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The Best Whale Watching in Iceland (with Sea Trips Reykjavik)

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Some of the best whale watching in Iceland takes place near the Old Harbor of Reykjavik, the country’s capital.

Since most travelers will either pass through Reykjavik or use it as their home base for visiting Iceland, this makes whale watching an easy activity to incorporate into any itinerary.

During my two week road trip across Iceland’s southern coast, I was mostly set on exploring glaciers, chasing waterfalls and checking out the beautiful black sand beaches found in this region.

However, Iceland is also known as one of the best places in the world for whale watching due to its unique location between the chilly Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

Humpback whale tail exposed during whale watching in Iceland
The whales were extremely active during my February excursion

Naturally, I wanted to include this activity on my itinerary. While you’re likely to find a number of operators offering whale watching tours from Reykjavik, I ended up going with Sea Trips Reykjavik and was lucky enough to enjoy an afternoon aboard the stylish Amelia Rose vessel.

Amelia Rose Whale Watching ship in Reykjavik Iceland
The Amelia Rose had the most curb appeal of any whale watching vessel in Reykjavik!

While there are multiple companies in the area offering whale watching excursions, after doing extensive research and spending the day on one of their ships, I can strongly recommend the experience I had with Sea Trips Reykjavik.

Not only did they successfully lead us to what felt like an endless number of whale sightings, but the ship is beautiful, stocked with a full bar and offers a substantial amount of viewing deck space so I never felt crowded out by other guests.

Captain's seat aboard the Amelia Rose Whale Watching Vessel
I popped into the captain’s room to take a look before our whale watching tour departed

Although no whale watching guide can fully guarantee whale sightings, the team at Sea Trips Reykjavik is experienced and knowledgeable which means you’ll have excellent odds.

As you spot whales in Reykjavik Old Harbor, the spotter will also provide lots of interesting information and facts about the whales you’re seeing or could potentially see.

Throughout the remainder of this post I’ll answer a number of common questions that travelers might have about how to best enjoy whale watching in Reykjavik Iceland!

You’ll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I’m still happy you’re here! 

Where is Sea Trips Reykjavik located?

Whale watching excursions with Sea Trips Reykjavík depart centrally from Downtown, near the Old Harbor. Your ticket should provide the physical address, but when I visited there was a sign on their office door instructing me to check in at the restaurant across the street.

If you drive yourself, there’s a paid parking lot across the street from the Old Harbor or instructions included in your reservation with how to access free parking near their office.

Vessels anchored in Reykjavik Harbor, Iceland
You’ll spot a lot of other vessels while walking through Reykjavik Harbor

The area will likely be busy with other whale watching tours and restaurant goers so you should anticipate having a difficult time to park. In general, parking in Reykjavik isn’t great.

If you’re staying in Reykjavik, keep in mind that Sea Trips does offer a pickup service. Inquire with them directly to see if your hotel is eligible for pickup to avoid the parking headaches.

Where should I stay when visiting Iceland?

Most travelers to Iceland will want to spend at least a couple nights in the capital city of Reykjavik. This serves as a natural home base for starting or ending your trip given it’s proximity to Keflavik International Airport.

This will make it easy to access your whale watching activity but also allow you to enjoy other activities that the city has to offer. Reykjavik is home to a great walking food tour and also makes for the best jumping off point to do the volcano hike near Fagradalsfjall.

Reykjavik Cathedral as seen from a boat in the harbor
Exploring Reykjavik Harbor by sea also offers amazing city views!

If you haven’t booked your accommodations yet, you can browse deals on hotels in Reykjavik here. It also might be worth checking out the Reykjavik Lights Hotel, which is one of the better reviewed hotels in the area.

While I spent a total of two nights in Reykjavik, I stayed at the Eco Campsite in my camper van. The best way to experience Iceland involves moving away from Reykjavik, and the most economical and flexible way to do that is with a camper van!

Man standing in front of a camper van in Iceland
My camper van rental with Go Campers allowed me to explore Iceland’s south coast over the span of two weeks!

I rented my camper van with Go Campers and had a really great experience. The heater worked great which kept me plenty warm during the frigid winter nights and I was able to reserve plenty of add ons like extra pillows, a premium comforter, French press so I could make my own coffee, and more!

Where is the best place in Iceland for whale watching?

When considering logistics, Reykjavik tends to be the best overall option for visitors hoping to go whale watching during their trip to Iceland.

Humpback whale spraying water above the surface in Reykjavik Harbor
A humpback whale releases his spray into the air

However, if time is not a factor, the town of Husavik in Northern Iceland is generally considered to have slightly better odds of spotting whale activity. Keep in mind that Husavik is a six hour drive north of Reykjavik and so it won’t make sense unless you’re already planning to visit Northern Iceland.

What months are best for whale watching in Iceland?

Peak whale watching season in Iceland is generally considered to be the summer months, between June and August. However, due to Iceland’s unique geographic positioning in the rich feeding waters of the Northern Atlantic, it is possible to spot whales here year round.

How likely are you to see whales in Iceland?

Sea Trips Reykjavik claims to have a success rate of around 90% spotting whales during the summer months. They do concede that this success rate is slightly lower in the winter, but a specific number isn’t provided.

With that said, my winter whale watching trip during the month of February was extremely eventful. We saw quite a few humpback whales that were extremely active. Once we spotted our first whale, we enjoyed a full 90 minutes of whale activity without any real breaks in the action!

Woman watching a humpback whale from a ship in Reykjavik Iceland
It felt like every time I looked up there was a Humpback Whale popping up from somewhere!

