Kitiwake - Mouette tridactyle © Philippe Patay

Bird photography 2020

Itinerant discovery, hiking and bird watching.

List of Icelandic birds

A unique 10 days departure guided by Philippe Patay, founder of Fjallabak and one of the most experienced and passionate connoisseurs of Iceland and its birds

SUMMER SOLSTICE The night has totally disappeared, the day is permanent. Twilight and dawn blend together all the pink, blue and coral of their collection. The green colors are still here and blend in the colors of the tundra and meadows where the young lambs tender the traveler, while the alarmed shorebirds are on the fence posts asking their chicks to stay put in the moss and to trust absolute mimicry ... The peek tourist season has not yet really begun and the circular road still breathes freedom.

Situated at 66 ° North, on the borders of the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Europe and America, at the crossroads of the main East-Western and North-Southern migratory routes, Iceland is undoubtedly the paradise of winged fauna. Species on both continents as well as Arctic species cohabit. Some cliffs are experiencing a real housing crisis, while heaths and meadows are invaded by countless shoreline birds.

Our journey takes us on the great North-Western peninsula to majestic fjords and impressive mountains. We observe the white-tailed eagle whose kingdom is here. Látrabjarg is considered to be the longest bird cliff in the world. Many grey seals lounge on sandy beaches. It is also the region where the most common eiders occur in the North. The Reykhólar marshes are a small paradise for ornithologists and the islands of the Breiðafjord are a sanctuary where men and birds are perfectly combined.

The period chosen is excellent with respect to bird watching or photography. For some latecomers the courtship displays are not over, while in others nesting has just started or has just finished. We can see the first chicks of waders while male ducks still in breeding plumage before moulting.

This beautiful discovery of Iceland and its birds in the permanent light of the boreal summer is placed under the sign of the Arctic Tern and the Polar Fox.

Important: Before registering online, please contact Matthildur (Matta) the daughter of Philippe Patay and the organizer of this trip. <>

If you are traveling as a couple and your companion is not a photographer, then a "Non photographer" discount applies for him / her.

Operation dates for the upcoming 2020 season are now set, but prices remain indicative for the moment. The exact final prices will not be published until the beginning of November 2019.

Price / Estimated
To change the indicative price in your prefered currency, choose it from the available list in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
Conversion rates are from the Icelandic National Bank

Raise your left hand in front of your face with your fingers spread with the palm facing you and you have the Westfjords Peninsula. This large peninsula is connected to Iceland by an isthmus narrower than your wrist. A world and a journey apart is so vast. Almost an island, almost a second Iceland. The story says that this peninsula existed because of a dispute between bad neighbors, a furious troll wanted, long ago to isolate the region. In disaster, before the summer light dawned on him, and when he had thought of returning to his cave in the mountains, the giant began to attack the mountain with great strokes that trembled the country. When he had almost reached his goal, he let himself be surprised by the first ray of a radiant sun which instantly petrified him. The work has remained incomplete and the North-west is still part of Iceland. Here, this myriad of islands and islets scattered over the great bay of Breiðafjörður, it is said to be the shovels that the troll furiously threw over his shoulder. Look at your hand again, it is from the little finger to the thumb that we continue our journey.

D1 - 01/06: Borgarnes - Snæfellsnes
Departure for the West. After crossing the Fjord of the Whales, the road before reaching the base of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, we cross a large swampy area where one can observe innumerable birds: shoreline birds, ducks, divers ...

D2 - 02/06: Breidafjorður Bay
The shallow waters of the large bay of Breiðafjörður are brewed by strong tidal current. Scattered with thousands of islands and islets, rich in food the Breiðafjord overflows with life. White-tailed Eagle, Atlantic Puffins, Great Cormorant, Hoop Cormorant, Harbour Seal, Grey Seal. By boat we win the pretty little island of Flatey and its old preserved village. An ambulatory stroll through this little paradise, the sanctuary of Guillemots, little fierce birds nesting in the most incongruous places: old tractors, tires, barns ...

