to check the weather website for the conditions of your route and destination before setting out. You should make sure to re-check the conditions every morning before traveling as some areas are particularly vulnerable to dangers, such as avalanches in certain areas. The road conditions 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 undoubtedly be closed because they're labeled "F-Roads," which are only open during summer.
Be careful where you park to avoid getting stuck in the snow. Most insurance packages don't include towing charges, and you'll have to pay a hefty fee for assistance if required.
You must never cross a road that's cordoned off, and you must 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 it can be fatal in winter.
The average temperature in February in the capital, Reykjavik, is 33.8 F (1 C). It's also one of the country's wetter months, with an average of 3.3 inches (83 millimeters) of precipitation.
February weather in Iceland is notorious for its unpredictable turns, and you'll probably get caught in snow, wind, and rain during your stay -- possibly even all on the same day!
The long nights are cold and dark, though the hours of light will continue to increase during your trip by nine 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.
As you would expect, when traveling to Iceland in February, you should take plenty of warm clothes with you.
Hiking boots: Even if you're planning to stay only in Reykjavik, it's a good idea to wear hiking boots. The streets can be icy - that could either be fresh ice or melting ice. You could certainly wear regular shoes, but your feet could get soaking wet and cold.
Gloves: Wearing high-quality, warm gloves is a must. The best options are leather gloves with an inner fleece lining.
Wind and waterproof pants: When venturing off far from Reykjavik, the weather can be unpredictable. It'll most likely be windy and wet, so these are items you should definitely wear in Iceland in February.
As a general rule, you should wear warm layers like scarves, hats, and gloves. For comfort and ease of packing, fleece and wool items are the best option.
Yes, the Blue Lagoon is open in February. It's open year-round. Although the outside temperature is often below zero, swimming in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon in winter is an incredible experience.
For photography lovers, this is the best time to capture the thick steam coming out of the warm blue waters.
Those who heartily embrace the cold will find many things to occupy their time in an Icelandic February. Many activities can only be done during winter, like ice caving in Vatnajokull glacier and northern lights hunting.
Others, like snorkeling in Silfra, develop a magical new charm in the snow and ice.
Here are our recommendations for things to do in Iceland in February.
The vast majority of travelers coming to Iceland throughout winter are likely to see the northern lights. One of the best things to do in Iceland in February is to marvel at the northern lights. That's because, at this time of the year, there's reduced cloud cover and dark skies.
The two magical ingredients to a northern lights hunt are clear skies and good solar activity. The best spots to see them are outside of Reykjavik. That is because the city light pollution will compromise how bright the lights are. You can easily leave the city on a guided northern lights tour or 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. The aurora borealis is unpredictable, and for that reason, most operators will take you on a guided tour another time if you don't see the lights on the first attempt. Another reason to try to see the northern lights early during your trip is that the tours can also be canceled if the forecast is of low intensity and cloudy skies.
You'll want as many chances as possible, which means making time and being flexible if you don't see them the first time.
If you're into photography, it's also worth making sure you have the right equipment and understand the correct settings for photographing the aurora borealis. Usually, the main requirement is staying patient while you wait.
If you're wondering what to do in Iceland in February, another winter-exclusive activity is ice caving in the naturally formed tunnels beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, the largest icecap in Europe. This opportunity is incredibly rare due to the sparsity and inaccessibility of glaciers and the particular conditions required for their formation.
Ice cave tours usually begin between mid-October and early November and stop running in March. Make sure to check before your trip to make sure tours will be available.
One of the factors that can limit the accessibility of ice caves is rainfall. After flooding, they're structurally unsound, and tours have to be canceled. Although February is a rather wet month, the average precipitation level is slightly lower than the other winter months, 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 memorable 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 region's surrounding sights and Iceland's famous South Coast. They will include some of Iceland's most beautiful natural attractions, like the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and the Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
Whale watching tours are also conducted from Reykjavik in February. In fact, they're available throughout the year. More than twenty species of cetacean can be seen in 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.
On the other hand, harbor porpoises are harder to spot than white-beaked dolphins, even though they're 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 that year. Furthermore, those creatures that did migrate return to Iceland's coasts in February.
Like northern lights tours, operators may cancel whale-watching tours due to bad weather. There's also a chance 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. But with the winds and low temperatures, wearing warm clothes is a must.
Photo from Raufarhólshellir | Standard Lava Tunnel Tour
Lava caving is an enjoyable activity during February, although it's a little more daunting than in the summer months. 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 caves' ceilings, it often freezes in the sub-zero temperatures before dropping, slowly forming beautiful icicles - or mini-stalactites. The water that does seep through often freezes when it hits the ground, forming equally mesmerizing ice shapes.
This ice creates a glitter effect for those exploring within and allows for some magical photos. It can also, however, make the ground incredibly slippery, so only those who feel confident on uneven surfaces should partake.
Tour operators will always provide you with crampons and a helmet, so you don't need to worry about bringing any additional safety equipment with you.
