Whale-watching in Iceland – Review

View of Reykjavik from the harbour
July 9, 2014

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“Have you ever heard the breath of a whale?” A Review of Whale-watching in Iceland

With our whale-watching tickets safely booked, we made our way to the harbour in Reykjavik where our boat was waiting.  The boat was three-tiered and had plenty of areas to sit either outside or inside (in case anyone needed a break from the cold!).

The crew offered us sea-sickness tablets as we were warned of choppy water out in the bay. Even though it was gorgeously sunny and a particularly mild day for Iceland, we were advised to take advantage of the sea suits which were on offer. We all felt a bit like a teletubbies wearing them but I’m so glad that I took advantage of wearing one, because once we got out on the open water it was freezing!

View of Rekjavik from the boat. Whale watching in Iceland

View of Reykjavík from the boat

We headed out of the harbour into Faxaflói Bay. From here there was a fantastic view of Reykjavik, the Hallgrímsvaka standing out proudly on the skyline.  Our tour guide made sure to point out that when it comes to nature there are no promises and the likelihood of us seeing any whales on the tour were slim at certain times of year, but we kept our fingers crossed and watched the seas intently for signs of any enormous mammals.

Our guide was so knowledgeable and filled us with information about the sea, the birds and the whales that come to visit Iceland all the way from Africa. After hoping to spot something – anything – we couldn’t believe our eyes when a Minke Whale popped up his fin from the water and followed our boat for a good 15 minutes. The size of him was incredible!

Rainbow. Whale watching in Iceland


Not long after our Minke spotting it started to rain; not ideal, but with the bright sunshine the weather created a rainbow on the water and it couldn’t have been a lovelier sight. And at the end of this rainbow there must have been a lucky pot of gold under the water because shortly after the rain subsided we were treated to the magnificent sight of a humpback whale! He was about twice the size of the Minke whale and came within about 20m of the boat – it was a really spectacular experience.

watching in Iceland. Humpback whale

Humpback Whale

The boat turned off its engines and we coasted alongside the whale for about 15 minutes. We were lucky enough to see him breaching, getting a glimpse of the barnacles on his belly. Each time he approached the surface you could hear the sound as he spurted water out of his blowhole. Everyone on the tour was a bit in awe. It was at this point that our guide said to us “I wonder how many people can say they have heard the breath of a whale”, which made me realise how incredibly special this tour was.

My top tips for whale-watching in Iceland:

  • Take the seasickness tablets if you are offered them
  • Wear a sea suit, otherwise you will get cold out at sea
  • Put down your camera for a while and just take in the moment

Despite being lucky enough to see both a minke and a humpback whale in one tour I would love to take this tour again! Iceland’s waters are filled with such rich amounts of wildlife that there is no guarantee of what you might see and every tour is different. Of all the things to do in Reykjavik, this is right up at the top of my list.

About the author

Emma Drury is a Manchester based blogger over at beenthereeatenthat.co.uk, a food and lifestyle blog exploring the world one restaurant and experience at a time.

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