Up Close with Puffins at Borgarfjörður Eystri

Traveling to Iceland during the summer months means one thing: Puffin season! After already getting a glimpse of these adorable orange-beaked birds at Dyrhólaey, I was even more thrilled about making the side trip to Borgarfjörður Eystri to get a closer look (without the risk of tumbling over a cliffs edge!) Driving about 70 km east of Iceland’s bigger town Egilsstaðir we finally reached the Borgarfjörður region.  IMG_7500Borgarfjörður eystri is a short, wide fjord known for its large colonies of Atlantic puffins, extensive hiking trails and natural beauty. Home to about 130 people the small, picturesque seaside village of Bakkagerði is one of the most unique and beautiful villages in Iceland. Borgarfjörður eystri is beautifully surrounded by an imposing 10-15 million year old mountain range known to be some of the oldest in Iceland and form the second largest area of the rock rhyolite in the country. IMG_7570The region is also the most northernly fjord in the Eastern Fjord region and due to the location can be quite windy which we experienced ourselves while we were walking around town and viewing the puffins. IMG_7507As we drove into the village of Borgarfjörður eystri we first passed by the old harbour, which was just as small and quaint as you would expect an authentic Icelandic fishing village to be. We stopped to take some pictures of the colorful fishing boats that lined the harbour and were docked ashore. IMG_7504We continued another 5km to reach the new harbour on Hafnarhólmi island where we could already spot the adorable puffins resting amongst the grassy cliffs. DSC00662On the island are the wooden platforms and stairs for viewing the puffins and other wildlife.  DSC01218Can you spot all the puffins?

The high cliffs rising out of the sea were dotted with hundreds, maybe even thousands of puffins that we could view from as close as two meters!DSC01226 Borgarfjörður eystri is known for being home to large puffin colonies during late spring into early fall-usually between April and September. DSC01230During the winter months, the puffins usually stay farther out at sea and are only seen in a few select places in the world, likely off the coasts of Newfoundland and Greenland.IMG_7548IMG_7538

Borgarfjörður eystri isn’t just home to a large puffin colony but is also famous for having some of the best organised hiking paths in Iceland. There is a network of well marked hiking trails that are accessible for all types of hikers, whether experienced or beginner. Some 27 day hiking routes can be accessed from within the village and even have well established facilities for outdoor enthusiasts to rest along the way. IMG_7556Visiting Borgarfjörður eystri was truly a highlight of our trip to Iceland as we never encountered another place that we could get so close to the puffins in the wild.DSC01228

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  • Hello Marisa,
    Thanks for the great introduction of Borgarfjoudur Eystri. It looks like a fascinating place. Can you share your experience about driving on Rd 94 from Egilstadir? Is the drive difficult and scary? Is it worth spending a night there? Thanks for any advice.

    • Hi Candy! The drive from Egilstadir is windy and curvy but not difficult. Unless you are wanted to spend some time hiking around the area I wouldn’t recommend staying the night. It is very easy to drive in for a short visit to see the puffins, have a quick snack and continue on towards the north to see Dettifoss and Lake Myvatn! Let me know if you need any more help or tips! Happy Travels!

      Marisa

        • You shouldn’t need a 4WD vehicle to go there unless you are driving in the winter months or when there is the possibility for snow or ice. The roads are easy but can be very windy at times. Just something to keep in mind! Happy Travels!!

  • Hi Marisa, for some reason, your reply was cropped and I cannot see all the words. 🙁 Could you please send it again? Or maybe to my email address? Thanks a lot!

    • You shouldn’t need a 4WD vehicle to go there unless you are driving in the winter months or when there is the possibility for snow or ice. The roads are easy but can be very windy at times. Just something to keep in mind! Happy Travels! Let me know if the message is readable this time 🙂 If not I will send via email!

    • Hi Andrew,

      Unfortunately, the puffins usually head back out to sea during the first week or two of August so it is not likely that they will still be there in September. A good place to stop for a check would be the coast near Vik which shouldn’t be out of the way if you are driving along the Ring Road! Hope you have an amazing time in Iceland, let me know if there is anything else I can help you with!

      Marisa

  • Hi Marisa,

    We are going to be traveling from Myvatn to Egilsstagir during last 2 days in August. What’s likely to see puffins at that time, should we make a detour? Thank you. Yuri

    • Hi Yuri! You are going to have an amazing time visiting the north and the east side of Iceland. Unfortunately, the puffins will probably have already left the area but it would be worth checking on trip advisor or a similar site where other travelers may have posted their most recent experiences and puffin encounters. Hope this helps 🙂 Marisa

  • This place looks amazing. We’re going to iceland next July and will definitely stop here. Where can I find information about local hikes? Ever site I’ve looked at talks about a map we can buy when we’re already in town. Any chance I can get it ahead of time so we can get an idea what is available and how long we should stay?

  • Hi Marissa,

    We are planning to visit the puffins this week. Can you give us a rough idea of he number of steps in the viewing platforms please. My wife has some mobility issues but should be able to manage if it is not too awful high. Thanks

    • Hi Bob,

      The main viewing platform has about 60 or so steps to reach the top. There is also a smaller viewing platform with less steps which is where we actually got some of our better close up photos of the puffins. They are usually flying all around and are resting all over the hills so they should be quite easy to spot during the season without climbing the stairs to the top! Enjoy! The puffins are one of our favorites!