D3 - 03/06: Cliff of Látrabjarg
From Breiðavík, by Hvallátur (where the whales give birth) to reach the cliff of Látrabjarg. 17 km of cliffs and several millions of birds farther the landscape plunges into a pretty creek before ending on the coppery sand of the bay of Rauðasandur. Observations on the first stretch of the huge Látrabjarg cliff considered the largest seabird cliff in the northern hemisphere. Real housing crisis. Puffin monk, Petrel fulmars, Guillemots de Troïl and Brunnich, Penguin Torda, Herring gull, Black-legged Kittiwake along with the notorious raven. Under the lighthouse we can observe a colony of large grey seals swimming in green water basins or resting on the reef kelp.

D4 - 04/06: Rauðasandur
While Iceland has accustomed us to black sands, here, curiously, in the Far West of the largest volcanic island in the world, the sand is clear and the sea takes on tropical nuances. A sand of shells ranging from the most perfect light grey as in Kolsvík to the dark orange as here at Rauðasandur (Red Sand). Here the only bathers in the area are grey seals and sea calf seals. Offshore to the south stands the great solitary snow-capped volcano of the Snæfellsjökull, which we have skirted three days before. This Fuji Yama of Iceland was an important landmark for the long boats of the Vikings who sailed between Greenland and Iceland.

D5 - 05/06 : Arnarfjörður - Waterfall of Dynjandi - Ísafjörður
The road crosses to the South some high desolated plateaus of broken rocks still partly snowy and then bypasses profound branched fjords dominated by impressive mountains of stratified basalt to cross again other passes. Visit of the famous waterfall Dynjandi, one of the most beautiful and graceful of the great falls of Iceland. In the evening we reach the big fjord of Ísafjörður and the small fishing town of the same name with its old tarred wooden warehouses. Evening and dinner on your own in this beautiful little town.

D6 - 06/06 : Ísafjörður - Skálavík - Ísafjörður
We go to see a large colony of terns in the middle of the warehouses of the port of Bolungarvik, then through a mountain road we go to the bucolic isolated valley of Skálavik that opens up to the ocean. In the river are gathered large groups of harlequin tourniquets that are there for the last chance of a parade.

D7 - 07/06: Ísafjarðardjúp
Large opened landscapes towards the bottom of the fjords. Bypassing many fjords all more beautiful than each other. With a large number of birds with a group of Harlequin tunas on the estuaries of the torrents. Maybe even a grey-headed eider?

D8 - 08/06: Bay of Breidafjorður
Descent to the south by a desolate high plateau where you can see boreal Haredidae on small lakes bordered by snowdrifts. We descend to the bottom of the Breidafjörður valley to reach the Reykhólar countryside (the steaming hills) where hot water flows in abundance.

D9 - 09/06: Swamps of Reykhólar
Magnificent ornithological reserve on the marsh that borders the Bay of Breiðafjörður. There are many species of waders, anatidae, but also and especially many catamarine loons and horned Grebes. And it is not uncommon to observe an owl from the marsh or an eagle being bullied by the habitants of the swamp.

D10 - 10/06: Gilsfjörður, Borgarnes, Reykjavik
We now return to the south through beautiful countrysides at the foot of the mountains. Last observations on the Gilsfjörður before reaching the circular route No. 1. Arrival in the middle of the afternoon in Reykjavik to soak up the small capital that offers a relaxed and original atmosphere, excellent coffee shops, beautiful bookstores, museums and art galleries, extraordinary outdoor pools and spa and nightlife (out of the ordinary).


Discount for non-photographer : If your spouse/husband or friend is not a photographer then we offer the accompanying discount.

Important: Before registering online, please contact Matthildur (Matta) the daughter of Philippe Patay and the organizer of this trip. <>

Book your flight as soon as possible! Either with your local travel agent or directly online: For information on flights to Iceland see in our website in the information section.

