Monday 20 November 2023

Iceland - May 2023 - Logistics and Itinerary

As I write this in November 2023 Iceland is in the headlines again due to volcanic activity. The whole village of Grindavik in the extreme south-west has been evactuated and huge rifts have appeared in the ground. Grindavik is on the same peninsula as Iceland's major airport, Keflavik. Who knows what will happen, these things are measured in centuries, but imagine if that area of the country simply became too dangerous. Hopefully not next year as I've already booked again. 

Mick and I visited last May for a weekend. Birding and photography, as is always the case. We faced frankly terrible weather, with one patch of clear sky out to the west one day. The rest of the time it remained incredibly murky, with rain, snow, wind and hail. Typical Icelandic weather in other words and you can't legislate for it. Ditto volcanic eruptions. Let's see.


  • A long weekend in mid May leaving early on Saturday morning and returning on Monday mid morning. This meant we had just a day and a half really, what could we see and where could we go.
  • Flights were on British Airways from Heathrow to Keflavik, bought during one of their frequent sales, and booked with a car to turn it into a holiday and thus defer payment until shortly before departure.
  • We had some kind of miniscule Dacia 4x4, and the BA holidays booking meant the insurance was fully comprehensive and we didn't get stung for lava insurance and all the other add-ons that are peculiar to iceland.
  • Accomodation was a basic but functional self-catering lodge akin to a self-service youth hostel near Borgarnes called Hestaland. Clean and warm.
  • We birded where the weather would allow us to, spending most of our time around Reykjavik on day one, and then on the Snaefellsnes Pensinula on day two as it was the only place where it wasn't raining.
  • There were a couple of rarities that kept us interested - one, a White-winged Scoter (Deglandii) we saw, the other, a Black-winged Stilt, we dipped repeatedly.
  • We basically ate junk food all weekend, but there was an excellent café called Hja Goou Folki on Route 54 as we drove towards the bird colonies around Arnarstapi and Hellnar, and the N1 service station at Borgarnes also helped keep us alive.


  • Day 1 - concentrated on the water bodies around Alftanes - in particular Breidoabolsstaotjorn. Bessastadatjorn and Bakkatjorn. We also spent time to the north-east of Reykjavik not seeing the Black-winged Stilt before driving up to our accomodation at Hestaland.
  • Day 2 - We birded some of our favourite roads to the west of Borganes, the 533 and the 540, both of which are extensive loops. The weather was rather against us however and these were significantly less productive than we had hoped. At around lunchtime we gave up, and looking at the local weather map determined that the only place we could realistically go was the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We spent most of the time simply admiring the landscape, but there were nonetheless birds, including some seabird colonies at the western end. We also visited some woodland near Stykkisholmur, as well as the headland there.
  • Day 3 - We left early to get closer to the airport, and birded to the west of the runway, mostly around Sandgeroi to top up the trip list, but surprised ourselves with Manx Shearwater before we had to leave.

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