Iceland boasts to have some of the best Whale Watching areas in the world. The cold waters off the coast entertain to a diverse marine life. Whale-Watching is as essential a part of any trip to Iceland as seeing Northern Lights, Blue Lagoon, Hot Springs & Glaciers. This blog post provides everything you need to know about whale watching Iceland has to offer.
Reasons Why Iceland Is One Of The World’s Best Whale-Watching Destinations
High Chances Of Seeing Whales
Iceland’s waters are very rich and the whales love it. So you have high chances of seeing whales off Iceland. According to recent figures, there’s a 90% probability of spotting a whale on a summer Whale-Watching trip to Iceland.
20+ Species Of Whales To Explore
You may see Humpback Whale, Minke Whale, Blue Whale, Fin Whale, Orca, Sperm Whale, Pilot Whale, Sei Whale, Harbour Porpoise, Basking Sharks, numerous species of Dolphins, Seals and of course Sea birds like Puffins and Gannets, depending upon the season. And the most interesting part is, when you see whales in Iceland, you will see them in their own natural environment.
Ideal For Family Trip
In the North coast of Iceland is Akureyri, the largest town outside of Reykjavik. Most whale watching tours in Akureyri will bring you into Iceland’s longest fjord, Eyjafjörður. Akureyri Whale-Watching tours are particularly suitable for families with smaller children; elderlies and people who tend to get seasick, as many tour operators take their tours on sizeable modern boats with warm indoor cabins. The main species seen in Akureyri are Humpback Whales, though Minke Whale, Dolphins and Harbour Porpoise can be spotted sometimes.
Best Whale-Watching Spots In Iceland
Húsavík boasts of a world-famous reputation for watching whales. Melting snow and rivers bring nutrients from mineral-rich locations, long-lasting summer-sun, which ultimately leads to generous masses of plankton, the main source of food for whales.
Most Whale-Watching tours leave from Reykjavík’s Old Harbour. It is also common to spot White-Beaked Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, Humpback Whales and also Puffins in the area. Best of all, Whale-Watching tours from Reykjavík are available all year round, though chances to see whales are higher during the summer months.
This place is famous for its spectacular natural sights, but few know about the marine life here. Well, to everyone’s surprise, this is the best spot in Iceland to see Orcas or Killer Whales. The chances to see those unique mammals are quite good during winter and spring.
Other rare whales that visit this area are Sperm Whales, the largest toothed whales and one of the deepest diving whales. These are mainly spotted in June. Snæfellsnes Peninsula is also common to spot Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, White-Beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises.
Whale-Watching tours in Westfjords only started running two years back, so they may still be a secret amongst travelers. This part of Iceland is relatively unspoiled and remote and surrounded by dramatic landscapes, natural geothermal pools and Puffin nesting grounds. If you are driving the Iceland Ring Road and want to see whales without the crowds, then come here for an amazing experience.
Best Whale Watching Iceland Tours on Get Your Guide
1. Reykjavik: Midnight Sun Whale-Watching Tour (Get Your Guide)
The Reykjavik Midnight Sun Whale Watching Tour will allow you to visit the habitat of these marvellous creatures from the Icelandic capital under the midnight sun. This includes cruising from Faxafloi Bay to look for minke whales. You are also likely to see other species such as porpoises and seabirds. The tour is 3.5 hours long and on environmentally friendly boat. It can get chilly at night in Iceland, but warm overalls are provided.
2. Reykjavik: Half–Day Whales and Puffins Combo Tour
This half day Whales and Puffins Combo Tour from Reykjavik is perfect if you are eager to travel from the capital and have a high chance of seeing Puffins too. You will be sailing from Reykjavik on a large boat to see the whales and then see the puffins up-close on the little boat ‘Old Skuli’ (Skúlaskeið in Icelandic!). You can borrow binoculars on this tour to get a closer look at the puffins.
3. Hjalteyri: Whale-Watching Boat Trip
This Hjalteyri Whale Watching Boat trip with Get Your Guide is a two-and-a-half hour whale-watching tour on a traditional oak boat. Enjoy a complimentary cinnamon bun and hot chocolate on board! Eyjafjörður is a favourable habitat for marine life, to such an extent that whales were spotted on every single one of these tours in 2016.
4. ATV & Whale-Watching
Perfect for the Adrenaline junkie, this ATV and Whale Watching Tour combines quad biking and Whale watching in one ultimate adventure. During this 8 hour tour, you will ride to the top of Ulfarsfell Mountain to take in breathtaking views from the peak. Following lunch overlooking Reykjavik harbour, you will then head out on your 3 hour Whale watching Iceland tour.
5. Húsavík: Whale Watching on a Carbon Neutral Oak Boat
This tour – Husavik Whale Watching on a Carbon Neutral Oak Boat – is great for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint. This three hour eco-friendly whale watching Iceland tour is also accessible for the disabled.
6. Húsavík: Midnight-Sun Whale Watching
This Husavik Midnight Sun Whale Watching tour is a two hour tour in an RIB speedboat. Witness these beautiful creatures under the Icelandic sun at Midnight.
