So you want to see puffins in Iceland but where is the best place? Well, you’ve picked a great destination. Iceland’s population of puffins is estimated at between 8-10 million. That’s an insane amount of birds in one place. And the Atlantic Puffins, 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 trip was mid-June 2017, so perfect timing for seeing lots of puffins in Iceland. If you are travelling independently, either in a car or campervan then save money on a Puffin Tour and go find them for yourself. Here I will tell you where to find the puffins for an amazing close-up experience.
I am a bird addict. I actually have a separate account for all my bird photos Instagram – @mytravelbirds so feel free to 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).
Table of Contents
Where to See Puffins in Iceland?
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. 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 so had enough time to do a puffin detour. Borgarfjörður Eystri, in East Iceland, has a spot known for being popular with puffins nesting. Although, as with all wildlife, you never know what to expect as they can sometimes be unpredictable.
Google Map – Where the Best Place to See Puffins in Iceland!
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 more 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. 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
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
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.
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
- 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 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!
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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
- Here’s the GPS just in case but I promise you can’t miss it! N65° 32′ 31.471″ W13° 45′ 17.318″.
- There aren’t many facilities there (from what I remember I was too excited about seeing the puffins in Iceland), just a porta toilet.
- Also, it’s best to take lunch with you or eat before you do the detour.
- If you’re visiting early or late in the season, it’s worth checking out if they are still there before you go!
- And the little house is worth a stop in the town, there’s a sign next to it telling you all about it.
- 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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**Updated June 2018 with puffin sightings confirmed!