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? How has COVID-19 impacted tours and attractions? Continue reading to learn all about Iceland in February.
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 look out for the Northern Lights.
Despite the quasi-arctic climate, much of Iceland in February is still as accessible as 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, travelers 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. Additionally, while Iceland has led the way in keeping COVID-19 cases low, you probably still have some questions about how the virus will impact your travel.
The first thing to know is that, unlike many countries, Iceland has managed to remain open to travelers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything, from Reykjavik's capital city to the Northern Lights to the glacier ice caves, is ready for your visit! Because of Iceland’s thorough testing and contact tracing, your trip can be an experience of a lifetime that is also safe.
To find out all the details of how Iceland has kept its doors open, you can visit our COVID-19 information page. Meanwhile, here are some answers to common questions you might have about how COVID-19 impacts your February trip.
How will COVID-19 impact my travel to Iceland in February?
While you can easily experience Iceland’s spectacular nature and picturesque attractions when you’re here, you should be aware that there are currently a couple of steps you will have to complete at the border. First, be sure to pre-register online up to 72 hours before your arrival to move through the process quicker.
Currently, Iceland offers a couple of options to cross the border: you can take two tests with five days of quarantine between them, or, if you live in an EU/EFTA country, you can present a certificate that verifies you have already had COVID-19 and now have the necessary antibodies. Once these steps are complete, the country is yours to explore.
Are tours and activities still running during COVID-19?
Yes, tours and activities are still ready to show you a great time! Tour operators carefully monitor and follow local health authorities’ advice to ensure your safety is the top priority. They will disinfect any equipment you might use or vehicles you might travel in before you use them.
Social distancing is currently the norm here, and you can easily do it since Iceland has a low population density and most of its best attractions are outdoors. If you’re unable to keep the necessary distance, you’ll need to wear a mask, but otherwise, you’ll be free to explore most of what this unique country has to offer.
Are Northern Lights hunts still safe during COVID-19?
Northern Lights hunts practice the same precautions as any other tours. Tour operators will thoroughly sanitize your vehicle before and after your adventure, and your guides will wear masks and social distance as needed. One of the best parts of watching the Northern Lights is being outside, as you will soon learn.
Those who heartily embrace the cold will find many 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 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.
February is one of the best times to marvel at the Northern Lights because of the reduced cloud cover and dark skies.
The two magical ingredients to a Northern Lights hunt are clear skies and good solar activity.
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’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.
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 glaciers' sparsity, 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 canceled.
Though February is a rather wet month, the average precipitation level is slightly lower than throughout the rest of winter, making it one of the more promising times to book a tour.
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.
However, harbor porpoises 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Þingvellir National Park. It's a ravine filled with crystal clear spring-water, with visibility that exceeds one hundred 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 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:
Glacier hiking runs throughout the year and is rewarding whenever you go.
However, its appeal in February comes from the electric blue ice that armors the glaciers in midwinter and the ice caves that form across them.
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 are 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 comprehend the history of a nation that relied on these steeds for its survival and prosperity.
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. These traits make them an absolute pleasure to spend a morning or afternoon with.
You will 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 pullover somewhere safe off the main road to avoid causing any unnecessary accidents.
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 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.
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-colored earth within a powdery white sea.
At this time of year, Gullfoss will have adorned the rocks surrounding it with crowns of frost. They will 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.
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 traveled 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.
Scenes ‘North of the Wall,’ such as in the wildling camp of Mance Rayder and Gjótagjá cave, were filmed here, as was the underground love scene between Ygritte and Jon Snow.
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.
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.
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.
However, the three listed below are still very popular, unique, and culturally fascinating which occur in February:
Photo by Katrín Ásta Sigurjónsdóttir
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 covering 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.
Photo by Simon Schmidtt
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 happens 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.
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.
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.
Iceland’s roads, though usually well-maintained, can be hazardous.
In the winter months, they become caked in ice and lined with snowdrifts. Heavy rain, snowfall, and omnipresent darkness can obscure vision, and strong winds can destabilize vehicles.
It's not possible to have chains on your tires, but you should request studded tires.
All cars will have winter tires or likely have studded tires (meaning, they have nails to add traction).
Because February is a quieter season, if you were to have an accident or become stranded in the countryside, there is a chance that rescue teams may not find you for hours or days.
You can stock your vehicle with a charged phone, water, food, and blankets in preparation before venturing out from Reykjavik.
But you can also register your travel plans so that you can more easily be located if you are missing.
It is also essential to check the weather website to see the conditions wherever you're driving.
You should make sure to check the conditions every morning before traveling 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 undoubtedly be closed because they are labeled ‘F-Roads,’ which are only open during summer.
Don't be complacent; watch where you park to avoid getting stuck in the snow.
Most insurance packages don't include towing charges, and you will 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 is likely fatal in winter conditions.
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.
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.
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 you can easily amend them to better suit your tastes, plans, and budget.
The "stopover traveler" 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 some good relaxation, 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.
Since the stopover traveler 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.
Thus, they will 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 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 traveler can behold.
The next morning, guides will take them 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 marveling 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 traveler 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 for 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 traveler were to have one extra day, they should use it to see the Golden Circle's famous sites.
The "getaway traveler" will come to Iceland for a minimum of ten days to fully immerse themselves in February’s winter landscapes.
The getaway traveler should consider two packages:
This getaway traveler should aim to see the northern sites like Mývatn without missing the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Therefore, buying a package is the easiest way to organize this trip by utilizing expert itineraries based on your length of time when visiting Iceland in February.
As soon as the getaway traveler 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 to see the East Fjords' remote beauty 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.
The last part of the country left to see will be the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
If staying one extra day, they could turn this into a two-day tour instead. This tour 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 traveler 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!
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.