If you are travelling up north in Iceland, I would recommend going to the town Húsavík on a whale watching tour, as Húsavík is called the Whale watching capital of Iceland. I have even heard it called the Whale watching capital of Europe. These tours are very popular amongst guests visiting Iceland, not so much amongst us Icelanders though, although we are beginning to understand how much fun these tours actually are.
I wanted to see whales so I took a tour with the oldest Whale watching company, North Sailing, which has operated since 1995 - and off we went sailing on the beautiful Skjálfandi bay. All their boats are lovely traditional, environmental friendly oak fishing boats. On board we all got very flattering, hehe, see my photo :) bright orange 66 degrees North rain-coats and complementary hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls.
The ride lasted ca 3 hours and was much fun. We saw some mink-whales and white-beaked dolphins plus the smallest type of whales, about the size of a human being. As the tour-guides said, then we were not going to the Zoo and one never knows what, if any, whales are going to show up.
I wished we had seen some bigger whales, but just sailing on the beautiful Skjálfandi bay was well worth it. It gave me an opportunity to see Húsavík, the birth-place of my grandmother, from a different angle.
I have heard of some tours where humpback whales have swam right up to the boat or jumped in the air. That must be an awesome sight! Humpback whales are very curious animals, so they have been labelled "the most entertaining whale", as it were, as it swims right up to the boats to have a look at the people aboard :) Humpback whales are now preserved so their number is ever increasing.
The blue whale, the biggest mammal on earth, has been seen here in Skjálfandi bay quite often. I also read on the news about a tour where killer whales (orcas) were killing a seal right by the whale watching boat and it got quite bloody, startling the passengers aboard the boat. So one never knows what to expect from a whale watching tour.
These particular tours in Húsavík are operated from April until end of October. In the first and last months only 1-2 tours per day but during the high-season there are 9 tours per day!
There are tickets offices/booths by the main street in Húsavík and you just walk down some steps to the harbour itself where the Whale watching boats are located. The harbour itself is a very nice area.
When the first whale watching tour started back in 1995 there were 2.200 visitors. In 2012, there were ca 9 operating whale watching companies and 174.000 visitors! Now (2016) there is a staggering increase in whale watching. Whale watching tours are operated from many towns and villages in Iceland, including our capital city, Reykjavík.
It is estimated that 200.000 people will go on whale watching tours in the year 2013, and 120.000 of those people go on whale watching tours from Reykjavík city. So I plan on going on many more whale watching tours in the future, as I want to see a humpback whale up close :)
I was in luck when I joined a whale watching tour from Akureyri in the summer of 2016 when I saw myriad of humpback whales up close - now I want to see them jump, so I will be going on whale watching tours until I see a humpback whale jump!
I would recommend a visit to the Whale Museum at Húsavík before going on a whale watching tour. It is right by the harbour and there you can find "everything you ever wanted to know about whales..." On the ground floor you will find many rooms with all there is to know about whales, like Whale species in Icelandic Waters, History of Whaling in Iceland, Marine Ecosystems, Whale biology, Orcas, Whale stranding, Dolphins and Whale watching.
On the upper level is the most interesting Whale gallery called the "Whale walk" where you walk in-between skeletons of different species of whales. Seeing the size of the skeletons up close is amazing.
In 2016 the museum got the skeleton of a blue whale, the biggest of all mammals. It is located in a new exhibition on the first floor and even though it was found washed ashore in 2010 at Skagi then you can still smell the oil, which lingers to the bones. I visited the museum in September 2017 and took the photo below. The skeleton is so big that it was difficult to photograph all 23 meters of it.
The whale was found dead lying on its back and this is how it is displayed at the Whale Museum.
The Whale museum is a non-profit organisation that forms the educational component to the whale watching trips in Húsavík. As the Whale Museum is performing research on the whales in Skjálfandi Bay they welcome any pictures you take of whales on the Whale watching tours with information on location of the trip and the date.
North Sailing Húsavík Whale Watching operates many interesting tours and now there are several Whale Watching companies operating from Húsavík, so you have a great deal of whale watching tours to choose from. Saga Travel in Akureyri also operates two different whale watching tours from Húsavík. Gentle Giants in Húsavík offer both whale watching and sea-angling from Húsavík.
Whale watching has become popular from several places in Iceland now and we have myriad of whale watching tours to choose from all around Iceland.
Húsavík is 475 km away from Reykjavík, Iceland's capital city, where I live. To reach Húsavík you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up north on your own.
Check out our self-drive tours, f.ex. the 10 Day Winter Self Drive Tour|The Circle of Iceland & the 8 Day Self Drive Tour|The Ring Road & The Golden Circle or the 11 Day Self Drive Tour on a Budget|East Fjords & Myvatn & Summer 7 Day Self Drive Tour|North Iceland & Mývatn.