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Iceland is literally a country which takes your breath away. Inspiring scenery at every turn, extraordinary landscapes, and astounding natural wonders; you will leave the country with a determined mindset to return.

Though perhaps even more exotic than majestic glaciers grinding their way through cracked lava fields, and more captivating than witnessing glittering ice caps pierce the sky, is the opportunity to witness and interact with the country’s exotic variety of seabirds and wildlife. Only birds and foxes inhabited the land when Scandinavian Vikings arrived in the 8th century, and many of these unique creatures still inhabit the island to this day, the puffin being one of Iceland’s biggest wildlife draws. Best places for wildlife in Iceland

Seabirds arrive by the million for the breeding season between April and August, and nest on coastal cliffs all around the country in massive colonies. And to say that they arrive in the million is no understatement – we literally spent days shooting seabirds (photography) and have more photography than we could possibly hope to edit in a lifetime. Best Iceland Wildlife

The following are Iceland’s top locations to see birds and wildlife – because Iceland holidays can be about so much more than the Golden Circle and that famous geothermal lagoon! Best places for wildlife in Iceland

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Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn collects the best of Iceland all in one place: abundant wildlife, volcano cones, mud pits, thermal pools and steaming lava flows. It truly is like no other place on earth. What kind of wildlife is in Iceland. 

As far as wildlife viewing is concerned, this is recognized as one of the premier bird-watching sites in the world; the lake and its surrounding wetlands have an exceptionally rich fauna of waterbirds, with over 115 species of birds, and 13 species of ducks. Most nesting birds arrive in late April or early May.

A trip to Lake Mývatn slots easily into a trip to see Iceland’s laid-back northern capital, Akureyri, and a whale-watching expedition from Húsavík. While ducks and other wildfowl are the main draws, be on the watch for the elusive Arctic fox and gyrfalcon who are also regularly encountered. Iceland wildlife

Pro Tip: The name “Mývatn” comes from the vast numbers of midges that gather at the lake, so be sure to take mosquito netting or repellent to avoid them. 

Látrabjarg

Way out in the West Fjords, Látrabjarg bird cliffs are home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots and razorbills. It’s Europe’s largest bird cliff, 14km long and up to 440m high. Icelands best birds

This trip will take a little bit of planning, but it’s absolutely worth your while. You’ll never forget your first sight of these cliffs, covered by enormous, noisy colonies of nestling sea-birds. The birds are very trusting of humans, so you’ll leave with amazing close-up shots. Best places for wildlife in Iceland.

Stop along the way for a walk or sunbathe on Breiðavík Beach.

Hornbjarg

One of Iceland’s most remote locations on the West Fjords’ extreme northwest, at 533 m (1,749 ft), Hornbjarg is the highest clifftop on the isolated, completely uninhabited Hornstrandir Peninsula. Walking the cliffs is a truly “edge of the world” experience, and like Látrabjarg, it is teeming with millions of fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots. Best places for wildlife in Iceland.

To get here is a bit of a pain; due to its extremely inaccessible location you will have to catch irregular boats from Ísafjörður (2.5-3 hour one way boat ride) mostly through the Arctic, and then hike back over several days. The definition of “off the beaten path” due to the travel required, most travelers never see it.

Dyrhólaey

The small peninsula, of Dyrhólaey is an easy detour off the highway on the south coast of Iceland between Skógar and Vik. You’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with puffins and other seabirds, though will also witness the black, volcanic-sand beaches and the huge sea arch, large enough for a ship to sail through. Best places for wildlife in Iceland.

Pro Tip: Arctic terns nest here and can be quite aggressive when protecting their nests. 

Jökulsárlón

One of the most spellbinding sights of southeastern Iceland, Jökulsárlón is a stunning glacial lagoon in the South. This deep ice-berg filled lagoon between the sea and Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is a great place to spot seals and, if you’re lucky, perhaps even an orca whale.

The land on either side of the lagoon are full of nesting terns and skuas – and Arctic foxes looking for a meal.

Skjálfandi

Icelandic waters make a home for around 24 species of whales, and the North is extraordinary. Home to many different species of whales, dolphins and birds, a sailing trip out from Húsavík to Skjálfandi during summer is one of the best ways to guarantee a marine mammal sighting.

Larger whales only appear during the summer to feed, though smaller whales stay there all year round. You are most likely to see seals and dolphins, though with any luck you’ll witness the spectacular humpback whales leaping out of the water in a breach, or perhaps even spot an orca.

Ingólfshöfði

This narrow, sandy spit of land between Vik and Höfn is said to be where Iceland’s first settler, Ingolfur Arnarson, landed.

A small headland and private nature reserve on the south coast of Iceland, it is here where fearless puffins and greater skua nest in summer, and here where tourists jump into the back of a hay cart towed by a tractors trundling in from the highway – tours with a form of transport few of us have ever tried!