You should arrive to Iceland no later than on May 31 and leave on June 11 at the earliest. Of course you can extend your stay a few days before or after the trip. For overnight stays in Reykjavik see in our website in the information section. We can also book your accommodation in Reykjavik. Contact Matthildur tel. +00354 824 3072

Accommodation The registration fees below include comfortable accommodation in a hotel or B & B in a double twin room with 2 twin beds or in a single room with 1 bed. Shared facilities.

Rustic option: For 3 or 4 nights, it is possible to opt for a sleeping bag accommodation in a more rustic and cheaper hostel (-30 € per night). If you are an inveterate camper then here too we can find an interesting solution for you. Contact us.

Directions & Safety: The day-by-day program can sometimes be changed or even reversed for security reasons. However rare, these changes are generally due to specific natural phenomena of the place: eruption, late or early snowfall in the interior, flooded river, unfavorable weather, impossible passage by ferry...

Average level: Accessible to all average hikers. Travel on board a  small comfortable bus. The duration of the walks depends on the weather conditions of the day and the level of the group. They can be lengthened or shortened.

Group size: Multi-national group of 6 to 10 (+/-1) participants (Note: for group sizes of 5-4 persons a small group surcharge applies) Fjallabak’s staff or Fjallabak’s representatives accompanying professionals (e.g. photographers, journalists etc.…) and other discounted travelers such as children, are excluded from the participant count (minimum and maximum)

Small group surcharge : For groups of less than 6 participants, a small group surcharge (net and not commissionable) is applicable. +36.000 ISK (approx. 250 €) for a group of 5 participants
+54,000 ISK (approx. € 400) for a group of 4 participants

Composition of the group: In general, participants on our trips come from several countries. We generally have French, Swiss, Scandinavians, Germans, Canadians, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese and even Icelanders. Your Icelandic guide is fluent in English and often speaks one or two other languages. Traveling with Fjallabak is also a chance to meet, exchange ideas and socialize with friendly people from other countries that otherwise you may never have known and it is therefore a unique opportunity to make friends around the world and wring the neck of certain prejudices and misconceptions.

To privatise this trip: On other dates that might suit your holiday, it may be possible to privatize this trip. Below 8 participants the price per person is increasing. Above 8 participants the price decreases. Contact us for a quotation!

Vehicle: jeep or small bus depending on the size of the group. English-speaking driver-guide. On a complete group, the guide can sometimes be assisted by an Icelandic driver.

Accommodation: Small country hotels, guesthouses and Inns in made up bed  in double-twin room or single room if you travel alone, with or without private facilities. Possibility to recharge your electrical appliances every day (220V electrical outlets European standards)

Food: Breakfast is Scandinavian-style, with muesli, breads, jams, fish and cheese. Packed lunch, with a variety of sandwich fillings, from smoked meats and fish to local cheeses and salads.
Dinners involve fresh, local fish and meat dishes, with pasta, rice or potatoes, fresh vegetables and salad. Vegetarians and those with food allergies can be fully catered for with a range of tasty options. It is essential that you inform our office of any special food requirements at the time of booking!
For usability, but no obligation, you can bring with you a little specialty of your home country to share with your companions as well as a flask of some thing for a short drink in the middle of nowhere.

Special diets, food allergies, vegetarians, vegans ...
We are aware of the dietary changes, due to exaggerated industrialization of our time and we are able to satisfy special requests, as far as possible
If you are vegetarian or if you have a particular diet, if you are allergic to certain foods, please let us know in the comments of the registration form and specify the details by email. We are used to meeting the demand of vegetarians, but vegans will have to bring from home some of their own supplements

Recommended Travel Gear

Try to go as light as possible and take only essentials. Excess baggage can be a burden to you and to our support personal. Keep in mind that there are limits on how much your duffel bag can weigh because the weight restrictions on international and domestic flights is usually 20 kg (70lbs).

For quantities or quality for each item listed, use your own judgement, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.

