All You Need to Know About Whale Watching in Iceland | Solo Travel
If you are heading to Europe, whale watching has to be reserved for Iceland. In the past few countries, ‘the land of fire and ice’ has gained fame as an excellent destination for whale watching in Iceland.
Whale watching is just a few hours of activity for some tourists. But there is serious whale watching enthusiasts who make it the highlight of their trip. I do not know which category you belong to, but there is no reason for you to miss the beautiful, gentle sea creatures on your solo trip while you are in Iceland.
Let’s find out how to make whale watching an important part of your trip and make the most of this activity!
1. Choose your location well
There are a number of locations in Iceland where you can go whale watching. While some destinations are great round-the-year viewing spots, some are good for summer and autumn!
Though I will list out a number of places for you, let me first tell you about Husavik, which has been named Iceland’s whale watching capital. It attracts tourists from across the globe! The chance of seeing the gorgeous mammals here is 99 percent, and the best season to go for Husavik to catch their glimpses is April to November.
If you want to stick around the capital city of Reykjavik, you have nothing to worry about. Reykjavik has whale watching tours around the year, and there is a high chance of seeing a whale here as well. Akureyri is another year offering viewings throughout the year with a 95 percent chance that you can see the whales!
If you are going to Iceland any time between April to December, you can head to Hauganes, and you can be certain that you will have a fulfilling experience of whale watching. The other cool location between April to October is Olafsvik on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
April to November
April to December
April to October
If you are particular about any whale species, do remember to choose the location wisely then.
2. Good for any season, summer has advantages
We already know now that whale watching is a round-the-year activity. But we can also be certain that our experience will differ from one season to another.
Whale watching is an excellent engagement for any season while in Iceland. The only trick is that you have to choose the location depending on the season you are visiting.
Iceland’s unpredictable weather is no big surprise for you. You already know that the weather changes in a blink, leaving tourists startled. In winter, Iceland has sub-zero temperatures. Just be aware there may be some last-minute cancellations in adverse weather conditions. Keep a few weather applications handy so that you can plan your viewings better. Also, keep a tab on the Facebook whale watching groups where you will find the latest information on the viewings!
The summer has some added advantages because the weather conditions are relatively more pleasant! Did you know that Iceland has 21 hours of sunlight, so you can practically overload your itinerary with long whale watching hours! Watch the whales under the clear blue skies and mild weather!
But summer is also a peak season for tourists! So make sure you book your tour and accommodation early!
3. Whale watching under the midnight sun
This moment is just pure magic and dramatic. There is no other way to describe this. If you are not on a budget trip, you can consider indulging yourself a little bit. What about booking a cruise that will last about four hours as you inch towards the whales under the midnight sun? Your guides will help you learn more about marine life than you would know from textbooks!
4. Know about whales
If you want to do some serious whale watching, it is best you do your homework well so that you can choose the location accordingly and see a diverse range of whale species. You will also know the name while you see one!
Minke whales, humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, orcas, blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, toothed whales, pilot whales, and beaked whales are among the most easily spotted whales in Iceland across locations.
You can usually spot minke whales at any time of the year in Iceland’s waters. You can usually see them at any port. Meanwhile, the humpback whales are quite dramatic, and you would see those giant creatures doing gymnastics in the seawater!
The white-beaked dolphins are a common sight too, and they are absolutely gorgeous creatures! Orcas, which are the largest dolphin species, maybe a little difficult to spot as compared to the other species. If you are certain that you want to definitely view the Orcas, you should head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and along the south coast.
It may also be slightly tricky to catch glimpses of the beaked, pilot, and toothed whales.
5. Whale watching on a speedboat
You can go whale watching on a speedboat if you want an adrenaline rush while viewing Iceland’s marine life! You can also save time by opting for this option, so they are also called express viewings! What a sight to see whales from close quarters! Otherwise, you can choose a traditional large boat. You would still have a great experience and perhaps better if you feel sick at sea!
6. Combine it with other tours
The best part about whale watching is you can combine it with other tour circuits. Depending on which location you choose, you can combine it with a guided tour of the Golden Circle or the Diamond Circle and see Iceland’s most breathtaking destinations. Be it the waterfalls, volcanic rocks, hot springs, or glaciers—you can have a combined experience of all the best things in life.
