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The Ultimate Guide to Whale Watching in Iceland

If you find yourself along the Icelandic coastline, staring across the sea, there’s always a chance that you will spot one of our gentle giants of the ocean. And those odds increase dramatically if you visit during our whale season here on the island. But what can you expect when whale watching in Iceland?


When is the best time to go whale watching, and where should you go? Are there any whale watching tours to consider? We answer all these questions and more, so read on.


whale watching iceland

The Best Time to See Whales in Iceland


To go whale watching in Iceland during our official whale season, you’ll need to come between April and September. There will always be whales around the island, irrespective of the time of year. But, going whale watching during the whale season here in Iceland brings a few extra treats.


Not only do the odds of seeing the whales getting up to their ocean acrobatics dramatically increase, but you also get to see some of the migratory whale species that call the island their home during this time.


The Whales You Can Expect On a Whale Safari in Iceland


The different types of whale species Iceland boasts during our whale season are pretty incredible. These are just a few that you may find splashing around in our waters:


Harbor Porpoises


This is one of the smallest whale species along the Icelandic coast and can often be mistaken for a dolphin because of its size. These guys reach only 1.5 meters and can give any adult human a good go in the weight department, clocking in at only 60 kilograms. They can be pretty shy, so, despite living very close to the shoreline, they’re rarely seen. But if you spot a small whale from the beach or the pier – it’s probably a Harbor Porpoise.


Harbor Porpoises

Orcas


This should come as no surprise, since the very whale that put these pandas of the sea on our radar in Free Willy comes from Icelandic waters. These guys can become big beasts, weighing up to 10 tons and reaching lengths of up to 10 meters! You will also usually spot more than one if you see them, since they roam around in pods of up to 40 whales.



Orcas watching in Iceland


Pilot Whales


No, these guys are not what they sound like (unfortunately) and you will need to lower your gaze from the skies back to the ocean. Pilot Whales are another whale species that’s fairly common around the Icelandic coast. They can grow to be roughly 8 meters long and weigh about 5 tons.


Pilot Whales

Humpback Whales


These are our performers here on the island. They are known for their exciting performances during a whale watching tour in Iceland. And they are incredibly curious creatures, so they will usually end up coming closer to the whale watching tour boat.


Watching them slapping their tails on the water’s surface, or even seeing a full breach, is possible when these guys show up. It’s quite astounding that they can be so active when one takes into account that they need to get up to 40 tons of body weight out of the water in a full breach!


Humpback Whales

White-beaked Dolphins


The name can be quite misleading since this is a type of whale species. We can’t help but wonder if, once again, it might not have been the size that had someone mistake these whales for dolphins, since they grow to be roughly 3 meters long and weigh a mere 275 kilograms (which is light-weight in whale terms).


These guys also travel in groups of up to 5 whales, and since they are incredibly social, you’ll usually spot them either messing around with each other in the water or even cruising alongside the boat.



White-beaked Dolphins

Minke Whales


These are definitely the type of whale that is spotted the most here in Iceland. They grow to be about 10 meters long and clock in at roughly 10 tons. Just like the Harbor Porpoises, they are quite a shy species, but because of the sheer volume of these whales in our waters, you have a fairly good chance of spotting at least one or two.


Minke Whales

Blue Whales


Yes, that’s right; you can actually get the chance to spot the biggest whale species in the world here in Iceland! These magnificent beasts can reach sizes of up to 30 meters long and weigh up to 200 tons. They tend to stick to the deeper waters not just because of their size, but also because they are pretty shy, so it’s a very special occasion when you spot one of these.


Blue Whales

But That’s Not All


This might already seem like a wide variety, but it’s merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the whales that can be seen along our shores. A few others include:

  • Sei Whale

  • Beluga Whale

  • Bowhead Whale

  • Gray Whale

  • Fin Whale

  • Narwhal

  • North-Atlantic Right Whale

  • Bottlenose Whale

Where to Go for Some of the Best Whale Watching in Iceland


If you’re wondering where to go whale watching in Iceland, we’re about to give you the insider scoop. The following are considered to be some of the best whale watching spots in Iceland:


Reykjavík


Whale watching in Reykjavík is incredibly convenient. Most who come to visit the island will spend some time in the capital city at one point or another (usually right after they arrive at Keflavik Airport). And those who have very limited time here on the island, also opt to have Reykjavík as a base and then do a few drives and tours to attractions nearby. With whale watching in Reykjavík, it’s just a quick walk down to the Harbor.


Best Whale Watching in Iceland

Akureyri


Whale watching in Iceland in Akureyri (the so-called capital of the north) is extremely popular. The ocean water here is much colder, and the northern regions of the country are still fairly underdeveloped. Add on the fact that there’s plenty of marine life cruising the waters there, and you’ve got whales flocking to the area, making this a go-to spot for whale watching in Northern Iceland.


Husavik


Husavik claims the top spot when it comes to where to whale watch in Iceland. In fact, Husavik is referred to as the whale watching capital of Iceland. So, if at all possible, you need to add Husavik in Iceland for whale watching to your trip itinerary.


Some of the Best Whale Watching Tours in Iceland


You will find plenty of whale watching tours here in Iceland, whether a dedicated activity tour or as part of a combo tour such as a whale and Puffin tour in Iceland (very popular). If you would like to book a spot on a whale watching tour, do check the following tours:



FAQs About Whale Watching in Iceland


Below, you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding whale watching in Iceland:


When is Whale Season in Iceland?


Iceland’s whale watching season is from April to September.


What Month is Best for Whale Watching in Iceland?


Whale watching tours and sightseeing in Iceland are available all year round, but to increase your chances of spotting, and seeing some of our migratory species, you will need to visit during our official whale season between April and September. During this time, there’s not any specific month that is better than another.


How Much is Whale Watching in Iceland?


Generally, a whale watching tour lasts between 2–3 hours and can range from $90 to $200.


You can try to do some whale spotting by yourself from the beach or the harbors, which, of course, is completely free of charge. Alternatively, you can go on one of the many whale watching tours across the country, which will increase your chances of spotting these gentle giants dramatically, since the local guides know exactly when and where they tend to roam the ocean.


Whilst these tours will certainly give you an advantage, they also come at a price. These prices vary depending on how many attractions or activities are included on the tour, as well as the length of the tour.


Whale Watching in Iceland; Get Your Timing Right!


If you just want to add general whale watching as an experience to your Iceland trip, then it’s possible to spot these majestic creatures all throughout the year. But if you have your heart set on whale watching in Iceland and want to see all that the island has to offer, we highly recommend that you get the timing right and come during our official whaling season.


If you rent a campervan in Reykjavík, you can make an entire road trip out of it and hit each of the must-visit whale watching towns mentioned above. We hope you have a whale of a time in Iceland!

Camper Rental Iceland

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