Luggage for overland journeys 

  • Extra bags clearly marked with your name can be kept in the Reykjavik hotel or in our store local office for pick-up at the end of the trip
  • Large duffel bag (60/80 liters) sturdy and water-resistant, not exceeding 15 kg
  • Day pack (30 to 50 liters)


You’ll need to bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold and wet weather, such as polypropylene, capilene, or pile. Wool and wool/synthetic blends are also suitable – though wool, if wet, dries slowly compared to synthetic fabrics. We discourage the use of cotton in wet conditions it dries very slowly. 

When layering, the innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or wool shirt, and pants. The outermost layer must be a breathable waterproof jacket such as a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-pants.

Clothing and travel Accessories all the year around

  • Regular underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry
  • Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
  • Synthetic thermal underwear
  • Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
  • Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
  • Wool or synthetic socks
  • Synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
  • Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
  • Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
  • Wool hat
  • Gloves (wool or pile)
  • Down jacket from September to May (optional)


  • Swimsuit and towel for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
  • Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Moisturizing lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
  • Sunglasses
  • Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
  • Half liter capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos
  • Binoculars for bird watching, seals and whales (from March to September)
  • Hiking poles. Highly recommended
  • Optional but recommended
  • Repair kit with needle, thread, and safety pins
  • Reading and writing material
  • Your favorite snack food such as raisins or chocolate
  • Protein supplements for vegetarian

Specific equipment for summer (May to September)

  • Hiking boots, medium-weight, all leather, with padded ankle, good arch support, and a lug sole traction. Your hiking boots should be waterproof, well broken in, and suitable for rocky terrain or possibly snow
  • Short gaiters easy to put on Highly recommended.
  • Hiking shorts, quick-drying synthetic fabric
  • Hiking trousers, quick-drying synthetic fabric
  • Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
  • Sun & rain hat
  • Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
  • Teva-type sandals for river crossing. Absolutely recommended!
  • Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (from August only)
  • Netting hood, head net or bug bucket hat * (optional, can be purchased in Iceland / see explanation bellow)

Specific equipment for winter (Oct. to April)

  • Canadian winter boots or warm trekking shoes
  • Cleats for snow and ice adaptable to your shoes
  • Warm synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
  • Warm fleece trousers
  • Silk socks (optional)
  • Silk gloves (specially recommended for photographers)
  • Warm waterproofed shell gloves or mitt
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries
  • Ski goggles

When lodging in Hotels and Inns (Comfort Discovery)

  • Casual elegant sportswear for evenings at the hotels
  • Moccasin type shoes or lightweight sports shoe or slipper

When lodging in hostels and huts (Rustic Discovery)

  • Hiking shoes are not allowed inside accommodation
  • Moccasin type shoes or lightweight sports shoe. But your Teva-type sandals for river crossing can also be used inside
  • Comfortable sleeping bag +5°C to +15°C / 32°F to 60°F which can be opened all the way to be used also as comforter
  • Cotton sheet for hut’s mattress
  • Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
  • Towel and flannel for toileting and shower (or high density synthetic-chamois
  • Eye shades. Highly recommended from April to July!
  • Pile/fleece pants, ideal for around the camp
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (no need from May to July included)
  • 1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger (can be bought at duty free at arrival in Iceland and in few places around the country)

Camera, tablets, smart-phones

  • Camera bag
  • Light telescopic tripod and cable release for camera (Longs exposures for Northern Lights from mid-August)
  • Replacement batteries for electrical devices
  • Additional memory card
  • Adapter for electrical plug (European standard)

*About netting hood    There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (yet), but at the beginning of summer midges swarms invade the lowlands rivers banks and lakes as Lake Mývatn “lake of midges”. With global warming midges begin to colonize now some wet areas of higher ground covered by vegetation. The outbreak periods are short but not really accurate. It is hell for the hapless hiker who found a windless day in clouds of these very angry bugs You will not regret to have brought with you, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and above a netting hood that you put on over your head rain hat or sun hat. You probably will not have to use it, but you’ll be relieved to have it just in case … and it’s not a huge investment.

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