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". That is the "Atlantic Puffin" – the national bird of Iceland.
During the summertime, the puffins breed on small islands just off Iceland's coasts. Thus, the summer season 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 Iceland, 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 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. In my opinion, it's a great activity for the early evening hours, which in the summertime are still super-bright in Iceland!
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. 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 started our bird watching mission with our binoculars and cameras. In addition to puffins, there is a wealth of other seabirds that you can observe here. 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!
More Happy Tours
During the summer season, Happy Tours also offers Gourmet Sea Angling and Whale Watching Tours.
During the winter season, you can hunt down the famous Northern Lights on the Northern Lights Tour.
For more info, check out the overview on the Happy Tours website!
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.