On a lovely summer day in July, I visited the largest sea-bird cliff in Europe, Látrabjarg in the Westfjords of Iceland, which is the best place to photograph a puffin in Iceland. This cute bird has almost become the icon of Iceland as it is ever so photogenic.
To be able to enjoy my visit to the fullest I stayed overnight in the vicinity, at Hotel Breiðavík, the westernmost hotel in Europe, which is only 12 km away from Látrabjarg cliff.
Breiðavík bay is located between Látravík and Kollavík bay, and the golden beach here must be one of the prettiest beaches in Iceland. The view from my room was fantastic; green fields and a golden beach with a pinkish hue, framed with mountains on each side.
I live in Reykjavík where we have black lava-sand beaches, so seeing such golden, pinkish coloured beaches is very exotic to me. I opened the windows of my room and stared out for ages.
Now, isn't this a pretty view :)
In July the summer nights are still bright so far up north, it doesn't get dark at all and you can hear the migrating birds singing all night long. It was pure heaven and the night was so perfect that I walked down to the beach to experience it to the fullest. I didn't get much sleep that night.
The Breiðavík beach is more than 5 km long and you can easily spend a couple of hours strolling along it, enjoying the serenity and closeness to nature.
In one location the water is so shallow that you can walk on top of the beautiful reflection, which makes for a great photo.
Just beware of the attacks of the Arctic tern! This bird has ruined many a video I have shot in beautiful areas of Iceland. It fearlessly attacks to protect its nesting areas. It will give you a warning sound and by then it is best to move along to another area of the beach as it won't give up!
I was making a video of the surroundings when it gave me the warning signal, so I moved on closer to the sea.
The video above is shot on a bright summer night in July. See the difference between this video and the one which I shot in the middle of the day. See how bright the nights are so far up north in Iceland during the summer time!
These bright nights are extraordinary and I prefer to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to get the most out of this extraordinary phenomenon. We Icelanders get plenty of darkness during the winter months to counteract for these bright nights, so it is best to make the most of this wonderful time :)
What an idyllic spot this is; Breiðavík beach for sure is one of the prettiest, secluded beaches in Iceland. The air here is pristine as here we are next to the cold North-Atlantic ocean.
I had visited this beach once before on a guided tour of this area and one of my fellow travellers from Hong Kong didn't want to leave, she wanted to stay here forever, breathing in this clean, cold air. It made me realise that we Icelanders tend to take our clean air for granted, one has got to appreciate it.
You can see in my photos how the wind has blown the pink sand up to the hills of the mountains on each side of the bay. These mountains are called Bjarnarnúpur and Breiðavíkurháls and in my main photo, you will see Fjarðarhorn and Sandahlíð - the Sandy hill - which is appropriately named after the sand which the wind has blown so far up the hill.
I have visited the bay next to Breiðavík, Kollsvík, which is even more remote, as I wanted to have a look at the oldest turf outhouse in Iceland, dating back to 1650, and noticed the same thing; the mountains had golden pink sand almost right up to the top of the mountains, so pretty.
Hotel Breiðavík is such a friendly place and the owners of the westernmost inhabited area in Iceland offer free coffee and tea to everybody popping in for a visit. And free Wifi, just remember that we are off the beaten track in the remote Westfjords of Iceland and the Wifi connection comes and goes, and so does the mobile phone connection, for that matter.
Hotel Breiðavík is open from May 1st until September 30th and closed in the winter time. After you visit Látrabjarg cliff and the puffins you can get a diploma here at Hotel Breiðavík for visiting the westernmost point of Europe.
I love the paintings of the puffins and razorbill, which have been painted on the hotel. Also, notice the painting of the sunset - it says: "Breiðavík - verið velkomin vestur" meaning Breiðavík - be very welcome to the west.
I stayed in the newest part of the hotel, which is separate from the main building. There you will find 24 en-suite rooms with a private entrance and an ocean view.
My room was tastefully decorated with pictures of puffins on the walls and a map of the area, but the most beautiful decoration, in my opinion, was the view from the windows of the lovely bay and the sea :)
In the room, I found complimentary coffee and tea and a kettle. I was so glad to see this, as what is better than a hot cup of tea or coffee after a long day of travelling in Iceland?
In the main building, which used to be a schoolhouse, you will find a large restaurant, a bar and plenty of more hotel rooms.
