Close up | Whale Watching Tour with Puffins & Reykjavík Coast
With only 12 persons on each boat, this is the most intimate and personal whale watching tours Reykjavík has to offer, the whale watching experience of a lifetime.
Specially made for arctic waters, our RIB boats give you a chance of getting closer to the whales and puffins than any other ship can offer. These quick, steady and safe boats have the potential to cover more area in search of the wild life, thus increasing your likelihood of locating the whales, dolphins and birdlife.
This whale watching tour leaves from the old harbour in Reykjavík and the first stop is with the puffins on the islands just of the Reykjavík coast.
Next we head out into the Faxaflói Bay in search of the whales. Few things will prepare you for the adventure of viewing the whales and dolphins as up close as you can from our RIB boats.
After our whale watching tour we ride back towards the city, where we will take ride along the Reykjavík coast line, taking a look at it from the water.
We will see the Sólfar sculpture (The Sun Voyger) and visit the harbour side of Iceland's most famous house, the impressive Harpa Concert Hall.
Reserve this trip for a small group and personal whale watching tour from Reykjavík. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Apr. - Oct.
- Duration: 2 hours
- Activities: Whale Watching, Sightseeing, Bird watching
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 10 years old
- Languages: English
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.
The Sun Voyager (Sólfarið) is a large steel sculpture of a ship, located at Sæbraut by the seaside of central Reykjavík. The work is one of the most visited sights in the capital, where people gather daily to gaze at the sun reflecting in the stainless steel of this remarkable monument.
The sculpture serves as an ode to the sun where it gracefully faces north across Faxaflói Bay. A popular misconception is that the Sun Voyager represents a Viking Ship. However, that is not quite the case. According to the sculptor’s vision, the piece rather accounts for a vessel of dreams; a premonition of the promise land, a plight for hope, pursuit, progress and freedom.
The sculptor is Jón Gunnar Árnason, who described his vision as one of the possible origins of the Icelandic people. When Jón visited the island of Bockholm in Finland, he claimed to have experienced an uncanny feeling that he’d been there before, many centuries ago.
The story goes that as ancient explorers from the centre of the known world set out to the four different cardinal directions, some set out towards the rising sun and made port at Mongolia. There, they settled down, until discovering the scribes of the explorers from the original journey who had ventured out west. With the discovery of another fatherland, the people yet again set sail, but this time they headed back towards the setting sun. After having followed the sun for years, they eventually ended up on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
When Jón was looking out to sea from Bockholm, he envisioned a vessel of dreams that would take him the rest of the way home; to the newfound promise land of the setting sun. He carved his vision into a granite rock by the sea, and thus the sun ship was born in his mind.
- Learn more about the origins of the Icelandic people here: Where did Icelanders come from?
- Get acquainted with the whales of Faxafló Bay on this Whale Watching Tour from Reykjavík.
As the city of Reykjavík celebrated its 200-year anniversary in 1986, the town council of Vesturbær held a competition for works of exterior art. The Sun Voyager was deemed as the winner, and an aluminium prototype was donated to the city of Reykjavík. In August 1990, shortly after the death of Jón Gunnar, the final piece was revealed at its current location by Sæbraut.
The site of the sculpture was considerably disputed. Many have pointed out the fallacy in the ship’s mast facing north, as opposed to west; to adhere to the original concept behind the artist’s vision. Jón originally wanted the ship to be situated in the western part of Reykjavík, or by the coastline of Ánanaust. Eventually, and with the artist’s consent, the small headland on Sæbraut got chosen. Although the headland has no name, the artist comically referred to it as Jónsnes—or Jón’s Peninsula.
- Visit the Sun Voyager and other Reykjavík Landmarks on this walking tour with a local guide.
- See a full list of Reykjavík Tours here, for exciting adventures that set out from the capital.
Below, you can see a time-lapse video of a day in the life of the Sun Voyager sculpture.
Harpa is Rekjavík’s premier concert hall and conference centre. Opened in 2011, it was designed by a collaboration between Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, and the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects.
The idea for a purpose-built concert hall in Reykjavík had been tossed around since the 1880s, but it wasn't until this millennium that it began to gain traction. Construction finally began in 2007.
It’s future, however, was left uncertain in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, when it was left partially constructed and the funds to finish it were lacking. The Icelandic populace was divided between having a half-finished construction site facing their downtown or spending money no-one was sure they had.
The Icelandic government, however, decided that it was the only building in the country that warranted being raised, in spite of the dubious future of the economy, and fully financed its completion.
- Find out more with Nanna's blog on Harpa
Harpa won the prestigious Mies van de Rohe award in 2013, otherwise known as the European Prize for Contemporary Architecture, and is featured heavily in any tour of the city. Its structure is beautiful and unique; it has a facade of 714 glass panels, all of which are a different shape and built with an LED light that allows for shows whenever the sky is dark.
Olafur Eliasson is world-renowned for his large-scale installation art, and for the influences he takes from the natural world. This is clearly exhibited in Harpa; it reflects the basalt landscapes of Iceland and the dark coloured glass creates beautiful effects with the natural light.
Studio Olafur Eliasson employs 90 people, from architects to graphic designers, craftsmen to art historians. Based in Berlin, they work across the world, and are well-known for works such as London's 2007 Serpentine Gallery Pavillion and the annual event Life is Space.
Henning Larsen Architects are similarly successful. They have collaborated on the construction of dozens of buildings in over twenty countries, such as the Copenhagen Opera House and Uppsala Concert Hall in Sweden. They are currently working on the creation of thirteen buildings around the world, many of which they scored the opportunity to work on due to their competition-winning designs.
