Iceland is surrounded by oceans and seas in all directions and one of the top whale watching nations in Europe. The island nation has a long and eventful history with these giants of the seas since the arrival of its earliest settlers. Whales have fascinated the island’s dwellers for many centuries and now draw a great number of tourists.
Whale breeds that attract innumerable whale watching enthusiasts to the Icelandic ports
* Humpback whale
* Killer whale (Orca)
* Minke whale
* Blue whale
* Bottlenose whale
* Fin whale
* Sei whale
* Pilot whale
* Harbor porpoise
* White-sided dolphin
* White-beaked dolphin
Among these, the Harbor Porpoise is the smallest whale that reaches a size of 1.5-2 meters. The Blue whale and the Fin whale are two of the largest whale species found around Iceland. Sperm whales and Humpbacks also make spectacular sights as they leap out of the water. An Iceland visit can help you create remarkable memories with these rulers of the sea.
Whale Watching in Iceland Today
A lot has changed since the 9th and 10th centuries when whaling activities were quite prevalent. Now the relationship has changed into quite a positive one, as whales are well protected and conserved. Whales are as characteristic to Iceland as the Northern Lights, volcanoes, glaciers and hot springs. There is no better place if you want to see humongous whales splashing around. The country is widely regarded as the best European whale watching destination.
The water bodies around Iceland are home to 23 species of whales including the gigantic sperm whale. Cool and warm water currents around Iceland make its water bodies rich in aquatic flora and fauna. This draws in a great number of whales who come in search of food and warmth. So, the chances of seeing whales are quite high.
Tourists can easily spot the Minke whale during all times of the year on whale watching trips. But the chances of coming across sperm, Humpback, fin and pilot whales. So be ready with your cameras and capture these magnificent beasts from up close. You will find options for whale watching on transport like speed boats, Icelandic oak boats, or even luxury yachts.
Best Time to Observe Whales in Iceland
The best time to visit Iceland for whale watching is during the summer season. You should plan your trip anytime during the April to October period. The months of June, July and August are considered as the peak season for whale watching. During this time you are more likely to come across the famous Humpback and Orca whales. Most whale species swim over to Iceland’s surrounding waters in search of food every summer. Watching these gentle beasts suddenly jump out from the water can leave you absolutely amazed.
Thousands of whale watching enthusiasts flock to Iceland’s ports every year to spot different varieties. Whale watching contributes majorly to Iceland tourism and there are many tours available from the various Icelandic ports. Although most whale watching tours are during the summer, those visiting during the winter will not be disappointed. Several varieties of whales can be seen in the surrounding waters during this season.
Where to See Whales in Iceland
Whale watching depends on factors like the location of a port and the time of the year. While some tours take a few hours, some might even go on for an entire day. There are five main ports from where you can avail whale watching tours during your Iceland visit i.e. Akureyri, Húsavík, Hauganes, Ólafsvík and Reykjavík. If you are wondering which port to choose for a quality whale watching experience, there is simply no need to do so.
All the ports offer equally great chances of spotting whales. But if you are particular about the type of whale you intend to watch, take a look at the information given below.
The major whale watching tour ports and what they offer -
Akureyri - Go to Akureyri in Northern Iceland if you want to spot Humpback whales, Minke whales, Harbor Porpoises and white-beaked dolphins. Whale watching tours are available around the year at this port.
Húsavík - Húsavík in northern Iceland is the only port which offers you a good chance of spotting the Blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. You can also spot Minke whales, Humpbacks and white-beaked dolphins here. Visit Iceland anytime between April to November to avail tours from this port.
Hauganes - Hauganes is yet another port in the northern parts of Iceland and quite close to Akureyri. It also offers great views of white-beaked dolphins, Harbor Porpoises, Humpback whales, and Minke whales. Whale watching tours can be availed here from April to December.
Ólafsvík - If you are hoping for a rare sight of a killer whale, travel to Ólafsvík in western Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Tours can be availed anytime from April to November. The other commonly sighted whales here are Humpback whales, Harbor Porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, and Minke whales.
Reykjavik - The Iceland capital city offers some great whale watching tour options during all times of the year. You can expect to spot Humpback whales, Harbor Porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, and Minke whales on tours from Reykjavik port.
See the Whales of Iceland in a Museum
If you are taking a short trip to Iceland and do not have time for a whale-watching trip, there is another great option for you on land. The Whales of Iceland Museum in Reykjavik is a place of amazement for all whale enthusiasts. Here, you can see almost life size replicas of some of 23 whale breeds found around Iceland.
The Museum is a great place for tourists in Iceland, who can get incredibly close to Blue whales and Orcas without getting on the water. This experience is perfect for those who have reservations about availing boats on the open waters. At this venue, visitors can get valuable insights into the whale conservation efforts of Iceland. Whales of Iceland is the largest such exhibition in Europe, and maybe even the world.
Regardless of whether you visit Iceland to take whale watching tours, or check them out in indoor areas, prepare to be completely amazed. Still, nothing beats the thrill of going out on a boat or yacht to get close to gigantic living whales.