Whale watching in Iceland is one of the best activities for those choosing to visit the land of fire and ice in the summer. You have many options when choosing your whale watching tour in Iceland including deciding whether to go whale watching in Reykjavik just minutes from downtown or venture up north where you’ll find some of the best whale watching in Iceland.
Companies will usually offer 2-3 hour tours. Some have speed boats while others use majestic luxury ships. Some companies take you out under the glow of the midnight sun, while most have regular daytime hours. You also have the choice of choosing tours that offer side trips to Puffin Island as well.
Whether you’re following the playful dolphins or are holding your breath as a whale flaps its large tail into the air before diving down, you’re sure to have an experience you’ll remember for many years to come. Whale watching in Iceland is a magical experience and we’re here to ensure you make the most of your adventure.
What Kind Of Whales Can You See In Iceland?
The waters of Iceland contain a diverse collection of whale species that includes Blue whales, Minke whales, Fin whales, Humpback whales, Orcas, Sperm whales, Sei whales, Pilot whales, White-beaked dolphins, and Harbour porpoises.
Of those species, you’re most likely to see Minke whales, Humpback whales, Orcas, White-beaked dolphins, and Harbour Porpoises during your whale watching tour in Iceland.
The White-beaked dolphins will probably be the first species you’ll spot on your tour as they’re abundant and stay closer to the shore. If you venture up north to Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland, or Akureyri you’re more likely to spot Humpback whales, whereas the Orcas tend to roam the waters of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and East fjords.
Best Time Of Year For Whale Watching In Iceland
The whale watching season in Iceland spans from May-September, with June, July, and August being the peak months.
Whales are feeding and breeding during the summer months, meaning there’s an abundance of wildlife in Iceland’s waters during this time. The increased activity coupled with more favorable weather makes the summer the best time of year to see whales in Iceland.
Some companies offer whale watching tours in the winter. While the weather and decrease in marine life make the winter less desirable, it has a couple of upsides if you know where to go. Your best bet is to head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in hopes of encountering some orcas which are known to roam the waters in that area during the winter.
Though the winter has smaller crowds and more orcas, we highly suggest visiting in the summer if whale watching is high on your itinerary. Overall you’ll have a more enjoyable and likely more successful whale watching experience.
What To Wear On A Whale Tour In Iceland
Some whale watching tours in Iceland have additional seating indoors to help keep you warm. Almost all of the tours provide you with warm, waterproof coveralls, and a handful of the tours offer hot chocolate on the return trip.
Despite the efforts made by the tour companies to make your trip as enjoyable as possible, it’s crucial that you arrive at the tour dressed warmly. In fact, most of the tour companies specifically tell you to wear warm clothes and suitable shoes. You’ll be out on the water, likely getting wind-whipped in chilly weather with a high likelihood of rain, so warm, waterproof clothing is a priority.
We suggest wearing fleece-lined leggings and thermal long sleeve tops as base layers under your outer clothes. There are great options for both men and women. Balaclava’s are a great alternative to scarves for keeping your neck and lower face warm. Pair that with a headband ear warmer or a cable knit beanie and your head will be all set.
For your outer layer you’ll want a light jacket such as the Columbia Women’s Arvadia Ii Jacket or a light thermal jacket with Omni-heat technology. For colder days you might consider an Omni-heat winter coat or a Columbia Men’s Action Jacket to keep you warm.
Hiking pants such as the Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Straight Leg Pant or the Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant should do the trick over your leggings, however, if you’re looking for something warmer, men’s or women’s snow pants are another option.
For your feet, grab a pair of your favorite wool socks and cover them with quality waterproof hiking books such as the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot or the Columbia Dakota Drifter Waterproof Trail Shoe.
Finally, you’ll want waterproof gloves to keep your hands warm while you take pictures of the whales from the ship. It’s better to arrive over-prepared and take layers off as you warm up than to spend the whole tour wishing you had worn something warmer.
8 Best Whale Watching Tours In Iceland
From Reykjavik: Whale Watching Tour (3 Hours)
If you’re hoping to go whale watching in Reykjavik, this is the perfect tour for you. The tour launch point is just a short walk from the city center making it a convenient activity to include in your Reykjavik itinerary.
This tour boasts the largest whale watching ship in Iceland, the Andrea. When you’re not standing outside in the viewing area or on the deck catching a glimpse of a whale or dolphin, you can warm up indoors in the boat’s cafe or souvenir shop. Large windows allow you to catch the whale action from inside as well.
Wifi, educational information on board, a knowledgable guide…what more can you ask for? So bundle up, throw on the provided overalls, and look out at the ocean beyond, because you just might witness something spectacular.
Reykjavík: Whale Watching From A Luxury Yacht (3 Hours)
Why battle other tourists for the best spot on a viewing deck when you can have an intimate small-group experience on a luxury yacht? You can go whale watching in Reykjavik in style aboard the Amelia Rose.
When Iceland is throwing its notorious cold winds and rain your way you can stay warm and cozy inside the lounge or bar onboard the ship. When the guides spot a whale or other wildlife you can venture outside to any one of three deck areas for the ultimate views.
