Puffins are some of Iceland’s cutest residents, attracting many tourists and bird watchers each year who are keen to observe them. In fact, more than 50% of the world’s puffin population comes to Iceland to breed each year. There are up to 10 million puffins who live on the shores and nest in the cliffs of Iceland, so you’re sure to spot some of these colourful birds on your visit to Iceland.
There are many different places you can see puffins in Iceland, but some areas are likely to offer you more success than others. We’ve put together a list of the top places of where to find puffins in Iceland so you can be sure not to miss this magnificent bird. Bear in mind that for most locations, the best time of year to find puffins in Iceland is between early May and late August.
The Westman islands, or Vestmannaeyjar, is a group of islands off Iceland’s south coast and home to the largest colony of puffins in the whole world. A ferry can be caught at from the south coast of Iceland to get to the islands, and from there local boat tours will take you to the best spots to view the puffins along the cliffs. You can also explore the island, visiting some of the many spots for viewing puffins in their natural habitat. Though there are a number of viewing areas that are known for spotting puffins, it’s worth remembering that puffins do not always nest in the exact same place, so some years you will see more puffins in one area than others. It’s worth exploring and asking around to find where the best viewing spots are.
The unspoilt Westfjords are home to some of Iceland’s most wild landscapes. At the most western tip of the Westfjords, and all of Iceland for that matter, you’ll find the Látrabjarg cliffs. These tall and rugged cliffs are home to another very large colony of puffins, making it a fantastic place to see puffins. Due to the rugged and somewhat isolated location of these cliffs, they are not as visited as some other puffin viewing areas in Iceland, meaning you can get a real experience of seeing puffins in an undisturbed environment.
Translating to “puffin island” in Icelandic, this small island off the coast of Reykjavik is a wonderful place to see puffins, especially if you’re not planning to venture too far from the capitol during your visit. The island is uninhabited by people, but many species of birds live and nest on the island, including, of course, puffins. Many puffin watching tours from Reykjavik Harbour will take you to the island, which will often give you the chance to also see whales and dolphins on your way.
This island at the very northernmost tip of Iceland is home to another large puffin colony. Grímsey island is unusual in that the Arctic Circle cuts across the island, meaning part of the island is within the Arctic Circle and part of it is not. Flights and 3-weekly ferries travel to the island, which only has a population of 100. There are, however, many, many puffins on the island, making this unusual little island well worth the trip for keen bird watchers.