5 experiences to discover Iceland’s incredible wildlife

Want to meet Iceland’s wildlife? Here’s our selection of 5 experiences to discover the wonderful animals of this extraordinary country!

Would you like to travel to a country with magical landscapes, a land of ice and fire? Iceland is full of wonders to discover! The country is best known for its outstanding beauty, from the south coast to the north, from majestic woods to fine sandy beaches. Iceland’s wildlife is as impressive as its landscapes. For lovers of nature, animals, wide open spaces and Vikings, Iceland is the perfect destination!

Whale watching cruises on the Atlantic Ocean, underwater immersion to discover the different fish in Icelandic waters, encounters with Icelandic birds… Here are 5 unique experiences to discover Icelandic wildlife!

voir les baleines en islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Tatonka

  • 💰 Budget: $$.
  • 👍 Difficulty: easy
  • 📍 Location: off the city of Reykjavik, from northern fjords such as Húsavík or from a port in the Eyjafjörður fjord
  • 🌿 Period: year-round for some ports, from May to November

Going on a whale-watching cruise is certainly one of the highlights of a trip to Iceland. Generally speaking, you’ll leave from the port in the city of Reykjavik, ideally situated for a few days’ road trip to discover Iceland’s wildlife. There are several options for sailing on the Icelandic ocean: catamarans, traditional wooden sailing boats and semi-rigid outboards.

Catamaran sailing on the Icelandic ocean

For a cruise on Icelandic waters, you can opt for a catamaran. This boat has the advantage of being fast enough for speed lovers. It also offers more space to move around in the middle of the ocean. Ideal for taking photos from different angles!

The traditional wooden sailboat for discovering marine life in Iceland

Looking for a traditional cruise on the Icelandic ocean? Choose a traditional wooden sailboat! This is your chance to create magical memories on Icelandic waters, while discovering Icelandic wildlife. Set sail as the Vikings did back in the day!

The semi-rigid outboard, ideal for wildlife photography in Iceland

If you’re a fan of speed, you can also take to the country’s waters aboard a semi-rigid outboard. As close as possible to the water, the outboard allows you to take photos of Minke whales, also known as minke whales, from an unprecedented angle. You’ll also find it easier to spot small fish swimming right in the middle of the water. An outboard cruise is slightly more expensive than the usual rate for a catamaran or sailboat.

Go on a marine wildlife safari in Iceland

faune marine islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – rybarmarekk

  • 💰 Budget: $$$
  • 👍 Difficulty: easy
  • 📍 Location: off the city of Reykjavik and Husavik
  • 🌿 Period: April to October

If you’re a marine wildlife enthusiast, this is the activity for you! Aboard a zodiac, set off for a few hours to discover the different species of cetaceans and birds that inhabit Iceland. Why take a zodiac? These small boats allow you to get much closer to the animals and birds of the country!

The fjords in the north of the country, like Husavik, are renowned for their rich and active wildlife. The 2 most common marine mammals are the humpback whale and the white-nosed dolphin. You may also come across Minke whales! These animals are very curious: they won’t hesitate to approach you during your excursion in the middle of the Icelandic ocean.

There’s also a chance to see orcas, blue whales and beaked whales. Birdwatchers will also be delighted: puffins populate Iceland’s northern fjords. The zodiac allows you to get as close as possible to the islands where these magnificent birds live. To see puffins, take an excursion between April and August. Discovering marine life is one of the main reasons for visiting Iceland.

Discover Icelandic land wildlife, polar foxes, Icelandic horses and reindeer

faune terrestre islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Alexey Seafarer

  • 👍 Difficulty: medium
  • 📍 Location: Hornstrandir reserve

Iceland, land of animals

Iceland is home to many animals. Arctic foxes, Icelandic horses and reindeer are among the island’s most emblematic species. Domesticated animals, such as Icelandic horses, are the result of animals imported by the Vikings of the time.

Hornstrandir nature reserve: discover the country in its wild state

faune islandaise

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Elvyn-George Badelita

The Hornstrandir nature reserve is completely cut off from the rest of the island. You won’t come across many tourists: if you want to discover Iceland in its wild state, this is the ideal place! Icelandic reindeer, foxes, horses and sheep will keep you company.

