When Do Puffins Arrive in Iceland?

Puffin Iceland

The Atlantic puffin (in Icelandic, lundi), is something of a national symbol, with many tourists and Icelanders alike flocking to bird cliffs to catch a glimpse of these brightly-coloured seabirds.

Of course, if you’re planning your trip to Iceland around seeing these birds, then it helps to know when, exactly, they’re here!

When does the puffin arrive in Iceland?

Puffins spend much of their life at sea and are actually only in Iceland for a relatively short time to breed and nest. They tend to arrive in Iceland beginning in April (usually later in the month, just before May) and generally begin to leave in August. The puffins are usually gone by September. The height of breeding- and nesting-season is from June through August.

In 2024, some of the first puffins of the year were recorded on April 11, when small groups of the black and white seabird arrived on the island of Grímsey and in Borgarfjörður eystri, in East Iceland.

Although the puffin typically begins arriving in April, most puffin tours only begin in May, to guarantee better conditions for sighting the seabird.

More about the Atlantic puffin

Unlike many other cliff-dwelling seabirds, Atlantic puffins will actually dig little holes to build their nests in. Puffins monogamously mate for life, and generally just produce one egg each breeding season. Male puffins tend to spend more time at home with the chick and organising the nest, while female puffins tend to be more involved with feeding the young. Raising their young takes around 40 days.

Until recently, it was actually unknown where, exactly, Atlantic puffins spent the rest of the year. But with modern tracking technologies, these little birds have been found to range as far south as the Mediterranean during the winter season. When puffins leave the nest, they will head off on their own without their parents, finding their own feeding and winter grounds. Over their lives, they will remember and repeat their lonely journey. They don’t always head to warmer climates in the winter, however. Icelandic puffins have been found to winter in Newfoundland and in the open sea south of Greenland.

Puffins are relatively small seabirds, averaging about 47 to 63cm [18 to 25in] in wingspan and weighing generally between 300 and 500g [10 to 17oz].

There are an estimated 8 million adult Atlantic puffins, with a majority of the world’s puffing population, around 60%, nesting in Iceland. Besides Iceland, puffins can also be found nesting in Ireland, the UK, Norway, Russia, the Faroe islands, and Greenland.

The Westman islands, an archipelago off the South Coast of Iceland, has by far the largest puffin colony in Iceland, with around 800,000 breeding pairs. Second place goes to Breiðafjörður, with around 400,000 breeding pairs. A less populated, but stunningly beautiful, bird cliff is Látrabjarg, the western-most point of Iceland.

Read more about bird watching in Iceland.

Is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland open after the eruption?

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

Update: April 11. The Blue Lagoon closed its doors again on April 10 due to gas pollution in the area, but as of April 11, it is open.

Due to its close proximity to the eruption site, the Blue Lagoon had to evacuate its guests and temporarily close down all facilities. Even though the lagoon is open, please make sure to stay updated and check the website of the facility before planning your visit.

The Sundhnúkagígar eruption is the fourth eruption since December 2023 and is, at the time of writing, still active.

Land uplift close to the lagoon

After intense seismic activity in the early morning of February 8, a volcanic eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula in the Sýlingarfell mountain area. Shortly after, the Blue Lagoon closed and evacuated all of its operational units. The spa is in Zone 1 of the hazard map for volcanic eruption by the Icelandic Met Office. Currently, land uplift continues to increase under Svartsengi. The area is in close proximity to the Blue Lagoon. Experts are predicting another eruption to occur within the next few weeks, similar to the last three months.

Please make sure to stay updated and check the website of the facility and local news outlets before planning your visit. The situation can change very fast.

Useful resources

Apart from news updates that we provide, below are some links you may find useful as you stay apprised of the situation or your visit to Iceland nears:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.

How to visit the Blue Lagoon

If you are contemplating a visit to the Blue Lagoon, there are several way to do this. A premium admission pass with bus transfer (from Reykjavík or Keflavík airport) is a popular option. Alternatively, you could combine a trip to the Blue Lagoon with a Golden Circle tour or if you are doing a self-drive, you can book a basic admission ticket.

The Blue Lagoon is located about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Keflavik International Airport and about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Reykjavik. Hence, you can reach the Blue Lagoon by car, taxi, or shuttle bus. Bear in mind that under normal circumstances this is a very popular destination, so booking in advance is recommended to secure a spot in the lagoon.

By booking travel services through Iceland Review, you are supporting independent coverage and curation of travel in Iceland. See more information on tours and trips to lagoons and hot springs in Iceland or visit our travel section for a comprehensive resource with practical information on travel in Iceland.

 

How do I pay my speeding ticket in Iceland?

