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Frequently Asked Questions

About Whale Watching & Puffin Tours in Iceland

Whale and puffin watching tours are conducted by boat from ports all around Iceland. Over twenty species of whale and dolphin frequent Iceland’s waters, many of them throughout the year, whereas Atlantic Puffins nest in their millions along coastal cliffs and on islands from April to August.

Though you're not guaranteed to see these magnificent animals, many of these tours have nearly 100% success ratings in terms of sightings.

1. Where is the best location in Iceland to see whales?

There are numerous places in Iceland from where you can take a whale watching tour, including Reykjavík, Akureyri and Dalvík. Iceland’s ‘whale watching capital’ is Húsavík, in North Iceland.

2. When is puffin season in Iceland?

Puffins can be seen in Iceland from early April until September.

3. Is it certain that we will see whales on the tour?

Because we are dealing with wild animals, seeing whales and dolphins can never be absolutely guaranteed. However, most larger crafts are fitted with the latest tracking systems and are in constant communication, thus heightening the odds greatly.

4. What happens if no whales are spotted during the tour?

You can join the tour again for free by contacting the tour's operator and rebooking.

5. Under what circumstances are tours cancelled?

When it comes down to bad weather and heavy seas, we rely on the experience and judgment of the captains. In the end, it is the captain who makes the final call.

6. How should I dress for the whale watching & puffin tours?

It is advised to dress as warmly as possible (it can get very chilly on the boat), and be sure to wear sturdy shoes. There are warm overalls available on the boat should you need them.

7. How long do the tours last?

Whale watching tours last for approximately 3 hours (give or take twenty minutes), while puffin tours are usually 1 hour long.

8. What other wildlife might I see on the tour?

Aside from the whales and puffins, there is the possibility to see porpoise and many different types of seabird species, including northern gannets, shags, fulmars and arctic tern.

9. Will I learn about the animals?

Yes, definitely. Wildlife tours are operated by experienced, knowledgeable and qualified nature guides who will eagerly share interesting information throughout the trip.

10. Are the boat tours dangerous?

Not at all! Passenger safety is of the highest concerns. In the rare event that anything should happen, life jackets and lifeboats are plentiful.

11. Can I smoke on the boat?

No, smoking is prohibited on board for the duration of the trips.

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Whales & puffins in Iceland

The seas surrounding Iceland are unusual in that there is a delicate blend of warm and cold water mixed in the jagged fjords of the coastline. Coupled with the abundant sunlight of summer, these conditions create an incredibly hospitable environment for krill and fish and subsequently, the various species of whale that feast on them.

There is no better way to see these intelligent and compelling creatures than in the wild, and it so happens that many tours offer you the exclusive chance to see one—and some tours even combine whale watching with puffin spotting. From the small harbour porpoise to majestic humpback whales, you can hope to see over twenty species of cetacean creatures off the shores of Iceland.

With a still operative whaling industry, Iceland’s relationship with its whales is complicated. Although whale meat is sold here, only 2% of whale meat hunted in Iceland is sold back to its public, while a substantial part of the population harbours a loving and sensitive attitude to these gentle giants. In fact, many old whaling vessels have now been repurposed towards whale-watching. Often, there is a choice of larger, educational boats and smaller, faster catamarans for more intimate groups.

On a whale watching tour from Reykjavík, the most common species you can hope to see are white-beaked dolphins, Minke whales and Humpback whales. Less common species are orcas (killer whales), fin whales and pilot whales. The largest of them all, the blue whale is sometimes spotted off Skjálfandi Bay by Húsavík. This is one of Iceland’s favourite regions to look for these massive mammals and a whale watching tour from Húsavík is guaranteed to leave memories to last a life time.
Some tours offer sea-angling as part of your experience, and in some cases, you will get to sample the catch, with some tours even offering to prepare your fish to be eaten.

One of the most iconic animals and motifs of Iceland is the adorable puffin, and there are many tours which offer you the chance to see one for yourself. The Atlantic puffin is native to Icelandic coastlines and over half of Europe’s puffin population come here to nest in the summer months, making Iceland the perfect destination to spot this charismatic critter.

Adorning postcards and souvenirs abound, the puffin is a prominent symbol of Icelandic wildlife and attract many who want to see one. Their rotund characteristics and striking colours make them a favourite of nature-lovers everywhere.

Their cuteness should not have you fooled; the Atlantic Puffin is a hardy seabird used to spending many months at sea. They are proficient swimmers and are capable of beating their wings 400-times a minute. A recent scientific discovery only adds further wonder to this fascinating species in that it was observed that under UV light their beaks demonstrate bioluminescence leaving scientists baffled as to why. Research is currently underway so we may know more about these delightful creatures soon.

Although they can be seen on cliffsides, some tour companies offer special boat-rides where you can get a more stable platform to view the birds. If you do try to catch a glimpse of a puffin from a cliffside such as Látrabjarg in the Westfjords, do be wary of not getting too close to the edge; puffins and other seabirds burrow into the cliffs, often making them unstable and therefore dangerous. An excellent destination to spot the puffins by boat is around the Westman Islands coupled with astonishing views of the craggy archipelago under the guidance of a local expert.

Often boat tours will offer puffin-spotting as part of a whale-watching expedition and what better way to spend the day looking for these tiny seabirds coupled with the titans of the sea.

Puffin and Whale watching tours are suitable for all ages, at an average duration of about three hours. Available around the country, these tours are a surefire way to get close to Iceland’s vibrant and exciting wildlife.

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