Natural History of Iceland

 
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ITINERARY

  • Mon. May 21: Vancouver - Keflavik
    Depart Vancouver via Icelandair this afternoon non-stop to Keflavik.
  • Tue. May 22: Keflavik - Borgarnes
    Arrive Keflavik this morning. Met on arrival by our tour bus, driver and guide, we head towards the small villages of Gardur and Sandgerdi where we should get our first glimpse of Iceland’s common roadside birds, such as Whimbrel, Common Redshank and European Golden Plover. We travel to the southwest tip of Reykjanes peninsula to see the hot springs and the vigorous sea hammering the cliffs. Continue through mossy lava fields to Borgarnes, our destination for the first night.
  • Wed. May 23: Borgarnes – Stykkisholmur
    We head out to the spectacular Snaefellsnes peninsula, with its rich diversity of habitats. We encounter dense numbers of breeding Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Parasitic Jaeger, Harlequin Ducks and Horned Grebes. The lava fields of Snaefellsnes National Park are home to Rock Ptarmigan and the leucorhoa race of the Northern Wheatear, while the basalt cliffs hold colonies of all five breeding Icelandic auks. Killer whales are frequently seen along this section of the coast. The village of Rif is the site of a vast Arctic Tern colony and Common Eider is abundant along the coast. Purple Sandpipers can usually be found in the village of Grundarfjordur. Overnight at Stykkisholmur.
  • Thu. May 24: Stykkisholmur – Patreksfjordur
    In the morning we take the ferry “Baldur”, named after one of the Nordic Gods, over Breidafjordur fjord to Brjanslaekur. The boat trip takes about three hours but we’ll make a stop at Flatey Island for a few hours to enjoy the timeless atmosphere of the island and its varied birdlife. Atlantic Puffins and Back-legged Kittiwakes are common and Northern Fulmars are constant companions alongside the ship. We drive to the fishing village of Patreksfjordur and overnight.
  • Fri. May 25: Patreksfjordur - Gauksmyri
    Driving to Latrabjarg feels like reaching the end of the earth and is the westernmost point of Europe. It is also the largest bird cliff in Europe 14 kms long and reaching 441m at the highest point, and hosts around two million seabirds. Atlantic Puffins are common and very tame here and the cliff also holds huge numbers of Razorbill, Common Murre and Thick-billed Murre plus Snow Buntings and Northern Wheatears. Continue to Gauksmyri and overnight.
  • Sat. May 26: Gauksmyri – Adaldalur
    We start the day at the river mouth in Blonduos, often a haunt of Iceland Gulls in summer. We then travel to the northeast of Iceland viewing Pink-footed Geese, Harlequin Ducks, Common Redpoll, Eurasian Wren and the abundant Redwing along the way. At Akureyri we see our first Common Gulls by the road. Night at country hotel at Adaldalur, near Husavik.
  • Sun. May 27: Lake Myvatn (Midge Lake)
    Lake Myvatn is one of Europe’s great birding destinations. The midges, actually harmless chironomids, are the mainstay of life at the bird rich lake, home to thousands of breeding wildfowl. Barrow’s Goldeneye, at its only European breeding site, is common here. It shares the lake with other ducks such as Common Scoter, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup and Tufted Duck while American vagrants such as Ring-necked duck and American Wigeon are recorded regularly. Horned Grebes are highly photogenic on the lake, while Common and Red-throated Loons provide the background calls. One of the main attractions here is the Gyrfalcon, the world’s largest and most powerful falcon. Its smaller cousin, the Merlin, also breeds in the area and we might see Short-eared Owls hunting. With fascinating geology and geothermal sites around the lake, a day at Myvatn is an unforgettable experience. Overnight at Adaldalur.
  • Mon. May 28: Godafoss Waterfall and Husavik
    We start the day at the impressive roadside waterfall, Godafoss, and then continue to Lake Vestmannsvatn and River Laxa. We should see several duck species during this visit. Later we take a boat trip to Flatey Island in Skjalfandi Bay close to Husavik. The island was inhabited from the 11th century but has been deserted since 1967 and is a natural haven for diverse birdlife. Humpback, Minke and Blue Whales are frequently seen during the boat trip and Flatey is home to more than 30 different species of birds during the breeding season, including Arctic Tern, Atlantic Puffins and Red-necked Phalarope. Overnight Adaldalur.
