Wildlife in Iceland

It is called “The Saga Island”, and for good reasons.

Whale tail | Credit: Genna Roland / Hurtigruten

For a small island, Iceland sure has a lot to offer to those who come to visit. It is a world of contrasts. A world of fire and ice, hot springs and frozen waters, white mountaintops and black beaches, with a cool climate but with warm and friendly people.

It is called “The Saga Island”, and for good reasons. Because of its geographic location on top of two tectonic plates moving away from each other, the geology of Iceland is unique. At certain locations water spurts several meters from the ground up in the air. There are natural pools of steaming hot water outside in the middle of winter, and smoke and even lava erupts through solid rock. It absolutely is a fairy-tale world, and now you have the chance to explore that world and experience the magic first-hand.

The diversity in geology is much more visible from sea. Much of the wildlife lives along the coast, and in addition to visiting the obvious highlights of the island, Hurtigruten uses small expedition boats to go ashore on places that are unreachable from land. With an abundance of wildlife, here are four main creatures you might encounter:

Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox | Credit: Andrea Klaussner / Hurtigruten

The Arctic fox can be found throughout Iceland. It was the only mammal on the island before the Vikings settled here over 1000 years ago. The thick fur both protects and serves as camouflage, as it is white in snowy conditions during winter, and brown and light grey in the summer.


Humpback whale, Iceland | Credit: Hurtigruten

On a Hurtigruten expedition cruise, guests may encounter whales while sitting on the deck or even from a kayak for a really close encounter. For the most part, they feed on krill, and they can eat constantly for four to six months to build up fat reserves for the breeding season. Species like humpback, killer minke, blue and fin whales are most common in the Icelandic waters.

Icelandic Horse

Icelandic horses - Grimsey, Iceland | Credit: Camille Seaman / Hurtigruten

The Icelandic horse is developed and bred locally. It has few diseases and Icelandic law prohibits other horses to be imported to the country to keep the breed protected. The horse was developed from ponies and brought to Iceland by Viking settlers in the 9th and the 10th centuries.


Puffin - Látrabjarg, Iceland | Credit: Genna Roland / Hurtigruten

In addition to the bird species native to Iceland, several species of migrating birds pass through Iceland due to its location in the North Atlantic between North America and Europe. This makes Iceland a great place for birdwatching. Although you might see species like Arctic Terns, Great Skuas, Harlequin ducks and Golden Plovers, the puffin is arguably Iceland’s most iconic. Approximately 60% of the world’s population (between 8 – 10 million) of Atlantic puffins live here.

Discovering Iceland from a ship is great, no matter if you are visiting Iceland for the very first time, or if you just can’t get enough of it. With Hurtigruten’s New Year Global Expedition Sale, enjoy savings of up to $1,000 per cabin on select Iceland itineraries.

Explore here, hurtigruten.com.au/offers/new-year-expedition-sale-iceland/

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