A Guide to Birdwatching in Iceland

Are you looking for the perfect birdwatching location?

While Iceland can't wow you with the number of species to spot, there are still 60-80 that you to tick off your list. And its breathtaking scenery and friendly welcome are hard to beat. But if you want to plan a birdwatching trip to Iceland, it's important to do your research.

Keep reading for our guide on birdwatching locations and tips to get your trip started today.


When Should You Visit?

The prime time to plan your birdwatching trip is from late May through June. By this time, all migrant birds have arrived on the island, and many are visible.

They start to pair up and defend their territories, entering the breeding season. Though, if you're interested in the coastal areas of the west and south, then Winter is another good time to visit.


Top Iceland Birdwatching Experiences

There's something for everyone in Iceland. Atlantic puffins will go too and from their burrows in the cliffs. Red-necked phalaropes circling on ponds by the roadside.

There are the courtship rituals of the Slavonia grebe. And you'll hear the ethereal call of the great northern diver. Guillemots and razorbills are competing for a spot on Europe's largest breeding cliffs.

There are so many birdwatching experiences that you won't get anywhere else. Nothing signifies spring for Icelanders more than when the first golden plover arrives.

The Birds of Iceland: What About the Rare Ones?

If you want to put a little more effort in while birdwatching in Iceland, you can track down some rarer birds. These includes:

  • Barrow's Goldeneye
  • Great northern diver
  • Gyrfalcon
  • Harlequin duck
  • White-tailed eagle

You may also find a red phalarope or a king eider if you know the right locations. And if you're lucky, you could even spot a snowy owl.


Iceland Birdwatching Guide to Locations

Now we've covered the birds of Iceland, we'll look into the best birdwatching locations. Each of these offers a unique experience, you won't want to miss.


This peninsula sits off the west coast, providing all-year birding with a variety of habitats. The south shore's lakes and ponds provide a home for a variety of fowl birds.

Other birds you will find here include:

  • Glaucous Gulls
  • Puffins
  • White-tailed eagles
  • Purple sandpipers
  • Harlequin ducks
  • Long-tailed ducks

On the lava cliffs, you'll find guillemots nesting. Arnarstapi's basalt columns provide a home for kittiwakes. And Iceland's largest artic turn colony call Rif home.

Thingvellir National Park

You'll find Iceland's largest natural lake and its rivers here. The land is birch scrub and meadows, home to:

  • Great northern divers
  • Whooper swans
  • Tufted ducks
  • Scaup
  • Greylag geese
  • Barrow's goldeneye
  • Common goldeneye
  • Goosanders
  • Red-breasted mergansers

There are also merlins, gyrfalcons, whimbrels, snow bunting, arctic tern, redwing, and black-tailed godwits.

Reykjanes Peninsula & Gardskagi

Gardskagi sits only 10 minutes away from Keflavik airport [by car]. On the north side, the Reykjanes Peninsula is rocky, and sandy on the south. From late April through May, you can see:

  • Purple sandpipers
  • Knots
  • Sanderlings
  • Ruddy turnstones
  • Dunlins
  • Storm petrels
  • Manx shearwaters

There is also Iceland's tallest lighthouse nearby, and one of its oldest to explore. With plenty to see and, do this is a location not to miss.

Borgarfjordur Eystri

It's going to take a little more effort to reach this isolated northeastern village. In fact, it would be better to hire a car if you want to visit. But, if you're a puffin enthusiast this is the place for you.

It could be the best place in Iceland to see these popular birds, coming back beaks full of fish and sand eels. You may even see kittiwakes and common eiders too.

Birdwatching Locations You Won't Want to Miss

So, there you have it! Now you know these top birdwatching locations you can now start planning your trip.

From common birds like the puffin to rarer gyrfalcons, Iceland won't disappoint. Set yourself up for a birdwatching holiday you'll never forget.

To make exploration even easier, contact us today for a hire car. At Blue Car Rental, we've got the knowledge and the cars to suit all your rental needs.

For more information and ideas about what to do when visiting Iceland, we recommend our blogs about natural wonders. We also encourage you to read up on some of our practical information

Great Northern Diver
Great Northern Diver






Pearl Tour

Pearl Tour

An adventurous Golden Circle tour in snowmobiles and super jeeps! Go and explore Iceland's famous natural wonders in style. You´ll see the classics: Thingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir.