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Best Whale Watching Spots in Iceland

Embark on your whale watching trip from these 6 Icelandic cities

|May 24, 2023
Konstancija is a writer who enjoys long walks and hikes in nature, "hunts" for second-hand goods, and is a frequent guest in public libraries where she loves to read and roam around stacks of books.

Iceland, rich in nature, attracts people from all over the world to try many unique activities. One of these is, of course whale-watching. Find out the best towns and cities from which you can hop on a boat and see these giants.


One of the most popular activities that many visitors in Iceland can't wait to experience and enjoy is whale watching. After all, who would miss an opportunity to see the biggest mammal on earth? While this activity brings so much excitement, it also helps people learn more about the whales and understand their importance.

But where is the best place for whale watching in Iceland? What are the chances of actually spotting them? And when is the best time to see them? Continue reading to discover everything you need to know, including the top six places in Iceland with the highest chance of seeing these stunning creatures. 

Aerial view of swimming whale in the sea

Best Places to Go Whale Watching in Iceland

Iceland is a hub for whale watching adventures. Check out the most popular places to go whale watching in Iceland.

Types of Whales In Iceland

Iceland is an incredibly popular destination to glimpse these special creatures, and for good reason. While populations fluctuate and different species can be seen at different times of the year, some 20 whale species have been spotted off of Iceland’s shores. The most common types of whales to spot in Iceland are:

  • Minke Whales
  • Humpback Whales
  • Harbor Porpoises
  • White-beaked Dolphins

When is The Best Time to go Whale Watching in Iceland?

Like most wildlife, whales are most commonly spotted during the Icelandic summer. In the summer months, the almost 24 hours of sunlight as well as the abundance of fish and krill attract numerous species to the shallower waters near the coast of the small island nation. This makes summer the most popular time to embark from any port on an adventure to spot whales. 

 

However, this does bring drawbacks. Your trips are much more likely to be crowded in summer, which could make taking the perfect photograph more difficult. What’s more, species like orcas and belugas are more commonly seen in North Iceland during the winter. Therefore, when you decide to go whale-watching will depend on your preferences.

Top 6 Whale Watching Destinations Iceland

Húsavík

Whale watching boat tour in Húsavík, Iceland

If one of your main goals during your trip to Iceland is to see whales, then you should go straight to the whale-watching capital – Húsavík. The town is located in Iceland's North East, by Skjálfandi Bay. While this fishing town is primarily known as the whale-watching hot spot, it also invites visitors to admire its stunning nature, colorful architecture, and many places, such as Húsavík Whale Museum or the town's wooden church.

But of course, many come here to see the stunning whales and usually choose this location, especially during summer, as it provides high sightseeing success rates. In Húsavík, you can spot humpback whales, harbor porpoises, minke whales, and much more. Even history proves this to be one of the best places in Iceland for whale watching, as Húsavík was where the first whale-watching tour company started operating back in 1995.

 

Akureyri

Whale-watching tour in North Iceland, Akureyri

Among popular whale watching locations is Akureyri, the second largest town in Iceland and the capital of the North. With a population of more than 18,000 citizens, the town is only 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from the Arctic Circle. It's also situated in the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjörður. Because of this convenient location, many choose Akureyri as the place most suitable for whale watching.

Akureyri can also be considered the best place in Iceland for whale-watching as not only can you spot minke whales and humpback whales, but if you're really lucky, you can also see bottlenose whales. And for those who are afraid that they won't be fortunate enough to see these mammals, the chances of seeing whales in Akureyri are very high, reaching almost 100% success rate.

Dalvík

Popular location to go whale watching - Dalvík town

Another popular place to go whale watching in Iceland is Dalvík. This fishing town is situated on the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, in the Eyjafjörður fjord. Despite its population being only around 1,500 citizens, the town attracts many tourists with its beautiful scenery, hiking trails, ski slopes, and of course, whale-watching tours.

On a Dalvík whale-watching tour, you'll be able to explore the North Coast of Iceland on a boat and have a unique opportunity to spot humpback whales, minke whales, and even white-beaked dolphins. And if you think that there's nothing more that can surprise you after such a remarkable event, a whale-watching tour with a beer spa could be just what you need. What could be better after a long, eventful day than soaking in a beer tub?

Reykjavík

Whale-watching tour in Iceland's capital - Reykjavik

Iceland's capital is known as a center of urban activities and a spot where travelers can see whales. Many whale-watching tours actually start from Reykjavík, making it more comfortable for visitors to cross one activity off of their list of must-do things on Iceland. It's also smart to combine whale-watching with other fun activities, such as chasing the Northern Lights. On the whale-watching and aurora borealis tour, you'll have a unique opportunity to leave the capital and go to Faxaflói Bay to see humpback whales and minke whales. Later, you'll finish your evening by watching the famous Northern Lights dancing across the Icelandic night sky.

Olafsvik, Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Whale watching in Snæfellsnes, Iceland

Among places that offer whale watching in Iceland is Snæfellsnes Peninsula (also called "Iceland in miniature"), found in West Iceland. The peninsula is famous for its rich and unforgettable nature. It’s also home to Snæfellsjökull, an active volcano with a glacier cap that’s 700,000 years old. One of the top places from which you can embark on a whale-watching tour is Olafsvik.

Often, whale-watching tours ensure that you'll get to witness these beautiful mammals as the guides know the best time and place to see the whales. On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you can spot a variety of these water creatures, including blue whales, harbor porpoises, northern bottlenose whales, and sei whales.

Holmavik, The Westfjords

Westfjords - calm waters to spot the whales in Iceland

Last but not least, another place to spot whales is the Westfjords of Iceland. This place is known for its remoteness and countless activities, including hiking, soaking in hot springs, kayaking, bird-watching, and of course, whale-watching. One of the ways you can save some time and increase your chances of actually spotting humpback whales, pilot whales, and minke whales is by going on a tour from Holmavik. Here you'll have a chance to enjoy the calm waters, and see many different species of whales, and hear all about them from your guide.

Iceland is recognized for its diverse nature, breathtaking sites, and its wealth of wildlife. Whales are among many different species of animals in the land of fire and ice who found their home here. Over the years, many visitors come here to spot them. If you're among those who wish to see the greatness of these mammals for yourself and want to be sure of your success, check out these whale-watching tours in Iceland in the top best locations for this activity.

 

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