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We spent 7 days going around Iceland last July 2022 and one of the hallmarks of our trip was seeing these Atlantic puffins in Borgarfjaroarhofn Eystri.  These birds which look like a cross between parrots and penguins with their beaks and bodies are just barely 11 inches in height and 17.5 ounces in weight. They are a vulnerable species who spend their winters in the open ocean. During spring and summer, they breed in various places in Iceland, coming in early April and staying until early August.  It is estimated that 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffins fly to Iceland during breeding season.

Where is Borgarfjarðarhöfn and how do you get there?

Borgarfjarðarhöfn Eystri is Iceland’s northernmost fjord, just an hour off of Route 1.  Route 1 is Iceland’s major highway encircling the country connecting the major towns. From Akureyri International airport, Borgarfjarðarhöfn is about a 4 hour drive from the west. If you are coming  from the east side , particularly starting from Egilsstaðir like we did, this is about an hour and a half driving up north.

When you get to Borgarfjarðarhöfn, look for the car park with the sign “Hafnarhólmi” . From there, it is a short walk to the marina where the puffins are. The marina is at this address but remember that you have to walk from the parking lot.

Sign post near the parking lot. From here, there’s a trail to the marina near the estuary.
From the parking lot, walk towards the marina. Nearby, you will see will see several flights of stairs leading to the estuary.
This photo was taken from the top of the stairs to show you how close the estuary is from the marina and the parking lot(can you see the cars?). It is a short easy walk but the winds can get really strong and with the rain, you can get really cold and wet. Make sure you are ready for any weather changes (which is very common in Iceland) by having the right clothes!
These Puffins’ nests are within arms reach from the stairs.
Puffins like to build their nests in cliffs by the water.
Puffins can fly up to 88kph and dive in water up to 60m deep, enabling them to catch nearly any prey.
Puffins migrate here to mate from April to August, so visit this place if you’re here during that time. During mating season, puffins’ beaks become more brightly colored to attract potential partners. This is the perfect time to take photos of them!

The noises of these cute things make a sound like chainsaws! They make this noise many times while at their nesting grounds. However, when they’re flying, they are completely silent, enabling them to catch their prey swiftly and stealthily!

60% of the world’s puffin population nests in Iceland. Being a vulnerable-rated species that only lays one egg per pair per year, that is quite a feat.

Although these birds are so close to you, you need a fast zoom lens to take the best photos, to catch those moments when they’re flying or when they catch fish! To check the photography gears we used and recommend, check it out here.

Make sure you go all the way to the top of the stairs to also see the nesting grounds of other birds in the area.
The view up the stairs is also breathtaking!

This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Iceland. If you want to see puffins, this is the most comfortable and convenient way to see them. From here, we drove to Detifoss, Europe’s second most powerful falls next to the Rhine.

Detifoss, West side. Take note of the beautiful basalt columns near the horizon.

Check out how we went around amazing Iceland in 7 days here.

Where we stayed in Egilsstaðir:

To see the puffins, we drove all the way from Vik and stayed the night in Lagarfell studios. We loved the comfortable beds and the cozy ambiance of the room, plus the small kitchen. From here, it is an hour and 15 minutes to Borgarfjarðarhöfn.

Having driven the whole day, we arrived late, and there were no restaurants open. We really appreciated having a complete in-home kitchen.

Final Thoughts

What do you think of these puffins? Are you going to include them in your itinerary when you see Iceland? They are also in Norway and the Faroe Islands but we didn’t see them when we were there. If you’re planning to visit these countries as well, check out our itinerary when we visited the Faroe Islands and the Lofoten Islands in Norway. 

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