Those seeking an easier lava caving trip should look into touring either Raufarholshellir or Vidgelmir. 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 Leidarendi, which requires scrambling through small spaces and, after a particularly heavy snowfall, entry via a very narrow slide.
Public swimming pools are a popular meeting place in Iceland. Locals go swimming after work, on the weekends, and whenever they feel like relaxing among friends.
These are geothermal-heated pools and can be found in most towns around Iceland. In Reykjavik alone, there are seven public pool centers. The largest one has two Olympic-size pools (one indoor and one outdoor) as well as several smaller ones, hot tubs of different temperatures, and large public saunas.
Soaking in an outdoor heated pool while the air temperature is near or below freezing is one of the most exhilarating experiences you'll have in Iceland.
In February, snorkeling may seem like an activity only for daredevils. But with modern drysuit equipment, it becomes possible for almost anyone.
Silfra is located in Thingvellir National Park. It's a ravine filled with crystal clear spring water, with visibility that exceeds 330 feet (100 meters), thrusting you into a world of magical blue light and fascinating geology.
The only thing that can make this activity more wonderful is being surrounded by snow and ice while you swim.
Snorkeling in a winter wonderland is a unique opportunity you can only experience in very few places worldwide and even fewer directly between two 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:
Glacier hiking runs throughout the year and is rewarding whenever you go. However, its appeal in February comes from the electric blue ice that covers the glaciers in midwinter and the ice caves that form across them. The two main glaciers open for glacier hiking in February are the Solheimajokull glacier and the Svinafellsjokull glacier, both in South Iceland.
With an experienced glacier guide, you can immerse yourself in these fascinating features and learn a great deal about Iceland's geology.
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're more than happy to be outside, socialize, and play 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 understand the history of a nation that relied on these steeds for its survival and prosperity.
In addition to resistance to the cold, Icelandic horses also have a high level of curiosity and intelligence. These traits make them an absolute pleasure to spend a morning or afternoon with.
You'll often pass by drivers out in the countryside who have specifically stopped 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 pull over somewhere safe off the main road to avoid disrupting traffic (or causing an accident).
Riding an Icelandic Horse is one of the most Icelandic experiences that you can partake in when visiting our shores. Don't miss it!
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's possible to traverse the entire Ring Road, either as part of a guided package or by driving yourself.
Most travelers 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.
Iceland's most popular tourist trail consists of three sites: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss Waterfall. Each is renowned for its dramatic beauty and unique charm, and most visitors to Iceland make an effort to see them. February is no exception.
Thingvellir is beautiful under a thick blanket of snow, and many of its features, such as the waterfall Oxarafoss, are at least partially frozen.
The heat beneath the ground at the Geysir Geothermal Area makes it a plateau of multi-colored earth within a powdery white sea.
At this time of year, Gullfoss waterfall will have adorned the rocks surrounding it with crowns of frost. They will glisten beautifully beside the powerfully surging water.
Gullfoss waterfall can become even more spectacular if you're able to get just the right conditions for a shimmering rainbow.
The spectacular natural beauty that can be seen in a relatively short time makes Golden Circle tours one of the most popular activities for tourists in Iceland.
There are the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, the glaciers Solheimajokull and Vatnajokull, the volcanos Eyjafjallajokull, Katla, and Hekla, and awe-inspiring sites such as Skaftafell Nature Reserve, Reynisfjara black sand beach, the plane wreckage at Solheimasandur, and Jokulsarlon 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's no landmass between the Icelandic coastline and Antarctica, meaning that the waves have been gathering strength while traveling a great distance. These 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.
Several scenes that took place north of The Wall were filmed here, such as the scenes in the wildling camp of Mance Rayder. The famous underground love scene between Ygritte and Jon Snow was filmed in Gjatagja cave.
Geological formations protrude from the lake's frozen surface, and the snow-topped lava at Dimmuborgir (which is also called the Dark Fortress) creates a fascinating, ice-clad spectacle.
Travelers here, no matter the time of year, can expect volcanoes, mountains, lava fields, stunning beaches, geological formations, fields, and historic villages. In February, the snow will cover the peninsula mountains, the rivers and waterfalls will be partially frozen, and the craggy coasts will captivate. At this time of year, it's also not uncommon to spot orcas from the shore. Snaefellsnes, in particular, is the best spot to view orcas in February.
While most tourists come to Iceland seeking its natural wonders, many also come for the vibrant festival scene of Reykjavik. Not a month goes by without events gripping the capital, drawing visitors and locals alike.
However, the three listed below are still very popular, unique, and culturally fascinating and do occur in February:
Photo by Katrín Ásta Sigurjónsdóttir
The Winter Lights Festival occurs every year on the first weekend of 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 covering everything from music to sports, art to history, and industry to culture. Two unmissable nights of the festival are Museum Night and Pool Night when the city's museums and public pools feature some unique entertainment.
Photo by Simon Schmidtt
While Reykjavik's main pride celebration (Pride Week and Pride Parade) takes place in August, a more intimate Pride gathering -- the Rainbow Reykjavik festival -- usually takes place in February or March.
Quite different from summer pride, Rainbow Reykjavik brings people out into the country as much as possible to make the most of Iceland's February landscapes and northern lights. That said, the welcome party and the legendary Pink Masquerade Ball, which are abuzz with entertainment and fantastic costuming, are both held in Reykjavik.
Stockfish Film Festival is an international event in which the Bio Paradis cinema showcases over 30 arthouse films produced locally and around the rest of the world. The festival is an excellent 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.
In addition to the festivals, there are other festivities worth mentioning.
Icelanders don't celebrate Valentine's Day like people in other countries. However, the date is slowly becoming a popular celebration, with luxury hotels and restaurants offering special packages and meals on February 14th.
If you're planning to be in Iceland on Valentine's Day, you can make it extra special by booking a table at one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik, which may be offering a special menu.
Another option is booking a spa day at the Blue Lagoon. In addition to swimming in the idyllic milky-blue warm pools, you can also have spa treatments that go from a two-hour massage to facial treatments using products such as algae, silica, and other minerals.
An important day on the Icelandic calendar is Women's Day, celebrated on February 24th. While Valentine's Day is slowly becoming part of Iceland's celebration calendar, Women's Day is part of Iceland's tradition.
The date falls on the first day of the month of Goa, on the old Norse calendar. On Women's Day, men treat the special women in their life. They bring them flowers, take them out for dinner or offer them some special presents.
If you were wondering, Icelanders also celebrate Men's Day, which is in the Norse month of Thorri (the month before Goa).
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 that will help you make the most of your stay.
These suggestions are based on the number of days you have in Iceland, and you can easily amend them to better suit your tastes, plans, and budget.
The four-day (i.e. long weekend) Stopover Traveler Itinerary begins with arrival in Iceland at midday on the first day and a Flybus from Keflavik International Airport to the Blue Lagoon. Here, you can soak in the azure waters to unwind from your flight. Once you've enjoyed a silica mask and some good relaxation, you'll head to your Reykjavik hotel and settle in. There you'll have time to wander the city taking in the sites before having dinner in one of its unique restaurants.
Since you only have a few days, you'll want to make the most of your time. For that reason, you should book a two-day tour that will take you across the South Coast, allowing you to see its many sites and to explore an ice cave. That means you'll have to wake up early on the second day to meet your guide, hop into the minibus, and start the tour.
You'll get to see many of South Iceland's great sites: majestic waterfalls, otherworldly black sand beaches, and the spectacular Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. As you reach this final destination later in the day, you'll hunt for the northern lights while checking out the Glacier Lagoon.
Enjoying the northern lights dancing above Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in greens, blues, purples, and reds, is one of the most breathtaking sights any traveler can behold.
The next morning, guides will take you to the Vatnajokull glacier to explore the ice caves. This otherworldly experience, through tunnels of ethereal blue ice, will no doubt be the highlight of your holiday.
After marveling at one of nature's greatest wonders, you'll head back along the South Coast to Reykjavik. Once in the capital, you'll check back into your hotel, then head out for a little taste of the city's nightlife.
Your departure will most likely be late afternoon on day four, leaving just enough time for a quick morning tour. We recommend a morning horseback ride.
After this authentic Icelandic adventure is complete, you can catch a Flybus back to the airport, marking the end of this short but rewarding holiday to Iceland in February.
If you're able to stay another day, we recommend that you use it to see the Golden Circle's famous sites.
The Getaway Traveler Itinerary requires a minimum of 10 days to fully immerse yourself in February's winter landscapes.
We recommend you consider a 10-day Circle of Iceland self-drive tour or a 10-day South Coast self-drive tour that will allow you to explore the highlights of Iceland's magical landscape at your own pace.
These are two of the most popular packages:
The getaway traveler should aim to see the northern sites like Myvatn without missing the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Buying a package is the easiest way to organize your trip and ensure you make the most of your visit to Iceland in February.
As soon as you land at Keflavik Airport, you should head straight to the Blue Lagoon before settling into your accommodation in Reykjavik for the evening.
Planning for an early night is suggested because the next morning, you'll embark on a seven-day tour of the Golden Circle and South Coast, where you'll hike a glacier and explore an incredible ice cave. You'll then get the chance to see the East Fjords' remote beauty as they head toward Myvatn in North Iceland. On the seventh day, you'll get to visit the charming town of Akureyri before flying back to Reykjavik in the evening.
If the northern lights have evaded you during your tour so far, you should head out and catch them when back in Reykjavik with the perfect northern lights tour.
The last part of the country left to see will be the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
If you still have time, you can extend this with a two-day tour. This tour will give you 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 last day will be departure day. But because you've not yet had a chance to explore the capital, you should spend the morning wandering the streets of Reykjavik.
Enjoy this opportunity to take in the city and its many museums, galleries, and shops, to top off your visit to Reykjavik in February. Then it's off to the airport!
To conclude, although Iceland is still cold and dark in February, it's still a lovely place, and the people are warm and welcoming.
Considering the ever-growing balance between night and day, the relative lack of crowds, and the 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 many 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.