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Whales of Iceland | Complete Guide 2023


Iceland is a country known for its realm of majestic marine giants and in the past two decades watching the whales of Iceland has become a popular tourist activity. These magnificent creatures can be seen in their natural habitat in the nation’s coastal seas, which is a rare chance. Iceland’s rich marine ecosystem draws everyone who wishes to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, from graceful humpbacks to elusive orcas.

In this article join us as we set off on a voyage to see the whales of Iceland, an amazing experience that perfectly portrays the magnificence of the ocean.

If you’re in Reykjavik or elsewhere in Iceland, spending the day searching for these gentle sea giants is an excellent way to spend the day. Since its founding in the late 9th century, whales have played a key role in Iceland’s history.  The Icelandic territorial waters are home to a diverse range of krill and fish because of a unique combination of cold and warm sea currents and abundant summer sunlight.

Because of this, Iceland provides a rich feeding ground that draws 24 distinct whale species, from the gigantic sperm whale to the small harbor porpoise.

Let’s now discuss the most well-known Icelandic whales and the reasons behind their popularity.

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales, the attractive entertainer of the whales of Iceland visit this water mainly in the summertime. Claiming their place as the attention-seeking divas of the whale world, humpback whales, compared to minke whales, are known for their sociable and spectacular behavior.

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In the spotlight on whale-watching excursions, they fascinate visitors with their breaches, feeding displays, and the thunderous echoes of tail and fluke slaps. Tour operators have reported seasons when every expedition spotted at least one of these beautiful humpback whales, which perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the Icelandic whales, up north in cities like Akureyri and Husavik.

Minke Whales

The modest stars of the Icelandic whales, the minke whale, hold the distinction of being the most frequent occupant of these waters. During the summer, they honor us with their migrations, and some even decide to stay through the winter. Despite being smaller than other species, they can nonetheless grow to lengths of more than 30 feet (9 meters).

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Even though they tend to be shy, sightings of Icelandic whales, especially the lovely Reykjavik, in the mesmerizing whales of Iceland tapestry are common from almost all whale-watching ports due to their abundance.

Harbor Porpoises

One of the smaller whale species, the charming harbor porpoise is a jewel among the whales of Iceland. It is a perennial source of joy for those who catch a glimpse as it graces the waters of Iceland year-round. It takes a keen and trained eye to spot these timid, little creatures, whether they are present alone or in small groups.

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They make brief, but significant, appearances at the water’s surface. They gently glide across the waves while roosting, which is a spectacle they put on while they are feasting or when they sense danger. Any person who has the good fortune to go on a whale-watching tour in the captivating world of Icelandic whales will always remember this enthralling behavior.


One of the gorgeous Whales of Iceland known as orcas is the largest species of dolphin in the world, despite their terrifying moniker. Around 5,000 of these enormous fish, which are a captivating presence in Iceland’s seas all year round, approach the shoreline in the summer’s bright embrace.

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Even while the elusive orcas occasionally make an appearance during whale-watching excursions, it can be difficult to locate them due to their erratic behavior. Even so, ardent whale watchers view them as beloved stars due to their enormous size and sporadic acrobatic performances, which add a hint of magic to the fascinating world of Icelandic whales.

The “wolves of the sea,” as orcas are frequently referred to, are ravenous eaters who need 400 to 750 pounds (175 to 350 kg) of food each day. They mostly eat capelin and herring in the waters of Iceland. But they are also known to consume salmon, turtles, sharks, and even other marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and porpoises.

White-Beaked Dolphins

In Iceland, white-beaked dolphins are the most often sighted dolphins since they spend the entire year near the beach. Despite being a hefty species, you may frequently witness them bow-riding, breaching, and playing at the surface. They live in groups of between only a few and one hundred individuals.

Along with being depicted on the Icelandic 5 krona coin, you may also see these dolphins swimming in Iceland’s waters. Therefore, you can retain the penny as a (quite affordable) souvenir if you’re fortunate enough to spot them during your whale-watching cruise.

Blue Whales

Even though humpback and minke whales are the most commonly seen whales, Iceland’s seas are home to other species as well. Blue whales, the largest animals that have ever inhabited Earth, are occasionally spotted throughout the summer.

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The enthralling ocean leviathan known as the blue whale may grow to an astounding 100 feet (30 meters) in length and weigh an amazing 165 tons (150 tonnes). Despite their enormous size, they prefer krill as their main source of food, which is an intriguing conundrum. Unexpectedly, their longevity is similar to that of humans, with some gently making it through an average age of 80 to 90 years and adding to the tapestry of majestic Whales of Iceland.

Fin Whales

In the fascinating world of Iceland’s marine residents, the majestic behemoths of the sea known as fin whales are second only to the alluring blue whales in terms of size. The average length and weight of these magnificent creatures are 65 feet (20 meters) and 40 to 50 tons, respectively.

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Interestingly, they appear in Iceland’s seas more regularly than their blue counterparts, with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 individuals making the North Atlantic Ocean their home and capturing the splendor of Iceland’s aquatic life.

Sperm Whales

Iceland’s marine life is even more alluring because of frequent sightings of the giant sperm whale, the ocean’s largest-toothed marvel, off the country’s west coast in the spring and summer. The sperm whale personifies the majestic variety of Iceland’s whales, with 23,000 of them gracing the waters near Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

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Despite having a large population, these gorgeous creatures are hard to find because they have the extraordinary capacity to hold their breath for incredible lengths of time. The sperm whale can hold its breath for up to two hours and only breaks the surface once or twice throughout a whale-watching excursion in Iceland, giving its presence in the majestic oceanic expanse a sense of mystery.

Beluga Whales and Narwhals

Beluga and narwhal groups have occasionally been sighted in the northern waters as stragglers. Despite the fact that their natural home is in the Arctic Circle, close to Greenland.

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The male narwhal’s impressive tusk, a long canine tooth that adorns their appearance, is known throughout the whale community in Iceland. This special tusk, while not necessary for their survival, serves a symbolic purpose akin to a stag’s antlers or a peacock’s feathers, providing an intriguing insight into the hierarchical dynamics of these remarkable animals.

Long-Finned Pilot Whale

Despite their moniker, big dolphins are a species that includes pilot whales. They are distinguishable by having pectoral fins that are extremely lengthy.

350,000 individuals are thought to be present in the North Atlantic alone. They are not as common in Iceland’s waters as one might anticipate, though, as they are a very migratory species that spends most of its time offshore.

Final Words Whales of Iceland

The Whales of Iceland are a diverse group of fascinating water creatures that call Iceland’s marine environment home. These spectacular creatures, from the vivacious humpback whales to the mysterious harbor porpoises, give a vivid picture of the region’s biodiversity. The underwater beauties of Iceland provide a unique window into the realm of these majestic animals, with minke whales, orcas, blue whales, and fin whales also frequenting these waters.


What kinds of whales can be found in the waters around Iceland?

Several whale species, including humpback whales, minke whales, orcas (killer whales), blue whales, fin whales, and others, can be found in Iceland.

When is the best time to see whales in Iceland?

Because of the warmer seas and more feeding opportunities, the summer months, especially those from April through September, give the highest chances for whale sightings.

 Where are the popular locations for whale watching in Iceland?

Whale-watching excursions are well known in coastal communities like Akureyri, Husavik, and Reykjavik, allowing tourists to see these majestic animals in their natural environment.

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