South Coast driving, speeding ticket

It’s a beautiful summer day, and you’re travelling around Iceland on the ring road—life is good! Until your mind slowly starts wandering away, inspired by the wild landscapes. Suddenly, your foot gets a bit heavy on the gas pedal, and it’s too late—you’ve already been caught by a speeding camera. Many visitors and residents have been through this exact scenario.

But what should you do now that you’ve been caught speeding in Iceland? 

Hefty fines for speeding

When driving in Iceland, it is important to keep track of the varying speed limits. Generally, the speed limit on the ring road and other “highways” is 90 km/h (55 mph); on gravel roads 80 km/h (50 mph); and in populated areas, it is 50 km/h (31 mph). The limits can always vary depending on the road, season and sharp turns. Therefore, it is crucial to keep track of signage while you are driving to avoid unnecessary fines.

There are stationary speeding cameras all around the country, which are usually indicated by signage beforehand. Nevertheless, sometimes there are even hidden cameras or even police cars pulled over on the side of the road to catch naughty speeders! Read more about driving in Iceland here.

The latest trend in Iceland is automated monitoring of drivers’ average speed. In the tunnel Hvalfjarðargang, on the way from Reykjavík to Borgarnes, you can find such a system, which basically takes a photo of you when you enter the tunnel and calculates when you should come out again. If you speed and arrive earlier than calculated, you will be fined.

The fines associated with speeding can be quite hefty in Iceland. Check out this calculator by the Icelandic police, to know the exact fees. Also, note that additional fines can be imposed if you are driving a bus, other heavy vehicles over 3.5t or when towing a trailer.

Here are a few examples of fines:

  • Driving 41km/h or faster over the allowed top speed (80-90 km/hour)
    • ISK 130,000 – 150,000 (€ 864-1,000 / $ 930-1,070)
  • Driving 36km/h or faster over the allowed top speed (50-60 km/hour)
    • ISK 65,000 – 80,000 (€ 432-530 / $ 465-572)
  • Driving 26km/h or faster over the allowed top speed (30-35 km/hour)
    • ISK 40,000  (€ 266 / $ 286)

How to pay the fine

If you were speeding in a rental car, the rental company will forward your personal information upon request to the police (as required by law). Rental companies often charge an extra service fee for this procedure. If you are living in Iceland, you will be contacted directly by the police. 

The Icelandic police will then email you a speeding ticket with different payment options. You can either pay via direct bank transfer to the specified account number, online via the official traffic management website or if you are still in Iceland, at local post offices.

If you pay within a certain time period, you can expect to decrease the total amount by 25%. The same goes if you are caught by police officers on the road – if you pay the ticket on the spot, you can knock down the fine by 25%. Usually, police officers have a card reader with them on patrol, so you can just pay the fine with your credit card.

Is it safe to travel to Iceland in March 2024?

Volcanic Eruption in Reykjanes Iceland, 2023

Volcanic eruptions are notoriously hard to predict. Nevertheless, during the seven eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula within the last three years, travel to and from Iceland was never seriously impacted. Based on past evidence, there is little chance that an eruption on Reykjanes will significantly affect travel.

Previous eruptions

Many people remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, which severely disrupted air travel across Europe for several days and are consequently worried that such a disruption could happen again. One important factor for determining whether air travel will be impacted is the production of ash. The Eyjafjalljökull eruption of 2010 was what is known as an explosive eruption. Due to the volcano’s location underneath a glacier, the erupting lava comes into contact with water and produces ash plumes, which disturbed flights for six days. In contrast, the Reykjanes eruptions have all been effusive fissure eruptions, resulting in relatively calm lava flows with minimal ash and gas.

Blue lagoon may be affected

Previous eruptions have likewise not threatened Keflavík International Airport nor Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between the airport and the greater Reykjavík area. Some local tourist activities such as the Blue Lagoon may remain closed for some time, so travellers are advised to stay updated. While the first three eruptions on Reykjanes were described as “tourist-friendly,” the four eruptions since have threatened the community of Grindavík. As such, the authorities have advised the general public to stay away from these eruptions. The town of Grindavík remains evacuated and unnecessary travel near the eruption sites should be avoided.

Useful resources

At the time of writing, the most recent eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula occurred on March 16. It is currently still active, but will not affect the greater capital area.

In addition to staying up to date with our news coverage, travellers may find the following links useful:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.

How does the Icelandic healthcare system work?

Icelandic healthcare system

Iceland has a publicly funded healthcare system, which means that everyone in the country, resident or not, is entitled to emergency healthcare. However, there are some considerations for foreign travellers – depending on your own insurance, you may be required to foot a part, or even all of, the bill.