7. Do not forget to spot the puffins
From the moment you get off the plane at Reykjavik, you will see puffin-shaped gifts everywhere—soft toys, magnets, key chains. But it is during the whale watching tour that you will see these beautiful sea birds up close. You will find them around the cliffs, and they are the prettiest sea birds you have ever seen. You will find them in Husavik and Akureyri. The best part is you will see a large number of other sea birds too! So going for a whale watching tour will ensure that you see the entire marine life of Iceland!
8. Carry woollens
Whale watching means you will spend a considerable amount of time outdoors. Do not underestimate the weather in Iceland, no matter when you are visiting! And if you start feeling uncomfortable due to the icy cold wind, it will spoil your whole experience, and you may want to rush back indoors!
So be well prepared for the sightings. Throw in a jacket, beanie, scarf in your backpack. And do not forget your hiking boots.
9. Pack a nice lunch, throw in a cold beer
You would not want any distractions during whale watching. But a big sandwich, some nuts, and a couple of beers will do no harm. In fact, it will keep you entertained during the whole trip. You will be motivated to spend a few extra hours if you have had a good mid-time snack.
10. Have you considered sea angling alongside?
There are tour packages that offer whale watching and sea angling together. You may want to consider it if you have never done sea angling before. You will typically start your tour from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour. Before you know, you will have reached the fishing area in Faxaflói Bay.
The crew members will teach you how to use rope and fish! You will feel like a professional in a few minutes! The tours are designed in a way that they are suitable for both beginners and seasoned people!
You will be provided with fishing equipment and protective clothing during this time.
11. Cost of a tour
You do not have to pay a bomb for this unforgettable experience. The price does vary from one location to another. The price of a tour typically varies between $ 78 to $ 87.
During the summer, the prices may go up a little bit more as it is a busy season for tour operators. Do remember to book well in advance to get good rates. If you are lucky, you may even get an early bird discount.
The whale watching trip includes the boat ride, access to a guide, and protective clothing. If you are lucky, they may even give you snacks!
12. Carry your camera
You are probably not going to forget this one. But I still had to remind you that capturing the whales on camera is your ‘National Geographic’ moment, and you would not want to miss it! Do remember to carry a protective bag for your camera as you will be on the sea, and your tour is highly dependent on the weather conditions!
13. Ask for a free tour if you cannot spot whales
This is how the norm goes in Iceland—if you are unable to spot a whale during your trip, the tours will offer you a free one! So do not feel shy to ask for one if there was no sighting of these gentle creatures. If you are going whale watching under unfavourable weather conditions, it is best you choose a tour from Reykjavik. This way, you do not have to worry about if you have to take another tour—you can do it in and around Reykjavik!
14. Consider the off-beat locations
You can consider going to the slightly off-beat location of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which combines incredible landscapes and sea life. Whale watchers love this location for orcas, an otherwise rare sight, dolphins, porpoises, and humpback whales. If you want to view the sperm whales, then head to Breiðafjörður.
15. Pay attention to the local guide
One thing that I realised in Iceland is that the guides have excellent knowledge! There are countries where guides repeat the common knowledge, and sometimes it is not really worth listening to them!
But Iceland’s tour guides are a marvel! They know about the history and geography of the wonderland better than any travel guide. So when you go whale watching, make sure that you listen intently to the guide as she/he will tell you about each species, their population in Iceland, and the season when they visit the country and linger around. I have seen serious whale watchers even take down notes in their journals!
16. Know about the folklores of whales—it is super fun!
If you are not a science lover, you must love folklores! Whales have been a part of Icelandic fairytales for a long time. Pick up any translated Icelandic book, and you will read about whales as being an important part of the stories! There are also many legendary stories about seals.
17. Consider an authentic experience
Did you know you could transport yourself to a few centuries back and have an authentic Icelandic experience during whale watching?
You can go whale watching on schooners and traditional oak boats. This would even be cheaper as compared to speed boats but super fun!
18. Do not forget to pack sunscreen
Solo trips are all about rejuvenating ourselves! So do not forget to take care of your skin while going whale watching. Be it the summer or winter—you are likely to be out for a long time. The summer sun can be quite blazing! So, in addition to your warm clothes, throw your sunscreen in your handbag or backpack!
The last thing you would want is to end up with skin irritation on a whale-watching tour.
I am certain that you are ready to kick-start your Iceland trip now. The best part is you know now which locations to choose and your favourite mammal for the sightings!
If you have never done whale watching before, this is the perfect opportunity to dabble into a new hobby! The gentle creatures will not disappoint you!
The sea and the whales are waiting for you! So, book your flight tickets to this wonderland and set off for the best solo trip of your life!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.