Icelandic Puffin Viewing Guide

An Atlantic puffin puffs its chest out and ruffles its feathers to dry off after fishing on Chase Dekker's Iceland photography workshop.

Iceland does not have many animals. No, the country floating alone in the North Atlantic is not considered the most hospitable of places and in turn, does not welcome wildlife watchers with a bounty of animals to drool over.

However, if you are a birder, you are in luck! Iceland might have one of the richest concentrations of birds on the planet, and one bird in particular seems to beckon to anyone that visits this tiny island nation: the Atlantic puffin. Ah yes, the puffin, otherwise known as the “Sea Parrot” for its colorful beak. These charismatic birds are the faces of Iceland and you will be welcomed by thousands of images, stuffed animals, magnets, and all sorts of puffin memorabilia. What you may notice are the actual birds themselves won’t welcome you. This is because they hang out in very concentrated areas, many of which are only accessible by boat. However, there are a few places in Iceland that one can find the tiny bird without having to leave land and down below we will talk about where these secret and elusive places are!

Before we dive into where to find puffins, let’s talk a little about their natural history so we have a better idea about their lives. Puffins are a sea bird and this is evident as they spend nearly 8 months a year out to sea, without touching land! They only return to their select breeding colonies, which are scattered across the North Atlantic, to find their mate, lay an egg, and raise a young “Puffling”. In Iceland, they arrive at the colonies around mid-April and leave around early August. During that period, puffins will spend the majority of their day out at sea, spending the time between sunset and sunrise, on land. There are usually a handful of puffins throughout any given colony, at any time of day, but if you are looking at doing some serious puffin viewing, you’ll have to adjust your schedule.

Now that we talked a little about the birds, let’s talk about where to see them!

Borgarfjordur Eystri (Hafnarholmi)

The puffin viewing house in Borgarfjordur Eystri during Chase Dekker's Iceland photography workshop.