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Iceland Photography Tour - Birds of the Arctic

Iceland, Europe

Greg Downing
Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Photography Tour with Greg Downing and Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
8 people maximum
10 days
During a new Iceland photography tour, enjoy an itinerary mainly focused on Arctic bird photography including 5 nights on a tiny Island in the Arctic Circle!

Trip Highlights

  • Main focus on Arctic bird photography with a great variety of nesting Arctic species and the opportunity to see other vagrants.
  • Spend 5 nights on a tiny Island in the Arctic Circle - just teeming with puffins and other seabirds and timed for bringing in fish to young.
  • Photograph the best of Iceland’s birds with incredible landscapes to see at every turn.
  • Days are scheduled to avoid crowds - Island is exclusive.
  • Flexible daily schedule to visit amazing locations during the best light. 
  • The best leaders in the industry by far - it can make or break a trip.


Main Trip, 8 people maximum

  • July 11–21, 2023 (5 openings)
  • July 23–August 2, 2023 (6 openings)

Cost Per Person (USD)

Price from $10,995
Full details

Want to talk first?

Call 1-888-667-0559 or 410-239-8025, Monday–Friday, 8:30 AM–4:30 PM Eastern Time. You can also send an email to editors@naturescapes.net.

Atlantic Puffin © Greg Downing

Featuring a wealth and wide variety of incredible photography opportunities, Northern Iceland is one of the best places on Earth to photograph cliff-dwelling birds such as colorful and comedic Atlantic puffins, razorbills, murres, fulmars, and many other seabirds.

Staying on a tiny island we will be right on the Arctic Circle, spending time searching for and photographing nesting Arctic species and vagrants. As your group works west and northward from your starting point in Reykjavík, you will marvel at the beautiful sights at every turn. Our Iceland photography tour shows you the best of Iceland’s birds with other marvelous sights along the way.

Join Us for a Remarkable Itinerary You Won’t Find Elsewhere!

Featuring 5 Nights on a tiny Island in the Arctic Circle

While the highlight of this trip is surely the tiny island at the Arctic Circle Island, we will spend 2 -1/2 days working our way west and then north so you won’t feel as though you are missing out on anything or rushing. We'll base for two nights in Reykjavik and explore some secret spots in this area before we start our journey north, first to Akureyri, and then on to the Island - the highlight of the trip.

It would be a lot of effort to travel all that way and not spend any time photographing some of the birds and locations of Iceland’s mainland - that makes it well-rounded trip with the primary focus on birds. As far as other puffin colonies there is little point in visiting them as none hold a candle to where we are going - not even close.

An Unforgettable Iceland Photography Tour Arranged by Light

During this time of year in Iceland it never gets truly dark, thus we will have 21–22 hours of daylight which means many potential hours of sweet light! Your days will be scheduled to avoid crowds and take advantage of amazing locations during the best light, often shooting late into the night after dinner or even before breakfast. Then we will balance our down time with the remaining hours of daylight.  

Travel with the Best Leaders to Iceland’s Top Bird Locations

An Iceland photography tour focused on birds wouldn’t be complete without world-class leaders by your side helping you locate species. This exciting adventure will be led by NatureScapes Founder and photographer Greg Downing, and lifelong Iceland resident, ornithologist, and photographer Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson. There is not a better team to lead you and make the most of the photographic opportunities in the area.

“(The) Island was wonderful. To have all those birds just seconds from the front door was a big plus.”

Dawn O.

Razorbill © Alan Murphy


Day 1
Arrival in Iceland - Reykjavík

On the first day of your Iceland photography tour, you will arrive at Keflavík International Airport and transfer to your hotel in Reykjavík. After getting settled in you may opt for a self-guided city tour or a visit to the harbor, which is just steps away from our base hotel. It’s very safe to walk around Reykjavík, exploring at your leisure with or without a camera and small lens. Since your flights are overnight you may experience a little jet lag so you’re also welcome to just relax at the hotel and energize yourself for the rest of the morning.

