7 Best Iceland Whale Watching Tours For 2024

See the incredible Humpback whales in their natural habitat with one of these whale watching tours

Iceland is an incredibly unique place that many visitors flock to each year. It’s a country known for its black sand beaches, glaciers, milky blue waters, and incredible natural beauty.

However, did you know it also offers some of the best whale watching in the world? That’s right – from April to October, these beautiful giants, along with many other sea creatures, come out and make an appearance.

We’ve done the hard work for you, so you can choose among the top Iceland whale watching tours and avoid wasting any time with sub-par alternatives!

Top Iceland Whale Watching Tours

The 7 Best Rated Iceland Whale Watching Tours For 2024

  1. Whale Watching Tour by Speedboat From Reykjavik
  2. Big Whale Safari & Puffin Island Tour From  Húsavík
  3. Iceland’s Golden Circle & Whale Watching Full-Day Tour
  4. 2–Hour Whale Watching Express by RIB Speedboat From Akureyri
  5. Whale Watching and Puffins From Húsavík
  6. From Húsavík: Traditional Whale Watching Tour
  7. 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour From Akureyri

Now lets take a closer look at the whale watching tours so you can find the right one for you!

Iceland Whale Watching Tour Reviews

1. Whale Watching Tour by Speedboat From Reykjavik

From Reykjavik: Whale Watching Tour by Speedboat

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Ægisgarður 5G, a 5 minute walk from the city center
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Includes: 2-hour cruise aboard a 12-seat luxury RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), full guidance with information about the whales/other wildlife, overalls, gloves and goggles, life jacket rental, your own scarf
  • Other: Express tour on speedboat

Whale watching tours vary greatly in terms of quality and length, and with the Whale Watching Tour by Speedboat, you get high quality packed into a couple of hours.

The high speeds that the boats reach at times, along with some of the more intense turns at the end are a ton of fun! Throw in whale watching along with it and it’s sure to be a highlight of any time in Reykjavik.

You’ll start off by departing at Ægisgarður 5G, which is just a few minutes of walking from the city center. Remember not to wear sandals or open-toed shoes, and wear warm clothes!

Once you meet up with your guide and the rest of the crew, you’ll also be provided with warm, waterproof overalls which will keep you from freezing from the icy waters! In addition, the tour includes a lifejacket, goggles, and your very own whale watching scarf/bandana!

Hop on board a new Rigid Inflatable Boat, which are a ton of fun! This one includes 12 suspension seats which are designed to be equally comfortable and safe, so the whole family can use them confidently (so long as they’re over 10 years old).

Once you take off, you’ll pass the Harpa Concert Hall and Sun Voyager sculpture. Both are incredibly beautiful, and are definitely worth taking some photos of!

  • Afterward, you’ll head to Faxaflói Bay, where you’ll find over 20 different species of whales, along with white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, Sandeel fish, seals, and more!

You’ll also likely see puffins as they come to lay their eggs on the islands throughout the bay.

The guides do an excellent job of filling passengers in about the different animals, species, and their habitats. As the groups are so small, you’ll get the chance to ask them any questions you may have, as well.

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2. Big Whale Safari & Puffin Island Tour From Húsavík

 Húsavík: Big Whale Safari & Puffin Island Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: The Gentle Giants Ticket Center – big blue flags
  • Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Includes: Live tour guide, speedboat, other water transport, warm clothing
  • Other: Comprehensive tour with potential sightings on blue whales, puffins, and more

This next tour is just slightly longer than our first, clocking in at 2.5 hours. The Big Whale Safari & Puffin Island Tour draws many similarities as well, as it will take place in a modern RIB speedboat so you’ll be able to jet off and see as many beautiful animals as possible on this adventure.

All kinds of whales are swimming around Skjálfandi Bay, along with adorable little puffins. Often referred to as the “clowns of the ocean”, they sport enormous, multicolored bills and spend the majority of their time on the open ocean.

However, they do occasionally come on shore to the islands in this bay to breed. Hunting for food by diving in the water, they’re incredibly entertaining to watch.

When you arrive to the meet up point with your guide, they’ll provide you with warm overalls and a life vest to make sure you’re comfortable and safe. As you zoom across the water, your guide will demonstrate proper safety techniques and will offer interesting facts and stories about the surrounding environment.

The first stop is Puffin Island, which should be nesting season when you go. You’ll get a rare glimpse at potentially thousands of these cute little guys waddling around. You may even get to spot the biggest animal in the world: tkhe majestic blue whale!

  • Reaching up to almost 100 feet in length, there are simply no words to describe what it’s like seeing one for the first time (or every time, really!).

At the end of the tour, they really treat you with a little gift from a local winemaker!

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3. Iceland’s Golden Circle & Whale Watching Full-Day Tour

 Iceland’s Golden Circle & Whale Watching Full-Day Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Complimentary pick-up service starts 45 minutes before the selected departure or head to Old Harbour – Elding ticket office at Ægisgarður 5, Reykjavik
  • Duration: 10 hours
  • Includes: Transportation by bus, whale watching tour, entry to Whale Center, guided Golden Circle tour, Wi-Fi on board the Golden Circle bus
  • Other: Lengthy tour covers many different tourist hot-spots and attractions

If you really want to pack as much adventure into one day as possible, you need to book your Iceland’s Golden Circle & Whale Watching Full-Day Tour! This 10-hour tour is perfect for those who simply want to see it all. You’ll get to see all 3 of the sights in the Golden Circle, and head out for some whale watching, too!

