February in Iceland is a month of change. It's during this time, like in many other parts of the world, that the days begin to gradually lengthen. By the last week of February, the sun rises before 9am and sets after 6pm, leaving plenty of time for exploring the countryside in your campervan or motorhome. But because nights are still plenty long enough to hunt for the Northern Lights, you’ll get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Of course, Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, but if you’re hoping for snow, there’s usually enough left on the ground in February to give you all those magical winter wonderland vibes. Even if a blizzard does blow through, you’ll be warm and cozy inside your vehicle while you plan your next move and wait for the skies to clear. So, get your itinerary planners out, here is our comprehensive guide on what to see and do during February in Iceland.
If you plan to travel to Iceland in February, your trip might coincide with the country’s midwinter festival, Þorrablót. It takes place during the month of Thorri, which according to the ancient Icelandic calendar commences during the 13th week of winter (the first Friday after January 19th) and continues until the middle of February.
Þorrablót traces its origins to pagan times, when sacrifices were made to the gods. Although it’s unclear where the name derives from, it’s likely that its origins can be traced back to either a Norwegian king called Thorri Snærsson, or perhaps Thor, the God of Thunder. After Iceland adopted Christianity, Þorrablót was abandoned. However, the festival as it stands today was resurrected in the 19th century.
Today, Icelanders celebrate Þorrablót with a feast. Typically, it’s shared with friends and family, though some restaurants mark the occasion with special menus. If you have the stomach for it, this might be your chance to try some peculiar Icelandic foods, such as rotten shark (hákarl), boiled sheep’s head (svið) and congealed sheep’s blood wrapped in a ram’s stomach (blóðmör). If it’s your first time in Iceland, we’d venture to say you’ve never seen something similar to these out-of-the-ordinary dishes.
A Þorrablót dinner is traditionally accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol. After all, who wouldn’t want to wash away the taste of those strong flavors with a shot (or five) of Brennevín, Iceland’s national drink. Appropriately enough, this potent caraway-flavored aquavit is nicknamed ‘Black Death’. In addition to this unique culinary experience, there’s also plenty of storytelling, singing and dancing, so be sure to seek out a restaurant with a live band if you can.
Watch the Reykjavík International Games
For the last twenty years or so, sports men and women from around the world have descended on Iceland at the start of February for the Reykjavik International Games. This annual event has a few surprises up its sleeve, as alongside the sports you might expect, there are some more unusual disciplines.
While the headliners at the Reykjavík International Games are normally athletics, swimming and cycling, you’ll also be able to watch lesser-followed sports like ten-pin bowling, indoor climbing, darts, weight lifting and dance competitions. Some events are live-streamed online, such as Esports competitions featuring Counter Strike, League of Legends and FIFA 20.
Take part in the Northern Lights Run
As well as the Reykjavík International Games, the Reykjavík Sports Union also organizes a fun run at the beginning of February. But the Northern Lights Run isn’t your typical sporting event. It actually looks more like a big party than a sports contest, where participants are encouraged to dress as colorfully as possible. It’s not at all competitive either, with runners taking as long as they like to complete the 5 km course, and walkers more than welcome to join in on the fun.
The Northern Lights Run begins and ends at the Reykjavík Art Museum, passing well-known landmarks such as Hallgrimmskirkja and Harpa along the way. These are the route’s ‘fun stations’, featuring light shows and live DJs. There’s also music at the museum, plenty of refreshments and a photo booth to snap some souvenir pictures of the occasion. Sign up in advance - the entry fee gets you an illuminated wristband and a tube of face paint..
See reindeer in East Iceland
Reindeer aren’t native to Iceland – they were brought over from Norway in the late 18th century. At that time, four groups were released in the Westman Islands, Reykjanes peninsula, Eyjafjörður in North Iceland and Vopnafjörður in East Iceland. The latter is where they survive now which means you’ll find at least 3000 of these adorable creatures in the east and northeast of the country.
