If you’re planning a trip to Iceland this summer and want to go whale watching, you’re in the right place. I am going to tell you everything about whale watching in Húsavík, Iceland, the whale watching capital of Europe! If it’s not on there already, this article is going to make you add whale watching in Húsavík to your Iceland bucket list.
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After spending three weeks traveling the Ring Road in Iceland and doing loads of activities, going whale watching in Húsavík was undoubtedly one of my favorites. I had never seen a whale in real life before but was lucky enough to see three humpback whales during my whale watching tour! Let me share with you about my experience and all you need to know about the logistics of going whale watching in Húsavík, Iceland.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Before we jump into things, I want to tell you about a very important topic: responsible whale watching.
What is responsible whale watching?
Iceland is a leader when it comes to responsible whale watching practices. Responsible whale watching is a way to encounter and admire whales without disrupting their natural habitat.
Whale watching tour companies in Iceland are expected to follow the Code of Conduct for Responsible Whale Watching, which was signed into law in 2015. The Code of Conduct outlines how to conduct whale watching tours with the least possible impact on marine life. Some of the rules are not to approach whales head on, to avoid making sudden or excessive noises, and to ensure whales aren’t crowded by multiple boats.
Where is Húsavík?
Húsavík is a town on the north coast of Iceland. It is quite a small town with a population of 2,300 people as of 2018. It is about a 5.5 hour drive from the country’s capital, Reykjavík.
A lot of tourists are drawn to the area because it is the only town in Skjálfandi Bay, which is an incredible spot for whale watching and kite surfing.
Where to stay in Húsavík?
Since Húsavík is a small town there are not that many options when it comes to where to stay. While we were there we stayed in this Airbnb with a view of the harbor and shared the place with our lovely host, Elsa. However, if you are looking for something more private, here are some good hotel, apartment, and guesthouse options.
- Fosshotel Husavik (⭑⭑⭑ hotel)
- Húsavík Cape Hotel (⭑⭑⭑ hotel)
- Gamli Skólinn Húsavík (apartment, sleeps 4 or 6)
- Skjálfandi (apartment, sleeps 6)
- Hofdi Guesthouse (guesthouse)
How to get to Húsavík?
You can get to Húsavík by plane, car, or bus. In my opinion, the best option is to drive by renting a car or van, or joining a tour that takes you to Húsavík. Personally, we rented a car and drove from Reykjavík around the entire Ring Road. Having a car gives you the utmost flexibility, but there are important things to know about the road conditions in Iceland.
Rentalcars.com is the world’s largest online car rental service. They make eight million bookings a year (and counting) in over 60,000 locations across 160 countries. Rentalcars.com offers 24/7 customer service and their website is available in 43 languages.
If you don’t have time for a 10+ hour round trip in the car, you may want to consider taking a flight to Húsavík. The nearest airport to is in Akureyri and there are multiple flights from Reykjavík each day. Then you can take an hour-long bus or taxi to Húsavík, or rent a car and drive there yourself.
If you want to go by plane, check out WayAway. WayAway is a flight aggregator which helps you find the best rates on airline tickets through its innovative search aggregator which compares airfares offered by all major US and global airlines and agencies. Its aggregator displays final prices, without any hidden fees.
Why should I go whale watching in Húsavík over Reykjavík?
Most people who go whale watching in Iceland do so in Reykjavík rather than Húsavík. The main reason being that tourists in Iceland largely travel throughout the south of the country (where Reykjavík is located), so it is more convenient for them to do it there. While whale watching in Reykjavík can still be a good experience, you have a better chance of seeing whales, especially blue whales and orcas, in Húsavík.
The reason you are more likely to see whales in Húsavík is because the Skjálfandi Bay is a thriving ecosystem with a diverse food supply. Not only are you more likely to see whales in general, but are also more likely to see multiple different species of whales. In fact, 24 different species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises can be found in Iceland’s northern waters near Húsavík! In my opinion, this is reason enough to go whale watching in Húsavík over Reykjavík.
When is whale watching season in Húsavík?
Something you should know is that while you can technically see whales in Icelandic waters all year round, the peak whale watching season in Húsavík is April-November. You will have a better chance of seeing whales during the long summer months, but if you don’t see whales on your tour, you can take another one for no cost. However, don’t worry about this too much because the success rate of whale watching in Húsavík is 97%!
What is a whale watching tour in Húsavík like?
Okay, now let me tell you about my experience going whale watching in Húsavík so you know what to expect. We did our whale watching tour with Húsavík Adventures, which is part of the Icelandic Whale Watching Association (IceWhale), a nonprofit organization which unites companies that offer responsible whale watching tours in Iceland.
We did our tour in April, the very start of whale watching season. It was still quite cold in Húsavík, so we showed up to the tour with jackets, hats, and gloves – I recommend doing this all year round because it gets VERY cold on the water! We were also given a big waterproof suit with a built-in life jacket to change into.
We joined the rest of our crew on the RIB boat (10-12 other people) and set out for sea. We had one driver and one tour guide, who explained to us everything we needed to know about whales in the Skjálfandi Bay. After that, patience was our best friend and we were told to keep an eye out for water shooting into the air as this could be coming from a whale’s blow hole.
There were very few boats out on the water at the same time as us, and our guide was communicating with those boats to help find the whales. Once a whale was spotted, the boats would make their way over but take turns getting close to the whale so as not to overwhelm it.
The anticipation was huge and we had our cameras out at the ready! The first spotting of a humpback whale was so exciting, and we waited with bated breath for it to come back up for air. Humpbacks are known for their deep dives, so we watched the whale for about 10-15 minutes circling around our boat continuously arching its tail to take another dive.
All-in-all, we spent about 2 hours on the water and saw three humpback whales, all varying in size. We were a little bit disappointed we didn’t see other types of whales, but we chalked this up to it being the very start of whale watching season. We still had a fantastic time and made long-lasting memories. I even got a new tattoo to commemorate the experience and all the adventures we had in Iceland. I truly believe that you need to add whale watching in Húsavík, Iceland to your bucket list!
How do I book a whale watching tour in Húsavík?
You can book a whale watching tour in Húsavík online ahead of time or in person once you arrive. However, since whale watching in Húsavík is a popular activity, I definitely recommend booking ahead of time.
We booked our tour through GetYourGuide and this is the exact experience we did with Húsavík Adventures. However, there are many to choose from! As you can see, if you’re there in the summer months you will likely also see puffins. We were there before puffin season technically begins but still saw a few on the water!
The main thing you will have to decide is the size of boat you want to be on. We wanted to be on a smaller RIB boat, which was more expensive, but which allowed us a closer, more personal experience with the whales. If you’re fine with seeing them more from a distance, then the bigger boat might be a better fit for you.
Have a great time going whale watching in Húsavík, Iceland!
If you don’t already have your trip booked, I’m sure I’m convincing you to visit. Check out these resources and tools to help book and plan your trip!
- Booking.com – offers accommodation and unique places
- Vrbo – world’s leading marketplace for vacation rentals
- Hostelworld – global hostel-focused online booking platform
- Wayaway – flight aggregator to find the best rates on airline tickets
- Rentalcars.com – the world’s largest car rental service
- GetYourGuide – find top-rated tours and activities in your destination