Planning to visit Runde Island in Norway? Then you’re certainly in the right place because this detailed guide will tell you everything you need to know about the most famous bird-watching island in the world!
Runde Island is best known for bird cliffs that provide the best bird-watching opportunities in the country and wider. More than half of the island is a conservation area that can only be accessed on foot, so unspoiled nature is what awaits on this lovely island.
We’ll tell you when to visit, how to get there, and what there is to do on the island, so you’ll have plenty of travel inspiration to start planning the perfect trip to Runde Island, Norway!
Runde Island is situated on the west coast of Norway, close to Alesund. It’s a very small island with a population of a little more than 100 people. It doesn’t have an airport and it boasts just one, pretty short road. It’s possible to reach the island by road – bridges keep this island connected to mainland Norway.
Another thing worth noting is that you shouldn’t expect to see any Northern Lights or polar days/nights on this island. That only happens in the Arctic Circle and Runde Island is far too south to experience those phenomena.
The closest airport to Runde Island is in Alesund, and that is the closest you can get to Runde Island by airplane. This international airport has direct flights to many European cities, but if you’re flying in from a different continent, you likely won’t be able to get a direct flight to Alesund.
It’s worth noting that you can get domestic flights to Alesund from most of Norway’s major airports, so just look for the best deals. Domestic plane tickets are not too expensive in Norway, and the flights are usually pretty short.
From Alesund, it’s about a 2-3 hour drive to Runde Island (including a smaller Ferry) or a 2-hour ferry ride. It is possible to travel by public transport, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as renting a car. You’d have to take two or three different buses and at least one ferry and that entire journey could take up to five hours.
Driving a rental car is much faster, plus it gives you the option of getting out of Runde and exploring other towns in this part of Norway.
It’s worth noting that there’s only one main road on the island, so getting around Runde in a car is as simple as can be. Traveling to Runde by boat is also not a bad option, especially if you don’t feel comfortable driving. It’s quicker than traveling by road, plus it allows you to see both Alesund and Runde from the water.
We traveled by campervan and camped on the island, which is a very popular way of doing it. So, if you planning on winging it and arriving at the campsite on the day be careful. It can fill fast. And there are only a few wild camping spots on the island (more on that below).
Runde Island has an oceanic climate with pretty cold weather year-round and lots of precipitation. The best time to visit the island is between May and October – this is considered the driest season on the island, with average precipitation between 15 and 30 inches. It’s still going to rain quite a bit, so you’ll want to pack lots of waterproof clothing and footwear whenever you decide to visit.
Pack warm clothes as well since the weather is pretty cold even in the middle of summer. The average daily highs are around 15°C – the temperature does sometimes rise a couple of degrees, but you can forget about hot summers on Runde Island.
Also, it’s worth noting that the best time to visit Runde bird island depends on why you’re going there in the first place. It’s a famous birdwatching island and many people who visit come there specifically to see the birds. Puffin season is between mid-April and August, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling to this island to do some birdwatching.
The wonderful thing about Runde Island is that it’s practically deserted. According to the 2015 population census, the island had just 113 residents. That also means that accommodation options are scarce, especially because parts of the island are designated conservation areas.
Almost the entire western side of the island remains accessible only on foot. There are no roads on this part of Runde Island, and there aren’t any buildings either – just pure nature and endless birds.
The northern coast of the island is where you’ll most likely end up staying while you’re at Runde Island. The Runde Environmental Centre is the best place to stay if you’re traveling to Runde Island specifically to do some bird watching. They offer pretty good accommodation, the location is excellent for bird watching and hiking, and the views from the rooms are just fabulous.
It’s important to note that you don’t have too many alternatives to the Runde Environmental Center. There are a couple of guesthouses on the island nearby like
but that’s it. There are no hotels or resorts on Runde island, so keep that in mind while you’re planning your trip.
If you are wild camping with an RV or van there are very few options, all we could find was on the southwest side there is a spot (you can find it on parkforthenight app), and some people were parking before the bridge over to Runde. Not the quietest spot, but there was space for a few vans. There is also a single cheap spot with no services just next to the campground, offered by a local. Great view, and no neighbors. We camped there.
Additionally, there aren’t any supermarkets on Runde Island. You’ll have to buy all your groceries on the islands connecting to Runde, or the mainland, and bring them to the island. So, try to do that before you arrive at Runde.
The visitor center does have a cafe, but like many Norwegian services, it does not open before 10 am. We tried to visit on our way out and had to leave because it was not yet open!
The wonderful Runde Island boasts some of the prettiest landscapes you’ll experience in Norway. It’s a great destination for travelers who want to explore fabulous nature, see colonies of puffins, and explore the rugged Norweigan coastline.
Birdwatching and bird tours are without a doubt some of the most popular things to do on this Norwegian island. It boasts a teeming bird life with grassy plateaus and bird cliffs that are famous worldwide for the presence of birds.
