One of the beautiful things about Iceland is that it has a very distinct personality for each of its seasons. While the beautiful, summer weather is short-lived, you'll get a true feel for the brutal power the weather holds over this island when you visit during the winter. It's a wonderful thing to witness.
It may seem intimidating to visit a harsh, near-Arctic climate during the wintertime, but don't let that scare you off. Walking through a snowstorm in Iceland, given you're properly dressed for the occasion, is like dropping yourself in the center of a snow globe. Plus, the hot springs feel even better when you have to hop through some snow piles to get in them.
Urgent Seasonal Information
One thing that may surprise first-time visitors is the length of day. In February, the sun generally rises around 10 a.m. and sets at approximately 5:15 p.m. Seven hours of sunlight may seem like plenty, but it will take a toll—especially if you plan on driving around the country on a road trip.
Be flexible if you are embarking on said road trip. The nasty weather can cause road closures—sometimes lasting days—that can put a cramp in your itinerary. Either plan extra time for getting around or stick to one area of the country.
Iceland Weather in February
February is known as one of biggest wildcard months the country sees, when it comes to weather patterns. It's still cold enough (average temperatures hover around 35 degrees F) for strong blizzards to pass through, especially when the near-freezing temps turn the rain into icy hail. And when it isn't snowing, chances are it's incredibly windy, and February does bring with it the most rainfall of the other months throughout the year.
Consider this, though: it's actually colder in cities like New York City during this time of the year than it is in Iceland.
What to Pack
The key to visiting Iceland in February and not having a horrible time is to pack layers. The weather is incredibly unpredictable during this time and there's a good chance you'll experience all seasons in the span of an afternoon. It's not rare to witness hail, snow, white-out conditions, sun, extreme wind, and rain within hours. Your outerwear must be waterproof, including—most importantly—your boots. Hiking can be tough during this time of year, but if you're set on doing it, invest in some quality hiking outfits and consider insulated snow or rain pants.
You can never have enough pairs of socks, either. Pack more than you think you'll need because there's a good chance your feet will get wet, no matter how water-sealed your boots may be.
February Events in Iceland
Despite the intimidating weather, there's a lot happening in Iceland during the month of February. If you're looking for cultural events, it's best to stick to Reykjavik, where most of the festivals are happening at this time of the year.
- Winter Lights Festival: From Feb. 6 to 9, locals get together to celebrate the lengthening of the days. During this time, museums are open later and will host a plethora of dance, music, literature, and film events. Many of the city swimming pools are free during the festival and open late, and there are light installations set up all around Reykjavik.
- Rainbow Reykjavik: The country's wintertime pride event is held from Feb. 13 to 16, featuring queer BINGO nights, Northern Lights hunting, group dinners, and parties.
- Northern Lights Bachata Festival: Feb. 21 to 23 will mark Reykjavik's first-ever Northern Lights Bachata Festival. The event pays homage to the Bachata style of dancing with workshops, shows, and parties.
- Food and Fun Festival: From Feb. 27 through March 3, the Food and Fun Festival in Reykjavik brings together some of the best chefs from within Iceland and outside of its borders to celebrate creative menus with Icelandic ingredients.
February Travel Tips
- Expect road closures due to inclement weather and don't even try to access the Central Highlands
- When renting a car, make sure you have four-wheel drive.
- Expect very little sunlight during the day. And many roads at night are not lit, so avoid driving after sunset if possible.
- Have a back-up plan if you want to camp; the weather can derail your intentions.