One of the popular tourist attractions not only in Reykjavik but also in other Icelandic cities (such as Husavik or Akureyri) is a whale watching or dolphin tour. It is definitely not the same experience as a zoo, because when you are on a boat, you never know if and when a whale will appear. Moreover, the boat trip itself is an interesting experience.
However, the crew of the ship is experienced and the boat rides more at the same time, so he knows where to go and how to try to discover the whales. In addition, there is a lecture during the trip and you can buy souvenirs or snacks on the boat.
The prices for this type of trip are not the cheapest, but in the case that you do not see any whale, you usually have the chance to repeat the trip for free in the next term.
Mink whale watching in Reykjavík
We managed to go to whale watching in Reykjavik at the end of the season in 2018. Unfortunately, the first planned day was a boat trip canceled due to bad weather, so we had to go to Reykjavik the next day. This time the weather was better, so we could finally use our reservation.
You have used Elding, which has a small office right in the port of Reykjavik, near the center. In addition, there are several other agencies in the city, such as Special Tours or Reykjavik Sailors.
Whale watching Iceland – best prices
- Elding: ISK 10,990
- Whale Safari: ISK 10,990
- Ambassador Whale watching: ISK 10,990
- Arctic Adventures: 11,000 ISK
- Grayline: ISK 13,000
The prices are therefore very similar for all companies and are calculated at 10 000 ISK per person (adult).
The duration of the trip is about 3 hours, with about an hour to get far enough away from the city, another hour to search and watch whales, and the last hour back to the port.
This does not mean that you have no chance to see anything in the first hour, dolphins are likely to join you and you have a chance to see whales.
About whale watching with Elding
Whale watching tours operate all year from the old harbour in Reykjavik. The whales most frequently seen on tours with Elding are the Minke whales, Humpback whales, Dolphins and Porpoises other speces are sometimes spotted. Elding´s boats leave from the Old Harbour of Reykjavik (pier Ægisgarður), which is located in Ægisgata.
They offer a coach pick-up service from hotels in the Reykjavik area 15 to 45 minutes before departure. They have daily departures all year round and the tours are about 3 hours at sea (see the schedule for times). Ask your hotel for details – they will be happy to book you on our boat.
For your comfort and warmth, Elding have special suits on board we can lend you, but we do advise you to wear your warmest clothes – hats, scarves, gloves etc – as it can get very cold, even on the warmest of days. They also offer hot drinks and light refreshments on our on-board café. Alternatively, you can sit inside the boat in the warmth.
Best time for whale watching in Iceland?
The difference between the individual seasons is not so much a chance for whales, it is rather in the weather.
If you want to have the best view, you have to be aboard a ship, where there may be some strong winds and rain.
Waiting in such weather to see if there is at least a whale’s back somewhere can be demotivating in bad weather.
Also during the summer, there is less chance that your weather trip will be canceled, so in my view, it is definitely better to choose a trip for the warmer months of the year.
What is the best city for whale watching?
Reykjavik is definitely one of the most accessible whale watching places, and you can make it even if you only have a one day stop in Iceland.
The best place for whale watching is Húsavík in the north of Iceland, which is about 450 km from the capital.
However, if you are choosing a place to go for a whale trip, you should not be interested in seeing a whale. There are more species of marine animals in certain locations. It is for this reason that Iceland is better suited to Iceland.
In Reykjavik, there is the greatest chance of seeing so-called Minke whale and then almost certainly dolphins.
If you would like to see humpback whales, then it is better to head north to the Husavik.
There is also a greater chance if you want to see a Blue or Fin whale that occasionally appears when looking for food.
You have similar chances in Akureyri, where you can find a number of tour agencies to choose from. Whale activity is also great, but there are more in Húsavík, so you have a chance to see them slapping the fins or jumping over the surface.
Another place to go is Grundafjörður on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. There is a great chance to see killer whales because they are heading for food. Likewise, the occurrence of sperm whales or Pilot Whales.
The four main ports for whale watching:
Is a speed boat better?
In the agencies’ offerings for whale tours, the “basic” whale watching on a large ship is usually the cheapest trip.
There can be dozens of people on this ship, and they can usually find a place on the deck where you can get well.
In worse weather, you can then hide in the hold, warm up and escape from the wind.
Private speed boat trips are then more expensive and more actionable. A rib boat can hold a group of about 10 people.
