Iceland is an amazing country to visit at any time of year, with its stunning landscapes and unique natural phenomena like the Northern Lights and Midnight Sun. This year, I spent a week in February in Iceland, and the country was well worth the visit, even during the coldest part of the year. I wanted to make a guide to visiting Iceland in winter so you know what to expect (and how to prepare) for your trip! In this post, I’ll tell you all about my experience taking a road trip through southern Iceland during the winter, and I’ll lay out the positive and negative aspects of visiting Iceland in winter vs summer.
February in Iceland – My Experience
As I said, I just experienced February in Iceland, and I want to share my thoughts with you so you know what to expect if you’re visiting Iceland in winter. I was initially very nervous to go to Iceland during the winter because I knew it would be extremely cold. Although it was pretty chilly during my trip (with temperatures averaging around 30 degrees Fahrenheit), it was not as bad as I expected. Because the Gulf Stream hits the southern coast of Iceland, this part of the country has relatively moderate temperatures during the winter. This was a huge relief to me, and I found that when I was wearing two layers and a heavy coat, I felt completely comfortable, even on the coldest days of our trip.
Even though the cold was bearable when I was all bundled up, February in Iceland has notoriously bad weather, which in turn makes road conditions a bit more dangerous. I was really apprehensive about driving around Iceland in winter because I was afraid we would hit an ice patch and slide off the road. Thankfully, the roads in southern Iceland were relatively clear and safe, and we didn’t have any trouble driving around Reykjavik and the Golden Circle route. However, if you want to drive the Ring Road (which goes around the whole country), you should probably visit Iceland during the summer because I’ve heard the roads in the northern part of the country are a bit treacherous during the winter.
Experiencing Iceland in the winter has its positive and negative aspects. Iceland’s peak tourist season is in the summer, so we were able to book accommodation and flights for February for much cheaper than if we were going in July or August. Even though there were tourists at every place we visited, it was a lot quieter than it would have been during the summer months, which made the experience much more relaxing and peaceful.
I loved seeing the country covered in snow because it was really beautiful, but I also felt like I couldn’t see some of the sites
Visiting Iceland in Winter vs Summer
Because Iceland is such a popular destination right now (thanks in part to increasingly low airline fares to and from the country), lots of potential visitors debate visiting Iceland in winter or summer. While I’ve personally never visited Iceland during the summer (though I hope to very soon), I considered traveling there at several points throughout the year, and I wanted to share my reasons for visiting Iceland in winter instead of summer so you can decide which would be best for you! Here are some things to consider when deciding when to book a trip to Iceland (and some helpful hints for February in Iceland)!
Weather: Iceland has a relatively chilly climate, but the country experiences very cold temperatures during the winter. Be prepared to bundle up, especially during January and February in Iceland. Check out my Iceland packing list for everything you need to bring to Iceland (at any time of year)! Even though the country is bitterly cold during the winter, this also means that you have the chance to see it covered in snow, which is truly beautiful. On the other hand, snow and ice can make visiting some attractions (like waterfalls or lookout points) quite difficult as I mentioned before, and it’s easy to slip and fall when the ground is covered in ice!
Driving: Because of the extreme weather during the winter, some roads in the country are near impossible to safely navigate. Thankfully, most roads in the southern part of the country (like those around Reykjavik and the Golden Circle) are kept fairly clean, so you can still confidently drive in these areas during the winter. Driving is much less of a concern during the summer, when there is little to no ice and snow on the road.
Natural Phenomena: Iceland is known for its incredible natural phenomena- notably, the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun. The Northern Lights are only visible during the winter, but visiting Iceland in winter does not guarantee you’ll see them. In fact, I only saw one brief glimmer of light during my trip in the dead of February because the moon was so bright that it prevented the sky from getting dark enough to see the Northern Lights. (FYI- The Northern Lights don’t look like they do in photos in real life.) Thanks to the Midnight Sun, Iceland experiences almost 24 hours of sunlight during the summer. This phenomenon is equally interesting to experience, and it’s also the reason that you can’t see the Northern Lights during the summer.
Visiting Iceland in Winter and February in Iceland
Iceland is an amazing destination all year round. Whether you’re drawn to the snow-covered mountains and Northern Lights seen during the winter or the warmer weather and Midnight Sun of summer, you’re bound to have an amazing time. Spending part of my February in Iceland was amazing, but I can’t wait to go back during the summer and see what it’s like during a different season.
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