In the birdwatching comedy The Big Year (2011), Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin go on an epic (and very funny) journey to watch birds in the northern United States and Alaska. If you are travelling to Iceland, birdwatching is all about the puffin – the most common bird in Iceland! To see them, all it takes is a one-hour boat ride from the capital Reykjavik…
What is it all about?
You’ve probably seen them a dozen times on the cover of Iceland travel guides, postcards or other souvenirs from Iceland: The cute little seabirds with a parrot-like beak and a beautiful black and white “feather dress” called “puffins”!
With a population of about 3.3 million, the Atlantic Puffin is the most common bird in Iceland! During the summertime, the puffins breed on small islands just off Iceland’s coasts.
Thus, the summertime is the best time to see them. And you don’t have to go far! Specialist tour operators, such as the family-run Happy Tours, take you to the puffin-populated islands from the harbour of Iceland’s capital Reykjavík in just 15 minutes!
How do I get there and what’s the schedule?
During the summer season (1 May to 23 August), Happy Tours offers three departures daily at 3, 5 and 7 pm.
All Happy Tours conveniently start just a short walk from Reykjavík’s main harbour front right next to the “VIKIN Maritime museum”. They also offer convenient hotel pick ups, which you can book together with you ticket.
The tour will last just 1 hour, so it’s a great activity for the early evening hours, which in the summertime are still super-bright in Iceland!
I thought so, too and embarked on the 5 pm tour on a beautiful and bright evening in early June 2017. Here is what I experienced…
What’s there to see?
Well, as you might have guessed, you are going to see puffins! This is guaranteed. How close up you will see them kind of depends a bit. The small fishing boat can obviously not get too close to the bids as we don’t want to disturb them too much in their natural habitat.
If you have a camera with a long-focus lens, you can “zoom in”. But Happy Tours also provides very good binoculars, which you can use to observe the puffins up and close. Rain coats are provided, too. You might need these as on a small fishing boat, water can splash into the boat at any time.
Our tour guides on this day were Kristey (who told us many fun facts about the birds) and her father Snorri (the Happy Captain who navigated the boat).
As we sailed away from Reykjavík’s old harbour, I took some pictures of Reykjavík’s “skyline”, which on this sunny day looked gorgeous against the blue sky.
As we approached the first puffin island, Snorri turned off the motor and we got our binoculars and cameras out. In addition to puffins, there is a wealth of other seabirds that you can observe here and Kristey told us all about them.
The puffins I saw at first were pretty far away. Luckily though, when we approached another puffin island, we saw several puffins sitting on the water and there was one in particular, which was very close to our boat. I used the chance and zoomed in with my camera. The result was my snap of the day: my very own puffin souvenir pic!
- During the summer season (1 May to 23 August), Happy Tours offers three departures daily at 3, 5 and 7 pm.
- The boat leaves from Reykjavík’s old harbour, which is located right next to the “VIKIN Maritime museum”
- The tour lasts 1 hour
- The fishing boat Saga only takes a maximum of 20 passengers on every tour. This ensures a more personal service and enough space for everyone!
- The tour costs 6.200 ISK (ca. 55 €) for adults. Children from 7-15 years pay 3.100 ISK (ca. 29 €) and children from 0 to 6 years of age go FREE
- Children must be accompanied by an adult
- Dress warmly and in layers as the weather in Iceland is always unpredictable and the winds out at sea can be cold all year round.
- You may want to take a seasickness tablet if you know you react sensitively as the boat can be quite shaky. Just remember that many seasickness tables can have the side effect of making you drowsy and tired!
- Don’t forget your camera and your happy mood! 🙂
Want to see a puffin for yourself?
Book the Puffin Watching Tour via TourDesk!
More Happy Tours
Check out the overview of all the Happy Tours on Tour Desk!
Happy Birdwatching! 😉
All photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the Puffin Watching Tour by Happy Tours via Tour Desk. The views expressed in this blog post, however, are entirely my own and thus reflect my personal, unbiased experience. If you book a tour through my dedicated Iceland tour booking website on TourDesk, I will receive a small affiliate fee, which I use towards running my website.