Whale watching in Iceland is a relatively new attraction with the first regular trips starting in 1995. Since then, there has been a tremendous growth in the whale watching business and it is now possible to go whale watching all year from many different ports.
There are few places in the world where you can find as many species of whales so close to shore as in Iceland. These include the Blue, Sei, Fin, Sperm and Minke whales as well as the ever popular Orcas or killer whales. Several dolphin and porpoise species also swim in the waters around Iceland. In fact, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has rated Iceland as one of the top ten whale watching destinations in the world.
The high season is during the warmer months when the migrating whales return to the Icelandic waters and blend in with the resident whales. There are four main areas for whale watching, each with its own individual attractions. It is best to find out what species are seen more often in the different areas so that there is no disappointment, e.g. you can go whale watching with Láki Tours from Snæfellsnes where Orcas and Sperm whales are spotted more often than elsewhere just as Humpbacks are seen more often in Eyjafjörður and Húsavík. In Húsavík, Gentle Giants offers different boat options to go whale watching from high-speed rib boats to the traditional wooden boats. Salka Whale Watching offers whale & puffin tours across Skjálfrandi bay, with tradition oak boats, starting from Húsavík.
One of the exciting things about whale watching is actually seeing a whale in the ocean. This is not a given, as whales in the wild do not perform for our benefit. As with any wildlife trip, nature dictates and decides. However, most whale watching operators such as Special Tours in Reykjavík have a 90% or higher viewing success rate in the warmer months.
The main whale watching areas are Reykjavík in the south, Snæfellsnes in the west, Eyjafjörður and Húsavík in the north. Húsavík is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland and has a Whale Centre which provides information on cetaceans and wildlife in Iceland. Whales of Iceland in Reykjavík is a fascinating exhibition where life-size models of the whales found around Iceland are suspended in an ocean-like space.
While most whale watching operators pride themselves in practicing conscious tourism, they need your help. Please put all your rubbish in the nearest bin. Whales and other ocean wildlife do not know how lethal plastic can be until it is too late.