It’s hard to spot Iceland’s wild reindeer in summer as they graze at higher altitudes, but in the winter months, they migrate down to the coastal grass. That makes February an ideal month to have a reindeer encounter. In East Iceland, they’re often seen from the Ring Road or close by, for instance on the tarmacked road that leads to Seyðisfjörður. The best part? Tours depart daily in February from places such as Egilsstaðir, so the chance to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat is just a trip away.
Visit the Phallological Museum in Reykjavík
Since February’s weather can be hit-or-miss, it’s always a good idea to have an indoor activity lined up as a backup thing to do in Iceland. The Icelandic Phallological Museum in downtown Reykjavík has an unusual subject matter, but is presented in a very scientific way. Its collection comprises more than 250 penises, some of full length and others only partly preserved, representing almost every land and sea mammal that lives in the country.
While some specimens are flattened, others are salted, dried, tanned or preserved in a solution of formaldehyde in water. Among the 46 mammal types represented in the Icelandic Phallological Museum are seal, whale, walrus, reindeer, Arctic fox, horse and even polar bear. The more unusual exhibits are those which belong to a merman, a troll, several elves and even a ghost. It’s easily one of the most fascinating selections of exhibits you’ll get the chance to see.
Relax in a geothermal pool
Thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream and its mid-Atlantic location, Iceland’s winter weather can be milder than that of places at similar latitudes. While that might mean the snow’s melted in Reykjavík, you can turn the warmer temperatures to your advantage and take a dip in one of the Iceland’s famous hot springs or spas.
While it’s great to be out in the remote countryside, in February you’ll appreciate better access in case the roads are icy. It’s also a good idea to find a place with decent changing facilities, warm showers and hairdryers. Trust us- that cold air will be pretty unpleasant if your hair is still wet, or even damp. Here are six of our favorites, all with ample parking:
1. The Blue Lagoon
This upscale Blue Lagoon spa on the Reykjanes peninsula close to Keflavik Airport is probably the country’s most famous. It’s possible to enter the warm water without stepping outside – the chill won’t feel so bad if it’s only your head that’s exposed. Although it’s a little pricey, it’s worth the splurge. Whether you kick off your trip this way or visit it as the grand finale, a dip into the Blue Lagoon is a must.
2. Laugarvatn Fontana
If you’re touring the Golden Circle in your campervan, Laugarvatn Fontana is a really convenient option as it’s midway between Geysir and Thingvellir. Located beside the lake of the same name, there are several pools which make the most of the geothermally heated water. Don’t forget to try the outdoor-baked rye bread while it’s still warm out of the ground.
3. Mývatn Nature Baths
From Mývatn Nature Baths, you’ll enjoy an uninterrupted, magnificent view of the entire lake. In February, the midges that pester travellers in the summer months are nowhere to be seen. Instead, luxuriate in the warm water as you look out over the charming Icelandic countryside. More intimate than the Blue Lagoon, this is a very special place indeed.
Vök Baths is East Iceland’s largest spa and also boasts the country’s only floating infinity pools. Easily accessible from Egilsstaðir, they sit right on the lake at Urriðavatn. If the wind chill is a bit too much, there are more pools on land and also a sauna, tea bar and bistro. Your ticket includes a tisane brewed from the hot spring water, infused with herbs which are grown locally.
Húsavík’s GeoSea baths have one of the most extraordinary settings of any thermal spa in the country. Drive up to the edge of town and, on a headland overlooking Skjálfandi Bay, you can watch the sun slip into the water from its infinity pool. You might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights here, too.
6. Sky Lagoon
Sky Lagoon is a breathtaking ocean-facing spa in Reykjavík that rivals the Blue Lagoon for its drama and quality. You’ll be treated to a seven-step ritual which combines heat and cold to relax, refresh and rejuvenate, leaving you full of energy. It isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the outlay to be pampered in such an exquisite place.
The very best of February in Iceland!
As you can see, February in Iceland is pretty special. Fewer visitors come during winter, so you might even get the place all to yourself. As mentioned, you’ll need to be prepared to alter your plans if the weather or Northern Lights dictate, but it’ll be well worth taking a flexible approach. All you need to do is choose which campervan or motorhome best suits your needs, and then your February Icelandic adventure can begin!