In the late afternoon we will meet up with the group, gather our gear and drive 1hr SW to a special spot to photograph red-throated loons getting a quick dinner on the way home.  On a good year we have had up to 20 loons in one small pond! Other possible species include nesting Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Golden Plover, Common Snipe, Arctic Scua and more.

Note: Those arriving early may opt for an early arrival request with the hotel or we can also facilitate any early arrival simply for the cost of the additional hotel night. Please inquire with us regarding specific early arrival recommendations. We also highly recommend arriving a full day early, particularly if you're coming from the west coast of the US, to combat jetlag or do anything extra on your own like visit the volcano, the city etc. (any of which we can arrange). 

Overnight at hotel in Reykjavík. (D)

Day 2
Reykjavík and surrounding areas

After a good-night's sleep and hearty breakfast we will depart in search of more avian subjects and sights we know along the way. We'll be checking our various locations for Arctic Terns, Eurasian Oystercatchers, Golden Plovers and other species. We will have lunch en-route and, depending on weather, we may head back to the reserve where we photographed the previous evening. We'll return for late dinner or dinner enroute, depending on the timing and what we find. Staying flexible is key to making the most of our time and the often rapidly changing weather conditions. 

Overnight at hotel in Reykjavik. (B,L,D)

Black-tailed Godwit © Alan Murphy

Day 3
Enroute to Akureyri, Husavik

After some photography on our own in the early morning we have breakfast at the hotel and then begin our drive toward Akureyri, “the capital of the North”. On the way we will visit some spectacular sites, including possibly the north side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and/or Husavik in the extreme North. We hope to have a chance to photograph birds like Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Horned Grebe, and more. We'll plan to have lunch enroute and arrive at our hotel for a late dinner. After dinner we can explore the quaint town of Akureyri on foot or rest up for our ferry ride to the island of Grimsey the following morning.

Overnight at a hotel near Akureyri. (B,L,D)

Day 4
Akureyri - to Grimsey Island and the Arctic Circle

You will leave Akureyri early to catch the 9:00 AM ferry to Grimsey Island, where we will arrive around noon. After a great lunch at the only restaurant on the island, close to the harbor, we will begin to explore the island and all it has to offer. You will be awe inspired and excited that we can slow down the pace and fully explore this island and take advantage of every opportunity. In previous years we have done everything from in-your-face puffin and razorbill flight shots to set ups (a-la-Alan Murphy) for nesting snow bunting, meadow pipit, golden-plover, arctic terns, phalarope and more!

We will have free rein of this amazing location, which will be ample time to get great shots of puffins and basically all the other species that inhabit this unique island along the Arctic Circle. While we will have transport for you and your gear between the main photography locations on the southern and northern tip of the island, if you do not want to walk far, there are puffins literally right outside our front door 24-7. You will truly be in awe with the opportunities here!

Overnight at a private guesthouse on Island where we base for the next 5 nights. (B,LD, shared bath facilities and self serve laundry at our modern clean and spacious guesthouse)

Atlantic Puffin Flying in Iceland © Greg Downing

Days 5-8
Island in the Arctic Circle

The Island we will be visiting is a small location bisected by the Arctic Circle, and is the finest location in Iceland for photographing Atlantic puffins and other seabirds, especially in flight as they soar near their nesting cliffs.

There are tens of thousands of puffins on the island and, at times, the grass slopes are filled with them. It’s also a great place to photograph razorbill, arctic terns, breeding common and thick-billed murre, black guillemot, black-legged kittiwake, and northern fulmar. You can also expect to see and photograph, red-necked phalarope, ringed and European golden plover, purple sandpiper, common redshank and snow bunting among others.

The Island also offers unique opportunities for landscape photography, featuring structural basalt columns and rock formations.

Overnight at a private guesthouse on Island. (B,L,D)

Day 9
Remote Island and Akureyri

After a full morning of photography on our remote island getting our last shot, we will leave the Island in the afternoon and overnight in the town of Akureyri arriving in time for a late dinner. 

