When travelling in North-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.
Whale watching tours are very popular amongst guests visiting Iceland, and we Icelanders are just 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. It was my first whale watching tour ever.
My grandmother and her 14 siblings were born in the grey house with the green roof :)
This was during the financial crisis in Iceland when the Icelandic króna had collapsed, and the salesperson saw pity on us when she knew that we were Icelandic and gave us 2 for 1 :) I didn't have a good camera back then, so the photos of the whales I have added here are from the more recent whale watching tours I have joined.
All the boats of North Sailing are lovely traditional, environmentally friendly oak fishing boats. On board, we all got bright orange 66 degrees North rain-coats and complimentary hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls.
The tour lasted some 3 hours and it was so much fun. We saw some Minke whales and White-beaked dolphins plus the smallest type of whales, about the size of a human being. The tour-guides said, that we were not going to the Zoo and one never knows what, if any, whales are going to show up.
Whale spotted on the Reykjavík whale watching tour
So you might see a Humpback whale jumping by the boat or you might see some fins and tails on your tour. But to me just sailing on the beautiful Skjálfandaflói bay was well worth it. It gave me an opportunity to see Húsavík, the birthplace of my grandmother, from a different angle.
I have heard of some tours where Humpback whales have come very close to the boat or even jumped in the air. That must be an awesome sight! Humpback whales are very curious animals, so they have been labelled "the most entertaining whales", as they swim 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 animal on earth, has been spotted here on Skjálfandaflói bay quite often since 2004. It comes into the bay to feed for some 3 months a year. The Blue whale only comes this close to the coast in Iceland and on the Azore islands.
I also heard 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!
Whale spotted on the Akureyri whale watching tour
When the first whale watching tour started back in 1995 they had some 2,200 visitors. In 2012, there were around 9 operating whale watching companies and 174,000 visitors! Now there is a staggering increase in whale watching.
Whale watching tours are now operated from many towns and villages in Iceland, including our capital city, Reykjavík.
I finally saw a Humpback whale jumping in the distance on a whale watching tour in Reykjavík by Reykjavík Sailors. So I didn't even have to leave my home-city to see the majestic sight of a Humpback whale jumping!
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.
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".
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 the location of the trip and the date.
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 really 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.
The whale was found dead lying on its back and this is how it is displayed at the Whale Museum. The skeleton is so big that it was difficult to photograph all 23 meters of it!
I spotted this humpback whale waving at us on Faxaflói bay in Reykjavík :)
I have joined whale watching tours from many locations in Iceland and written travel-blogs on my experience of the tours:
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.
Whale watching has become popular from several places in Iceland now and we have a myriad of whale watching tours to choose from all around Iceland.
I have ties to Húsavík as my grandmother was born in Bjarnahús, the house next to Húsavíkurkirkja church, as I mentioned earlier. This makes me 1/4th Húsvíkingur and Húsavík is very dear to me :)
Have a lovely time whale watching in Iceland and I hope you spot many whales on your tour :)