Arctic foxes are the kings of the West Island nature reserve. This species is made up of 4 subspecies. Some are brown. White polar foxes are harder to spot: in winter, their fur blends in with the snowy landscape! The Hornstrandir reserve is one of the best places on the island to observe these shy animals.

If you’re going to spend a few days in the heart of the nature reserve, don’t forget to pack your camping gear! And with good reason: you won’t find any hotels or stores. Only Icelandic animals and bird colonies will keep you company. You’ll come across Icelandic reindeer and wild horses. For lovers of the great outdoors and wildlife!

Discover the island’s magnificent birds on your tour

mouette marine islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Dolores M. Harvey

  • 👍 Difficulty: medium
  • 📍 Location: all over the island
  • 🌿 Period: ideally in May or June

Are you planning a birdwatching trip to discover the different species of Icelandic birds? The best time to plan your road trip is in May or June. From November to January, it’s more difficult to observe birds, due to very low temperatures and limited sunshine. Discover the 10 bird species to watch on the island!

The seagull, present throughout the country

Seagulls can be found all along the Icelandic coast, from January to August. The best time to take a photo is when they’re nesting on Icelandic cliffs. It’s easy to spot: the seagull is a real chatterbox!

The Arctic tern, a miniature bird

sterne arctique islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Petr Simon

The Arctic tern is a tiny white bird with a black head. Particularly graceful, this bird is sometimes difficult to observe due to its small size. Its migration is the longest on the planet: the Arctic tern reaches the Antarctic ice pack in winter.

It can be seen from May to August all along the Icelandic coast. It’s easiest to find near Vik.

The fulmar petrel, a bird to discover on a sea cruise

petrel fulmar islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – AndreAnita

This bird is one of the most common on the island. FromApril to August, you can observe it near ledges or flying around boats. The fulmar petrel is easily recognized by its hooked, pointed beak.

The common eider, famous for its distinctive song

canard eider

Photo credit: Shutterstock – LouieLea

Thecommon eider has a special relationship with the islanders. They collect its down after the bird has moulted. You can see them all around Iceland, particularly on the Vestmann Islands from late May to late August.

Note: the song of this species is « cou-rou » for the male and « korr-rrr » for the female. Particular enough to be identified!

The puffin, Iceland’s emblematic bird

macareux moine

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Oleg Troino

Iceland’s emblematic puffin is a must-see on any road trip through the country. They nest in colonies on Iceland’s grassy slopes. Latrabjarg is the ideal spot for spotting them. In winter, its plumage loses its color. Take advantage of the period between May and mid-July to go in search of it, as you’re likely to come face-to-face with the puffin during this period.

The Whooper Swan

cygne chanteur islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock- Alfredo Garcia

The Whooper Swan is the most common swan species in Iceland. Relatively large and imposing, it sings particularly badly! They nest in colonies in wetlands such as lakes. You can see them fromApril to September in the fjords on the eastern side of the island.

To discover Iceland’s different bird species, arm yourself with patience and perseverance. Take along good shoes and a good camera to immortalize your encounters with the country’s male and female birds!

Observe Iceland’s marine fauna and fish species

faille de silfra islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Hoiseung Jung

  • 💰 Budget: $$$
  • 👍 Difficulty: medium
  • 📍 Location: Silfra fault
  • 🌿 Period: between April and October

In Thingvellir National Park, the country’s largest nature reserve, you can snorkel in the Silfra fault. It’s ranked among the world’s top 10 diving spots. It’s about 60 kilometers from Reykjavik.

The Silfra fault lies between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. Its clear blue waters allow you to see more than 100 meters. Tip: dive at sunrise. The spectacle of the first rays of sunlight on Silfra’s crystal-clear waters is unparalleled. Ready to discover Iceland’s marine fauna and different species of fish during an unparalleled underwater immersion? Set off on your Silfra Fault adventure!

Whale-watching cruises, marine mammal safaris, birdwatching and scuba diving: try our 5 wildlife experiences in Iceland. This island is full of animals to discover.

For lovers of nature, wide open spaces and animals, wait no longer: Iceland is a veritable playground!