Overnight at a hotel in Akureyri. (B,L,D)

Day 10
Drive Back to Reykjavík

On the final day of your Iceland photography tour, you will make the drive back to Reykjavík while stopping at some nice photo opportunities en route looking for Icelandic horses, birds and even a few landscapes. After getting settled back into our Reykjavik hotel you will enjoy a 3-course farewell dinner with your group before heading out the next morning. 

Overnight at hotel in Reykjavík. (D)

Day 11
Departure from Iceland

This morning you will enjoy breakfast at your hotel before transferring for your flight home. If you would like, you may opt to spend extra days in Iceland on your own or set up a custom extension arranged by us. 

Depart hotel in Reykjavík.

Atlantic Puffin © Alan Murphy


  • Lodging throughout 10 nights (double occupancy)
  • All transfers to and from airport and hotels
  • Professional driver/photo/nature guide
  • Private transportation throughout in a comfortable 4WD bus with room for all of our luggage and gear
  • Ferry transport to and from the Island
  • Entrance fees for all described activities
  • Taxes on all services listed above
  • All meals and non alcoholic drinks throughout, starting with dinner on the first day and ending with breakfast the day of departure, depending on departure time. 

Does Not Include

  • Airfare to/from Keflavík International Airport (KEF)
  • Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and snacks between scheduled meals, etc.
  • Gratuities for driver/guide, guesthouse and restaurant on Grimsey which we will collect and distribute as a group. 

Atlantic Puffin © Alan Murphy

Dates and Cost


Main Trip, 8 people maximum

  • July 11–21, 2023 (5 openings)
  • July 23–August 2, 2023 (6 openings)

Cost Per Person (USD)

  • Trip: $10,995
  • Deposit: $1,000
  • Single Supplement: $1,500

Trip Details


Main Trip, 8 people maximum

  • July 11–21, 2023 (5 openings)
  • July 23–August 2, 2023 (6 openings)

Cost Per Person (USD)

  • Trip: $10,995
  • Deposit: $1,000
  • Single Supplement: $1,500

Single Supplements

Single supplement fees reflect our actual cost and are subject to availability. If you're a single traveler and we're unable to place you with a roommate, we will need to place you in a single room and charge a single supplement.

Travel Ratings

Moderate Activity - some walking is involved but nothing strenuous. On the island we have a vehicle to get to the farther areas but much of what we are looking for is right outside our door or within walking distance.
Intermediate Photographers
Based on Land, Ferry to/from Island
Non-Photographers: Yes, Limited, $500 Discount


Leaders and Guides

Greg Downing

Greg has been traveling the world teaching professional and amateur photographers for more than 15 years hosting his instructional workshops and...Continue reading

Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson

Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson, is a leading authority on the birds of Iceland and one of the country’s most experienced bird photographers. He has written...Continue reading

Photo Gallery

Iceland photography tour © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin and flowers © Greg Downing
Common redshank © Greg Downing
Arctic tern, Iceland © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin flying © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin in flight © Greg Downing
Oystercatcher © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin portrait © Greg Downing
Skua flying © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Razorbill group © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Northern fulmar © Greg Downing
Razorbill perched © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Pink-footed goose © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Atlantic puffin flying with fish © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Red-phalarope © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Semi-palmated plover © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin closeup © Greg Downing
Atlantic puffin on cliff © Greg Downing
Icelandic horse pair © Greg Downing
Icelandic horses in Iceland © Greg Downing
Horned grebe pair © Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson
Arctic Tern Iceland ©Greg Downing


To register for this trip fill out and submit your registration form. A non-refundable deposit (above) is required to reserve your spot. See the About Our Trips page for cancellation/refund policies and other important information.

Want to talk first?

Call 1-888-667-0559 or 410-239-8025, Monday–Friday, 8:30 AM–4:30 PM Eastern Time. You can also send an email to editors@naturescapes.net.

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