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Best Time and Place to See Puffins in Iceland

Your guide on where and when to see puffins in Iceland

|April 25, 2023
Konstancija is a writer who enjoys long walks and hikes in nature, "hunts" for second-hand goods, and is a frequent guest in public libraries where she loves to read and roam around stacks of books.

Puffin watching is among many fun and exciting things to do in Iceland. While it's known that Iceland is famous for its huge puffin colonies, there is a chance you might pass them by and end up not seeing these enjoyable birds. This is why we present you with a guide that'll answer all of your questions, such as when is puffin season in Iceland and what are the best places to see them.


Are there puffins in Iceland?

Not only are there puffins in Iceland, but the country is already known as their haven. More than 60% of the world’s Atlantic puffins reside here, meaning eight to ten million puffins find a home in Iceland. If you want to learn more about these adorable creatures, you can find some information in this ultimate guide on puffins.

Best time to see puffins in Iceland

If one of your main goals during the trip is to see these beautiful birds, it’s important to know when you can see puffins in Iceland. Despite the vast number of the birds in Iceland, puffin season usually starts from late April and continues up until September. But what is the best time of year to see puffins in Iceland? To make sure that you’ll really get to see them, you should plan your trip around summertime, from the middle of May to the middle of August. And to maximize your chances, why not embark on one of our puffin tours with an expert guide?

Now that you know the right season for puffin-watching, when is the best time of day to see puffins in Iceland? Because who wants to go such a long way to look at these little creatures and then find out that they’re already gone for the day? So the highest chance for you to see puffins is either in the early morning (from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.) or in the evening (from 6:00 p.m. up until 10 p.m.). You might wonder what puffins do during the day. Usually, they’re off to the sea to fish and return to their shelter in the evening.

Where to see puffins in Iceland

Even though the chances of seeing puffins anywhere in Iceland might be high, the best way to increase your luck is to go someplace already known for being a puffin nesting area. So what are some of these places?

Vestmannaeyjar archipelago

Puffins in Vestmannaeyjar Island, Iceland

Don't be surprised if you hear The Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar in Icelandic) being called the capital of puffins because this is where you can find its largest settlement in the world. More than one million puffins in Vestmannaeyjar make their burrows here. You can find them anywhere on the islands, but the most popular place is the island of Heimaey. Discover the island, its attractions, and its wildlife on our day tour.

Akurey island

Puffin on a cliff in Akurey island, Iceland

Akurey, situated in Kollafjörður Bay, is an island of puffins. What's interesting to learn about this island is that it became a protected bird sanctuary. Despite its minuscule size, this island is where around 30,000 pairs of puffins breed annually. These birds are protected because of climate change which provoked a decrease in their population. So don't be surprised to learn that in Iceland puffins are considered a critically endangered species.

Dyrhólaey cape

Puffins near Dyrhólaey cape in Iceland

The grand Dyrhólaey cape is famous for its viewpoint of 120 meters with two arches. The cape opens a magnificent view of the water and the scenery around it. The cherry on top is the Atlantic puffins that you can also spot in this area.

Ingólfshöfði cape

Puffins at Ingólfshöfði cape in Iceland

"Ingólfur's residence", or Ingólfshöfði cape, is a place that just waits for true bird lovers. It's called a puffin cape for a reason: This is the place where people can spend their day enjoying Iceland's nature and watching puffins.

How to see puffins in Iceland

Now that you know the best time and places where you can see puffins, you might be wondering: What's the best way to see puffins in Iceland? There are two main ways you can spot these birds. It's either by going to these places yourself or booking a guided wildlife tour.

What's nice about going on a bird-watching adventure by yourself is that you get to plan everything according to your own needs, from choosing a place you'd like to visit the time you're going to spend there. However, planning a successful puffin-watching session might also be challenging if you're in Iceland for the first time.

So instead of risking your time and effort, you can book a one-day puffin-watching tour in one the most favorite puffin nesting places – the Westman Islands. And if you feel incredibly adventurous, take an opportunity to see puffins and many other Icelandic highlights in just three days.

FAQ

Can you see puffins in Iceland without a tour?

Yes, there are plenty of sights where you can see puffins free of charge and without booking a tour. What you should keep in mind is that there are also some places that you can only reach with a guide.

How do you photograph puffins in Iceland?

For those who are into nature photography, one of the things that will guarantee you a successful shot is being calm and quiet and not distracting the birds. From the technical point of view, you should then use a long lens to zoom in on the birds without getting too close. 

Can you touch puffins?

Under no circumstances should you touch, pet, or feed the birds as this could have terrible consequences. Touching them can destroy a protective layer on their feathers, affecting their swimming and feeding the puffins might have a negative impact on their eating habits.

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