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ICELAND

Birds, Whales & Extraordinary Scenery

Birdquest’s Iceland birding and whale-watching tour explores one of Europe's most scenically-spectacular wildlife-watching venues. Our tour is an exciting and enjoyable journey through one of the wildest and most fascinating parts of the world; the volcanic landscape of Iceland is simply unique! It features two pelagic trips and all the special birds of Iceland, including Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Gyrfalcon, Red (or Grey) Phalarope, Long-tailed Skua (or Long-tailed Jaeger) and Brünnich’s Guillemot (or Thick-billed Murre). We will also spend time admiring the lovely arctic flora and geology of Iceland. This is a great general interest tour for couples, where one partner is not quite as fanatical a birder as the other.

Saturday 10th June — Sunday 18th June 2017
(9 days)


Leader: Mike Watson

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

Harlequin Ducks are always a major tour highlight (Mike Watson)

Harlequin Ducks are always a major tour highlight (Mike Watson)

Iceland, one of Europe’s last great tracts of unspoilt wilderness, is a place where an ever-changing tapestry of rushing waterfalls, spouting geysers, brooding volcanoes, lush green meadows and vast plains of lava combine to create some of the most stunning and varied scenery found anywhere on earth. This large island marks the meeting place of two continents, a point on the planet where two tectonic plates split, Europe and America separate, and the Old World meets the New.

This geographical crossroads is also reflected in the island’s birdlife. Here we will see species such as Great Northern Diver (or Common Loon), Barrow’s Goldeneye and Harlequin Duck, which originate in North America and breed nowhere else in Europe. In contrast, birds such as Eurasian Wigeon, White-tailed Eagle and Black-tailed Godwit here reach the western extremity of their Eurasian breeding ranges. In summer, the waters around Iceland hold an excellent selection of cetaceans, so this tour offers a superb opportunity to mix birding and whalewatching, which is surely the perfect natural history combination in this most scenically spectacular of all Europe’s islands. Enjoying the wildlife and wildflowers is easy here, for the wilderness is all around.

We will begin our journey in the southwest corner of the island at Keflavík international airport near Reykjavík, and from there, travel northwestwards to the small town of Stykkisholmúr. White-tailed Eagle also breeds in this area and we will visit a regular eyrie, where we should enjoy some good if somewhat distant views of this magnificent raptor. We shall also take the regular ferry that crosses the great bay to the island of Flatey, home to some of the handful of breeding pairs of Red Phalarope left in Iceland. We will spend a day on this tiny island, which is alive with breeding birds and we shall enjoy a truly intimate and dynamic encounter with its inhabitants. Back on shore we will explore the rugged coastline and inland areas where we should find such varied species as Rock Ptarmigan, Purple Sandpiper, Arctic Skua (or Parasitic Jaeger), Glaucous Gull and Snow Bunting.

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is one of the most enchanting regions in Iceland and we will spend time exploring its varied habitats and the cold inshore waters of the northeast Atlantic. We shall make roadside stops to scan the meadows, lakes and streamsides for specialties such as the gorgeous Harlequin Duck or small flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes – often gloriously oblivious to our presence. From windswept cliff tops we will search through numerous breeding Common Guillemots (or Common Murres), Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins which here share their ledges with small numbers of Brünnich’s Guillemots (or Thick-billed Murres). Continuing on our journey we will explore the rugged back country of western Iceland, where we even have a good chance of finding the magnificent Snowy Owl.

Leaving behind the snow-capped volcanoes of the western fjords, we will travel northeast to the world famous Lake Myvatn. This shallow, nutrient-rich lake sustains an exceptionally large number and variety of breeding wildfowl. No fewer than 16 species of duck breed at this site including some of Europe’s only breeding Barrow’s Goldeneyes. The surrounding bogs and tundra support most of Iceland’s breeding waders and this is also one of the best sites on the island to see the magnificent Gyr Falcon. Myvatn is also one of Iceland's most recent centres of volcanic and geothermal activity and we will spend some time visiting sulphurous hot springs in a wonderful landscape of lakes and marshes surrounded by volcano cones and weird lava shapes.

During our stay in the northeast, we will also take a couple of whale-watching boat trips into Skjälfandi (or 'shaky') Bay. This is one of the most renowned areas in Europe for seeing Minke and Humpback Whales and we also have a slim chance of the big one, the legendary Blue Whale, which is a regular but unpredictable summer visitor to Skjálfandi Bay.

Finally, we will return to Keflavík by way of the spectacular waterfall at Gulfoss, the awesome Strokkur geyser and the scenic setting for Iceland’s first parliament at Pingvellir (or Thingvellir). These will be the final highlights of this extraordinary island.

Birdquest has operated tours to Iceland since 1986.

Important: The Birdquest tour includes two offshore whale-watching trips, rather than the single trip included in most Iceland bird and mammal tours, significantly increasing the chances of seeing a wider range of interesting cetacean species.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/guesthouses are of good standard throughout (note that some bathrooms are shared). Road transport is by SUV or minibus. The few major roads are good, but country roads in Iceland are often unsurfaced and rough, adding to the feeling of travelling through a wilderness.

Walking: Easy (but there is some rough ground).

Climate: The weather is very changeable, with sunny periods alternating with wet and overcast conditions. Temperatures range from cold to fairly warm.

Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities are very good.

Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.

Tour Price: £2590, €3050, $3390 Keflavik (Reykjavík)/Keflavik (Reykjavík).

Price includes all transportation (including all boat trips), all accommodations, all meals, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.

Single Room Supplement: £320, €377, $419.

Deposit: £300, €400, $450.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

Eurasian Whimbrel amongst Alpine Bartsia, two common features of the wonderful Icelandic landscape (Mike Watson)

Eurasian Whimbrel amongst Alpine Bartsia, two common features of the wonderful Icelandic landscape (Mike Watson)

The awesome geyser 'Strokkur', which is still blowing every few minutes. Iceland is home to some incredible volcanic features! (Mike Watson)

The awesome geyser 'Strokkur', which is still blowing every few minutes. Iceland is home to some incredible volcanic features! (Mike Watson)

White-tailed Eagles can be found in the southwest of the country (Pete Morris)

White-tailed Eagles can be found in the southwest of the country (Pete Morris)

Harlequin Duck - we just can't get enough of them! (Mike Watson)

Harlequin Duck - we just can't get enough of them! (Mike Watson)

Red-necked Phalaropes are very common in Iceland and are often extremely confiding! (Mike Watson)

Red-necked Phalaropes are very common in Iceland and are often extremely confiding! (Mike Watson)

Black Guillemot (Dave Farrow)

Black Guillemot (Dave Farrow)

Glaucous Gulls are common in Iceland, where they are still hunted (Mike Watson)

Glaucous Gulls are common in Iceland, where they are still hunted (Mike Watson)

Breeding passerines are few, but include pretty Redwings (Dave Farrow)

Breeding passerines are few, but include pretty Redwings (Dave Farrow)

There is now a tiny population of the graceful Long-tailed jaeger (or Skua) breeding in Iceland (Mike Watson)

There is now a tiny population of the graceful Long-tailed jaeger (or Skua) breeding in Iceland (Mike Watson)

Humpback Wales are common summer visitors to Skjálfandi (or shaky) Bay, Húsavík (Mike Watson)

Humpback Wales are common summer visitors to Skjálfandi (or shaky) Bay, Húsavík (Mike Watson)

Whale-watching at Húsavík where, as well as the whales, we will admire the scenery (Dave Farrow)

Whale-watching at Húsavík where, as well as the whales, we will admire the scenery (Dave Farrow)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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