More of Our Wildlife Photos from Iceland

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

    18 Comments

  1. You’re post makes me want to go back to Iceland so bad! I had a stop over there back in June, but it was only two days so I didn’t have much time to venture outside of Rekjavik. I’m especially sad that I missed the puffins!

    • So glad you managed to get a taste of Iceland Mags! Definitely recommend heading back though with more time to spend – the country beyond Rekjavik is truly stunning! We spent 2 weeks and still want to go back for more!

      Take in a few of these places on your trip and you’ll spot some puffins for sure! Was the highlight of our trip 🙂 Happy travels!

  2. Iceland keeps moving further up the list of places I have to visit in part to posts like these.

    • Glad to hear we could give you a push towards Iceland Michelle! It truly is a fabulous country to explore 🙂

  3. wow wow wow! i have wanted to go to Iceland for a while. I had heard about the puffins, but didn’t realize all of the other amazing birds that you can see there. My 5 yr old son is a total birder so i think he will be pushing for Iceland sooner rather than later. Just gorgeous photos!

    • Thanks Karilyn! I’m not a huge birder but Iceland sure does have a way of turning you into one! Some of the most beautiful and exotic birds I’ve ever seen. Loved our time here, and I’m sure your son would go absolutely nuts over Iceland!

      Happy travels!

  4. Wow! I had no idea there were all these species of animals in Iceland?!! Just when you think Iceland isn’t appealing enough; it would be a paradise to my husband and I! .. Seeing Puffins is a life goal of mine, I thought I’d only ever get the chance to see them if I went to the Galapagos Islands. Thanks for sharing and informing me, now just to get over there!

    • Absolutely! We spent a week or so in the Galapagos before hitting up Iceland actually, and while the Galapagos was epic for marine wildlife, the seabirds didn’t really even compare. You’re almost guaranteed to see a puffin if you hit up a few of the locations we mentioned above, we couldn’t believe how many there were – hundreds of thousands of them in colonies all along the cliff tops! And they’re not frightened of you either so you can get fairly close.

      Highly recommend!! Let us know if you’re after any further tips 🙂

  5. Our cruise ship took us to three cities in Iceland last year. But didn’t see much wildlife or birds. I don’t recognize the names of the places you listed here. You found some really cool wildlife and seabirds (haven’t seen a puffin)and your photos are all so professional.

    • You should definitely get back when you have the chance Carol, the interior of Iceland is such an amazing place! We rented a car and took a week to do a circle of the whole country via the Ring Road – absolutely worthwhile, there’s so much of the country you miss out on otherwise 🙂

      Let us know if you’re after any tips for your next trip; so glad you enjoyed the photography!

  6. My dream destination is Iceland. I am so ready to go and your photos are so beautiful and inspiring. I’m ready. I’d love to take pictures of the puffins – a dream!

    • Hope you can get there soon Annita! You’ll seriously fall in love at first sight – Iceland is the stuff of dreams! Probably one of the last truly remote and untouched destinations on earth, we were so impressed by how natural and authentic everything was.

      Make sure you aim to make a trip happen before mass tourism catches on 🙂

  7. You know what, when I started reading this post, I was thinking “I’m not a bird person!” but after seeing all your gorgeous photos, I’m thinking bird watching is not a bad hobby after all! Those birds are so gorgeous, and since the landscapes are quite magnificent as well, I’m thinking we need to plan a trip to Iceland in the next couple of years.

    • Iceland has a way of turning you into one 😀 I wasn’t a bird person when I arrived either, but they truly are so exotic and beautiful! Or in the case of the puffin, highly comical birds to watch flitter arouns :D! And you’re right – the landscape behind the birds isn’t half bad either 😀

      Hope you can manage a trip soon Jolanta! Iceland is a place which should definitely be on your bucket list 🙂

  8. Hi,nice to meet you my dear
    Iam me Itelio Gregorio Beleza from Mozambique country.
    I would appreciate your traveling blog
    So could you make me favor, I wanna be there to exploring the world and beautiful natural.
    What kind of advice could you give me?..
    It’s all about concerning me.
    I hope read from your side.

    Mr Itelio Gregorio Beleza

    Mozambique

  9. Hi Itelio. If you’re looking to explore nature then Iceland is a fantastic choice of destination, and we highly recommend a visit 🙂

    Check out our post called “Tips for an Epic Icelandic Roadtrip” and that has a lot of info as to the logistics of getting around.

    Hope that helps. Thanks!

  10. I had no idea they had arctic fox! Everyone knows about the puffins but I had to look up gyrfalcons as well.

    • Yes indeed! Some really exotic and unique wildlife – made for an incredible trip!

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