The morning is one of the best times to catch a whale sighting, so you’ll start off with a morning cruise!

Here, you may be able to see humpback whales, killer whales, minke whales, blue whales, harbour porpoises, and white-beaked dolphins.

Keep in mind that there’s no 100% guarantee that you’ll actually get to see a whale, as you simply can’t force nature. White-beaked porpoises and minke whales tend to make more frequent appearances, but you never know what you’re going to see!

Aside from whales, you’ll be able to see local birds like puffins, Arctic terns, gannet, and all kinds of gulls! To keep warm while onboard, you’ll also be provided with some warm, waterproof overalls.

Next up, you’ll go back to the harbor at 12:30 to be able to catch your Golden Circle afternoon tour. The bus you’ll ride on is very comfortable and has WiFi connectivity for seamless internet access. To start things off, you’ll head to Þingvellir National Park, where the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi, was created all the way back in 930 A.D.!

The Þingvellir Church and old stone shelter ruins are also present, along with a huge rift valley made by 2 tectonic plates moving away from each other.

Afterwards, you’ll visit the Gullfoss waterfall or “the Golden Falls”, which are a golden color at times. Standing 105 feet tall, it’s definitely a sight to see. Along with that, are the Geysir and Strokkur hot springs, which you’ll see next. Before heading back to Reykjavik, you’ll also see the charming little village of Hveragerði.

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4. 2–Hour Whale Watching Express by RIB Speedboat From Akureyri

 Akureyri: 2–Hour Whale Watching Express by RIB Speedboat

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Meet at the floating pier Oddeyrarbót 2, next to the cultural centre Hof in Akureyri at least 30 minutes prior to departure
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Includes: Guide, overalls, neoprene gloves, goggles, life vest and necessary safety equipment
  • Other: Eco-friendly way of seeing whales

Next up, we have the Akureyri: 2-Hour Whale Watching Express by RIB Speedboat tour. This 2-hour tour will have you on an exciting RIB speedboat to make sure you get straight to the action and don’t miss a minute of potential whale sightings! Starting from the capital of North Iceland, Akureyri is a beautiful place not to be missed.

You’ll start off by meeting with your guide, and put on some waterproof overalls, neoprene gloves, goggles, life vest, and any other necessary safety equipment.

You’ll receive a safety briefing at this time, letting you know how to behave in order to have fun and reduce any risks on board.

As there are only 12 passengers per boat, it’s easy to get around without having to wait for people. The RIB boats are preferable for this kind of whale watching as they’re easier to navigate, and are able to get you much closer to the whales and other wildlife in their natural habitats than bigger boats can provide.

  • This type of boat is much faster so you can get straight to the point and make the most of your tour.

This tour has actually received the Environmental Award of the Icelandic Tourist Board, Vakinn Endorsed Travel Service, and Enviro Gold awards.

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5. Whale Watching and Puffins From Húsavík

 Húsavík: Whale Watching and Puffins

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: North Sailing Ticket Office
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Includes: Light refreshments, live commentary on-board with a professional guide, warm overalls
  • Other: Traditional way of seeing whales

While the majority of our whale watching tours so far has taken place in an RIB speedboat, our next tour takes a more traditional route. You’ll board a traditional oak boat, which just adds an air of Icelandic authenticity to the whole experience.

This 3-hour Whale Watching and Puffin tour is also a great alternative if you want to bring small children on board, or if you have back/neck problems and aren’t able to go on a speed boat.

When you meet up with your group, you’ll be given some warm overalls to use so you don’t get wet and cold. We highly recommend bringing along some kind of scarf/face covering and gloves. No one likes the feeling of frigid faces or hands!

Skjálfandi Bay is the natural habitat of countless types of whales, along with dolphins, puffins, and other interesting sea birds. Speaking of which, you’ll travel around Puffin Island, where you may be able to see up to thousands of these cute creatures.

  • While speed boats are definitely fun and get the adrenaline pumping, the oak ships are smooth, and take a calmer approach to observing.

Husavik is the perfect place for watching these beautiful giants, and while it’s not guaranteed, it’s highly likely you’ll get to see humpback whales, Minke whales, dolphins, and more!

While you watch, you’ll be given a cup of hot cocoa (really makes a difference on the chilly waters!) and some delicious cinnamon buns! The guides are very knowledgeable, and will offer a safety briefing and all kinds of fun facts and info about the area and animals.

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6. From Húsavík: Traditional Whale Watching Tour

 From Húsavík: Traditional Whale Watching Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Gentle Giants ticket center in central Húsavík
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Includes: Live tour guide, transport for activity duration: Other water transport, rain poncho, jacket
  • Other: Traditional boat with traditional treats served onboard

Much like our previous tour, the Traditional Whale Watching Tour also takes place on a traditional Icelandic oak boat! Starting in Húsavík, you’ll get an almost 100% of seeing whales! As things can get pretty wet, they’ve included a rain poncho and jacket with your ticket to make sure you stay dry and warm!