Iceland is divided into seven healthcare districts, which offer basic medical services provided by nurses, general practitioners, specialist doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Immigrants to Iceland obtain public health insurance after six months of legal residency. Generally, Iceland uses a co-payment system, so healthcare is largely paid for by taxes (84%), with the patient responsible for the remaining cost (16%).

Healthcare fees in Iceland

The fee for a visit to a general practitioner during working hours is ISK 500 [$3.66, €3.36]. Some medical treatments, such as laboratory analysis or allergy tests, do cost extra, but the total cost cannot exceed ISK 34,950 [$256, €234] for adults each month. Children, elderly and disabled people have a lower maximum monthly fee. If you frequently need medical assistance and have exceeded the maximum, the monthly fee goes down to ISK 5,825 [$42, €39]. Dentistry and psychological services such as therapy are not included in public healthcare coverage for adults in Iceland.

Holders (EU and EEA nationals) of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) who are staying temporarily in Iceland are entitled to the same fees as locals for healthcare in Iceland. Make sure to bring your EHIC card and your passport in case you seek treatment. 

How do I become president of Iceland?

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson outside the Bessastaðir Presidential Residence

Looking for a well-paid job in Iceland, which includes a spacious residence on the Álftanes peninsula and a fancy car with the exclusive number plate “1”? 

The race for the Icelandic presidency is on, and a job vacancy starting August 1, 2024, just opened up. But what are the requirements to run for president in Iceland? Read on to find out whether you’re a good fit!

Icelandic citizenship & being at least 35 years of age

If you think you need to be born in Iceland to become president, as is customary in many other countries around the world, there is good news!

Candidates are not required to be born in Iceland but must have Icelandic citizenship. For people who immigrated to Iceland, obtaining Icelandic citizenship is generally possible after living and having permanent residence here for seven years. There are multiple fast-track options to become an Icelandic citizen, like being a Nordic citizen or being married to an Icelander. You can check out all options here.

Another prerequisite is reaching the minimum age of 35 on election day, you know—life experience and all. 

Collecting a minimum of 1,500 signatures

If you fulfil these requirements above, then you can start collecting endorsements for your presidential candidacy. Luckily, this does not require collecting horrendous sums reaching millions of dollars like in the US elections. Each candidate must turn in at least 1,500 (up to 3,000) endorsements (basically signatures of support), which are proportionally divided by the number of voters in each quarter of the country. Each voter can only support one candidate.

Iceland has four voting quarters: 

  • Southern quarter: Minimum number of “signatures” is 1,233 and maximum number 2,465.
  • Western quarter: The minimum number of “signatures” is 56 and the maximum number is 112.
  • Northern quarter: Minimum number of “signatures” 157 and maximum 314.
  • Eastern quarter: The minimum number of “signatures” is 54 and the maximum number is 109.
Election Quarters Iceland
Voting Quarters in Iceland, graphic provided by Lands­kjör­stjórn (Island.is)

All of these endorsements are collected online via Island.is or old school via signatures on paper, which should include each supporter’s kennitala (Icelandic social security number) for easy verification. After the endorsements have been collected, the candidate turns in a notice of candidacy and their collection of endorsements to the National Electoral Commission.

The commission reviews each collection of endorsements after the deadline on April 26, 2024, and they announce the candidates 30 days before election day. In case there should be only one candidate, that person will be president without any election taking place.

This year, the presidential election will be held on June 1, 2024.

Read our 2018 interview with President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson here.

Does Uber exist in Iceland?

Taxi in Iceland's capital, Reykjavík

Simply, no. Uber – and also Lyft – do not exist in Iceland. But don’t worry, there are other ways to get around Reykjavík.

The Icelandic "Uber"

The closest thing to Uber in Iceland would be the relatively new taxi service by Hopp, mostly known for their electric scooters all over the capital area. Recently, Hopp also launched a new taxi service, where you can easily book a ride, get a detailed fare estimate, and track your taxi in real-time, just like with Uber or Lyft.

Taxis in Reykjavík

The most used and available option is the classic taxi service. There are several 24-hour taxi companies in Reykjavík, like Hreyfill, BSR, and Borgarbílastöðin. All taxis have official mileage meters and standard taxi fares. Please take into account that taxis can be quite pricey in Iceland. For instance, a taxi from the International Airport in Keflavík to Reykjavík (45min drive) can range from ISK 16,000-30,000 [€110-250 / $120-270]. There are special airport taxis available that offer special fares on those transfers.

