Whale watching in Iceland – The best whale watching tours in Iceland

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Whale watching in Iceland is one of the best things you can do if you are traveling to the Land of Fire and Ice. We visit this country every year to run our Iceland photo tour, and whenever we can, we book an Iceland whale watching tour, an activity that I highly recommend.

If you haven’t seen wild whales before, I assure you that you will be impressed by their size. Also, if you are passionate about cetaceans like me, it’s not difficult to get excited by their majestic movements. This is why whale watching in Iceland is such a popular activity.

Iceland whale watching tour

Whale watching in Iceland

In addition, whale watching tours in Iceland have greatly helped the fight against whaling. Taking a whale watching excursion in Iceland is the best way to show locals that cetaceans are more valuable as living creatures than commodified goods.

So if you are starting to plan your list of essential things to do in Iceland and you want to find the best whale watching tour, this article explains everything you need to know so you can enjoy it to the fullest.

In this guide to whale watching in Iceland you will find:

Best time for whale watching in Iceland

There are whale watching tours in Iceland every month of the year, but depending on the area you are in, you will be more likely to see them depending on the time you travel. Besides, the type of whales you will find will change during the year.

So first things first, you need to know when is the best time to see whales in Iceland and the best places you can go depending on whether it’s summer or winter.

Whale watching Iceland best time of year

Best time for whale watching in Iceland

There are different excursions to see cetaceans in Iceland from different parts of the island, and although we have always been lucky and have been able to enjoy the experience to the fullest, no company can assure you that you will see whales on your tour. That is, even if you travel at the best time to visit Iceland, it may happen that you don’t see whales or you see only a few. It’s possible to do the same excursion two different days and have totally different experiences. Being wild animals living in complete freedom, their habits are unpredictable and this is what makes whale watching in Iceland so addictive and special.

The good news is that almost all whale watching tours in Iceland, or at least the ones I am going to recommend allow you to repeat the excursion for free until you see whales. So my first piece of advice is to schedule your whale watching excursion in Iceland for your first travel day. This way, you will have more opportunities to watch them if you need to repeat the tour.

Whale Watching in summer in Iceland

For many reasons, summer is the best time for whale watching in Iceland. From June to August, a large number of whales come to the island’s coast to feed.

This is the best time to see the most common whales of Iceland, the minke, and the humpback. You can even see some white-beaked dolphins and porpoises.

During these months there are also migratory movements by some cetacean species that are more difficult to see, such as the blue whale, so you will have more opportunities to see this gigantic type of whale while they are migrating north.

Whale watching Iceland holidays

Whale watching in summer in Iceland

Another main advantage of the summer months is that you can do a whale watching tour in Iceland from any of the three cities from which they depart, Reykjavík, Húsavík, and Akureyri. So you can take a tour from wherever best suits you without having to modify your itinerary much. Also, I will tell you about when to see whales in Iceland depending on the city you are in later.

Finally, other reasons why I recommend taking a whale watching tour in Iceland in the summer is because you can take advantage of more comfortable temperatures. Although most tours will provide you with warm overalls, on the high seas the cold wind is biting. In addition, the waters are also usually calmer during these months, so the risk of canceling the excursion due to bad weather is less. For all this, the summer months, between June and August, is considered the best time to see whales in Iceland. April, May, September, and early October is also a very good time for whale watching.

Whale Watching in winter in Iceland

Summer is considered the best time to see whales in Iceland. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t see and enjoy them in winter. We have also taken whale watching tours in Iceland in winter, and so far we have always been quite lucky and able to see whales on the first outing.

The main difference with taking a whale watching tour in summer is that you will have to carefully plan your departure since there are months when you can only do it from Reykjavík. So you should keep in mind that if you travel to Iceland between November and March you won’t be able to take the whale tour from Húsavík or Akureyri.

Iceland whale watching winter

Whale Watching in winter in Iceland

We loved our whale watching tour in Iceland in the middle of the winter because the snowy landscapes in the background make everything even more spectacular. Also, in winter you have the opportunity to watch orcas in Iceland. So if your dream is to watch killer whales in Iceland, I think winter is also a good time for a whale tour.

Another advantage of whale watching in Iceland during the winter is that there are usually fewer tourists and you can enjoy a calmer experience without the crowds.

Of course, if you travel to Iceland in winter and you plan to take this excursion, be ready for the cold. Even if you bundle up and wear the warm overalls they provide, you will inevitably feel cold while enjoying these incredible animals. Still, the experience is worth itmost popular excursions from Reykjavik.

Whale watching tours from Reykjavík depart from the Old Harbour. During the tour, you can see minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, porpoises, and humpback whales. Also, depending on the route the boat takes, it is possible to see killer whales in winter, and puffins in summer.

Whale watching Reykjavík best time of year

Whale watching in Reykjavík, a popular place for whale watching in Iceland

But if the capital is such a popular place to see whales in Iceland, it’s also because of the beauty of its landscapes. From the boat, you have beautiful views of the Reykjanes peninsula, in addition to Faxaflói Bay and the Snaefellsjökull glacier. There’s certainly plenty of things to do in Reykjavík, but taking a whale-watching tour from the capital is most exciting.

Most travelers visiting the island don’t have the time to make the full loop around the Ring Road,visiting the north of Iceland, so if this is the case for you, don’t worry. Although Húsavík and Akureyri are more reputable whale watching spots, feel free to book a whale watching tour in Reykjavík if you are only visiting the souththis one. Andrea, which is the boat they use to run the tour, is the largest whale watching ship in Iceland. Riders can see cetaceans from anywhere on the boat.

It also has a warm inside seating area where you can see whales through large windows. This is a good backup plan if it gets very cold. Even so, I recommend that you wear the warm overalls that they hand out, and go out onto the deck since it’s the best way to see these animals.

