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Puffin watching experience from Reykjavik

Puffin watching from Reykjavik, a unique experience right from the capital city

The unofficial national bird in Iceland, the Atlantic Puffin is a bird that comes to Icelandic coasts during spring and summer for breeding. According to National Geographic, “These birds live most of their lives at sea, resting on the waves when not swimming.

They are excellent swimmers who use their wings to stroke underwater with a flying motion. They steer with rudder-like webbed feet and can dive to depths of 200 feet, though they usually stay underwater for only 20 or 30 seconds.

Puffins typically hunt small fish like herring or sand eels. In the air, puffins are surprisingly fleet flyers. By flapping their wings up to 400 times per minute they can reach speeds of 55 miles an hour.”

Puffins on a cliff during sunset.
Photo by (IG) @stamper_vagabond

The puffins are also known as ‘sea parrots’ because of the colour of their beaks. But their beak is orange only during spring and summer and during the winter the colour fades to a drab grey.

National Geographic explains puffin breeding: “The birds often select precipitous, rocky cliff tops to build their nests, which they line with feathers or grass. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it. When a chick hatches, its parents take turns feeding it by carrying small fish back to the nest in their relatively spacious bills.

Puffin couples often reunite at the same burrow site each year. It is unclear how these birds navigate back to their home grounds. They may use visual reference points, smells, sounds, the Earth’s magnetic fields—or perhaps even the stars.”

Almost 60% of the Atlantic Puffin population come to Iceland for breeding and you can see them almost all around Iceland. You can also see them on tours from Reykjavik.

Puffin captured in grass.

Here are some tours that we recommend from Reykjavik operated by Elding:

Classic Puffin Watching

This one-hour tour is available from 1 May to 15 August and it is an intimate, fun, and comfortable adventure on a small boat. Depending on the tides and conditions on the islands the captain of the boat will take you to either Engey, Akurey, or Lundey, one of three islands well known for their plentiful birdlife.

The islands are protected so you cannot go on the islands, but the boat will get as close as possible without disturbing the nesting birds.

In addition to puffins, you have the opportunity to view other birds such as eider ducks, arctic terns, guillemots, and cormorants.

The island’s shores are rocky but the captains know the best spots to get close to the puffins without disturbing any natural behaviour.

If the weather is good, the captain might turn off the engines so that you can enjoy nature better and listen to the bird’s calls. During the tour, the crew will tell you interesting facts and tales about the puffins and their surroundings.

As the birds are small in size, we recommend bringing a good zoom lens for ‘close up’ photography or binoculars (also available on board).

The tour also includes the use of raincoats and use of binoculars.  There is also pick up available for this tour for 2 200 isk for adults and 1 100 isk for children.

If you don’t need pick-up you can go to the meeting point for the tour: Elding ticket office, AEgisgardur 5, Reykjavík, 101.

The prices for this tour can be checked here.

You can combine this Puffin tour with a Whale watching tour and have a great day of adventures in Faxaflói Bay. On the whale watching you sail off into Faxaflói Bay where you are likely to see Minke whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

The total length of the combo tour is 5 hours.

Prices for the combo tour can be checked here.

Premium Puffin Watching tour

On this tour, you will arrive near the islands before other operators so we can enjoy an uninterrupted visit to the puffins and seabirds of Faxaflói Bay.
The summer is the best time to experience the birds and wildlife of the bay and islands just outside Reykjavík city. Puffins, Auks, Gannets, and an incredible variety of other sea birds dominate the skies and sea cliffs just a few minutes sailing from the Old Harbor.

This tour is operated in custom-made RIB boats. They are specially designed to get you as close as possible to the islands and when possible the captain can switch the engines completely off to give the birds (and you) some peace to enjoy nature.

During the tour, your guide and captain will tell you interesting facts and tales about the Puffins and our surroundings.

Because this tour is operated with RIB boats, the minimum number of passengers for the tour to be operated is 2. If the minimum is not met, the operator will offer you to reschedule or get a full refund.

Also, the operator does not assume any responsibility for accidents that are caused by our customers or can be traced to their actions. Participants will need to sign a waiver before undertaking the trip.

You need to make your way to the harbour since the tour does not offer pickup. The meeting point is Elding’s ticket office, AEgisgardur 5, Reykjavík, 101.

The tour includes a warm flotation suit, excellent guidance, necessary safety equipment, 1-hour RIB tour. The minimum age for this tour is 10 years old.

The prices for this tour can be checked here.

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