Humpback Whales and Puffins: An Eco Tour in Iceland

Whale Watching in Iceland

One activity we’d highly recommend is taking a whale watching tour in Husavik, often billed as the whale watching capital of Europe, or even the world. I have to admit — the last time I went whale watching was a little scarring. It was a family vacation in Maine where we all got completely seasick and felt like we were out for days at sea! Seriously, I think a whale could have done a backflip over the boat and we’d have barely given a polite golf clap. It was that bad. But don’t worry, the waters are pretty calm here. And these tour companies offer much shorter tour options (phew!).

The still water off the coast of the Icelandic town of Husavik, in the North.

We went with Gentle Giants, a company that stresses leaving little environmental impact and stress on the whales.  The tour we took was Big Whale Safari and Puffins Tour, which last 2 1/2 hours on the water. The first stop included a visit to the Puffin Island, where we saw thousands of puffins in the water and flying above.

It’s hard to tell, but those are puffins out there!

For some reason, I thought puffins would be so much larger. I love the puffins cereal from Trader Joe’s, which has the bird taking up most of the box. I’d say these puffins measured maybe a foot in length at most.

Puffin Island, the first stop

One thing to note is that the birds are only here during their nesting period (April 15th – August 20th).

The rest of the tour we searched for whales. Keep in mind, you aren’t at SeaWorld. It takes patience out in the wild to spot them and most tours have some type of guarantee if you don’t see one, that you can try your luck on another.  Luckily for us, there were MANY! In fact, we saw at least 4 humpback whales within the first 20 minutes we were out at sea.

I see one! Then my next thought, I hope it doesn’t come up under the inflatable boat!

One of the most important recommendations we have is going out with one of the Zodiak boats, which is what they use for the Whale Safari and Puffin tour. These inflatable boats sit low to the water — allowing you to get up and close to these giant animals.  Plus, you can zip ahead of all the slow moving fishing vessels.  The whales were often LONG GONE by the time they rolled in.

Kevin’s turn – we got up right next to the humpback whales.

The tour provides goggles, wind suits and gloves. Even with all that, I’d recommend wearing warm clothes underneath. It wasn’t even that chilly of a day, but trust us, you’ll thank us later!

Woo hoo! We’re having fun… and a little cold!

Kevin are you sleeping? No… Just trying to keep the heat inside.

For all the adults at the end, you get shots of some local hard liquor. Or at least we did! hah

And if you time your trip right, you can stop at the Husavik Whale Museum and learn more about how the whaling industry has played such a major role in Husavik. We did the museum in the morning before our afternoon tour, which gave us an overview of the animals in this region. Enjoy!

The informative Whale Museum in Husavik includes real-life skeletons of beached whales. You can really feel the immense scale.


Big Whale Safari & Puffins Tour: $188 per person
Tours run 2.5 hours
Whale season is April 1st – October 31st. The puffin season is from April 15th – August 20th.
Not recommended for children under 7 years. But those older will love this tour.  It was one of our highlights of Iceland.

Puffins and Whales in 1 tour? Sign us up! We got up close and personal with these gentle giants in Husavik - a highlight of our 10 day Iceland itinerary.

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