The Stræto bus system

The cheapest way to get around Reykjavík and the suburbs is by bus. The bus company Stræto serves the capital area of Reykjavík and you can basically get around to most places. The fares range from ISK 315 for young people below 18 and seniors to ISK 630 for adults [€2,12-4,25 / $2,30-4,60].

To pay on the bus, you need to use the app Klappið on your phone – keep in mind that it sometimes has issues with foreign credit cards. You can also pay with cash on the bus. Make sure to give the exact amount, as the bus drivers can’t give any change. As of the moment, NFC solutions like Apple or Google Pay are not offered on the bus system. 

If you’re interested to read more about the public transport system in Iceland, check out our in-depth article here

Have all the sheep been rescued from Grindavík?

Sheep in Iceland
After it became clear that about 250 sheep were confined in Grindavík after the eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula began on Sunday, January 14, many people were concerned for the animals. On Tuesday, January 16, following two days without water and feed, all of the sheep were moved out of the town and are in safety now.

No immediate permit to rescue the animals

About 250 sheep were left behind when the eruption started. After the first evacuation of Grindavík in November following a series of earthquakes, all remaining animals were moved out of town. 

The fact that some livestock owners decided to return their animals to Grindavík in December caused public criticism, also from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority MAST. For some farmers, finding new shelter for their animals has been difficult. Sigrún Eggertsdóttir told the news outlet Vísir that she only found a temporary solution for her 30 sheep and did not have a choice but to bring the animals back to the town.

Initially, the animals left behind in a rushed evacuation just hours before the eruption were not designated a priority by officials. The Icelandic Animal Welfare Organisation started a campaign on social media, raising alarm after seeing that expensive machinery was moved out of Grindavík, but no permit for rescuing the sheep was issued. On January 16, officials finally allowed the livestock owners to enter the town and evacuate their sheep from the site of danger.

What’s going on with the January 2024 eruption in Reykjanes?

An eruption in Iceland

An eruption began at approximately 8:00 on the morning of January 14. The eruption site is much closer to the Reykjanes town of Grindavík than the previous eruption, which commenced on December 18th.

On this occasion, the town of Grindavík had been evacuated the day before, following a series of troubling seismic readings and magma caldera measurements which at that time indicated about a 50/50 chance of another eruption beginning. As such, all residents of the town are safe.

How dangerous is the volcano in Reykjanes?

While the eruption has just begun, volcanologists are already comparing it to last December’s eruption, i.e., a fissure eruption that may run its course in a relatively short span of time. The course of volcanoes are notoriously hard to predict, even after an eruption has begun, so these are only the best estimates of educated professionals. Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson told RÚV that this eruption “is about 1/3 to 1/6 the lava output of the previous eruption”, or about 50 to 100 cubic metres per second. He also pointed out that “slower” volcanoes tend to last longer.

Is Grindavík in any danger?

Unfortunately, this eruption has occurred much closer to Grindavík than the previous one, and while lava flow defense walls were dug out over the past month, the fissure has opened on both sides of those walls. At around noon the same day, a second fissure opened just metres from the town. Meanwhile, rescue workers have been building earthen walls between the lava flow and the town as fast as they are able. While these walls have kept lava from the initial eruption at bay for the time being, lava from the second eruption reached the first house in Grindavík at around 2:00 PM.

Lava ended up not only burning three homes. The town is without electricity or hot and cold water, and lava flow reportedly covered water piping to the town. Residents will need long term housing, financial support and counseling, which Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has pledged to provide.

Grindavík, which is home to some 3,600 people, is situated on the south cost of the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland. The town was in the midst of repairs from the previous eruption last December when this eruption occurred. While no lava flow reached the town at that time, there was considerable destruction done to the town in the form of crevasses which opened up throughout the town, doing damage to roads and other infrastructure.

The town has had a rough go of it, as this is the fifth such eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in just four years. It seems likely that the volcanic systems on this peninsula are entering another stage of high activity. In addition, a search that was launched last Sunday for a man who fell into a crevasse was called off due to increased safety risks of rescue workers.

Is it safe to travel to Iceland?

At the time of this writing it is still safe to fly to Iceland. The eruption does not threaten Keflavík International Airport nor Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between the airport and the greater Reykjavík area.

Some tourist and activities and centres, such as the Blue Lagoon, may be closed. One can simply visit the official sites or the social media accounts of whatever you may have had booked in the area to check. It is also advisable to check your airline as well, even though conditions at the airport are still normal.

Is it possible to visit the eruption site?

In a word, no. This eruption is not a so-called “tourist volcano”, i.e., an eruption far from any infrastructure that may be visited safely. This eruption is very close to the town of Grindavík, is still in its early stages and as such is a very dangerous area to visit. Only earth scientists, Civic Protection, the Icelandic Coast Guard, rescue workers and other relevant parties are permitted near the eruption site.