Best Whale Watching iceland Tours on Viator Travel
Viator travel is the tour company of Tripadvisor and offers some of the best luxury whale watching tours online.
1. Whale-Watching in Luxury
One of the most luxurious whale watching tours bookable online is the Whale Watching in Luxury tour with Viator. Learn about minke and humpback whales, dolphins, and orcas as you cruise from Reykjavik by luxury yacht, with cosy blankets and on-board WIFI!
2. Whales of Iceland from Land and Sea
This Viator tour entitles Whales of Iceland from Land and Sea allows you to learn about these magnificent creatures through the Whales of Iceland exhibition in Reykjavik, before taking a three hour tour from the Reykjavik old harbour. The life sized whale models at the exhibition will help you to understand more about the Icelandic Whale species.
3. Whale-Watching in Dalvik
This fabulous Whale watching in Dalvik tour allows you to try your hand at fishing in the Icelandic waters and enjoy an on-board Barbecue. These cruises run both morning and afternoon daily and give you chance to see some of the 23 different species of Whale in the waters North of Iceland.
4. Whale Watching and Golden Circle Tour
Viator have combined Whale watching and the Golden Circle tour in this Whale Watching and Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik. As well as your Cruise around Faxaflói Bay to see whales, seabirds, dolphins and more, you will also see the Golden Circle Highlights.
The Golden circle is an area of natural beauty in Iceland and you will see Gullfoss waterfall, The Geysir (plus geothermal area) and Thingvellir National Park.
5. Whale Watching from Downtown Akureyri
If you are lucky enough to be in Iceland long enough to explore Akureyri as well as the capital of Reykjavik, you may want to consider this Whale Watching from Downtown Akureyri tour.
Ethics of Whale Watching
For the protection and conservation of whales within our waters, we should abide by the Code of Conduct while Whale-Watching. The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to foster an environment of co-operation and trust among water-based tour operators for the safety of whales and another marine wildlife with the safety and understanding of their passengers as well.
Many tour operators in Iceland abide by the ethics of Whale-Watching and follow Whale-Watching guidelines. Considering these ethics, there’re many variables to consider such as:
1. Don’t Get Too Close
Generally, the Whale-Watching operators aim at maintaining a distance of 300 m at the beginning of the encounter and gradually get closer with time. If the cetacean (aquatic mammal) is traveling fast, they speed up a little but not towards the animal. They don’t come closer if there is another boat in the approaching zone unless the other boat gives away or signals that is safe to approach.
2. Number of Boats
Although there are numerous boats, and each boat shouldn’t spend 20-30 minutes with the same Whale. Generally boats take turns to co-operate with other approaching boats to minimize disturbance. They never (deliberately) sail through pods of concentrated aquatic mammals and keep at a steady speed if dolphins approach the vessel and start bow-riding.
3. Other Responsibilities
The boats/propellers should always maintain a distance of at least 50 meters with the cetacean (aquatic mammal). When possible, stop the propeller if any cetacean approach the vessel and do not re-engage propulsion until all cetacean are observed to be well clear of your vessel. Visitors aren’t allowed to swim with or feed the wildlife during tours as this could have an impact on their diet and natural behaviours.
Summary – Whale Watching Iceland
To sum up, a good quality and responsible Whale-Watching trip will have an expert guide on board. This may be the skipper in some cases, but whoever it is, the focus of the trip should be on education rather than sensation. A responsible company will have details of guides on their website, their experience and qualifications. It will also have a responsible whale watching policy of some sort, with all of the following basics being adhered to.
Other Essential Tours in Iceland
While you are in Iceland, there are other amazing tours that you simply must do in the land of fire and ice. Don’t miss:
- The Golden Circle Tour Iceland – area of natural beauty including Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir and Geothermal area plus Thingvellir National Park.
- The Blue Lagoon Tour Iceland – relax in the Blue Lagoon – enjoy the heat of the geothermal waters and the miraculous power of the silica mud mask on your skin!
- While you are staying in Reykjavik, do the free Reykjavik walking tour that starts at the Parliament building at 2pm daily.
If you have limited time in Reykjavik, read this article on how to plan for it
Where to Stay in Iceland
One of the most popular 4 star hotels in Reykjavik is the Sand Hotel by Keahotels. It’s walkable from the centre of Reykjavik and includes breakfast and a good WIFI connection. The Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel is another excellent option if you want something right in the city centre.
If you want to go all out in full luxury, I totally recommend a stay at the Blue Lagoon Retreat Hotel. It’s amenities include a full-service spa, Rooftop terrace and 24-hour fitness centre. The suite views of the Icelandic countryside and lagoons are phenomenal. This is a good option for the night before you fly as it’s just 22 minutes from Keflavic airport. Splash out and relax on your last day in Iceland!
What to Pack for Iceland
Iceland can get cold in winter, and so you definitely want to be thinking about investing in a thermal base layer and thermal socks. A good wind and waterproof mountain jacket and walking boots are essential purchases for Iceland in the winter.
Also remember to pack your hat, scarf and gloves. Regarding specialist equipment such as crampons and diving gear for Silfra, most tour operators supply these included in the price of your tour or for an extra supplement.
You might also like to read about What to Wear in Iceland