Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at the Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Ever since I was very young, I have been slightly obsessed with puffins. I had an adorable stuffed puffin, which sent this bird to the top of my favorite animal list. Well, that obsession never faded, so I was on a mission to find puffins on our first visit to Iceland a few years ago. We ended up failing miserably on that first trip, but I resolved to correct it on our return visit this past summer.

There are around 10 million puffins in Iceland between mid-May and September, so if you are in the right spots, such as the Westman Islands or Latrabjarg, there is a decent chance that you will spot some puffins.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

When we made plans to visit the Westfjords, we put the Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs on our itinerary and crossed our fingers that we would see puffins! These cliffs are one of the most western points in Europe and they also happen to be the largest bird cliffs in Europe. The 440 meter high cliffs are home to a dizzying amount of birds—the main attraction is a large colony of puffins but you can also find birds such as razorbills, arctic terns, snipes, snow buntings, white-tailed eagles and the list goes on.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

On the second day of our Happy Campers road trip with Evan and Hilary, we drove the bumpy gravel road out to the Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs. The road is 36 km long and there are no gas stations nearby, so be sure to fill up on gas before you head out on your adventure.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

We arrived at the cliffs to find a fairly full parking lot but not a lot of people in sight. After a quick picnic lunch, we set out on a hike along the cliff’s edge and kept our eyes open for the iconic bright orange beaks and feet that make puffins so adorable and easy to distinguish.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

The dirt trail led us along a 14 km path near the edge of the cliff. We could see thousands of birds swooping in and out of their homes that were built into the side of the cliffs, and Evan and Hilary spotted an elusive Arctic Fox, but we couldn’t seem to find any puffins. The further we walked, the more discouraged I became.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

We weren’t planning on hiking the entire 14 km trail, so eventually, we decided that we needed to turn around and head back towards the car. Even though we weren’t finding puffins, we decided to make the best of it and soak up the gorgeous landscapes surrounding us. The lush green grass, rocky cliffs and wild ocean created a scene that was beyond stunning.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Once we made it back to the car, Evan decided to go for a little walk to the lighthouse near the parking lot. Just as I was trying to come to terms with not seeing any puffins, Evan came back and announced that he spotted some on his walk. I was beyond excited and we rushed over to the section of cliffs that we had previously overlooked.

These cliffs have white lines drawn a few feet from the cliffs edge—you are not allowed to stand anywhere over the line, but you can lie down and peer over the edge. The reason for this is that the puffins build their homes by hollowing out a space under the edge of the cliff. If you stand on the weakened ground, there is a chance that you will fall through and become an unwelcome visitor in their home. Lying down flat over this area is fine though because your weight is distributed evenly which means you won’t fall through.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

We got into position and waited. In mere seconds, a puffin popped out of its house and stared back at us. One by one, we watched the birds perch on the grass in front of their homes—I whispered excited screams each time another one decided to hang out right in front of us. I swear, these birds must have had a modeling contract; they were quite the crowd pleasers.

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Hiking and Puffins in Iceland at Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs

After 45 minutes or so of bird watching, we finally pulled ourselves away. I didn’t want to leave, but I was happy to have finally fulfilled one of my childhood dreams of seeing a puffin in the wild. It was one of my favorite days of the entire trip and we would definitely recommend stopping at the Latrabjard Bird Cliffs if you are in the Westfjords!

Trail Information & Tips:

Distance: 14 km (8.7 miles), but to see the Puffins try checking the cliffs that are just a short walk away from the parking lot.

GPS Points:  N65° 30′ 8.760″ W24° 31′ 46.749″

Tips:

  • Don’t get too close to the edge of the cliff because the rocks can be fragile and might break away.
  • Be sure to stay behind the white lines along the edge of the cliff so you don’t fall into a puffin’s house!
  • Don’t be disruptive when observing the puffins. Keep your distance and leave no trace.
  • Remember to get gas prior to heading to the cliffs as there are no gas stations nearby.
  • It’s also a good idea to pack snacks as there are no restaurants around the area.
  • We couldn’t find bathrooms nearby, so be aware that you might not find any either.

 

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24 Comments
  • Dorene
    Posted at 05:17h, 04 February Reply

    Incredible photos guys! OK this place is definitely on our list. Thanks to this post, this introduced me to your blog. Great design and simplicity. Cheers!

  • Fiona Maclean
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:19h, 04 February Reply

    I thought puffins were cartoons when I was a kid – they really are quite spectacular! Fabulous photography – and I am so glad that you eventually found them
    Fiona Maclean recently posted…A Peek at Paris – Musée d’OrsayMy Profile

  • Megan Jerrard
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:24h, 04 February Reply

    Fantastic photography as always! We loved our time in Iceland and spent whole days camped out on cliff faces to photograph the puffins! Ended up walking back to the car covered in bird droppings lol but was so worthwhile to see such an incredible bird in their natural habitat, and hundreds of them!! We didn’t make it to the Westfjords, so are hoping to have a chance to head back to iceland, and take in Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs on the next trip 🙂

  • Nat Deduck
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:05h, 04 February Reply

    Wow! I’m in love! We haven’t made it to Iceland yet, but it is on the bucket list, especially after reading this! Your photos are gorgeous and we can’t wait to go!
    Nat Deduck recently posted…Is Edinburgh Hogmanay The Best Place for New Year’s Eve in Europe?My Profile

  • Melissa Giroux
    Posted at 09:06h, 04 February Reply

    Aren’t they cute? I didn’t know puffins were also in Iceland! Looks like I have more excuses to go now! 😀 (PS: I love your pics!)
    Melissa Giroux recently posted…Colorful & Cool Things To See In LondonMy Profile

  • Jennifer
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:49h, 04 February Reply

    Next time you are in Iceland, head out to the Westmann Islands. There’s a small bird museum there and they have a resident puffin. He was a dwarf and abandoned, so the museum owners took him in and raised him. He can’t return to the wild, but he loves to cuddle people!
    Jennifer recently posted…Where to Find the Best Chocolate in BordeauxMy Profile

  • Sarah Ebner
    Twitter:
    Posted at 10:04h, 04 February Reply

    I honestly had never heard of Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs but it sounds right up my street as, like you, I love puffins and would really love to see them in real life. It looks beautiful there in any case, but I am so pleased you actually saw them – what a brilliant day out (and another place to add to my list!)

  • chrysoula
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:50h, 04 February Reply

    Oh Iceland is so much on my bucket list. I had no idea that there were so many puffins there. I am not such a big fan as you are but I do like this bird a lot. I have to arrange a trip there asap.

  • Rachel Elizabeth
    Posted at 15:18h, 04 February Reply

    I saw puffins in Scotland and they were so cute! No puffins when I visited Iceland, though, because I went in the winter. 🙂 You got some great photographs!

  • Laura Lynch
    Twitter:
    Posted at 02:28h, 06 February Reply

    I’m so glad you were able to find them. It would have been sad not to see them. They are such beautiful creatures. Seeing them up close is a such a treat. And the photos are so awesome

  • Elisa
    Posted at 01:27h, 08 February Reply

    I did not know there were puffins in Iceland. . . I love puffins I love terrific landscapes and I love hiking so looking at your pictures there are no more excuses for me to book a trip to Iceland! Thanks for sharing

  • Jyo
    Posted at 16:00h, 02 March Reply

    Iceland is number one on my bucket list.. just waiting for the right time. Your pictures are simply stunning and what a lovely location..

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