Hotel Breiðavík is family run by the Icelanders Birna Mjöll Atladóttir and Keran Stuelend Ólason, who have run the hotel since 1999. Birna is from Patreksfjörður town, which is located 50 km away from Breiðavík, and Keran is from a farm called Geitagil, which is very close by, on the other side of the mountain.
Birna and Keran had popped down to Reykjavík for the day (some 410 km away) to get supplies, so I met up with their daughter and asked her to tell me a little bit about the hotel and the surroundings.
She told me that the hotel has all in all 42 rooms, which can accommodate 80 people. Plus the camping area, which is really popular as what better place for camping than right next to one of Iceland's most beautiful beaches!
If you want to get breakfast, lunch or dinner, or supper for that matter, then the restaurant area covers some 300 sq.m! They offer a selection of vegetarian food as well, so everybody should be able to find something to their liking at the restaurant.
I wish them all the best with their hotel, which is set in such extraordinary surroundings - and think it is a lovely gesture on their behalf to offer free coffee, tea and Wifi to all their visitors, who have travelled from afar to see the puffins at Látrabjarg cliff.
Before we left for Látrabjarg cliff the next morning we had a hearty breakfast in the restaurant in the main building. My husband made waffles in the waffle iron at the restaurant and off we went to meet the puffins again.
Now let me tell you about the main attraction in this area - the ever so cute puffins :)
At Látrabjarg bird-cliff, which is the largest sea-bird cliff in Europe, 14 km long and 441 meters high, one can see millions of sea-birds, puffins, razorbill, guillemot, fulmar and plenty more sea-bird species.
This is indeed the best place in Iceland to photograph the puffins. Here the puffins are so fearless of humans that they will not budge even if you get very close to them. They even come closer to have a look at you and it almost looks like they are posing for the camera :) This is pure heaven for bird watchers and puffin lovers alike.
Látrabjarg is also one of the westernmost parts of Europe; we Icelanders call it the westernmost point of Europe (24°32´3" west), even though a part of the Azore islands reaches a little bit further west than Látrabjarg.
Látrabjarg cliff is sheer-sided and one can get very close to the edge. Be very careful here as there are puffin holes under the cliff edge, which cannot be seen from above, which make the edges fragile. It is best to lay down on your stomach and zoom a little bit in on the puffins as to not lose balance on the very edge. Don't get as close as you can see in my travel-blog about Látrabjarg and the surrounding area:
The Atlantic puffins stay in Iceland from the beginning of May until mid-August, bear that in mind when planning your visit. I want to make sure that you will see a puffin during your stay and don't travel this far only to miss out on seeing a puffin up close and personal.
All in all, there are some 10 million puffins scattered around Iceland during these summer months, but Látrabjarg is the only place where I have been so close to them.
I spent a couple of hours at Látrabjarg in the company of the puffins. There I met a photography group, which was also staying at Hotel Breiðavík. Their tour guide told me that they had been at Látrabjarg after midnight the night before and witnessed an amazing thing; a myriad of puffins had gathered on the grass by the lighthouse! It was like a family reunion of puffins!
How I would have loved to have seen this with my own eyes, I think such a sight would leave no man untouched. So stay for a while in the company of the puffins, it is not every day that we get the chance to stand on the largest bird-cliff in Europe on a bright summer night surrounded by puffins :)
I live some 410 km away from Látrabjarg and have only visited Látrabjarg on a couple of occasions, and don't think I will ever tire of it. That is why this time around I decided on staying at Hotel Breiðavík for the night to be able to stay for longer at the bird-cliff and revisit the puffins next morning.
See also my first visit to Látrabjarg and the surrounding area if you didn't already do so:
I would recommend this as the puffins stay out at sea at various hours of the day catching fish for their pufflings. And if you are a photographer you would want to see the puffins in a different light and at different hours of the day. Let's not disturb them too much though as they are nesting.
So staying so close to Látrabjarg is a great plus, as you will be able to pop over from the hotel to Látrabjarg even in the middle of the night seeing that the Hotel Breiðavík is located only 12 km away from the puffins.
The road number 612 leading to Látrabjarg is 36 km long and beyond the point of the information signs at the intersection, there is no gas station.
Patreksfjörður is located some 13 km away from the intersection of road 60 and 612 and the ferry Baldur arrives at Brjánslækur some 80 km away.
Have a lovely time in Breiðavík and at Látrabjarg - verið velkomin vestur - be very welcome to the Westfjords of Iceland :)