Where is the Best Place to See Puffins in Iceland?
Maybe you’ve heard of a cute little bird dubbed “the clown of the sea.” If so, you’re probably thinking of adorable puffins! Iceland is lucky to be home to more than 60 percent of the Atlantic puffin population, and we have the perfect guide to lead you to their colonies. Come along as we show you the best place to see puffins in Iceland!
What Types of Puffins Live in Iceland?
Seeking out these little, black-and-white birds has become an extremely popular activity: puffin-watching. Iceland is home to two types of puffins. The Atlantic Icelandic puffins nest here seasonally, forming the largest colonies in the world. If you’re prepared for colder weather, you can take a small ferry trip to a northern island to see the other type: the Arctic puffin.
Despite the declining population of Atlantic puffins in Iceland and around the world, you can still find over 5 million cuddling up on the country’s cliffs during the warmer seasons. With millions of these sweet little birds fluttering around on the coast, finding them might seem easy. However, they can be quite tricky to locate without a little advance planning.
When to See Puffins in Iceland
Before you can begin your quest to locate the illustrious puffin bird, Iceland needs to reach a warm enough temperature to provide an adequate breeding environment. The beginning of spring through the end of summer (usually from April to early September) is the best time to experience puffin season. Iceland is the ideal environment for these little guys to take a break from life out at sea. If you want to increase your chances of glimpsing the puffin’s delightfully-colored beak, you should plan to embark between May and August.
Once you’ve planned your trip to Iceland, you can further increase your chances of seeing puffins by seeking them out at the right time. The bird can usually be found going about its daily activities right after sunrise and right before sunset. However, if you arrive during the afternoon, you may still have a chance to snap a picture, as puffin hatchlings need to be fed several times a day. Unfortunately, you can’t predict when a mother is going to swoop in to feed its young.
Where to See Puffins in Iceland
Whether you’re braving the island in a rented Iceland camper van or you’re looking at booking a puffin tour, Iceland is the perfect place to discover more about these amazing birds. Puffins make their homes in a variety of locations across the island. Some of these areas might require you to lace up your hiking boots, and others might require maritime transportation.
Vestmannaeyjar is an archipelago south of the main island. It’s home to the world’s largest puffin colony. Over a million puffins make their burrows and lay their eggs along the rocky cliffs, making this the prime spot to observe the birds plucking up fish from the ocean. Because of the sheer number of puffins along Vestmannaeyjar’s shores, the community made the bird its official symbol.
Lundey and Akurey
If you’re looking for puffins, Iceland has two islands that are home to the bird just a short boat ride from Reykjavik. Lundey and Akurey are uninhabited islands that give the birds enough breathing room to breed successfully.
Amidst the cliffs of Westfjords, you can find Látrabjarg. The bluffs are the optimal environment for several birds, including puffins. The most-western point of Iceland hides northern gannets, guillemots, and razorbills, as well as puffins. Make sure to watch your step, as the cliffs have a significant drop.
After Látrabjarg, you might consider unfurling the sails and heading off to Vigur Island. Here you can find 100,000 six-inch (18 cm) puffins running around the island. If this isn’t your first time visiting and you have an extremely keen eye, you might even spot a puffin pair that you’ve seen before. While puffins don’t mate for life, they’re known to maintain a monogamous relationship, returning to the same burrow annually.
Travel the country to survey the volcanic landscape and Northern Lights via an Iceland van rental, and make sure to head to the north peninsula, Tjörnes. Not only will you see fantastic natural phenomena, but you may also stumble across a giant puffin colony! Situated between the fjords of Öxarfjörður and Skjálfandi, you can find prehistoric rock formations housing the little birds.
While you’re up north, you may want to pop over to Grimsey Island by ferry. This northern island is situated in the Arctic Circle and is home to nests of Arctic Puffins. You’ll have the opportunity to take once-in-a-lifetime photos of these black, white, and orange birds flying through the strong Arctic winds and swimming in fierce waters.
The Best Way to See Puffins
The list above isn’t exhaustive, and if you’re looking for puffins, Iceland is best explored on your own. To make it a truly memorable experience, contact Rent.is, and we can help you find the best spots to witness puffins in the comfort of a fully-equipped Iceland camper van.