Today, Harpa is one of the jewels in Reykjavík’s crown. The hall hosts exhibitions, concerts, cultural events, meetings, and festivals such as Airwaves, Sónar and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival. Home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the offices of the Icelandic Opera, it is a centre of culture in Iceland’s capital.
Many internationally known artists from around the world have performed here, including people such as Eddie Izzard and Cyndi Lauper. It also regularly showcases native talent, such as Björk and Of Monsters and Men.
- Find out more about the Music of Iceland
Below, you can see a video showing Harpa's construction.
Starting time : 10:00 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 20:00,
Expertly guided whale safari and puffin watching tour in a 12 seater RIB boat. Trip also includes Reykjavík sightseeing and a stop at the Harpa Concert Hall. We supply warm overalls, gloves, goggles and all necessary safety equipment.
What to bring:
Dress warmly for our northern ocean, so if you have it, bring warm outdoor clothing like a wool or fleece sweater, some warm headgear and gloves. Sturdy shoes are recommended.
This was THE MOST FUN THING I'VE EVER EVER DONE ON THIS PLANET. I'm serious. It's 2 days later and I'm back in Chicago now and I still can't stop smiling from it. This boat was WILD. If you like adventure, this is a must. We sat in the front on the way out (when you're going against mother nature's waves!) and it was gut-droppingly awesome. A thousand times better than the most terrifying rollercoaster you've been on. And I mean that in the best way! If you don't want all that action - just sit in the middle/back and it's a lot softer. We did on the way back and it was a really pleasant experience (although it's still pretty intense to sit anywhere on that boat if you're not used to the sea- I don't think this is for young kids, elderly people, or people who don't like a little edge in their vacations). It was exhilarating, and we were ALIVE feeling the power of the ocean. It was worth it if just for the ride itself - And then we got to see a bunch of dolphins and had a fun speed boat tour along the still harbor coastline of Reykjavik. This was the absolute best thing I've ever done on a trip. I may change careers. The guide and captain were delightful and spirited. Our Spanish guide with a long red/brown beard (I hate to say we forgot his name because he was the BEST). He taught us a lot about the whales and dolphins and birds. A totally rewarding, crazy fun experience. It's a MUST! Skip the big boat - get raw and real and feel the power of the sea in the rib boat!
The speed boat was pretty awesome and we got to see some whales from a distance. Everything was as advertised but I would recommend you skip the pickup and meet them by the harbour, it´´s very close to downtown where most of the hotels are. We paid around 10 bucks for a pickup which we could have walked in 5 minutes. Wish we had known that beforehand but that was not their fault. The tour itself was again, great!
I could barely believe how close we got to the whales during this trip. Being so close to such magnificent creatures was mindblowing. Being on a rubber boat made this very special. The other tours were done on fishing vessels so I think this is the best whale watching tour in Iceland.
This was so awesome! Super friendly guides and such a thrill! Way more fun than the 'regular' slow boat tours I have been on, because of the added spice of the Rib boat. Never been on one before, and it was just amazing. We went on a wonderful and sunny day, saw a bunch of puffins too! Highly recommended!
This whale watching and puffin tour is a must do when staying in Reykjavík. It was so much fun and so exciting. The guides were also very professional. We went out on a very sunny day so the view was amazing and we saw a lot of puffins. Highly recommended for people that are in for an excited experience.
I've been on several whale watching tours around Iceland but this one takes the crown, never been on a RIB boat before and it's truely amazing! Really fun and adventurous although we haven't seen whales we saw a lot of puffins flying around us. If you want to experience the ocean life on a funny and unique way this tour is the right thing. Highly recommend it.
Elín Ágústa Birgisdóttir
This tour is a must do in Reykjavík! I had never been on a RIB boat before and that in itself was such a blast, and the views were so stunning it was like we'd travelled to Middle-earth! The guides were friendly and the puffins were flying all around us. Definitely a 5-star experience!
I can honestly say I enjoyed this tour. I was a bit afraid that whale watching might be boring.... as being on a boat alone is not the greatest fun. Especially if it´s a whale watching tour and you don´t see whales. This tour though was fast and exciting, so in a sense it was like being on a roller coaster. And although we didn´t see any whales, we saw a lot of puffins.
What a great experience! Went out on a lovely sunny day, got to see puffins and the breathtaking skyline of Reykjavik. Adrenaline, cool boats and fun guides! What a great way to experience nature and Iceland! 5 stars all the way!
Ólafur Óli Ólafsson
Did this tour on a great sunny day and it was truly awesome! e saw puffins flying around us and the guides made sure that we would enjoy the ride. This is by far the best way for doing the whale and puffin watching in Reykjavik!!! To bad I can only give 5 stars, as it deserves a lot more :)
If not the best, then definitely among the best experiences ever, not just in Iceland! Make sure you take the first two seats...great visibility, tons of adrenaline (at least for someone who doesn't plunge into the ocean on a daily basis), and the views are simply amazing! Not only did we get to see the whales and the puffins, but also got a chance to see the Snæfellsjökull volcano from far, far away (that's because we were lucky enough to catch an astonishingly sunny day, with clear skies and calm waters). And the guide...she was not only well prepared and constantly pointing us in the right directions, but also funny, witty, always making sure everyone was ok with the speed, boat pitching, etc. So when in Iceland: this whale watching tour is a definite must! Consuela