Where to go Whale Watching in Iceland

Not content with being one of the most spectacular natural wonders on earth, what with its glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, hot springs and lava fields, Iceland is also home to some of the best whale watching on earth, the only trick is knowing where to go – and when.

A good day of whale watching is one of the most memorable travel experiences you can have. Getting up close and personal with some of the largest creatures on earth, watching these gentle giants pitching and rolling in the waves beneath you and, if you’re lucky, breaching in spectacular style will stay with you for years to come.

But where is the best place to go whale watching in Iceland? With more than 20 species of whales living in the seas around Iceland it can be hard to figure out exactly the best place to go, which is why in this blog we’re going to outline the best spots on the island for whale watching, based on your needs.

Whale Watching with Ease – Reykjavik

Whale Watching Classic

Iceland’s location in the north Atlantic, along with its vast fjords filled with fish and plankton, means that the entire coastline can offer great opportunities to spot whales, even in the country’s capital.

The shallow, nutrient rich bay of Faxaflói provides a great location from which to search for minke and humpback whales, as well as porpoises, dolphins and sea birds. There are a wide variety of whale watching expeditions on offer that run from the Old Harbour in the city, and range from around 3 hours to full days out.

Whether you take a converted fishing vessel or opt for an exciting adventure on a RIB, you are almost certain to see whales (especially in the summer months), and even if you don’t, the majority of companies will give you a complimentary ticket to try again the next day.

If you want somewhere to go whale watching with ease in Iceland, it doesn’t get much better than Reykjavik.

The Whale Watching Capital of Iceland – Húsavík

bay and town in iceland

Húsavík is a small, picturesque harbour town in a remote corner of north-east Iceland, with a population of just two and a half thousand right on the coastline of Skjálfandi Bay – one of the best places to see whales in the world.

A total of 24 different types of cetacean enter the bay, which gets its reputation as whale watching capital of Iceland thanks to the mineral rich waters that enter the bay via snowmelt and the rivers that bring nutrients from inland.

Whales are so common here in fact, especially between the months of May and September, that locals are entirely desensitised to the site of humpback whales coming to the surface every ten minutes or so.

If you want to see the spectacular site of countless whales breaching and cruising about in shallow waters from a variety of tours, and have your best chance of seeing the unforgettable site of a blue whale, Húsavík is the whale watching destination for you.

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Whale Watching for the Family – Akureyri

Akureyri whale watching

Located not far from Húsavík, at the source of the gargantuan Eyjafjörður fjord is Akureyri, the fourth largest town in Iceland.

It’s location on a fjord on the north-east coast mean it is an excellent location for whale watching, and the fact that most tours that run from the town take place within the fjord means the tours are sheltered from wind and waves, making it ideal for smaller children.

With smaller boats that can move faster and allow whales to get closer, whale watching tours from Akureyri are excellent for close encounters with humpbacks, and provide great opportunities to dolphins and sea birds that make their homes within the fjord.

Throw in a fascinating little town to wander about, and you have the ideal family whale watching location for those who want to explore a bit further than Reykjavik.

The Best Location for Spotting Orca – Snæfellsnes

orca in iceland

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a spectacular region, often called ‘Iceland in miniature’ due to the variety of natural features it boasts in one small area. Lava fields, glaciers, volcanoes, dramatic sea cliffs and cascading waterfalls draw travellers from all over the world for world-class hiking and road tripping.

However, recently Snæfellsnes has become known as one of the best regions in Iceland from which to spot the elusive Orca, or killer whale, particularly in the winter and spring months of the year. If you’re happy to brave cold weather, you might even get treated to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of whale watching underneath the Icelandic northern lights.

Due to its more remote setting, there are fewer tours that set off in hunt of the incredibly intelligent Orca, so it’s worth doing a little more research and booking at least a few days in advance if you want a chance at seeing them.

If you’re lucky and you visit at around June time, you may also be treated to the rare sighting of a sperm whale, one of the hardest whales to see in all of Iceland.

For Getting Off the Beaten Track – The Westfjords

westfjords in iceland

Iceland’s most westerly region, and most remote, is certainly worth a visit in its own right thanks to the dizzyingly dramatic sea cliffs, countless beaches, bubbling hot pools, and a distinct lack of people.

Tours have only started running relatively recently from this region, so if you want to escape the crowds and seek out a genuine hidden gem, the whale watching from the Westfjords is definitely for you.

Similarly to whale watching from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, there is a more limited choice of operators to choose from, so you need to plan ahead and get yourself booked in for this magical experience ahead of time.

The drive and the planning however, is entirely worth it. To see a humpback whale breaching beneath 400 metre tall sea cliffs, lit by the midnight sun and with virtually no civilisation for miles around is an experience you don’t forget in a hurry.

Here at Not In The Guidebooks, we work hard to bring you the very best responsible, local travel experiences that show off the very best of a destination, without feeling as though you are being crammed onto a large, touristy group excursion. Explore our full range of wildlife holidays here.

That’s why our whale watching partners offer RIB boat experiences in Reykjavik and Akureyri, and why their tours are sustainable and responsible to protect these precious species for the good of the planet.

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