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Iceland 21 – 29 June 2020

Birds, Whales & Landscapes

Iceland is ‘out of this world’. The sheer volume of birds here is staggering, with an estimated six million puffins alone, and nowhere else can you see great northern diver, Barrow’s goldeneye and the stunning harlequin duck breeding outside North America, except for this European outpost, and if we are really lucky we may even relocate the pair of snowy owls we found on a previous visit.

Yet there is even more to this unique country; glaciers, an uninhabited stony desert interior, volcanoes, lava fields, countless waterfalls, a geyser which blows its top every few minutes, steaming fumaroles, bubbling hot springs, boiling mud pots, spectacular cliffs jam-packed with seabirds and various whales offshore. Even non-birding partners will love this trip. So, prepare for an amazing journey, during the ‘white nights’ of June.

Itinerary and wildlife highlights

We fly with Icelandair, from either Manchester or Heathrow, to Keflavik (Reykjavik). Once landed we drive north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where the rugged coastline is home to five species of auk, including Brünnich’s guillemot, as well as purple sandpiper, Arctic skua, plus Iceland and glaucous gulls.

From our two night base in Stykkishólmur, we take a ferry across Breidafjördur Bay to Flatey Island, where we land in search of the rare grey phalarope, resplendent at this time of year in deep red breeding plumage. Other birds here include redwing, snow bunting, ridiculously tame red-necked phalaropes and loads of Arctic terns.

red-necked phalarope
Red-necked phalarope

After an exploration of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, we head east through a spectacular landscape, including Godafoss, where the Skjáfandafljót river cascades over one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. Next, we have the luxury of three nights in our second hotel on the shores of Lake Mývatn, famous for its wealth of wildfowl, such as whooper swan, greylag goose, and fourteen duck species including Barrow’s goldeneye, harlequin, long-tailed duck and common scoter.

harlequin ducks
Harlequin ducks

Other birds to hope for here include great northern diver, Slavonian grebe, gyr falcon, merlin, ptarmigan, golden plover, whimbrel, rusty red black-tailed godwits, short-eared owl and common (meally) redpoll. Nearby are the unearthly landscapes of Nàmafjall and Leirhnjúkur, where the steaming yellow earth and black lava will make you wonder what planet this is. We also drive into a desolate monochrome lunar-like terrain to look for pink-footed geese and to experience the awesome power of Dettifoss, as tons of glacial melt water pour 148 feet over Europe’s mightiest waterfall.


A steaming fumarole.

Next we enjoy a whale watching trip in Skálfandi Bay, hoping for close views of humpbacks, minkes and white-beaked dolphins. In 2018, these cruises had a success rate of 99.2%! Heading south, snow conditions permitting, we cross the uninhabited interior, where the tundra is home to Arctic foxes and, we hope, snowy owls.

humpback
Humpback whale.

Next we do the ‘Golden Circle’, a selection of ‘must see’ locations like the famous geyser, which regularly spouts as high as a house, Thingvellir, where the American and  European tectonic plates are slowly tearing Iceland apart, Gullfoss, where the torrent crashes 108 feet over two tiers of rock, and finally, some sightseeing time in Reykjavík. After our last night here we catch a morning flight back to either Manchester or Heathrow.

Holiday details

FULLY BOOKED

Because of the size of Iceland, this holiday has five hotels over eight nights, including an airport hotel on the final night. These include Fosshótel Stykkishólmur (2 nights), Icelandair Hotel Myvatn (3 nights), Hotel Kjarnalundur (1 night), Hotel Geysir (1 night) and an airport hotel (1 night).

Price: £2475 per person in twin room for eight nights (Sunday to Monday)

Single room supplement: £590

What the price includes: return flights from either Manchester or Heathrow, to Keflavik with Icelandair, eight nights’ half board en-suite accommodation, all transport in Iceland, whale watching trip, return ferry to Flatey Island, bird checklist and guidance.

What the price excludes: lunches, drinks with meals; personal spending. Be aware that Iceland is probably the most expensive European destination.

Flights: scheduled flights with Icelandair from Manchester or London Heathrow to Keflavik (Reykjavik's international airport).
21 June: FI441 depart Manchester 12:55 arrive Keflavik 14:40
29 June: FI440 depart Keflavik 08:00 arrive Manchester 11:45
or

21 June: FI451 depart London Heathrow 13:10 arrive Keflavik 15:10
29 June: FI450 depart Keflavik 07:40 arrive London Heathrow 11:45
It's possible that there will be a supplement for Heathrow flights, depending on flight costs at the time of booking.

Deposit: £500

Maximum number (one leader): 8

Leader

Christopher Hall runs his own birdwatching company, New Horizons, though is planning to guide for others and leave the administrative roles behind; this partnership with Honeyguide is a step in that direction. Falsterbo is one of many birdwatching destinations he knows well and was our first choice as a joint project. His wildlife watching tours for a growing ‘family’ of loyal regulars means he has guided over 150 tours worldwide. He has also been a science teacher and run birdwatching evening classes.

Conservation project

Iceland still allows whaling, which we deplore, and the consensus from local conservationists is not to boycott Iceland but to demonstrate the importance of eco-tourism, including whale-watching, such as on this holiday. For those booking through Honeyguide on this holiday, our conservation donation of £40 per person will go to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, which campaigns for the survival of whales and dolphins, including against whaling in Iceland and elsewhere.

FULLY BOOKED

For prices, see Holiday Details at the bottom of the page.

travel aware logo

FCO travel advice for Iceland here.

great northern diver

Great northern diver

geyser

Geyser (geysir in Icelandic).

black-tailed godwit

Black-tailed godwit

New Horizons & Honeyguide

This holiday is run and led by Christopher Hall of New Horizons, who is also Honeyguide's leader in Falsterbo.

The itinerary is Christopher's but Honeyguiders can book in the usual way through Honeyguide.

This includes the usual Honeyguide features for every holiday of a donation to a conservation project and carbon offsets for flights.

A good way to learn more about this holiday is through Christopher's previous holiday reports on his New Horizons website, here for 2016 and 2014.

Arctic skua

Arctic skua

redpoll

Redpoll

Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

Iceland poppy Papaver nudicaule

black guillemot

Black guillemot

Waterfalls are a landscape feature.

snow bunting

Snow bunting

Slavonian grebe

Slavonian grebe

redwing

Redwing

golden plover

Golden plover

Christopher Hall, Falsterbo, 2019.

Wildlife and landscape photos by Christopher Hall.

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Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife