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. Borgarfjörður 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. The 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. As 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. We continued another 5km to reach the new harbour on Hafnarhólmi island where we could already spot the adorable puffins resting amongst the grassy cliffs. On the island are the wooden platforms and stairs for viewing the puffins and other wildlife.
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! Borgarfjörður eystri is known for being home to large puffin colonies during late spring into early fall-usually between April and September. During 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.
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. Visiting 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.