Látrabjarg seen from Ölduskarð, across Rauðisandur.
From Patreksfjordur, a town I lived in as a teenager, lies a winding, bumpy gravel road, dug into steep hills and cliffs demanding 100% attention from the driver - or you might be dead. At the end of this rough rural road is a magnificent place - Europe's most western point, a cliff 14 kilometer long and rising up to 441 meter straight from the sea - Látrabjarg!
A horrific accident happened there last Wednesday when a German tourist who was photographing birds in Latrabjarg fell 140 meters to his death. An accident like that has been waiting to happen as this is a popular destination, specially for bird watchers and photographers, but it's an unprotected cliff. There are no fences or closed areas, it's just untouched nature with all the wonders and dangers that follow. There is no staff and there are not even warning signs. Not that it shouldn't be obvious that it is a dangerous place. Watching the wonderful birds through a camera can make you lose sense for the dangers around you. I don't know exactly how the accident happened last Wednesday, except I know he was photographing the birds. I send my condolences to the family of the man who died.
So, what is it that is so fascinating that it draws people all this way - to the end of the world? Are the birds any different there?
A friendly puffin at Látrabjarg
"Látrabjarg is claimed to be the best place in the world to photograph puffins! I have no idea if that statement is true since I have never visited a puffin colony outside Iceland. It is a statement made by a tour leader, and expert nature photographer, whom I met at Látrabjarg a few summers ago. He told me he had been to all the best puffin colonies in the world and this one (Látrabjarg) was simply the best." (Daniel Bergmann - National Geographic)
The puffin is an iconic bird for Iceland, known for its colourful nose and friendly attitude, which makes it the perfect photo model. It even has fan clubs around the world. There are not many places where you can get as close to the puffin as in Látrabjarg, but if you're not careful, you might even step on them, they are that unafraid of the humans.
Razorbill sitting on a rock in Látrabjarg.
Razorbill sitting on a rock in Látrabjarg.
Razorbill (Alca torda) is another species that can be found in Látrabjarg. The razorbill is the last living bird of the prehistoric Alca family and almost every other razorbill bird that exists in the world nests in Látrabjarg. It's a beautiful bird with a "sporty design".
A group of Thick-billed Murre in Látrabjarg.
A group of Thick-billed Murre in Látrabjarg.The Brünnich Guillemot (Thick-billed Murre) is another of the iconic black birds in the Latrabjarg bird cliff. This is an arctic bird and Látrabjarg is one of the most southern point it nests in and makes Látrabjarg therefore a must for any serious bird watcher. Though the road is bad, there are not many other places with roads at all, where you can find the Brünnich Guillemot.
Among other birds that you can find at Látrabjarg or in the neighbourhood are:
An arctic tern attacks as a man looks at the off-spring. Near Látrabjarg.
The Arctic Tern - an amazing little bird with great flying skills. It's fantastic to watch it fly, stand still in mid air and dive for attacks. This tiny little bird crosses the world twice a year, flying longer distances than any other bird.
A white tailed eagle who flew up just a few feet away from us in Ölduskarð, just east of Látrabjarg.
A white tailed eagle who flew up just a few feet away from us in Ölduskarð, just east of Látrabjarg.The nearly extinct White-tailed Eagle nests in Breidafjordur, the wide fjord between Látrabjarg and Snæfellsnes. It is generally not seen on the bird cliff it self, but can be seen on the way there or in the area. The picture above is taken just minutes after the top picture, but as we came to the edge of the cliff it suddenly flew up - and man, it was huge! I wasn't ready with the camera so it got this far before I got a shot of it. I did get some fantastic close ups of the white tailed eagle in South-Greenland last summer though and will post them later.
You will also be able to find a number of seagulls, ravens and other common Icelandic birds in and around Látrabjarg. The Látrabjarg bird cliff is a must-stop for bird watchers coming to Iceland along with places like the amazing Mývatn for some unique bird watching opportunities.
Látrabjarg is on my home territory but I grew up in the area. My mom even got married standing on the edge of the cliff. I've been running a hiking festival in the area for the last four years and now me and a few other guides are running a company offering guided hikes to Látrabjarg as well as several ancient routes in the area all summer long. The pictures above are all mine and taken on those trips.
ps. if there's anything you'd like to know about Látrabjarg or the birds there, feel free to post your question in the comments below.