Your Ultimate Guide to Whale Watching in Iceland

Whale Watching in Iceland

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    Whales can be found all along the Icelandic coast all year round, which is why whale watching in Iceland is such a popular activity. But do you know where to go whale watching in Iceland? Or when is the best time to see whales in Iceland?

    Whether you intend to try to spot these magnificent creatures by yourself or going on a whale watching tour in Iceland, there are a few important things to know before planning your trip. This article can serve as your ultimate guide to whale watching here on the island.

    whale watching iceland

    The Best Time to See Whales in Iceland

    As we already mentioned, whales can be found all across the island all year round, but for the ultimate whale watching tours and sightseeing in Iceland, we highly recommend that you visit the island during Iceland’s whale watching season. This is between April and September each year, when many migratory whale species also make Iceland their home.

    The Types of Whales You Can Spot on a Whale Safari in Iceland

    If you come whale watching in Iceland, you might just get a glimpse of one of these magnificent creatures:


    Orcas really grabbed people’s attention after the movie Free Willy. The Orca that played the lead in that movie originally comes from Iceland, and you’ll get to see plenty of his relatives still dwelling in these waters. They can grow to be 10 meters long and weigh 10 tons, and they usually make for an exciting sighting, since these guys travel in large pods of up to 40 whales.

    Iceland killer whales

    Harbor Porpoises

    Harbor Porpoises are one of the smallest whale species you’ll find along the Icelandic coast, reaching up to just 1.5 meters in length and weighing up to just 60 kilograms (which means that you might literally be able to weigh more than a whale *ouch!).

    These guys are incredibly shy creatures and spotting one of them is extremely rare even though they generally tend to live close to the shore. At least this fact means that if they do appear, you’ll be able to spot them from the shore, and don’t necessarily need to go on a boat tour to tick them off your whale watching list.

    Harbor Porpoises

    Humpback Whales

    These guys are known to put up quite a show for those on boat tours. These gigantic ocean beasts can grow to weigh up to a staggering 40 tons, which makes watching them play with each other or thrusting themselves out of the water such an impressive sight. Humpback whales are also incredibly curious, which means that they are the most likely of all the whale species to actually come closer to the boats to check out what all the fuss is about.

    Humpback whales

    Minke Whales

    Minke Whales are probably the species that is most seen here in Iceland. This should give you a good idea of how many are cruising around the Icelandic waters since, just like the Harbor Porpoises, they are also a pretty timid species. These guys still make for an impressive sight, since they can grow to be up to 10 meters long and clock in at an astounding 10 tons.

    minke whales

    Pilot Whales

    Pilot Whales are yet another species that are most commonly found here along the coast, but they are slightly smaller than the Minke Whales, clocking in at about 8 meters long and weighing up to 5 tons.

    White-beaked Dolphins

    Don’t let the name fool you; these are actually whales. The reason why some might still confuse them for their dolphin friends is the fact that they don’t grow to be very big (up to just 3 meters long and 275 kilograms).

    Just like the Orcas, they can be found in groups, just in smaller numbers of up to 5. They are extremely social creatures and are often found playing around in the water. And if you’re on a boat tour, the odds of them tagging along in the waves created by the boat are good.

    white beaked dolphins

    Blue Whales

    Spotting a Blue Whale in the ocean is probably the highlight of any whale watching excursion. Blue Whales are the largest whale species on the planet and can grow to be up to 30 meters long and weigh an astounding 200 tons! These guys are also pretty shy, so tend to hide away deeper into the ocean, which just makes seeing them even more special.

    Blue Whale in Iceland

    And a Few More…

    Whilst the above-mentioned are some of the most common and popular species cruising the Icelandic coast, the following can also be spotted whilst on a whale watching tour in Iceland:

    • Gray Whale
    • Beluga Whale
    • Fin Whale
    • North-Atlantic Right Whale
    • Sei Whale
    • Bottlenose Whale
    • Narwhal
    • Bowhead Whale

    Where to Whale Watch in Iceland

    If you’re planning on going whale watching in Iceland, the following places are known as some of the best whale watching spots in Iceland:

    Whale Watching in Husavik in Iceland

    Husavik has quite the reputation when it comes to whale watching in Iceland, since it is actually referred to as ‘the whale capital of Iceland’. This essentially makes Husavik the go-to spot for whale enthusiasts.

    Husavik, Iceland

    Whale Watching in Akureyri in Iceland

    Akureyri is where you can do some of your best whale watching in northern Iceland. Since the ocean water is colder in the north and the northern parts of the island are still pretty underdeveloped, your odds of spotting the shyer species and larger numbers of whales drastically increase

    Whale Watching in Reykjavik in Iceland

    Whale watching in Reykjavik is extremely popular for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it’s incredibly convenient, since most people tend to make the capital city their first stop after landing at Keflavik Airport. Secondly, it’s a very time-efficient solution if your time on the island is limited and you have to stick to Reykjavik and its surroundings. Here, a whale watching boat tour is just a quick walk to the harbor away.

    The Best Whale Watching Tours in Iceland

    Whether you are interested in just a whale watching tour or maybe a combo tour such as a whale and Puffin tour in Iceland, the following tours come highly recommended:

    Whale watching tours in Iceland

    General Misconceptions About Whales in Iceland

    There are two massive misconceptions out there in the world regarding Icelanders and whales:

    • That Icelanders are almost crazed whale meat eaters, and that it’s one of our most common traditional ingredients in meals. Although our ancestors might’ve eaten some whale out of necessity centuries ago, it’s in no way, shape, or form, a staple food here on the island today. In fact, even though some local restaurants use this myth to their advantage and stock some whale meat for the adventurous visitor, eating whale is fairly frowned upon here in Icelandic society.
    • Another misconception is that Icelanders are almost solely to blame for the drastic decline in whale populations, due to their incurable appetite for their meat and all the money they make off using the “leftover bits” in all sorts of byproducts that can be sold. When one considers that one of Iceland’s biggest revenue streams is whale watching tours, it becomes very apparent how ludicrous this myth really is. If the whales would move on or become extinct because of any actions of a local, it would be like shooting the country in its economic foot.  

    FAQs About Whale Watching in Iceland

    Below you will find a few answers to some frequently asked questions regarding whale watching here in Iceland:

    When is Whale Season in Iceland?

    From April to September each year, although you might get lucky and still spot some lazying about in early October.

    What Month is Best for Whale Watching in Iceland?

    There really is no best month, only a whale season, which is when you’ll be able to spot some of the migratory species cruising around the island.

    How Much is Whale Watching in Iceland?

    Well, this will all depend on the tour operator, and whether the tour just includes whale watching or a combination of activities and attractions. But, generally speaking, a whale watching boat tour lasts between 2–3 hours and will cost anything from $90+.

    whale safari iceland

    Have a Whale of a Time Whale Watching in Iceland!

    There really is no limit to how, when, and where you want to go whale watching in Iceland, even though we have a few favorite spots here on the island, and the whale season is recommended for those interested in our migratory whale species.

    You can even make a whale watching road trip out of it, rent a campervan in Iceland, and include all our go-to whale watching destinations as stops along the way. But whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a whale of a time whale watching in Iceland!

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