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Borgarfjörður eystri, Iceland

Sunday, June 4, 2023 - 6:00pm by Lolo
60 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Campsite view - Álfaborg, home of the elvesCampsite view - Álfaborg, home of the elvesOriginally we thought we would camp in Seydisfjordur, but that was before we added Borgarfjörður eystri, home to one of the largest puffin colonies in Iceland, to our already packed itinerary.

We really wanted to see puffins (other than on a menu), and that was pretty much a guarantee at Borgarfjörður eystri, where 10,000 pairs of puffins nest every year between April and August.

Borgarfjörður eystri fishing villageBorgarfjörður eystri fishing villageThe best time of the day to see puffins is between 7:00 and 10:00 in the morning when they are getting ready for a day of fishing out at sea, and then again in the evening between 6:00 and 10:00 when they return to their burrows.

Camping near there would provide us with a chance to see them both times in the evening and then the following morning.

Marina with puffin colony behindMarina with puffin colony behindSo, well left Seydisfjordur and drove back up the winding Road 93 towards Egilsstaðir, and then turned onto 94 which took us up and over some more mountains before coming to the end of the road in Borgarfjörður eystri, where the puffins nest. It was about an hour and a half drive.

This was by far our longest driving day to date - over four and a half hours (from Vestrahorn to here) rather than our leisurely two. But, as we would find out, it was definitely worth it.

Puffins in their burrowPuffins in their burrowBorgarfjörður eystri is a quaint little fishing village of 130 people, 20,000 puffins, and countless sheep. We checked into the only campground in town, the Borgarfjörður eystri Campsite, which was quite lovely, set at the foot of a rocky hill called Álfaborg, which the campground website claimed was home to elves. Fortunately, the website added that the elves don't mind guests as long as they respect their home, the rocks. Ok, got it. I would have been much more worried if it was inhabited by trolls.

Marital spat?Marital spat?I’ve seen various statistics of what percentage of Icelandic people believe in elves, and it varies from just under 50% to up to 80%. Even those that don’t believe in them are hesitant to deny their existence, respect the traditions and myths surrounding them, and tread lightly when entering elf territory, just in case.

Those wings flap 400 times per minuteThose wings flap 400 times per minuteWell, anyway, elves have great taste, because that mountain was stunning. Not sure, how the stranded boat near the base of their mountain got there. Perhaps the owners were disrespectful.

We were pretty excited about seeing puffins, so almost immediately, we drove the short distance from the campground to the puffin colony, which is located on the grassy rock promontory behind the Hafnarhólmi marina.

Tucking in for a landingTucking in for a landingBefore leaving the parking lot, we just had to spend some time watching the sheep playing in the field. Each ewe gives birth to two lambs at a time. The lambs are adorable and they roll around on each other and play like puppies. I think they would be great pets. Just think of the sweaters!

Morning commute back to the puffins colonyMorning commute back to the puffins colonyWe had to drag ourselves away to go see the puffins.

We walked up to the hill behind the marina, where there was a shelter and wooden viewing platforms where we could get really close to the puffins without damaging their burrows. We were separated from them by a fence, but still, we were really close.

Along the way to the puffins colonyAlong the way to the puffins colonyThis was definitely the place. There were hundreds of them right near us - coming in and out of their burrows, strutting around, mingling with each other, and most fun of all, flying in from a day at sea fishing for herring and sand eels.

There are several species of puffins, but the ones in Iceland are Atlantic Puffins. In fact, Iceland is home to more Atlantic Puffins than any other country in the world.

Playful lambsPlayful lambsThey are beautiful birds, or at least they are during the breeding season (April through August) when they are trying to impress the ladies. It is only then that their bills turn a colorful reddish-orange, earning them the nicknames “sea parrot” and “clown of the sea.” As winter approaches the bright colors begin to fade.

They live in underground burrows, which they dig using their bills and feet. They use their bills to cut into soil and then shovel away loose material with their feet. They like to make their burrows between rocks or on steep cliffs so predators can’t easily reach them.

Off to workOff to workPuffins mate for life although they do not begin the mating process until they are 5 years old, just about the time when we humans start kindergarten.

The female lays one egg and both parents take turns incubating the egg for about 40 days. Once the egg hatches, the puffling (the puffin chick) and the adults return to the sea.

Puffins spend most of their time out at sea living a solitary existence, and only return to the crowded, busy colonies during breeding season.

Ready to start their day at seaReady to start their day at seaPuffins are not only good swimmers, but they are also very fast fliers. They can flap their wings up to 400 times per minute and reach speeds of 50 mph. That speed made it very difficult for Herb to photograph them flying in for a landing. It was only after we got home and we reviewed the photos that we saw how awkward, and very amusing, they look when they come dive bombing in for a landing.

They are not exactly the most graceful fliersThey are not exactly the most graceful fliersWe could have watched them for hours, but it was getting late and we had had a very busy day. I can’t believe that it was only this morning that we were wandering around a Viking Village.

The next morning we couldn’t just leave Borgarfjörður Eystri without saying goodbye to our puffin friends, so we drove back to the puffin colony to observe their morning activities.

We ran into a bit of traffic on the way over.

This time we watched as they climbed out of their burrows and prepared for flight, spreading their wings and looking out to sea. Some of them didn't seem in too much of a hurry to get going. Also, I'm not sure if just one of the pair goes out to sea, while the other one stays near the burrow with the egg. In either case, it looked like a busy little community about to start their day.

Gotta love them lambies thoughGotta love them lambies thoughOnce again, we had to pull ourselves away from the puffins. Watching them can be very addictive. The sheep were pretty darn cute too!

I saw an article online that the annual sheep round-up for Borgarfjörður Eystri is facing a labor shortage, due to both a dwindling population and the increasing age of the sheep farmers themselves, so they are asking for people to come out and help with the herding. I’m seriously thinking about it. They are so adorable.

Time to hit the road

Borgarfjörður eystri location map in "high definition"

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