Few places in the world offer opportunities for whale watching comparable to those off the Icelandic coastline. Numerous companies offer whale-watching tours, and achieve a high success rate in spotting these mammals.
The best time for watching whales off Iceland is from April through September, when over 20 species of Cetacea – including the orca, minke, humpback and blue whale – can be observed in seas around the island.
Other species commonly sighted include the white-beaked dolphin, harbour porpoise and basking shark, as well as seals and numerous seabirds.
While whale-watching excursions are widely available around the island, one of the smaller towns leading in whale watching is Húsavík on the north coast. Húsavík has in some ways pioneered in whale watching, domestically and even internationally, not least in using traditional or environmentally friendly ships.
Throughout Iceland, however, tours and whale-watching vessels tend to be small in scale and personal mainly in Akureyri & Reykjavik.
Whale-watching tours are less frequent in the winter months but come with the bonus of stark, outstanding scenery: snowcapped mountains, long-lasting sunsets and even chances of seeing the northern lights.
It might be mentioned that, like other peoples of the Far North, Icelanders have hunted whales for a long time and want to maintain their right to decide what animals are hunted for meat within their national jurisdiction, just as other countries allow or even need to hunt deer, coyotes and so on.
Whales strongly impact fish stocks, which are economically vital to Iceland. Thus the state performs research, collaborating with scientists and institutes in other countries, and strictly regulates whale and other hunting to make sure that no endangered whale or other animal species are thereby threatened, as well as to ensure humane hunting techniques.