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Winter Iceland - Orcas, Eagles and Auroras

A short-break to Iceland, featuring Birds, marine mammals, geology and the Aurora Borealis.

2025 Dates
  • 27 Feb - 02 Mar 2025
Duration4 Days
2025 Price
£2295 pp
£160 single supplement. Deposit £500

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

Max Group Size12
More Info

Heatherlea leader: Andy Jones, joined by another from the Heatherlea team with more than 7 clients.

Travellers on our popular summer trips to Iceland often ask the question: 'What's it like here in winter? Well, there's a chance to find out on this short break to a truly spectacular part of the world. Our base is on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in west Iceland and we'll explore the incredible winter landscapes of this area. The region's wildlife complements the rugged scenery and we have a very good chance of finding Orcas, both from the land and on a boat trip, White-tailed Eagles patrolling the coastline, Gyrfalcons looking for their Ptarmigan prey and Harlequin Ducks at home in the rough seas. We'll also get to see both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Snow Buntings and, wherever we travel, there's a chance of encountering Arctic Fox.

At this time of year clear nights frequently let us see some simply awe-inspiring displays of the northern lights -- a magical atmospheric phenomenon and high on the wish list for many of our travellers. We'll also have some great opportunities to enjoy the amazing volcanic geology of Iceland by visiting lava fields and craters and learn about the tectonic forces which shaped, and are still shaping, this wonderful landscape.

The tour is led by Andy Jones, a highly experienced naturalist and guide in Iceland who has led trips for Heatherlea for many years.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1:
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly to Keflavík airport and start our three hour journey to Snæfellsnes. Have your binoculars handy as we will make some birdwatching stops on the way and will no doubt encounter our first Glaucous and Iceland Gulls as we travel. We look for White-tailed Eagles not far from where we stay and, wherever we travel, there's a chance of encountering an Arctic Fox. Dinner is at the hotel and if conditions allow we'll hope for a display of the northern lights during the night.

Day 2:

We plan on travelling to the southern and western parts of Snæfellsnes today. Orcas are often seen close inshore at this time of year and we will search the coastline and see what we can find. The landscape is dominated by the bulk of the ice-covered volcano of Snæfellsjökull and in the lava fields we’ve a good chance of finding Ptarmigan and perhaps Gyrfalcon, too. The incredible landscape provides a wonderful backdrop for the wildlife and we hope for White-tailed Eagles patrolling the shore. We plan to take a boat trip and will be looking for Orcas and White-beaked Dolphins at close range. After dinner we’ll again be ready for an aurora.

Day 3:
It’s northern and eastern Snæfellsnes today. Again, we’re on the lookout for Orca offshore and we’ll spend time in areas frequented by White-tailed Eagle, Ptarmigan and Gyrfalcon. We will visit several harbours and develop our gull identification skills as we sort out Glaucous and Iceland Gulls with perhaps a chance of Ivory Gull, too. Harlequin Duck spend their winters on the coast, and we expect to find some surfing in the waves offshore and there's always a chance of a King Eider amongst the large flocks of Common Eider as well. The geology of Iceland is not forgotten, and we’ll explore more lava fields and craters as we learn more about the volcanoes that shaped Iceland. Again, there’s a possibility of seeing the northern lights in the evening.

Day 4:
We head south this morning on our return journey to Keflavík. We make several birding stops on the way and hope to encounter some of the large flocks of Snow Bunting which congregate at this time of year with sometimes an overwintering Merlin in pursuit. We’ll make a quick visit to Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík. On our way to the airport we'll see some evidence of the recent eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Flights leave in the middle of the afternoon bringing this splendid short break to a close.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

More Holiday Information:

Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel or guest house with all rooms en suite,
Food Breakfast is surprisingly good given the limited availability of local produce. Cereals, Cold meats and cheese are usually offered, with ample bread and preserves. Fruit juice and tea or coffee are also usually available. Evening meals are generally local dishes, which are good but often quite simple. Chicken, fish and very lean lamb are common. Picnic lunches are included.
Walking is not strenuous. Leisurely walking, very occasionally over moderately rough terrain, is the only physical requirement.
Weather We hope for beautiful, cold, clear arctic conditions, but be prepared for wind, snow, sleet or rain! We will be spending time on windswept coasts; it is therefore vital to have suitable clothing and equipment. The temperature can change quickly, so layered clothing is recommended.
Insects biting insects are not expected.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Your Leader:

Andy Jones is well-known to many Heatherlea clients as 'The Iceland Naturalist'. Based in Iceland for more than 20 years, he has led numerous wildlife holidays and educational field trips here and is a very experienced wildlife guide. Previously Andy was a warden on Skomer Island, a ranger with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the RSPB's senior investigations officer and a Wildlife Trust director. He studied geology and is an enthusiastic field naturalist.

What's included in your holiday price:

* scheduled return flights between London and Keflavik, airport taxes,
* ground transportation as outlined including all transportation in Iceland in winterized 4x4 vehicle,
* accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
* the services of your leader.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions.

What's not included in your holiday price:

* personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, optional tips, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.                   

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Iceland

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248