Iceland whale watching tour in Reykjavík

Whale watching tour from Reykjavík

This basic tour to watch whales from Reikivaik, Iceland is the most popular because it boasts an excellent price. The downside is, in high season, it’s the first to run out of ticket reservations.

However, it is not the only recommended whale watching tour from Reykjavík.

If you travel to Iceland in the summer, I recommend this tour, which combines the same whale tour from Reykjavík with a tour to see puffins. This excursion uses a smaller boat that allows you to get closer to the cliffs where these friendly birds nest.

At the end of June, the Midnight Sun also occurs, so if you are going to travel at this time I suggest you to keep an eye on the tour that combines whale watching in Iceland with the Midnight Sun. This is an incredible phenomenon that you cannot miss, and this tour is a standout experience.

On the other hand, if you travel to Iceland in winter, the best thing to do is take this other tour that combines whale watching with the Northern Lights. If you’re going to do this tour, I suggest you read our guide on how to photograph the Northern Lights.

Whale watching tours from Húsavík

There are many whale watching excursions from Húsavík, Iceland, but the one we liked the most is this one. This

is a 3-hour tour that will allow you to enjoy incredible landscapes while witnessing all kinds of cetaceans and seabirds. The guide that we had on our last trip was great and, in addition to watching many whales, we learned a lot.

How long are whale watching tours in Húsavík

Whale watching tours from Húsavík

I also recommend you check out this excursion that combines whale watching with a visit to the puffin island. This option is only available during the puffin nesting period between April 15 and August 20. You can also repeat this tour at no cost if you don’t see whales or dolphins that day.

Best whale watching tour from Akureyri

From Akureyri, the selection of whale watching tours in Iceland is not as great as in the two previous cities, but this doesn’t mean that the quality of the tours is lower. With this basic whale watching tour in Iceland from Akureyri you will travel on a high-speed boat designed to respect both the wildlife and the landscape of Iceland.

Tour from Akureyri for whale watching

Best whale watching tour from Akureyri

You will be able to see humpback whales in the longest fjord in the country, Eyjafjord. The tour lasts 3 hours and if at the end you haven’t seen any cetacean, they will give you a coupon valid for 2 years to repeat the tour from Reykjavík or Akureyrikiller whales in Vancouver, Canada and Kamchatka, but not in Iceland. However, we’ll keep trying and I hope we can see them there someday, too.

Other types of whales of Iceland

Although there are many other types of whales in Iceland, if you are lucky enough to come across any of the following, you should feel extremely lucky. They are rare to see, but with a bit of luck and a whale tour guided by authentic scientists and experts like the ones I have recommended, you will increase your chances.

Other baleen whales in Iceland

In addition to humpback whales and minke whales, there are other baleen whales that can be seen in Iceland, such as the giant blue whale or the fin whale. These types of whales are more difficult to see, so if you want to have a chance, you should visit the island in summer.

Blue whales in Iceland

Other baleen whales in Iceland

Toothed whales in Iceland

On some occasions, especially in the spring and summer, toothed whales can be sighted in Iceland. The most common is the sperm whale, which is the largest toothed animal in the world, measuring up to 65 feet. Sometimes, they are spotted in western Iceland.

In the north, whales more typical of the Arctic Circle are also rarely seen, such as the beluga, also known as the white whale. Another rare species is the narwhal, the unicorn of the sea with a single tusk of up to 6.5 feet.

Seeing a toothed whale in Iceland is difficult, as they are not common, although you should have your camera ready in case you have a lucky break during your tour.

Pilot whales in Iceland

The pilot whales are a kind of dolphin. It’s estimated that around 35,000 specimens live in Iceland but they are very difficult to see because they are usually always on the high seas. Occasionally they get a little closer to the coast and that’s when you might get lucky and see some of them. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to see them by booking a whale watching tour in Iceland. And if you see any, consider it a huge stroke of luck.

What kind of whales do you see in Iceland

Pilot whales in Iceland

Beaked whales in Iceland

The beakedwhales are the most mysterious type of whale, since they spend most of their time submerged, making it practically impossible to see them. They rise to the surface for a few seconds before plunging back into the depths to feed, making them a very rare sight. It doesn’t help that they often swim away from ships.

However, it is estimated that there are around 40,000 individual bottlenose whales inhabiting the waters around Iceland, so some have occasionally been seen, especially in the southeast of the islandhere, as it is one of the most popular things to do in Reykjavík.

Whale hunting in Iceland

Contrary to what many people think, whale hunting in Iceland is not part of the country’s tradition. It was not until the 20th century that commercial whaling began in Iceland. Other countries have previously used Icelandic waters to hunt whales, but Icelanders didn’t participate in these hunting practices.

Unfortunately, many whaling companies from Norway began operating on the island. After intensive over-hunting in Norway, they found the Icelandic waters more abundant in whales. Knowing the economic benefits of whaling, the Icelanders began to hunt whales, mainly to sell them to Norway and Japan.

Whale hunting in Iceland is legal

Whale hunting in Iceland

Are you surprised to know that most Icelanders have never eaten whale meat despite being an easy dish to find in some tourist restaurants?

Although nowadays it’s legal to hunt whales in Iceland, the locals have realized that the country’s economy is driven by tourism and that tourists are willing to pay much more to watch whales in Iceland swimming free than to see them on their plate.

The good news is that in 2019 no whales were hunted in Iceland and we hope it will continue to be so until this practice is outlawed. You can help in the fight against whaling in Iceland, too. If you go to a restaurant where this option is served, don’t ask for it. Also, take a whale watching tour in Iceland to continue helping locals “monetize” the whales in a much more respectful way.

Thanks for helping protect Iceland’s whales!

source : https://capturetheatlas.com/whale-watching-in-iceland/

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