Most people who travel to Runde do it during the puffin nesting season between mid-April and August. There’s a huge amount of Atlantic Puffins on the island, but they’re certainly not the only birds here. Northern Fulmar, Ring Ouzel, Great Skua, and the White Tailed Eagle are just a few of the other nesting birds you can expect to see on Runde.
The best time to see the puffins nest is in the evening at the cliffs called Lundeura, about 45 minutes hike above town (more on hiking below). They spend most of the day out at sea fishing for their offspring. So, only return late in the day to feed them.
Around 8 or 9 PM is the best time in the summer, but between 6 and 8 PM in the spring season. They often arrive in waves from what we heard from others, so if you miss them earlier, wait a while to see more. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll get to see the puffins if you find the right spot on the island since Runde boasts some of the best puffin-watching opportunities in the region.
It’s more popular even than the Faroe Islands, which are famous for having a population of more than half a million puffins!
Runde Environmental Centre is one of a few commercial establishments on Runde Island. It’s where you’ll most likely be staying if you aren’t camping in Norway, and it’s the place to go for food, drinks, and souvenirs.
The environmental center is also a great place if you want to learn a little bit more about the history of the island. It’s got exhibitions about the island’s many bird cliffs, the local industry, the environment, and even the famous Runde treasure. The Dutch ship Akerendam sank off the coast of Runde in 1725, and along with it a treasure consisting of thousands of gold coins.
The exhibitions at the environmental center are pretty interesting, especially for people who have the desire to learn more about this unique little island. But they’re not the only thing to do there – you can also sign up for guided tours here, which will allow you to explore even more of the island and its surroundings.
Alesund is a stunning city just a couple of hours away from Runde Island, and it’s a great destination if you want a change of scenery. The beautiful city boasts museums, Art Nouveau architecture, and more fish than you’re likely expecting.
The city has a pretty big tradition of fishing, and it’s actually one of the most important fishing centers in the region. It’s a great place for all seafood lovers because they certainly won’t be disappointed by the vast choices at the many seafood restaurants in town.
Alesund is also surrounded by spectacular nature, so it’s a good town to visit if you want to explore more than just bird nesting cliffs. Mount Aksa is a short walk away from the town center, and it offers some of the prettiest scenic views in this part of Norway. Sugar Top mountain is also near Alesund city, and it’s another popular hiking area with thrilling trails and mesmerizing views.
You can travel from Runde Island to Alesund either by car or boat. The drive to Alesund is very scenic, but it does take about two and a half hours to cover the 120 kilometers that separate the two places. The main advantage of driving from Runde Island to Alesund is that you can stop wherever you want along the way, and explore the variety of attractions near Alesund.
Boat tours are a lot quicker (and more expensive), but they’re the better option if you don’t want to waste too much time on transport and you’re interested only in Alesund city.
If you’re up for a bigger adventure, take a detour to see the Geiranger Fjord. Norway is famous for its many fjords, and this one is one of the most impressive sights. It’s 3-4 hours away from Runde depending on the route, and it’s worth noting that the longest route (4 hours 20 minutes) passes through Alesund.
The bird cliffs of Runde Island are world-famous and absolutely a mesmerizing sight. But they’re not really accessible by hiking the island, and if you want to get a really good look at the world-famous bird cliffs of this Norweigan island, a boat tour is the best way.
The boat tour will start at the Runde Harbor and head to Måganeset where you can see Rundebranden and Lundeura with all their bird nests. You’ll also see a lot of birds from the boat, so be sure to bring all your gear for bird watching and taking photos!
It’s worth noting that you don’t get too many options when it comes to Runde boat tours. Tours with Aquila are the most popular, and that company is just one local from the island with a boat and a passion for helping others to discover the beauty of the sea. It’s also possible to explore Runde by boat from Alesund, and there are a bunch of charter services that will take you there from other places in Norway.
Avid hikers and outdoor adventurers should enjoy their time on this island. It doesn’t boast a myriad of hiking trails to choose from, but it does offer spectacular views regardless of where you are on the island.
The local government has laid out wooden trails in all the most popular hiking areas on this island, which is beneficial for both the bird life and the hikers who visit. You can see many different bird species along any of the different hiking trails on Runde Island, and you can even climb Norway’s third largest bird mountain.
It’s the Rundebranden, and it can be accessed from Goksøyr via well-marked paths. The hike isn’t very challenging since the mountaintop is only 294 meters above sea level, which is a piece of cake for most experienced hikers. But the views are simply out of this world – Runde’s mountain boasts a teeming bird life, with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Lundeura is another popular hiking area on Runde Island. It’s situated on the western side of the island and it can be easily accessed by a walking path from the parking lot. It’s only about a 45-minute walk across terrain that’s steep in the beginning but flattens out quickly. It is actually well paved and marked, unlike most of the other more boggy trails leading from it around the island.
Here you can see kittiwakes – they build their nests in the cliffs in this area, and they’re very much used to people. If you’ve got some extra food, feel free to leave it out – the birds are more than happy to share your lunch!
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!