Whale watching in Iceland. We offer scheduled whale watching tours from Reykjavik and in North Iceland. During summer you might also see puffins. If you have a rental car we recommend driving to Dalvik village in North Iceland for a whale watching tour, they have the highest success rate.
In short, whales fancy Iceland for good food and comfortable lodging. Iceland is among some of the best places to see whales because of its unique geography. Cold and warm currents moving around the island’s waters blend near the majestic fjords. Gelid polar waters mix with the currents heated by the underground powers, which creates a pleasant environment for whales.
This perfect blend also makes the Icelandic waters an attractive feeding ground for whales and other cetaceans, as the shallows abound in krill and fish - delicious treats for these giant mammals. In the summertime, the midnight sun warms the sea and zooplankton begins to flourish, attracting whales of various kinds.
Iceland resembles a magical island with a myriad of natural wonders, epic landscapes and a possibility to discover the wild from up close. You simply board a boat and go with the waves to observe these majestic creatures on their journey of thousands of miles.
There are around 24 whale species off Iceland’s coast. It’s possible to see both permanent and migratory species, including the largest mammals on Earth - blue whales. Most frequently on our tours, we see minke, fin, humpback, pilot and sperm whales.
Occasionally, dolphins, porpoises, killer whales (orcas) and other species can be spotted too. However, no matter the species, the memories of a close-up encounter with an animal whose heart can be the size of a car, remains forever.
Often whales are not shy and you might have a very good chance of seeing their broad granite-colored backs moving with grace and beauty right next to you. For those who want to see more of Iceland’s captivating animal kingdom, a combo day tour will be the best option. After the spectacle in the sea, you can anchor at the sea-battered coastal cliffs for puffin watching or ride a Viking steed in the countryside.
From the chilly Arctic Sea in the north to the vast Atlantic Ocean in the south, this volcanic island is the definition of ‘seabound’. The location of a whale-watching mecca can be anything from Reykjavik’s old town to a miniature fishing village in the north.
Dalvík sits on the shores of a beautiful fjord called Eyjafjörður in magnificent fjord scenery. Dalvík is a small fishing village with a population approximately 1400 inhabitants. The ferry to Iceland’s northernmost island departures from here. Tiny Grímsey is still an inhabited island and is quite famous because the Arctic Circle crosses it.
Humpbacks, white-beaked dolphins, minke whales and harbor porpoises are most commonly spotted from Dalvík. Sometimes even the majestic blue whale visits the bay. Just like in Húsavík, the success rate on Eyjafjörður is around 98%.
Whale watch tours from Reykjavík are available all year round. There are departures on a daily basis from the Old Harbor, which is located within a short walking distance the downtown area.
The whale watching boats sail out towards the Faxaflói bay, where mostly white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, and minke whales are frequently seen year-round and with a great number of humpbacks showing up in the summer.
Humpbacks are the most frequent show-stoppers on the tours. They can grow as big as 55 ft (17 m) long and weight up to 30 tonnes. These glorious creatures can also develop speed up to 16 mph (27 km/hour). They are known to be the most lively acrobats and will jump, roll over, slap and splash in the water, wowing the spectators.
Orcas / Killer Whales
Orcas are the world’s largest dolphin species and powerful predators who hunt other whales, seals, great white sharks, and other large prey. However, their hostility stops there, as they can be very sociable and friendly with the tourists.
These toothed whales often swim up close to the boat, occasionally showing their acrobatic skills. Keiko, the famous orca from “Free Willy” was once swimming in Icelandic waters. Orcas can grow up to 26 ft (8 m) long and weight up to 8 tonnes.
The fin whale is the second-largest species on earth (after the Blue whale) that can reach up to 85 ft (26 m) in length and weight up to 80 tonnes. They are also known for blowing the water up to 25 ft (9 m) up in the air. Fin whales are quite sociable and have the lifespan of 94 - 140 years!
If you get lucky, in Iceland you can spot the largest mammal on Earth, and the true king of the deep sea. Blue whales can grow up to 104 ft (31.7 m) long, weigh up to 173 tonnes and live up to 90 years, while also being able to reach a speed of 31 mph (50 km/h). Most often Blue Whales were seen in the North of Iceland.
Minke is one of the most frequently seen whales in Iceland. Minke whales can be up to 28 feet (8.5 m) long and weight up to 8 tonnes. When they get curious, Minkes like to swim up close to the boats and show off their beauty and tricks.
Other whales in Iceland
Besides the beautiful cetaceans mentioned above, other inhabitants of Iceland’s waters include sperm whales, harbor porpoises and white-beaked dolphins.
The best time for spotting whales around Iceland is the summer: June, July, and August. Whale watching tours are often combined with sea angling and puffin watching.
The high season for whale watching starts in April and lasts until mid-October. However, many whales stay in the Icelandic waters throughout the year. The success rate of the summer tours is over 95%, in the north, this is even higher at 98%.
Herring and other small fish are abundant in the waters in the winter. Many toothed species, for example, dolphins and orcas stay around Iceland throughout the year, but sightings of humpbacks and minke whales are certainly not uncommon either. The success rates in winter are still quite high, around 90%.
If your tour is cancelled due to unfavorable circumstances, you can book another departure or get a full refund. If you went on the tour and there were no sightings at all, you will be offered a free ticket so that you can go on another tour.