Once you board the boat, you’ll sail out into the bay and begin to take in the jaw-dropping scenery that Iceland has to offer.

The professional guide offers a safety demonstration at the beginning of the journey to ensure the entire experience is a positive one.

Further into the tour, your guide will begin offering live commentary on all sights and animals as you pass them. The boat is very smooth and stable, which makes it great for people of all ages and physical fitness levels. The staff is very friendly and entertaining, making it just that much better.

  • As you take in the scenery and wildlife in their natural habitats, you’ll get to enjoy a cup of toasty hot chocolate or coffee with a traditional Icelandic kleina.

With recipes going all the way back to the 14th century, they’re spiced, twisted, and fried donuts that have been a part of Icelandic culture for many years.

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7. 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour From Akureyri

 Akureyri: 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Floating pier of Oddeyrarbót 2, next to the Hof Cultural Center in Akureyri at least 15 minutes prior to departure
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Includes: Live guide, use of overalls on board the boat, free Wi-Fi
  • Other: Relaxing, comfortable boat tour

The Akureyri 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour is another choice perfect for the entire family. It offers ample room on the deck as well as indoor seating, so you can ride comfortably if you happen to get too cold outside. Not only that, but they offer onboard, free Wi-Fi so you can always stay connected should you need to!

When you meet up with your group, they’ll provide you with waterproof, thermal overalls like most other quality tours out there.

Just make sure that you’re also wearing warm clothing and ideally waterproof shoes/boots to make the experience as smooth as possible.

The 3-hour tour starts after a safety briefing, where you’ll board a high-speed, specially-modified ship made just for the purpose of watching whales. Eyjafjord is known specifically for its natural beauty, humpback whales, and other sea creatures.

  • Expertly-trained guides know exactly how to spot these stunning animals, and will educate you on their behavior and history behind the area.

If you have any questions, we found the guides to be incredibly friendly and could answer just about anything! The cinema-style viewing platforms offer a wide vista for incomparable views!

Enjoy refreshing hot chocolate, coffee and snacks with the onboard bar and cafeteria, as you relax in the closed cabins.

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Iceland Whale Watching Guide

best whale watching tours in iceland

Tips For Iceland Whale Watching

  1. Dress appropriately: You are not dressing to impress here, you should dress for the occasion. Wear warm clothing in layers. It will be chilly out on the water, even in the summer. Wear a waterproof outer jacket. Being out on the deck, you may get splashed with water!
  2. Listen to the guides: Your whale watching tour will have a knowledgeable guides or naturalists who will give you instructions on safety on the boat and answer questions you have.
  3. Be watchful: Whales will breach or jump out of the water, which is an amazing sight to see. You need to keep a sharp eye out for any movement in the water or spouts of water. Once you see that, you know there is a whale about to surface.
  4. Be patient: Seeing whales in their natural habitat is an amazing experience. It will probably take time to spot them unless you get lucky. Be patient and enjoy being out on the water, whether you see whales or not.
  5. Respect their space: Most likely this will not be an issue for you since you will probably be doing a tour. There are strict regulations against getting to close to whales!
  6. Bring a camera: You will want to capture the moment when you see a whale breaching. So bring a camera with a telephoto lens or a smartphone that can also take good pictures and video. You need to have good timing to get a picture of a whale breaching!
  7. Have fun: Last, whale watching is a fun experience! Take in the beauty of these amazing creatures! Enjoy being on the ocean and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.

Tips For Photographing Whales

  • Use the right equipment: A high quality DSLR camera with a long lens is essential for capturing clear shots of whales. Use a telephoto lens with a focal length of 300mm or more. This will allow you to get up up close pictures of the whales.
  • Shoot in burst mode: Whales are deceivingly fast, so shooting in burst mode will capture multiple shots in quick succession. This gives you a better chance of getting that perfect picture!
  • Pay attention to lighting: Lighting will make your photo! When it comes to whale photography, natural light is your best friend. If you can do a tour during the golden hour do it. This is the hour after sunrise or before sunset, this will give you the best light conditions.
  • Look for interesting angles: While a straight on shot of a whale is impressive, try experimenting with different angles to make your pictures more interesting. Take a shot from below the deck or above from a viewing area above will create some unique perspectives and make for some interesting photos.
  • Don’t forget about composition: Just like any other photography, composition is key! Look for interesting elements that you can incorporate in the picture like waves, boats or even icebergs to create a more dramatic picture.
  • Be patient and observant: Whales are unpredictable, so you must be patient and observant. Pay attention to their behavior and movements and try and anticipate when they will breach.
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Whale Watching Tour by Speedboat From Reykjavik is our editor's choice for the best whale watching tour in Iceland.

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Olivia Watson

Olivia is a world traveler who has been to 27 countries in just over 15 years. She loves to share her knowledge of traveling to help others travel safer, cheaper and have more fun.
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