In Iceland, even non-birders are at some point drawn to bird-watching. Iceland lies at a major junction of migratory routes, and hosts at least 278 species. Puffins, universally beloved for their clownish looks and slapstick antics, are pictured on every other tourist brochure. Other common types are guillemots, arctic terns, gannets, fulmars, cormorants, kittiwakes, and razorbills. Especially coveted sightings include the barrow's goldeneye, found all summer at Mývatn; harlequin ducks, seen on several Icelandic rivers; the white-tailed eagle, occasionally spotted in Breiðafjörður bay; and the gyrfalcon, Iceland's national bird.
Hard-core birders initiate the tourist season in April and May, when nesting season reaches full swing. May and June have the optimal convergence of species variety, fine plumage, and decent weather, though a few nature reserves -- notably Dyrhólaey in the south, and the northern end of Hrísey island in the north -- are closed to visitors at precisely this time to protect the birds and their young. By August, bird numbers are down dramatically, but enthusiasts can find ways to keep busy all year.
Prime coastal sites include Hafnaberg and Valahnúkur on Reykjanes peninsula; Arnarstapi on Snæfellsnes peninsula; Breiðafjörður, the bay between Snæfellsnes and the Westfjords; Látrabjarg and Hornbjarg in the Westfjords; Hrísey island near Akureyri; Langanes peninsula in the northeast; the Westman Islands, Dyrhólaey and Ingólfshöfði in the south; and Papey island in the east. Inland, the foremost locale is Mývatn, Europe's most diverse waterfowl habitat. The birding map Fuglakort Íslands, with English text and handy illustrations, is commonly available in Iceland, or order at www.nordicstore.net before you go.
The best online informational resource, www.birdingiceland.com has fantastic photography, extensive diaries, and a gripping "Rare Bird News" feature.
Gavia Travel, Álfaheiði 44, Kópavogur (tel. 863-3939; www.gaviatravel.com), is the only Icelandic company devoted exclusively to birding tours. Day tours of the Reykjanes (10,800kr/$173/£86) or Snæfellsnes (13,800kr/$221/£110) peninsulas are by arrangement, while 4-, 6-, and 12-day regional trips have set departure dates from March through October. Four-day, all-inclusive tours from Reykjavík cost 85,700kr to 107,700kr ($1,371-$1,723/£685-£862), and 6-day trips are 185,000kr to 210,000kr ($2,960-$3,360/£1,480-£1,680).
Icelander Tours/Highlander Adventures, Guðrúnargata 9, Reykjavík (tel. 892-5509; www.icelandertours.com), schedules 10-day bird-watching tours in May and June for 233,750kr ($3,740/£1,870). The itinerary, which circles the country, includes a dip at Mývatn Nature Baths, a boat trip through the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón, and other fun extras.
Valtours (tel. 557-1735; www.valtours.is), a small and cost-effective eco-tour operator, offers scheduled and custom birding tours from April to October. One-week trips with half-board at guesthouses typically cost 156,250kr ($2,500/£1,250).
Field Guides (from North America tel. 800/728-4953; outside North America tel. 512/263-7295; www.fieldguides.com), a bird tour specialist based in Austin, TX, leads a 10-day trip in July for around 298,438kr ($4,775/£2,388), not including airfare.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.