Iceland, an island country situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, is home to a diverse range of animals. Despite its harsh climate and rugged terrain, Iceland is home to a variety of unique wildlife species that have adapted to survive in this challenging environment.
From iconic animals like the Icelandic horse and Arctic fox to marine life like whales and seals, Iceland offers visitors a chance to witness some of the world’s most fascinating creatures in their natural habitats. In this article, we will explore the various animals that call Iceland home and learn about their unique characteristics and behaviours. Whether you’re a nature lover, wildlife enthusiast, or simply curious about Iceland’s fauna, this article is for you.
Iceland is one of the ‘youngest’ landmasses on the planet, with little vegetation and hard, rocky land. It is hard to imagine what wildlife could live here, but since discovering the land and settlement, animals have been imported through time and made their homes around the country.
What animals live in Iceland?
Iceland is home to diverse animal species, both on land and in its surrounding waters. Some of the most well-known animals that can be found in Iceland include:
- Icelandic Horse: Found in horse farms, you can
- Icelandic Sheep
- Icelandic sheepdog
- Arctic Fox
- Humpback Whales
- Orcas (Killer Whales)
- Seal and the grey seal
But as some of you might be surprised, NO polar bears are living in Iceland.
Puffins in Iceland
Puffins are very common birds in Iceland on the islands surrounding Iceland and can be seen flying around at sea whilst on one of the many whale-watching tours available or if you are an avid birdwatcher driving around the coasts. The Atlantic Puffin comes to breed and nest over the spring, so many come that it is believed to be around 60% global population of this particular breed.
- Related reading: Guide to Puffin in Iceland
Arctic Fox in Iceland
The Arctic Fox is the only native land mammal in Iceland since ice age and has become one of the popular national symbols. They can be found all over the land, but most have made their dens along the Westfjords near large cliffs so they can hunt birds. This fox can be seen in two different colours depending on the time of year. One type is white in the winter but turns brown and grey over the summer, and the other is brown all year round.
With their thick fur and bushy tails, Arctic foxes are well-equipped to survive in the freezing temperatures and snow-covered landscapes of Iceland’s Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Despite their cute and cuddly appearance, Arctic foxes are formidable hunters and have a keen sense of smell and hearing that allows them to detect prey from great distances.
While these animals were once hunted for their fur, today they are a protected species in Iceland, and visitors to the country have the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat. Whether you’re exploring the highlands or hiking through the countryside in East Iceland, keep an eye out for these fascinating and resilient creatures, and you might just catch a glimpse of the elusive Arctic fox in the wild.
Reindeer in Iceland
Reindeer were introduced from Norway in the late 1700s all around Iceland but only in east Iceland where they roam freely in the wild. While they are not commonly hunted for their meat in Iceland, visitors can still catch a glimpse of these fascinating animals in their natural habitats. In winter, they are easier to find as they come down to the lower ground to find more food.
hese beautiful creatures are well adapted to survive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic region and have been an important part of Icelandic wildlife for centuries. Icelandic reindeer are typically smaller than their counterparts found in other parts of the world, with males weighing up to 150 kg and females up to 90 kg. They have a thick, shaggy coat that helps keep them warm during the cold Icelandic winters.
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of horse that is native to Iceland and has been an integral part of Icelandic culture for over a thousand years. These horses are known for their sturdy build, thick coat, and gentle nature, making them ideal for riding in Iceland’s challenging terrain. The Icelandic horse has a unique gait called the “tölt,” which is a smooth, four-beat gait that is extremely comfortable for riders. These horses come in a variety of colors, including brown, black, gray, and even a rare cream color. Icelandic horses are also known for their intelligence, loyalty, and endurance, and are a beloved symbol of Iceland’s heritage and culture. Visitors to Iceland can experience a horseback riding tour to see these majestic animals up close and personal, making for an unforgettable Icelandic adventure.
- Related reading: Guide to Icelandic horse
Whale watching in Iceland: where to go
Iceland is probably the capital in the world for whale watching tours. Reykjavík and Akureyri have many different whale watching tours at their harbours for you to choose from, each take different directions and last different lengths of time so you don’t have to dedicate an entire day to the sea if you do not wish. 20 different species can be found in the waters depending on the time of year you visit, for example; the humpback whale, killer whale and sperm whale. Another common whale to find in the waters is the minke whale, which is also an Icelandic delicacy served in many restaurants. Whilst out on the waters you are likely to see puffins and even dolphins but if you are unlucky to not see any whales on your tour or do not like boat trips, Reykjavík has the Whales of Iceland Museum which has an audio tour to take around life-size models of these beautiful creatures.
How to guarantee seeing some wildlife animal in Iceland with kids?
If you want to guarantee seeing some of our wildlife then Laugardalur Valley in Reykjavík is the place to go. Reykjavík Family Park & Zoo is open all year round and home to many Icelandic farm animals; harbour seals, reptiles, birds mink and even a few reindeer. As well as walking around the animal area there is a beautiful botanical garden and an activity wonderland to keep the children excited and active all day. Entry prices are more than reasonable to walk around the zoo, children under five can enter for free, aged between 6 and 12 for 1050 ISK and anyone over the age of 13 for ISK 1500.
Aminals in Iceland
Iceland is home to a diverse and fascinating array of animal species that are well adapted to the country’s unique and challenging environment. From the iconic Icelandic horse to the elusive arctic fox, visitors to Iceland have the opportunity to see a wide range of wildlife in its natural habitat.
Whether you’re interested in bird watching, whale watching, or exploring the country’s rugged landscapes, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with Iceland’s incredible natural world. So if you’re planning a trip to Iceland, be sure to keep an eye out for the many animals that call this beautiful country home.