Iceland is a beautiful country known for its mesmerizing landscapes but those will not be the only incredible things you will see when visiting! The wildlife in the island is quite diverse and Iceland is the perfect territory to observe stunning creatures in their natural habitat. We listed for you the most famous animals you could get the chance to see on the land of Ice and Fire.
Iceland is known for being the European capital of whale watching because of the multitude of types of whales you get the chance to observe here. There are up to 23 species in the Icelandic waters, from blue whales, orcas, white-beaked dolphins to belugas or harbor porpoises, you might see them all! Due to the cold waters meeting the warm waters in the coastline, the island is the perfect place for them to hunt, particularly in summer. There are many spots where you can do whale watching tours. If you wish to have more information, check our article about Whales in Iceland!
Iceland also is the home for seals throughout the year. There are mainly two types of seals you can observe here: harbour seals and grey seals. You can spot them in different places nearby the ocean but the best moment to see them is within 2h of low tide. Surprisingly, you can spot them in Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, hunting and playing around passing from the ocean to the lagoon, surfing on the waves and currents. You can check our article about the Seals in Iceland if you are eager for more knowledge.
The only predator you will find in the whole island is a tiny wolf-alike animal extremely cute that you can mostly see in the Westfjords. Also called white, polar or snow fox, the Arctic Fox is the only land animal being native from Iceland and not imported by settlers. They have survived through the last Ice Age and stayed here once the thick glacial ice receded. There are two types of Arctic fox: the white arctic fox, that will change color for camouflage from white in winter to brown in summer, and the blue arctic fox, who is keeping his brown fur year round. The best place to observe them is in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, in the North of the Westfjords, where they are protected, hence, they thrive here. Discover more details in our article about the Arctic Fox in Iceland.
This beautiful creature that tends to make you think of winter and Christmas, can be found also in Iceland. Present in the Eastern part of the country, also called Reindeerland, it is only in this part of the island that you might get the unique chance to see wild reindeer roaming around. They are not an endemic species, they have been brought over from Norway in the 18th century but it took several attempts to make the herding sustainable due to the tough weather conditions and the limited amount of food supply on land. Somehow, the breed managed to adapt and nowadays, there are up to 7000 reindeers in Iceland.
Those little clumsy birds can be seen only during the summer time in Iceland, usually from May to August, June and July being the best months to spot them in many places across the country such as at Latrabjarg cliff in the Westfjords, Dyrholaey in the South or in the Vestmann islands. Actually, Iceland is the World’s capital of Puffins watching as 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffins are coming to Iceland for their breeding which equates to about 8 to 10 million of Puffins each year. You can check our article about the Puffin season for more info.
The Icelandic sheep are very important in the Icelandic culture being a source of food and warmth. During the summer you can see them freely roaming around the whole country, crossing roads (watch out when driving here in summer). They are not endemic from Iceland, they have been brought by the Norsemen from Norway when they settled in Iceland. They are very precious to Icelanders and every year, in September, Réttir or the annual round-up is taking place across the whole country, you can check our article for more details about this tradition!
In Icelandic we call them kría but in English they are known as Arctic tern. Those black headed birds have quite some reputation in Iceland. You can observe them all over the country and particularly in summer. However, we warn you as they are very protective birds and as they make their eggs right next to roads, during the summer time, it can be dangerous to cross some paths by walking. They won’t hesitate to dive aggressively to your head during their nesting season to let you know you are not welcomed in their territory. Funny enough, do not worry, most of the time there are signals indicating nested areas: better avoiding them during this season.
The Icelandic horses are a very unique breed descending from the Norse horses. They have unique features such as being fluffy, sturdy and short. They are rarely more than 1.5 metres tall. However, you should not compare them to ponies in front of an Icelander. The Icelandic horses are very powerful, when the settlers moved to Iceland, they only took the strongest and smallest horses due to the lack of space on their ships. An interesting fact is that in order to keep the Icelandic horse breed pure and keep diseases out of the country, it is illegal to import horses to Iceland and if a horse leaves the country, he cannot return.