Our nature and bird watching tour to Iceland starts in Reykjavik, and travels north to Olafsvik. Here we will visit the island of Flatey and explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Next we will travel both inland and coastally to Akureyri, the capital city of northern Iceland. We’ll explore Eyjafjðrður and nearby Lake Mývatn before heading south through the center of the country, past glaciers and waterfalls, to the south coast. After visits to several dramatic locations such as the glacier of Mýrdalsjökull and the lands near the volcano, Hekla, we’ll head back to Reykjavik along the south coast, thereby completing our tour circuit.
Take an overnight flight from Boston to Reykjavik, arriving in early morning, Icelandic time. I will recommend a flight ahead of time, so that we can all arrive together, or you can check with me if you wish to make your own plans.
Transfer to our hotel in Snæfellsnes, about 3 hours drive from Reykjavík, where we will have dinner. Long days and light nights make June the best time for a birdwatching and natural history trip to Iceland. Iceland’s breeding waders, wildfowl and seabirds are justifiably world famous and this tour is designed to show you the best of them. As we travel to Snæfellsnes in west Iceland there’ll be ample time for several birdwatching stops.
Snæfellsnes: The perfect introduction to Iceland.
The majestic scenery of Snæfellsnes provides a remarkable backdrop for our first day in Iceland. We travel to the very tip of the peninsula and look for Thick-billed Murres and other auks on their nesting cliffs, and we may see dolphins and Orcas offshore. Breeding waders are everywhere and we will have good views of Northern Fulmars, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Atlantic Puffins.
Flatey: A birdwatcher’s island paradise.
We’ll spend the day on Flatey, where we hope to find the scarce breeder – Red Phalarope. The island is a naturalist’s dream and we expect to get close up views of the many breeding Snow Buntings, waders and wildfowl. There are also White-tailed Eagles here. We’ll round off an exciting day with a cruise through the islands of the southern Breidafjorour, a large bay with numerous islands and skerries.
Drive of around 5 hrs to next hotel that is in a wonderful location overlooking Eyjafjörður. Our journey takes us along the shores of Breiðafjörður and on through magnificent countryside to Eyjafjörður in the far north of Iceland. There will be many opportunities to birdwatch along the way with a good chance of encountering more White-tailed Eagles. We will also look for Ptarmigans.
Mývatn: Iceland’s wildfowl spectacular!
Lake Mývatn is famous for its breeding wildfowl, and our visit coincides with the one of the best times to be there. We will see Europe’s only breeding Barrow’s Goldeneye amidst thousands of Tufted Duck, Scaup, and Wigeon. Less common are Long-tailed Duck, Pintail, Shoveler, Goosander, Scoter, Mallard, and Teal. Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swan, Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver also breed here, and Gyrfalcon is possible during this memorable wildlife experience. The volcanically shaped landscape is very dramatic.
We’ll take a short boat trip to visit Hrísey Island in Eyjafjðrður. It’s home to a thriving population of Ptarmigans and we anticipate some good views. In the fjord we’ll watch for cetaceans – minke whales and harbor porpoises. There’s also the chance that we may encounter a hunting Gyrfalcon, as their preferred prey in Iceland is Ptarmigan. We will also have some time to spend in Akureyri, Iceland’s ‘second city’, and visit the botanical gardens there where native plants are featured.
Across Iceland’s interior
Our hotel is located amidst some delightful country with breeding waders all around. We’ll have an adventurous day’s travel across Iceland’s interior as we head for the south of Iceland and our next hotel. We shall visit the hot spring area of Hveravellir on the way. We will also call at the dramatic falls of Gullfoss and the famous geysers at Geysir. There’s a good chance of encountering Gyrfalcon and perhaps Pink-footed Geese on our journey. Please note: In some years, road conditions have made travel through the interior impassable, and it is possible that we may have to take an alternate (but very scenic) route to the south coast.
Glaciers and Great Skuas
We’ll travel to the glacier of Mýrdalsjökull. The tumbled moraines at the edge of the glacier provide much of interest for botanists and geologists, while birders will see Great Skuas here. We should also locate one of Iceland’s real breeding rarities — Wren T.t. islandicus, near some dramatic waterfalls. We hope to have time to visit the coast at Dyrhólaey for some seawatching. Orcas are sometimes seen offshore, and the coastal landscapes here are impressive.
In the shadow of Hekla
Hekla is Iceland’s most famous volcano and provides the backdrop for some of the most rugged and spectacular scenery to be found in the world. We’ll explore the dramatic landscape of Iceland’s “rift valley” with its fast flowing streams and volcanically shaped features. This is also the site of Iceland’s first “general assembly” in 930 A.D. The day should provide some exceptional photographic opportunities.
Our leisurely journey to the airport will be via the coastal villages of Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki. We’ll have time to visit Iceland’s newest wetland nature reserve for Red-throated Divers, Black-tailed Godwits and Red-necked Phalaropes
Please note: Some activities are weather dependent and, of course, wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed. Additionally, weather and road conditions may necessitate changes to the program at short notice.