The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support, whether you live in Iceland or abroad. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.

How can I stay updated on the eruption in Reykjanes?

Apart from news updates that we provide, below are some links you may find useful as you stay apprised of the situation or your visit to Iceland nears:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.

What will change in Iceland in 2024?

New Year's Eve Fireworks in Reykjavík, 2017.

A new year and a new beginning, so they say. 2024 comes with many changes to public price structures all over Iceland, a historic milestone in the population size and also some restructuring in leadership within the country. Here’s all you need to know about the upcoming changes in 2024 in Iceland.

Iceland’s population will reach 400,000 & election of new president

It is predicted that within the first six months of 2024, Iceland’s population will surpass 400,000 people. Currently, the population is only 1,000 people away from that mark. According to Statistics Iceland, the growth has been more rapid than expected as reaching a population of 400,000 was initially predicted in the year 2050.

Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has announced that he will not run for president again, stepping down after two terms (8 years) in office. A new president will be elected in June. Currently, no one has announced their candidacy in the upcoming election.

The mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson has also announced that he will step down from his position on January 16. He was Reykjavík’s mayor for the last ten years. Progressive Party Leader Einar Þorsteinsson will take over as mayor until the next election in 2026.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Pool prices and garbage disposal fees hike

Municipalities in Iceland have announced higher prices for trash collection, as a new system for sorting refuse is being implemented in the capital area. The biggest increase is in Reykjavík, where the price for two bins goes from ISK 52,600 [$389, €350] to ISK 73,500 [$544, €489]. The highest fee remains in the more affluent neighbouring municipality of Seltjarnarnes and amounts to ISK 75,000 [$555, €499]. From January 10, it also won’t be possible to collect disposable paper bags for the biodegradable trash free of charge from the supermarkets anymore. They can be picked up at the recycling centre Sorpa or the second-hand furniture store Góði hirðirinn instead and are still free of charge there.

In Reykjavík, the prices for trips to the swimming pool, museum tickets and petting zoo admissions in Laugardalur have also gone up. A single adult ticket to a public pool increased by 6 per cent and will now cost ISK 1,330 [$10, €9]. Yearly tickets go up by 5.5 per cent, while prices for towel and swimming trunk rentals also rise. 

A hike in bus fare prices for the public transport company Strætó has also been announced. Stræto operates the city buses in the Reykjavík capital region. They will rise by an average of 11 per cent with a single ticket now costing ISK 630  [$4.60, €4.20] from ISK 570 [$4.20, €3.80]. The increase has been justified by citing higher fuel prices. The buses outside the capital area are not affected by those changes.

Úlfarsárdalur swimming pool Dagur B. Eggertsson mayor

Tax rates on substances & electric vehicles increase

Municipalities have also upped the fees for some of the services they offer, while the 2024 budget, recently approved by Alþingi, heralds new taxes and adjustments to the existing ones. Tax rates on alcohol and tobacco go up by 3.5 per cent, Morgunblaðið reports. As does the licensing fee for public broadcasting and the gasoline tax. 

The litre will cost an extra ISK 4.20 [$0.03, €0.03], while the litre of diesel goes up by ISK 3.70 [$0.03, €0.02]. The vehicle tax on lighter automobiles rises by 30 per cent as well, while owners of electric cars will need to pay a new fee per kilometre, which for the average driver will amount to ISK 90,000 [$666, €599] per year. 

Owners of hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles will now need to keep track of the mileage of their vehicles and register them on island.is in the beginning of 2024. This procedure must be repeated once a year. The Icelandic government decided to implement this change due to a stark decrease in the state’s revenue from vehicles since 2018 and the ongoing need for the development of road infrastructure. The kilometre fee will be paid monthly. People concerned by this change can visit the government-run website Vegir okkar allra to find out more about this change.

Keflavík Airport
Keflavík Airport

EU travel fee not coming into effect until 2025

The by the EU announced ETIAS waiver program that was initially announced to come into effect in 2024 has been postponed to 2025. So travellers from outside of the EU are not facing registration fees of $7.70 / €7.00 just yet. ETIAS travel authorisation is an entry requirement for visa-exempt travellers who are visiting one of the thirty participating European countries. The entry requirement is valid for up to 90 days in any 180 days. Travellers intending to visit Iceland will also need an ETIAS travel authorisation to enter Iceland from 2025 on. This system will not replace visa requirements for citizens who currently require a visa to visit any EU country, like travellers from China, India and South Africa. 

A central database which will track non-EU residents when entering any EU country called the Entry/Exit system, will presumably come into force in the second half of 2024.