Nestled on the edge of Shaky Bay, the town of Húsavík is globally recognised as one of the best locations in the world from which to watch whales. In fact, there is a higher chance of seeing whales in Húsavík than any other place in Iceland. So, if you’re ever considering where to go whale-watching, our town is without a doubt, second to none.
The Whale Capital of Iceland
The first scheduled whale-watching tours in the whole of Iceland started here, in the mid-90s, following requests by passing tourists. Since then, the industry has boomed and made Húsavík a household name, often branded ‘The Whale Capital of Iceland’.
Humpback, Minke and Blue
Altogether, there are 23 species of whale which have been recorded in Icelandic waters. The most typical visitors to Skjálfandi Bay are Humpbacks, Minke and Blue. Due to their playful nature, and the range of actions they perform, Humpback whales are amongst the most entertaining animals to watch at sea. Lucky whale-watchers here may get to see them feeding, breaching (jumping out), slapping (slapping their flippers against the water) or spy-hopping (dipping their head out of the water to see what’s near). Another frequent visitor to the bay is the Blue Whale, the largest known animal ever to have existed on Earth. Its tongue alone can weigh the same as an elephant, and its heart the same as a car. To see any of these creatures in the wild is a truly breath-taking sight to behold, but it’s not just size which makes for an impressive trip. If you’re lucky enough to have the smaller white-beaked dolphins ride the bow of the ship, their closeness and cheerful nature can often be the cherry on the top of the whale-watching-trip pie.
Húsavík Whale-watching Companies
There are four different companies offering whale-watching trips here in Húsavík: Gentle Giants, Húsavík Adventures, North Sailing and Salka. All the companies have very friendly, multilingual guides who are passionate about whales, many of them working for the companies for many many years. The local companies are also active participants in the education and research of the whales. Húsavík´s harbour is a hive of activity in this respect, because as well as the four whale-watching companies that use the docks, there is the Whale Museum and the University of Iceland´s research centre. There are partnerships between these organisations and the whale-watching companies, with many boat trips containing researchers.
• If photographing, you don´t need a huge lens, the whales are so big, a small zoom or even a normal 50mm is often sufficient.
• Don´t worry too much about the cold because you get thick insulated overalls to wear, and at the end of the trip, some companies offer a hot chocolate or if you´re lucky, even a shot of rum.
• Although high winds might prevent you from going out to sea at all, rain is never a bad thing, as you have more chance of seeing a Humpback breach (jump) in this kind of weather. You can check the weather in advance, but the weather in Iceland is notoriously changeable, so none of the whale-watching companies will be able to tell you for sure if they are offering trips until the day itself.
• If you get seasick, some of the companies offer medication on bumpy weather days but you can also get it from the local pharmacy, just ask for Postafen or Dramamine.
• Typical whale-watching trips take three to four hours and can be quite tiring, especially if you’re not used to being at sea. So, make sure you give yourself time afterwards to sit in the harbour and take a coffee, or eat some fish and chips.
• Don´t try and go looking for whales to eat in Húsavík, when a fair portion of the town’s income comes from watching them, eating them is a little counter-productive.
You can buy tickets at the Gentle Giants, Húsavík Adventures and North Sailing ticket booths above the harbour. Salka’s whale watching tickets are sold in the Icecream and Café shop. Late night cruises are also available or you can combine the boat trip with other activities on land to get discounts. View the companies individual websites to get the full listings.