*Read this post if you want the best Puffins encounter in Iceland. Keep in mind you need to be travelling during the Puffin season which is mid-May to mid-August, give or take a week.*
During our two weeks traveling around Iceland, one of our major plans was to find some Puffins. We had mapped out the many locations where they are said to be found and one by one we visited them without success. The closest we ever got to seeing them was our visit to Lundey in the Húsavík region of Northeast Iceland. In Lundey, we saw small islands from a distant viewpoint and used the zoom on our camera and a subsequent zoom on the LCD screen to see the tiniest hint of a Puffin. After two previous failed Puffin spotting attempts on Heimaey and then in Vík, these barely-there images had us torn. Do we accept this as a ‘successful’ Puffin spotting or do we push for more? The problem was, there didn’t seem to be more.
That was until days later when we had made our way past the city of Akureyri in the North and reached the turn-off point to the Westfjords. This is where you decide whether to take the road less travelled or to continue down the Ring Road and finish the trip in Reykjavik. All we knew is that we had an extra day in our schedule but nothing about what the Westfjords entailed. So we parked beside a convenience store with wifi and started our research.
Finding the Puffins
One of the very first things we read about the Westfjords was a location called Látrabjarg – the westernmost point in all of Iceland. A post on Trip Advisor described the cliffs of Látrabjarg as the absolute best place for Puffin viewing. Admittedly, we found it odd that this location had not come up in our planning before, and we questioned whether it would be yet another disappointing lead. But realistically, it was our last and only option. We took the turn-off and began the four-hour drive along the winding, cliffside roads of the Westfjords.
This was no easy drive. The roads were often in rough shape and the fog was so thick it forced us to drive at a glacial speed. Along the way, as we got closer to Látrabjarg, we came across the wreck of century-old Norwegian (originally) ship Garðar BA 64.
It was roughly 20:00h when we drove past the nearby campsite and up the road to the parking lot by Látrabjarg. Though it was still ‘light’ out, the weather was dismal. The aforementioned fog remained so much so that we could not see the cliffs until we started approaching. Even at that point, as the cliffs just barely started to come into view, we wondered whether the long and tedious drive was worth it. We saw the shape of a man with a camera begin to form as the fog thinned out. And it was then that we caught out first glimpse of a Puffin, clumsily bobbing up and down at the edge of the cliff.
What we saw was incredible, and way beyond any expectations we had for Puffin viewing in Iceland. There were countless Puffins all along the cliffs, some grouped together, some alone, coming in and out of nests they had built into the cliffside. The birds were so accustomed to non-threatening human visitors (because, really, how close would anyone dare to get to the cliff’s edge) that they were perfectly comfortable with us being only five feet from them. And not that we expected eagle-sized creatures, but they were much more tiny and puffy than we expected. We can’t even explain enough how unique and intimate of an experience this was for us. If you have any desire to be up close and personal with Puffins, there is no question: you have to make it here one day.
We spent a good hour and a half just waiting and watching Puffins until we started to feel the effects of the drive up. At this point we decided to head back to the campsite for a good night’s sleep before revisiting the Puffins in the morning. Luckily for us, the morning brought with it a clear sky and an opportunity for much better photographs.
As always, thank you to our readers from all over the world! Feel free to comment below and share stories from your own Puffin encounters.
Safe and happy travels!
– Adamo & Joey
The Gays Abroad