The Search for Puffins in Iceland

by joeheg

I knew that during our week-long trip to Iceland this past summer, we weren’t headed to any of the major puffin breeding grounds. Still, I wanted to have a chance to catch a glimpse of these amazing ocean birds in their natural habitat.

The best place along our route was the rocky cliffs of Dyrhólaey nature reserve. Located near to the town of Vik, the preserve includes the southernmost point of Iceland and the rocky cliffs serve as nesting grounds during the summer months.

Taking a short detour off the Ring Road, we headed towards the ocean.  It was only a 15-minute drive or so to get to the parking lot. We questioned if we were in the correct place as there was only a bathroom (which we found to be very important when touring Iceland) and about 20 parking spots, of which 5 were filled.

We parked the car and followed the path and within 5 minutes we were rewarded with an amazing view.

a rocky beach with water and cliffs

I could stand there forever and watch the waves crash against the black sand beach.  Sharon even caught me at one of my pensive moments, which I plan on putting in my upcoming coffee table book called “Joe looks at water.”

a man standing on a rocky shore with a chain and rocks in the background

The most amazing thing about Dyrhólaey was that walking 5-10 minutes gave you an entirely different landscape to discover. Like this natural bridge made from the same rocks we were going to see at Svartifoss on the next day.

a rock bridge over water

Further down the path was an overlook of a river cut through the sand.

a black sand beach with a rock formation in the middle

That’s when I saw the cliffs. I had almost forgotten why we came here. I started looking for puffins.

After a while, I saw a few of them fly from the water and land on the rocks but my iPhone camera zoom wasn’t sufficient to get a good picture. I headed over to the cliff hoping one of them would poke its head out enough for me to see.

a bird on a cliff

Admittedly not a great picture but enough to capture all of the features and to know this is a puffin. Mission accomplished.

While seeing puffins was the reason we visited the area, we discovered so much more. Walking around for around an hour, we were captivated by the view. The mix of the rocks, black sand and greenery were striking. It reminded me of our trip to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland except without the cheesy gift shop and the crowds.

We walked back to our car to see that the parking lot was more crowded than when we left. Now there were 10 cars instead of 5. Gosh, I loved our trip to Iceland.

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