Skálanes Nature Reserve

Date 12 May 2024

Skálanes Nature Reserve

Skálanes Nature Reserve

Skálanes Nature Reserve, located at the eastern tip of Seyðisfjorður fjord in eastern Iceland, is an entirely secluded private nature sanctuary.

Renowned for its striking flora and impressive birdlife, an increasing number of nature enthusiasts make their way here to rejuvenate and explore the scenic hiking trail leading to the bird cliff.

Skálanes Nature Reserve

Skálanes Nature reserve

The hiking trail that leads to the bird cliff

Totalling 1,250 hectares, Skálanes Nature Reserve is situated around a long-abandoned farm, 17 km to the east of Seyðisfjorður. This area is celebrated for its lush flora, notably the expansive fields of lupines that stretch as far as the eye can see.

The reserve is also home to 677-meter cliffs, providing habitat to an astounding 40 different bird species. In the surrounding meadows, one can spot numerous herds of reindeer and even the elusive arctic fox.

Additionally, the farm serves as a hub for education, environmental research, and the exploration of Icelandic cultural history. This nature and heritage center collaborates with various international researchers, regularly organizing academic visits. The goal is to establish this place as a genuine platform for scientific exploration, focusing on sustainability and species diversity.

How to get there?

Skálanes is nestled deep within Seyðisfjorður fjord, 17 km from the town. When departing from Seyðisfjorður, follow the 952 road to the fjord's end, then take the "Skálanes" marked trail after a few kilometers.

There are two parking options: 

  • The first parking lot can be found in the Skálanes hamlet, just before the Austdalsa river.
  • The second parking lot, located further away, is directly in front of the Skálanes Nature & Heritage Center.

For those considering a visit with a rental vehicle, it's important to note that you'll need an equipped vehicle like a 4x4 or SUV to reach the second parking lot. While the road leading there isn't in dire condition, it can be rather bumpy in places, with two streams to cross just before arriving.

Alternatively, if you prefer, you can park at Austdalsa and continue on foot, avoiding stream crossings and the bumpy portion of the trail.

The best time of year to visit Skálanes is during the summer months, ideally between May and September, with June and July being the prime months.

Hiking to the bird cliff of Skalanes


The bird cliffs of Skálanes - Octavian Silaghi@Dreamstime

No matter where you begin your hike, you'll follow a small, well-marked coastal path toward the eastern point.

Starting from the Austdalsa car park, it's approximately a 9 km round trip for the more adventurous, with some sections that can be a bit slippery so be careful. For those who prefer to park near the "Heritage Center," the hike is significantly shorter, covering only around 1.5 km for the round trip. This hike is easy and involves minimal elevation gain.

Throughout the hike, you'll traverse expansive fields of enchanting lupines, with the silence occasionally broken by the calls of arctic terns, oystercatchers, magpies, and other eider birds in the area. With a touch of luck, you might even encounter some arctic foxes!

As you approach the bird cliff, the sound becomes incessant, and you'll witness a remarkable variety of birds, including kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots, and more. In the distance, you may even be treated to the sight of a few whales on the horizon. Skálanes is a place far removed from the hustle and bustle, making it an ideal destination for an evening visit during the midnight sun, offering a chance to recharge amidst nature. For those considering a stay in Seyðisfjorður, this short hike is a splendid choice for an evening stroll.

Photo credit top article - Octavian Silaghi@Dreamstime