The advantage of these rib boats is that they get to the whales faster and closer because the big boats move slowly and take some time to turn and approach the spot where you could see the whale.
However, the price of a speed boat trip is doubled, so for example, at Elding you will pay about 20 000 ISK per person.
Our trip to whale watching
If I remember well, we set off for a whale trip sometime in early September 2018.
It wasn’t exactly the best weather, it was raining and it was blowing, but what weather could be good in Iceland.
We parked a short distance from the port on a paid parking lot and set off to look for our ships.
In the Elding office, they were directing us, and because their ship was just a short distance from that place, there was no problem finding the ship.
About 30 to 40 people boarded and we could buy souvenirs or refreshments just below the deck. There were also rainproof suits, but we refused (but I think they were free).
As soon as we left the port, we took the place right on the bow of the boat, as some of the passengers were still inside the ship and the deck was quite empty.
Around the first half hour, we watched only the ocean and looked for some activity. Dolphins were the first to be not afraid to get close to the ship and then accompany us most of the way out of the port. There were moments when dolphins were next to the ship so we could see them really close.
It wasn’t the warmest on the bow, so the wind blew me out in my Icelandic winter jacket, but I didn’t want to give up on my place and go below the deck because I expected the whales to appear soon.
The next 40 minutes, however, nothing happened and I have already begun to reconcile with the fact that we will not just see them this time and be content with the dolphins.
But then someone reported that he had seen back activity. A whale appeared about 100 meters from us, but only a few times, so we didn’t catch a glimpse of it.
Fortunately, we then get to the area where there were more whales. My idea of whale watching was a bit different because I imagined that they would be around us, see fins, and even jump. Well, I was too naive.
Mostly the whale just got to the surface, so we saw her back and disappeared under the surface in seconds.
Fortunately, some of them came near, but it was never long enough and so close to making some nice photos.
The last hour the ship had already turned and started returning to the harbor, I had already left my position on the deck and moved to the deck to thwart a little. It was already dim, so it was not so much visible.
My review of whale watching in Reykjavik
If I had to sum up the trip, I would definitely try the whale watching just to experience a trip on a boat.
At the same time, it was a bit of a duty to me because I live in Iceland and I should look at whales at least once.
However, I am not sure if I would go to the whales again and if I were a tourist trying to save on holiday in Iceland, I would probably miss this trip.
On the other hand, this attraction is relatively cheap compared to other tours and if you are in Reykjavik, you have nothing to do and you do not want to spend thousands of crowns for the Blue Lagoon, then it can be an interesting afternoon.
Whale watching tour agencies
- Whale watching with North Sailing
North Sailing is a whale watching tour company established in Husavik, North Iceland in the year 1995. They sail on six beautiful Icelandic oak boats and two of them are schooners – Haukur and Hildur. The company also operates two restaurants in Husavik – restaurant Gamli Baukur and Café Skuld, so you are in good hands by visiting them in Husavik. North Sailing has been internationally rewarded for their work number of times and they also work closely with Husavik Research Center (University of Iceland) and the Husavik Whale Museum, conducting scientific researches on whales. Whale watching with North Sailing will be your dream tour in Iceland. To get to Husavik from Reykjavik it is best to rent a car from some of the car rentals in Iceland.
- Whale watching with Special Tours
Special Tours offers great whale watching experience on their brand-new luxurious whale watching boat – Rósin (The Rose). A unique and innovative boat build for security and luxury. It was built in the winter of 2009-2010 and is quite a fast cruiser. This means you will be able to spend more time on your great whale watching experience and less time just waiting to get to the right spots. In total the tour is around 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Whale watching with Elding
Elding is the oldest and most experienced sea adventure company in Iceland and has been in operation for over 13 years. Whale watching with Elding is therefore based on experience everyone can count on. They believe offering whale watching tours is a great way to combine the interest in wildlife, sea adventures and people enjoying each other company. Elding takes great care in security and follows IceWhale´s codes of conduct for responsible whale watching and are part of international cooperation on the future of whale watching in general e.g. Planet Whale and IWC
- Whale watching with Gentle Giants
Gentle Giants, located by Skjalfandi bay, in the famous whale watching town of Husavik, North Iceland, has over 98% success rate of spotting whales. They focus on providing personal service, rather than quantity, and the roots and background of the company has its family history for more than 150 years in the bay. They welcome you to experience unforgettable sea adventures at Skjalfandi bay, in Husavik, North Iceland.
- Whale watching with North Sailing