NEW! South-East Iceland - birding, volcanoes and glaciers

A gentle tour of geology and birdlife in SE Iceland

2021 Dates
  • 22 May - 29 May 2021
Duration8 Days
2021 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size12


Full details by the end of July 2020. If you wish to register an interest by email, we will inform you when the page is complete. 

A wonderful week’s holiday exploring the southern and south eastern parts of Iceland, including a visit by ferry to the Westman Islands. Great birding includes the world’s largest Puffin colony, Great Skuas, and Icelandic specialities, Harlequin and Barrow’s Goldeneye. There’s always a chance of a Gyrfalcon or two and Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting, Red-necked Phalarope, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver are some of highlights as we target all available waders, wildfowl and ducks. We also be looking out for whales and dolphins, both from the shore and as we cross to the Westman Islands. We expect to record around 60 different bird species.

Geology will be a major feature of the holiday, and we feature hot springs, waterfalls, volcanoes and glaciers, just some of the attractions being the famous geyser at Geysir, the magnificent waterfall at Gullfoss, and the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón, where icebergs from the huge ice-cap of Vatnajökull fill the glacial lake. On the Westman islands, we visit the town where a major eruption occured in the 1970's, and look across the ocean towards Surtsey, one of the world's most recently formed islands. There are huge bird colonies here, and our RIB boat trip takes us close to some of the largest seabird colonies in the world.  Our journey takes us across stunning landscapes; fjords, cliffs, coastal lagoons, mountains, glaciers, and the black-sand beaches of Iceland's wild and awe-inspiring southern regions.

This is a relaxing holiday, with most birdlife and geological features readily available, though a little walking is required to reach some places. We stay throughout in good quality tourist class hotels with private facilities.

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: Sat 22 May 2021                                           ARRIVAL                             After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from London to Iceland, and transfer to our hotel located in lovely countryside in south Iceland with a great introduction to some of Iceland’s breeding waders on the way. Overnight Hótel Hekla.

DAY 2: Sun 23 May          HARLEQUIN AND BARROW’S GOLDENEYE           We explore the rivers near Hekla looking for Harlequin and Red-necked phalarope, and learn more about the volcanoes and geology of this part of Iceland. We also search in the national park at Þingvellir for Barrow’s Goldeneye and expect to see both Red-throated and Great Northern Diver on our travels. No visit to this part of Iceland is complete without a visit to the geyser at Geysir and the magnificent waterfall at Gullfoss so we’ll end the day with a visit to these sites. Overnight Hótel Hekla.

DAY 3: Mon 24 May                                 THE WESTMAN ISLANDS​​​​​​​                   We take the morning ferry to the Westman Islands, watching out for whales, dolphins and seabirds on the way. The crossing takes just 35 minutes and we’ll no doubt see our first Puffins as we travel. Our exploration of the main island Heimaey will also include a visit to the volcano that erupted here in 1973 and way offshore we’ll see the island of Surtsey, that grew out of a submarine eruption in 1963. We’ll get the best views of the seabird colonies from the sea and take a boat trip using a RIB to see Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill on the cliffs, the Puffin colonies, Great and Arctic Skua, and perhaps Manx Shearwater and Storm Petrel, too. This trip is, of course, strictly weather dependant. Our ferry to the mainland departs in the late afternoon and we then drive to our next base near Kirkjubæraklaustur passing the notorious volcano of Eyjafjallajökull, enjoying the magnificent scenery of this part of Iceland. Overnight Hótel Núpar.

Today we explore the areas near Kirkjubæraklaustur which have been so deeply affected by volcanic eruptions in the past. We’ll learn about the enormous eruption of Laki in 1783 which so dramatically altered the landscape of this area. The pools and marshes are now home to large numbers of breeding waders including: Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Red-necked Phalarope and Golden Plover. Photographers will be delighted! We should also see Merlin in this area with a chance of Gyrfalcon, too. The landscapes of this region are dramatic so we’ll take time to explore some canyons and gorges and learn more about the ice-caps and glaciers of this part of Iceland. Overnight Hótel Núpar.


DAY 5: Wed 26 May                                  GREAT SKUAS AND ICEBERGS​​​​​​​     Our journey to the SE corner of Iceland continues to the cape of Ingólfshöfði to see more Puffins and Great Skuas. The sand flats and marshes mean we’ll need a tractor to get there so be prepared to travel on a trailer pulled by a powerful machine. There’s a lot of history in this area and we’ll learn of Iceland’s first settlers and the problems they encountered. There’s always a chance of some cetaceans offshore and the views of auks and skuas are magnificent. Afterwards we continue our journey eastwards and visit one of Icelands most surreal locations — the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Icebergs from the huge ice-cap of Vatnajökull fill the glacial lake and we should also encounter Common Seals, Common Eider and Barnacle Goose in the lagoon. It really is an amazing site. The day ends as we travel towards the settlement at Höfn to spend the next two nights. Overnight Fosshótel Vatnajökull.


DAY 6: Thurs 27 May                                            SOUTH EAST ICELAND         A relaxed day exploring this wonderful corner of Iceland. We’ll begin the day looking for Snow Bunting near Höfn before travelling towards Djúpivogur to experience the fjord landscapes of this part of Iceland. There’s great birding here and in addition to the old favourites we expect to find some large groups of summering non-breeding Whooper Swans as well as enormous flocks of Common Eider. We’ll be looking out for Gyrfalcon and Ptarmigan as we travel, as both occur in this area. Few different species of passerines breed in Iceland but we’ll get great views of Redwing, White Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Snow Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Raven. Our return to Höfn takes us across stunning landscapes — fjords, cliffs, coastal lagoons, mountains and glaciers. Overnight Fosshótel Vatnajökull.


DAY 7: Fri 28 May                         HEADING WEST​​​​​​​                                              It’s a travelling day as we retrace our route back along Iceland’s southern coast. We’ll no doubt choose to stop at the glacial lagoon again,  and will punctuate our journey with some birding stops as we travel. We visit the Skaftafell national park to see if we can locate the Icelandic race of Winter Wren, which breeds in the area. It will also be a day of waterfalls and glaciers, which so dominate the landscapes of this part of Iceland. We’ll end our day where we started the trip at Hótel Hekla

There’s time for a quick visit to Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík before heading to the airport for our return flight.

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).

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.

* accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.

* boat trips and entrance fees as specified

* 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. Read more...

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'.

More holiday information:

* Accommodation is in a comfortable hotels/guest houses with all rooms en suite,
* Food Breakfast is surprisingly good given the limited availability of local produce. 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, though a reasonable level of fitness is required for those who wish to do everything offered. Leisurely walking, very occasionally over moderately rough terrain, is the main physical requirement.
* Weather Be prepared for wet weather, but also possibly warm conditions. 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. Average temperatures in May around 9c.
* Insects biting insects are possible in a few places. Please bring a good insect repellent.
* 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: Famously known as 'The Iceland Naturalist', Andy has been leading Heatherlea tours here for many years. His comprehensive knowledge of Iceland's natural history and geology is very highly regarded, and makes him the ideal Leader for this holiday.

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: 01479 821248