While no whale watching operator can fully guarantee a sighting, you should pick a company that provides suitable compensation if you don’t see any whales.

Sea Trips Reykjavik has a great program where anyone who doesn’t spot a whale on their excursion will receive a complimentary voucher to attend an available tour of their choice within the next three years.

Can you see whales in Reykjavik Iceland?

The most common whale sightings near Reykjavik include minke and humpback whales, dolphins and porpoises. During my activity we primarily saw humpback whales and a few seals floating around the harbor.

A seal popping its head above water in Reykjavik Harbor Iceland
You’ll have a chance of seeing seals and other wildlife during your whale watching activity!

Sea Trips Reykjavik also suggests it’s possible to spot Orcas (killer whales) and a variety of other sea life in the area. Whales are said to be equally active in the mornings and afternoons so the timing of your departure shouldn’t impact your chances either.

What should I bring when whale watching in Iceland?

While the ships interior stays heated, you’ll need to bring enough layers and warm clothing gear to tolerate between one and two hours of time on the ships deck watching the whales.

During the summer months, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, if you partake in this activity during the winter like I did, you’re going to need proper attire if you hope to endure the chilly temps and windy harbor conditions.

A humpback whale tail breaks above water in Iceland
You’ll want to dress warm to maximize your time outside watching whales in the Reykjavik Harbor

For winter visitors, I’d recommend wearing multiple layers that you can easily remove while spending time inside the ship. A wool hat, heavy gloves and the warmest boots you own will go a long way. You’ll probably want to have on a couple pairs of warm socks as well.

I’d also suggest stashing some light snacks and water in your bag as well to make the experience more comfortable. The Amelia Rose does offer a full bar, so you can enjoy that during your time aboard as well.

And remember to bring your digital camera and binoculars to spot blows from the whales and get clear photos!

How long does whale watching with Sea Trips Reykjavik last?

The entire whale watching experience with Sea Trips Reykjavik typically lasts between 3 and 4 hours from start to finish.

You can expect between one and two hours of actual whale sighting time once you get to the area outside of the harbor where the whales tend to feed.

Mountain landscapes seen from a Reykjavik Harbor
Although colder in the winter, the landscapes are beautiful when covered in snow

A nice thing about whale watching from Reykjavik is how short the ride is out to the feeding area. Enjoying this activity in other parts of the world can involve a much longer boat ride out to the action!

During your trip the boat will sail beyond the Old Harbor, pass by the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and other small islands such as Faxafloi, Engey, Lundey (known as Puffin Island) and Videy Island.

Do I need a reservation to go whale watching in Reykjavik Iceland?

As soon as you’ve decided on your travel dates, I’d suggest making a reservation for whale watching. This is especially true if you’re visiting during Iceland’s peak summer tourism months.

Close up image of a humpback whale blow hole in Iceland
Some of the whales were curious and popping up really close to our ship

There are limited space on ships (through Sea Trips or otherwise) and lots of people hoping to have an intimate whale experience. Ships will sell out so avoid waiting until the last minute to reserve your spot!

It would be a real shame to travel all the way to Iceland and miss out on this experience because you forgot to make a reservation.

Is it expensive to go whale watching in Iceland?

On a per person basis, the larger whale watching vessel prices are usually quite reasonable. I’d suggest checking current activity pricing here.

Green buoy floating near Reykjavik Harbor in Iceland
You won’t spend too much time sailing away from Reykjavik before encountering whales

You’ll also see whale watching tours being marketed that zip around on smaller RIB speedboats. These tours are generally more expensive, less comfortable, but do allow you to get much closer to the whales since you’ll be sitting right on the water.

Are there bathrooms aboard the whale watching ship?

No need to worry about restrooms when traveling with Sea Trips Reykjavik aboard the Amelia Rose. The ship is well equipped with bathrooms.

On a related note, if you’re someone who struggles with sea or motion sickness, let this be your reminder to pack dramamine! Sea Trips mentions on their website that they have this available for passengers if needed as well, so don’t be afraid to ask if you need it.

Check out these activities available around Reykjavik Iceland!

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary to Iceland? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.

Is whale watching in Reykjavik Iceland worth it? 

Whale watching is a great activity to enjoy during your travels to Reykjavik, Iceland. Even though you aren’t guaranteed to see whales during this activity, the success rate that Sea Trips Reykjavik has played a major role in my decision to book with them, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Photo of a humpback whale tail in Reykjavik Harbor, Iceland
It was a really active day for us during our February whale watching excursion

We were able to enjoy nearly two full hours of humpback whale activity, saw tons of Icelandic birds and even a few seals floating around the harbor.

Even though whales tend to be less active in the winter months around Reykjavik, your odds of seeing them is still very high. Just make sure you dress appropriately so you can endure the chilly temperatures while hanging out on the ships deck!

Beyond the whales, you’ll be able to take in stunning views of Reykjavik and the islands that make of the geography of this area from sea.

If you’re interested in booking this activity for yourself, I’d suggest heading over to the Sea Trips Reykjavik booking site. For help planning travel abroad or for tips to save on airfare be sure to check out my guides at the links shown here.

For any big time whale watching enthusiasts, be sure to read my post about whale watching in Tromso, Norway. It’s a popular feeding ground for Orcas and we saw a super active pod of them hunting in the Arctic waters during my visit.

I also created a short highlight video about whale watching in Reykjavik that you can watch on my YouTube channel.

If you’re looking for other unique winter Iceland activities to partake in, consider checking out my posts on the following topics:

I hope you enjoyed learning about some of the best whale watching in Iceland with Sea Trips Reykjavik!

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