Make sure you bring a camera along because with minimal guests aboard the ship you’ll have unobstructed views of the wildlife which makes for perfect photography conditions. Though blankets are provided to help keep you warm as you make your way around Faxaflói Bay, it’s important that you come prepared with warm clothes and suitable footwear to maximize your experience.
Reykjavik: Midnight Sun Whale Watching Tour (3.5 Hours)
There’s something so magical about embarking on adventures under the soft glow of the midnight sun. The optimal whale watching season covers the summer months when the days are long and the sun virtually never sets. It’s a special time of year and provides the perfect opportunity for some late-night whale watching in Iceland.
The meeting point for this tour is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Reykjavik. From there you’ll venture into Faxafloi Bay to search for whales (most likely Minke), dolphins, and porpoises.
This particular company is very environmentally friendly, taking extra efforts to make sure the whales and their habitat are minimally impacted. You’ll spend 3.5 hours out on the water before returning back to shore with a live singer providing entertainment for the way home.
Húsavík 3-Hour Original Whale Watching Tour
It’s hard to beat the experience of whale watching in Husavik, the whale watching capital of Iceland. Your 3-hour whale watching tour will take you out to Skjálfandi Bay in a traditional Icelandic oak ship as you search for these majestic beasts of the seas.
A knowledgeable guide will accompany you to provide background information on Húsavík, the types of whales you’re seeing, when they’re about to take a deep dive and when you can expect to see the tail flip, etc. Feel free to ask the guides any questions you may have. They’re there to make your trip as enjoyable and interesting as possible.
Though you’ll be provided with warm, water-resistant overalls, it’s crucial you play your part in dressing warmly for this outing. Gloves, hats, and appropriate shoes are always a good idea. To help you warm up you’ll be given hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls as you head back to land.
Book Here: Húsavík 3-Hour Original Whale Watching Tour
Húsavík: Big Whale Safari & Puffin Island Tour (2.5 Hours)
This 2.5-hour adventure throughout Skjálfandi Bay is one of the best whale tours in Iceland if you’re hoping to see both whales and puffins during your trip. From April to August during the puffin’s nesting period you’ll be able to observe thousands of the orange beaked birds on Puffin Island.
You’ll cover a lot of ground on this tour thanks to the modern RIB speedboat that will zip you around the bay, allowing you to get quite close to the whales for a more intimate experience. Rather than move about as you would on a larger boat, there are individual stools for you to sit on with safety bars to hold.
To help ensure that you’re focused on enjoying the whales and wildlife and not thinking about how cold you are, you’ll be provided with waterproof overalls. There’s even a surprise from a local winemaker to look forward to as well. Whale watching in Húsavík is always a good idea, and this tour is no exception.
Húsavík: Whale Watching By Traditional Wooden Sailing Ship (3 Hours)
What a magical experience to be able to go whale watching in Húsavik aboard such a majestic ship. You’ll sail through the waters of Skjálfandi Bay for 3 hours aboard a beautiful wooden, oak ship.
If you’re so inclined, you can even help raise the sails. A trip around the bay on this ship might almost justify the price of admission on its own, but add some spectacular whale sightings to that and you have yourself an experience you won’t soon forget.
A knowledgeable tour guide will lead you throughout your adventure with the help of warm clothes to keep out the chill and hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun for general passenger happiness.
Hjalteyri: Whale-Watching Boat Trip (2.5 Hours)
Are you looking for the best whale watching tour in Iceland, but worry that the choppy seas won’t sit well with you? This 2.5-hour adventure through the calm waters of Iceland’s longest fjord, Eyjafjörður is the perfect tour for you.
As you leave the small fishing town for deeper water, a guide will instruct you as to where to look and what it is you’re looking at. There’s a lot of wildlife activity in this fjord making it an ideal spot for whale watching in Iceland.
As you take the charming oak boat back to shore, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy some complimentary hot chocolate and a delicious cinnamon bun for the cherry on top of a wonderful trip.
Akureyri: 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour
If you’re hoping to see Humpbacks while whale watching in Iceland, then Akureyri is the place to be. Though it’s certainly possible that you’ll see other wildlife during your tour, humpbacks are the most commonly spotted whale in this area.
Your tour will depart from Akureyri and will take you on a three-hour adventure around Eyjafjorður, Iceland’s longest fjord (and a beautiful one at that)! You’ll be traveling aboard a special high-speed whale watching ship led by knowledgeable guides who will not only help you spot the whales but will explain their behavior as you observe them.
Though this ship can hold up to 200 passengers, you shouldn’t have any problems getting spectacular views of the whale’s thanks to the cinema-style viewing platforms on board. With plenty of indoor seating and overalls to help keep you warm when you’re outside, this tour does a great job of ensuring you’re as comfortable as possible to enjoy everything you’re about to see.
Book Here: Akureyri: 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour
We’re thrilled you’ve chosen to add whale watching in Iceland to your vacation itinerary. It’s such a wonderfully unique experience to be sailing through the fjords and bays off the coast while seeking out the beautiful, diverse marine life that calls these waters home for part of the year.
The whales in Iceland are majestic and powerful and to be able to see them in their natural habitat is truly special. If you have any questions as you go about deciding which of the whale watching tours in Iceland you’d like to book, feel free to reach out to us in the comments section below.