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For all its natural beauty Iceland is not famous for having a wealth of wildlife to discover. But this land of fire and ice does have some characterful creatures for you to meet. With few trees and some extreme weather conditions many animals would have a hard time here. But a hardy few have survived and prospered on land. When we look to the oceans though it is a different matter altogether. The majority of Iceland’s native wildlife are sea creatures able to swim to the waters of this remote island. There is also a busy birdlife scene in Iceland with all manner of migratory birds passing through at different times of the year.
In fact Iceland only has one native land mammal - the Arctic Fox. These fluffy fellows wandered over the ice during the last ice age and became stranded on the island as the ice melted. Surviving on insects and berries they became the lonely land creatures of Iceland until humans arrived in the 9th Century.
In this article we explore the wild animals of Iceland. We will look at Iceland’s native wildlife and the best places to find them. We will also take a little look at both the domestic and wild animals brought over to Iceland by human settlers.
Iceland Wildlife: Whales, dolphins and seals
The most exciting of Iceland’s wildlife has to be its whales. These gentle giants of the ocean can be spotted throughout the waters of Iceland. Whale watching tours leave from various places around the coast, but the best place to see them is in the north. The village of Húsavík lies in the north east of Iceland about an hour from the Ring Road route. It is the place to go if you are a marine life enthusiast with regular boat trips heading out into the nearby Skjálfandi Bay. You are pretty much guaranteed to spot minke whales, humpbacks and dolphins if you visit during the summer months. On occasion you might see the giant blue whale too. Back on dry land The Húsavík Whale Museum is also worth a visit, perhaps as a primer to a whale watching tour.
Boat trips do head out from other North Iceland towns and cities into the Eyjafjörður Fjord. These make great trips for dolphin spotting or to see the smaller species of whales. However, the real giants of the ocean don’t venture into these narrower stretches of water. This makes Húsavík most definitely the whale-watching capital of Iceland.
Over in West Iceland around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula it is possible to see orcas (killer whales). These sleek creatures are often in the area from around November to March feeding on shoals of herrings. They will often come quite close to shore towards the mouths of inland waterways. So if you are lucky you could spot them from dry land