Where Is The BEST Place To See Puffins In East Iceland (Without A Tour)

Puffins in Iceland

Do you want to see puffins in Iceland but unsure where is the best place to see them?

There are many places you can see puffins in Iceland, some close to Reykjavik but one of the best spots to see the puffins during the summer months is on the east coast of Iceland.

Iceland is known as a great destination for seeing puffins, in fact, the population is estimated at between 8-10 million. That’s an insane amount of birds in one place.

The Atlantic Puffins, who are most commonly found in Iceland nest there each year (between 3-4 million pairs).

Normally, the birds nest between 1st May and 15th August each year. My Iceland trip was mid-June, so perfect timing for seeing lots of puffins in Iceland. The birds start gradually arriving but are at their peak during the months of June and July.

Best Place To See Puffins In Iceland

Seeing puffins in Iceland
One of the many puffins in Iceland

If you are travelling independently, either in a car or campervan around the ring road, then you can save money on without booking a puffin tour and go find them for yourself.

Here I will tell you where I went to see puffins on my Iceland trip, how to find them and top tips for an amazing close-up experience.

Puffin sightings – Update for the best place to see puffins in Iceland – The puffins have now left for 2019. Start planning your 2020 trip now.

If you’re booking a trip to Iceland in the summer months then add this activity to your itinerary to go check out those very cute birds.

The east coast is the best place to see them in Iceland! Go now you will love it. (The puffins will be back from mid-May 2020).

I am a bird addict. I have a separate account for all my bird photos Instagram – @mytravelbirds follow me on there too!

Keep reading for my top tips on how you can see puffins without a tour and where the best place to see puffins on your trip to Iceland (hint go east).

Read next: Planning a trip to Iceland? – What you need to know (before you go)!

*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.

Where to See Puffins in Iceland?

Best spot to see puffins in Iceland
Iconic puffin photo with its fish catch in its mouth

After spending my first day in Reykjavik, I researched a lot of the organised puffin boat tours.

But my dream was to see puffins in Iceland up close up whilst driving around the Ring Road so I held off booking a tour, in favour of a free experience!

However, if you are not driving the ring road then these are some of the options for tours from Reykjavik if you’re short on time during your Iceland trip

Day 5 of my campervan tour around the Ring Road, I was making good progress on my tour around the country and decided that I had enough time to do a puffin detour. 

Borgarfjörður Eystri, in East Iceland, has a spot known for being popular with puffins nesting, so I headed away from the ring road to one of the most easterly points in Iceland.

As with all wildlife, you never know what to expect as they can sometimes be unpredictable, but I had heard good things about this spot so fingers crossed I would see some puffins.

Google Map – Where is the Best Place to See Puffins in Iceland!

This map shows the exact point where I saw the puffins, a place called Borgarfjörður Eystri a short drive from the ring road.

How to Get to the Puffin’s Location?

Leaving Iceland’s Ring Road, on route 94 it’s 73 km/45 miles, it takes over an hour to drive to the puffins. With the coast on your left, it’s a lovely scenic drive (this is the case for the majority of Iceland!) 

Through the quaint town of Borgarfjörður Eystri it’s a couple of miles down the road. But be sure to check out the cute little house that’s been renovated.

The car park is on your right-hand side just before you reach the harbour area. Armed with my camera and zoom lens I walk down the slop and follow the road round to the right, wondering where I’m going to see the puffins.

There are no directions but the only way is to walk towards the harbour. It’s literally a 2-3 minute walk.

My First Puffin Sighting

First puffin I saw in Iceland
First puffin sighting in Iceland

I’m getting closer, then suddenly I can see puffins on the cliffs ahead. Now I get excited about things like this so am trying my hardest not to start running towards them. Every wildlife lover knows that is not the best way to see wildlife!

Directly in front of me a wooden structure built into the cliff and to the right there are some steps. I head to the wooden structure first where the cutest little puffin is popping in and out of his burrow.

I watch for a few minutes, before clicking a few pictures (ok about 20 haha), he’s amazing, I love him.

Read next: Tips for driving in Iceland

How Close Can You Get To The Puffins?

Now, this was only one puffin sighting and I was already super excited. Time to see if I can spot some more. Well, I wasn’t disappointed. On climbing the steps I could immediately see lots more puffins, it was magical.

And the great thing is they were so close, some were literally a few feet away from the walkway.

Becky the Traveller seeing puffins
Standing on the walkway next to the puffins

Towards the top, there’s another viewing platform with information signs on. Here you can look across to the cliffs on the other side where there are hundreds of puffins.

This was really the best time to see the puffins, they were out in force!

Puffins in Iceland – The Facts

Atlantic puffin covered in mud
This puffin seemed to be covered in mud – no idea why!
  • Puffins spend most of their lives on the water.*
  • They come ashore only to breed and raise their single puffling (chick) each year.*
  • Puffins swim well underwater using their flapping wings to propel them under the surface and their webbed feet to manoeuvre.
  • These little creatures can dive to depths of about 60 metres/196 feet.
  • Taking off from the land, a puffin may jump from a cliff to get enough lift to fly.
  • And they can reach a speed of 54 mph/88km/h by flapping their wings 400 times per minute.
  • Because of their specially adapted beak, a puffin’s mouth is capable of holding up to 60 fish at a time.

*Puffin season – The best time to see puffins in Iceland is between May to August since the rest of the time they are out at sea!

*Check prices now for your Iceland flights  with  Skyscanner

Useful Book for your Iceland Trip – Buy NOW*

Did you know?

“A puffin can hold one fish while catching another? They use their tongues to hold the fish securely against spines in the roof of their mouths, while leaving their beaks free to open and catch more fish.”

Useful Information for Seeing Puffins in Iceland

Puffins in Iceland
Seeing cute puffins in Iceland was a magical experience
  1. Here’s the GPS just in case but I promise you can’t miss it!  N65° 32′ 31.471″ W13° 45′ 17.318″.
  2. There aren’t many facilities there (from what I remember I was too excited about seeing the puffins in Iceland), just a porta toilet.
  3. Also, it’s best to take lunch with you or eat before you do the detour.
  4. If you’re visiting early or late in the season, it’s worth checking out if they are still there before you go!
  5. And the little house is worth a stop in the town, there’s a sign next to it telling you all about it.
  6. Allow at least 3-4 hours for your detour, more time if you have it, for driving, seeing the puffins and the mini house!

Planning your Iceland trip? Read all my Iceland posts here

Do you want to know anything else about how to see puffins in Iceland or where the best place to see puffins in Iceland?

Or do you have any other Iceland questions before your trip? Ask me any questions in the comments below


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Puffins in Iceland - The best place for seeing puffins in Iceland. For all wildlife lovers out there, this is a perfect place for seeing puffins up close on the East coast of Iceland. Includes details where to see them and top tips for an enjoyable experience | When is the best time to see puffins | What time of year can you see puffins? | Bird Watching in Iceland | Nature in Iceland | Icelandic birds | Wildlife in Iceland | Super cute puffins
3 puffins together - Best place for seeing puffins in Iceland
2 puffins lookins same way - Best place for seeing puffins in Iceland

2 thoughts on “Where Is The BEST Place To See Puffins In East Iceland (Without A Tour)

  1. Josy A says:

    I would LOVE to visit Iceland again to see puffins! We visited in winter so we were too early to meet them, but I’d love to go back in summer, to spend time hiking and puffin-viewing!!

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