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Visit the Puffins of Hafnarholmi

Borgarfjarðurhofnvegur, Iceland



0.1 miles

Elevation Gain

30 ft

Route Type



Added by Chase Dekker

One of the greatest experiences when visiting Iceland is getting the chance to get up-close and personal with puffins. Iceland's most iconic animal is not particularly easy to find, but here at Hafnarholmi, the chances of seeing these charismatic creatures are fantastic!

Located in the remote northeast corner of Iceland, the newly built harbor of Hafnarholmi lies just a few miles north of Borgarfjodur Eystri (aka Bakkagerdi). While the harbor is new, the puffin colony is not and it is easier than ever to access the grassy mounds where they like to build their nests. Before we go any further, it is important to note that the Atlantic puffins do not hang around Iceland all year. Matter of fact, they spend a whopping 8 months out at sea fishing, only to return to land to breed during spring and summer. Almost any birder and Icelander will tell you that the puffins return to land around mid-April and will begin to leave around early August. So your window is short, but luckily that window is one of the best times to visit Iceland!

The drive to Hafnarholmi is not for the faint of heart. To get to Hafnarholmi and the Borgarfjodur Eystri area, you need to travel north out of Egilsstadir on Route 94. The road is pretty easy for the first half as it's paved with some areas of gravel. After awhile you will notice the road will turn east rather quickly and you will be headed straight for the mountains! Before you start ascending, the road will become gravel again (they do a good job combing the gravel roads) and you will have to head all the way up and over an extremely steep and windy mountain pass, with no guard rails! On a sunny day, the views are spectacular and it is worth pulling over at the stop on the top of the mountain to look around. Once you navigate the descent, you still have a few miles to drive along a steep sea cliff, with no guard rails again! Luckily the road is not too narrow and the traffic is thin, but it'll keep your blood pumping. Once you turn the corner, you will get amazing views of Borgarfjodur and the surrounding peaks. The water here is so blue you won't believe your eyes! Keep driving and continue on through the tiny town of Bakkagerdi where you will see signs telling you to continue for a couple more miles to the puffins. Only about 2 miles after the town, the road will end at the tiny harbor where you can park at the visitor parking lot above. On your way to the wooden boardwalk where you can see puffins, there is a heated bathroom with flush toilets. The walk only takes 1-2 minutes, so don't worry if you leave anything in the car!

You've finally made it and you will immediately begin to spot puffins surrounding the boardwalk! Puffins are not shy but can be skittish if you are loud or move fast. If you are patient, you will most likely be able to get some puffins within arms reach! Another thing to note about puffins is that they like to fish during the day, so the best time to see them is sunset and sunrise. There are usually always a handful coming and going at all hours of the day, but before sunset, thousands of them will return from sea and the colony will be teeming with birds! Halfway up the boardwalk, they have built a viewing house that comes equipped with heating and chairs and is a comfortable spot to watch the birds if the weather turns sour. This is the best spot to view puffins in Iceland due to the fact that it is accessible by car/foot, there are over 10,000 puffins, and the scenery surrounding the colony is remarkable! The majority of puffin colonies in Iceland are offshore, making them hard to get to. The other two exceptions, Dyhorlaey and Latrabjarg have slightly rougher roads and don't have nearly as many puffins. While at Hafnarholmi, you will also see Kittiwakes, Eider Ducks, Terns, and more!

Beyond puffins, Borgarfjodur Eystri is considered one of Iceland's greatest hiking regions and can keep one entertained for days. If you have time and want to see Iceland's famous puffins, you can't miss out on a trip to Hafnarholmi! 

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