  • Tue. May 29: Adaldalur – Raufarhofn
    Drive north on to the Tjornes peninsula where Rock Ptarmigan are frequently seen by the road. The wetlands around Vikingavatn hold a great diversity of breeding birds including good numbers of Horned Grebe. The glacial sand flats east of here are in the domain of the Great Skua and we should enjoy close encounters with this impressive predator. Breeding waders are also abundant. We then visit the stunning horseshoe canyon of Asbyrgi before spending the afternoon birding Iceland’s far north-eastern peninsula, Melrakkasletta. This wild and remote area has an Arctic feel to it and is a superb birding location with Red-throated Loon, Snow Bunting and Purple Sandpiper plus a very healthy population of Gyrfalcon. Overnight at Raufarhofn, just south of the Arctic Circle.
  • Wed. May 30: Raufarhofn – Adaldalur
    We check out the mudflats at Hoskuldarnes before heading south along the coast visiting numerous lakes and coastal sites along the way. Our main destination is Langanes, the long finger of land at Iceland’s north-east corner. The cliffs at Skoruvikurbjarg hold large numbers of auks including Brunnich’s Guillemot while rock stacks off shore are home to a colony of Northern Gannets, providing excellent photographic opportunities. Night at Adaldalur.
  • Thu. May 31: Lake Myvatn
    Today we return to the Lake Myvatn area for a closer look at its many natural attractions. Oppportunities include exploring the lava field of Dimmuborgir, visiting the craters at Skutustadir close to the lake and enjoying the birdlife. Also visit Dettifoss waterfall, the most powerful one in Europe. Overnight in Adaldalur.
  • Fri. June 1: Adaldalur – Faskrudsfjodur
    Today we travel east to Faskrudsfjodur. After passing Lake Myvatn for the last time, we will be driving in the semi-highlands and, weather permitting, will be able to see the queen of Icelandic mountains “Herdubreid”. We may also see reindeer and Arctic Fox. Night at Faskrudsfjodur.
  • Sat. June 2: Faskrudsfjodur – Jokulsarlon
    This morning we start our journey to Breidamerkurlon Glacier Lagoon. On our way we enjoy the dramatic coastal scenery as the road winds its way along a narrow strip of land between steep mountains. At Djupivogur we stop to bird at the rich mosaic of ponds and inlets beyond the village, a stronghold for locally scarce Icelandic birds such as Common Shelduck and Northern Shoveler. At the scree slopes near Hvalnes, we can scope the flocks of seaduck for vagrants such as Surf Scoter and Velvet Scoter. Once we reach the Hofn area, the coast gets sandier and we start to see Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest in Europe. Our accommodation is close to the Glacier Lagoon.
  • Sun. June 3: Jokulsarlon – Hella
    We drive from the Glacier Lagoon at Breidamerkurlon to Hella village today. First we visit Skaftafell National Park and see Iceland’s tallest mountain, Hvannadalshnukur (2110 m). From Skaftafell we pass Myrdalssandur “desert” and continue to the small village of Vik where Atlantic Puffins breed in the cliffs and a huge Arctic Tern colony occupies the beach. The nearby cliffs at Dyrholaey are also home to breeding Common Guillemot and Razorbill. We visit several more interesting places including Skogarfoss waterfall, close to the Eyjafjallajokull Glacier and Volcano which last erupted in 2010 with significant repercussions for air traffic between Europe and North America. We also visit Seljalandsfoss Waterfall which we can walk behind. Overnight at Hella.
  • Mon. June 4: Geysir and Gullfoss
    No visit to Iceland would be complete without visiting the world famous geothermal field at Geysir and the thundering waterfall, Gullfoss - the Golden Falls. These are first on our itinerary today. Next we drive to Pingvellir National Park, the site of the ancient Icelandic parliament where the divergent American and Eurasian tectonic plates are as plainly visible as in a geology textbook. The park has Harlequin Ducks, both loons, Eurasian Wren and breeding Greylag Goose, to name a few. We return to Hella for overnight.
  • Tue. June 5: Hella – Keflavik – Vancouver
    We head for the south coast this morning and visit BirdLife Iceland’s bird reserve at Floi where breeding Dunlin, Red-necked Phalarope, Parasitic Jaeger, and Red-throated Loon abound. From Floi we continue along the south coast towards Keflavik airport with stops at the geothermal site of Krisuvik and Grindavik, a small fishing village. Our Icelandair flight departs Keflavik late this afternoon non-stop to Vancouver arriving early this evening.
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