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Mývatn Birdwatching

Mývatn Birdwatching

Lake Mývatn and Laxá River is a paradise for birdwatchers. Everywhere you stop there are birds around you, particularly on the lake itself. Here is a guide on where and when to see the birds of Mývatn!

When at lake Mývatn, always be on the lookout for Gyr Falcons as they are often found hunting near the lake. There are five great spots around the lake we recommend for birdwatching. Drive anti-clockwise around the lake until you reach superbly rich area at the bay of Neslandavík (1). There are often large flocks of Tufted Duck and Wigeon in the bay. This area is also particularly good for seeing a Gadwall, Scaup, Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Pintail and Red-breasted Merganser. Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum is located at the farm Ytri Neslönd by the bay. The museum is conveniently located in one of the best birdwatching locations by the lake. 

Continuing south from Neslandavík past the farm Vindbelgur you will reach another bay with a parking lot called Álar, nearly as rich in birds as Neslandavík, though the birds are sometimes quite far from land (2). Again, a thorough scan of flocks of the common ducks of the area is likely to reveal scarcer species like the Barrow’s Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck and the Great Northern Diver. The Common Scoter is very visible on the west side of Mývatn. Just (50 m) before you reach the bridge over the river Laxá (3), take a left turn to a small parking lot by the river and walk towards the river banks. It won’t take you long to find the Harlequin Duck, a species which is often quite confiding. Occasionally you can see the Goosander. This uppermost part of Laxá is the prime habitat for Harlequin and Barrow’s Goldeneye in Iceland.  

Cross the bridge and drive eastward on road 848 to reach the lake again at the bay of Skútustaðir and Stakhólstjörn (4). This is yet another perfect place to search the flocks of ducks for scarcer visitors, like the Long-tailed duck. Park by Skútustaðagígar and follow the hiking route around Stakhólstjörn. Another nice viewing area is from the parking area by road nr. 1 just north of the road to the farm Kálfaströnd. This site always holds some Barrow’s Goldeneye and the scenery is very picturesque. 

A stop at the woodland park at Höfði (5) will provide an opportunity for a walk through beautiful woodland, with views towards some unusual lava formations in the lake. Birding in the park is interesting as there are plenty of Common Redpoll, Redwing and Winter wren nesting in the park and ducks on the lake. Quite often, vagrant passerines are found in the park. 

The Mývatn area is very rich of birdlife. Other than ducks, these are also common birds to see around the lake: The Greylag Goose, Pink Footed Goose, Raven, Short-Eared Owl, Ptarmigan, Parasitic Jaeger and the Merlin, not to mention the Meadow Pipit, Wagtail, Wheatear, Arctic Tern, Black-Headed Gull, Dunlin, Great Black-Backed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Eurasian Teal,  Black-tailed Godwit, Common Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Mallard, Red-Necked Phalarope and the Common Snipe.

If you wish to do bird watching on other locations, please ask for permission with the appropriate land owners.


Mývatn offers a unique natural environment. With large contrasts and short distances, you can experience the most and the best that Iceland has to offer. Large open spaces with roads and walkways lead travellers to unworldly locations, where volcanic eruptions have played a crucial role in the formation of the landscape. Whether the plan is to enjoy the landscape, examine unique natural phenomena or take a closer look at the plant and birdlife, Mývatn has it all. Furthermore, the area offers a variety of services in accommodation, food, and entertainment, based on years of experience and knowledge. Mývatn attracts huge numbers of travellers in the summer, but many believe the lake and its surroundings to be no less impressive in the wintertime.

Mývatn is the 4th largest lake in Iceland, 37 km2 in area. Its shores are indented with many coves and inlets and its surface is dotted with around 50 small islets and skerries. Midges (Chironomidae) are abundant and the ubiquitous swarms of these tiny flies give the lake its name.

The lake itself is very shallow, and the rays of the sun reach the lakebed everywhere. The ecology of the lake area is extremely diverse and interesting; one important characteristic of Mývatn is the prolific growth and abundance of freshwater seaweed. On the bed of the lake there are great quantities of diatoms, while nearer the surface, Mývatn's famous arctic char weave their way between aquatic plants and little islets topped with fertile vegetation. 

On and around the lake there is a teeming and varied birdlife and Mývatn is the habitat of many kinds of lake and marsh birds. However, much of Mývatn's fame can be attributed to the fact that during summer, there is a greater variety of duck species gathered on and around the lake than anywhere else in the world. Mývatn is a legally protected conservation area and appears on the register of internationally important wetlands, along with the Laxá river which flows out of the lake. Lake Mývatn is part of the Diamond Circle explore the Diamond Circle

North Iceland

Towns & Villages

Society and the economy have many faces. Whereas agriculture is the mainstay of rural areas, the towns depend upon fishing, industry, trade and a range of services, with each village having its own characteristics though they all prove hospitable hosts. 
The availability of food and accommodation and the possibilities at every location for recreation and entertainment make hopping between the villages informative as well as fun.   
In every case, the residents are lively and ready to celebrate.

Explore map with pictures

Map Akureyri Eyjafjarðarsveit Grímsey Raufarhöfn Kópasker Þórshöfn Bakkafjörður Húsavík Mývatn Laugar Svalbarðseyri Grenivík Hjalteyri Hauganes Árskógssandur Dalvík Hrísey Ólafsfjörður Siglufjörður Hofsós Hólar Varmahlíð Sauðárkrókur Skagaströnd Blöndós Hvammstangi Laugarbakki Borðeyri