How to Enjoy an Amazing Whale and Puffin Tour in Iceland?

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Iceland is home to a plethora of amazing natural attractions but perhaps the best reason to visit the Land of Fire and Ice is to enjoy up close and personal wildlife encounters. One of the highlight experiences for anyone heading to Iceland should be a whale and puffin tour! Iceland is home to a myriad of whale species and if you are heading to Husavik, well you should be aware that this is renowned as the ultimate whale capital of the world. Throw 250,000 puffins into the mix that migrate here every year and I think it’s fair to say you have a haven of wildlife waiting to be discovered.

whale and puffin tour husavik

For those of you that have enjoyed some epic wildlife experiences around the world, perhaps taking an African safari in the Serengeti or stumbling across wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, it’s inevitable that Iceland will be on your radar as a hotspot for more encounters with species you may not see in your own backyard.

Whales and puffins are perfect examples of wildlife that you are not going to see every day, so heading to Iceland and having the opportunity to see these in their natural habitats was a once in a lifetime experience we weren’t going to let slip by.

whale and puffin tour

Husavik – Whale Capital of the World

Let’s start at the beginning of our visit to Husavik. When you think about experiencing the best things to do in North Iceland, Husavik surely has to be on your radar…it was certainly on ours!

Having spent an enjoyable morning exploring the spectacular Godafoss waterfall, we headed to Husavik mid-afternoon with every intention of just strolling around the town and “hopefully” capturing a glimpse of a whale or puffin from the shoreline. That’s right, we were visiting Husavik with no excursions booked and honestly, no real intention of experiencing one.

husavik iceland

After arriving in Husavik and immediately falling in love with the quirkiness of the architecture and harbor front, we parked our vehicle and started doing a little research on the best things to do in the town renowned globally as “the whale capital of the world.”

things to do in husavik

When you start researching the best things to do in Husavik, it seems everything revolves around one topic – whales! Numerous tour companies offer daily excursions, each with something unique that helps differentiate it from the competition.

whale and puffin tour iceland

So…I am sure you have probably figured out by now that our decision to NOT take an excursion quickly changed. I started doing a little further research and stumbled across North Sailing, renowned as the number one of things to do in Husavik!

I will add that it was about 3:40 PM when I was conducting my research and when I found the last available tour with North Sailing at 4:00 PM, I realized that we had to act pretty quickly. Needless to say, I booked the ‘discounted’ whale and puffin tour and after taking the short walk to the North Sailing Visitor Center, we were told that the excursion was delayed until 5:00 PM.

north sailing whale watching centre

North Sailing Excursions

Who exactly are North Sailing? Since 1995, this company has been offering daily excursions to explore Husavik’s renowned coastline.

north sailing whale and puffin tour

Why Choose North Sailing?

I think the best way to assess why you should choose North Sailing as the best option, is to take a look at a few factors that this company uses to promote their daily tours:

  • Eco-friendly since 1995.
  • Focus on sustainability – North Sailing has been awarded for their excellence in sustainability and innovation.
  • Offering Carbon-Neutral excursions.
  • Great levels of respect for whales, nature, and wildlife. No electric sonar or other devices to locate the wildlife, simply tour guides using their eyes.
  • Responsible whale watching.

Ok, so we always hear companies that drive home their desire to be sustainable and create a “green” environment with their responsible eco-tourism approach. However, the only way you can really make a judgment about this is to take a tour for yourselves.

Tour Options and Prices

North Sailing offers a wide variety of tours and “authentic adventures” as you have the opportunity to enjoy a cruise around the arctic waters of Skjalfandi Bay.

whale and puffin tour

Here are the various options along with the latest prices at the time of publication of this post. As always, we recommend visiting the North Sailing website for the latest prices and availability.

Husavik Original Whale Watching
  • 3 Hours
  • Adults – 10,500 ISK ($99 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 4,500 ISK ($42 USD)
Silent Whale Watching
  • 3 Hours
  • Adults – 10,500 ISK ($99 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 4,500 ISK ($42 USD)
Whales, Puffins, and Sails
  • 4 Hours
  • Adults – 14,500 ISK ($137 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 6,500 ISK ($61 USD)
Whale Watching and Puffins
  • 3+ Hours
  • Adults – 12,500 ISK ($118 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 5,500 ISK ($52 USD)
Whales and Sails
  • 3+ Hours
  • Adults – 12,500 ISK ($118 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 5,500 ISK ($52 USD)
Northern Lights Sailing
  • 3 Hours
  • Adults – 10,500 ISK ($99 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 4,500 ISK ($42 USD)
Hjalteyri Whale Watching
  • 2+ Hours
  • Adults – 9,900 ISK ($93 USD)
  • Youths (Age 7-15) – 4,000 ISK ($37 USD)

We opted for the Whale Watching and Puffins tour which offers a nice blend of everything. For three hours, you are whisked away by an awesome North Sailing captain and crew members, to enjoy a myriad of amazing wildlife and an unforgettable experience.

Purchasing any of these tours in advance on the North Sailing website will enable you to take advantage of a 5-15% discount, so be sure to book online before heading to the visitor center. Even booking about 20 minutes prior to departure online allowed us to take advantage of this discounted rate!

whale and puffin tour

If you purchase a ticket, you also have the opportunity to enjoy the following benefits on other spots around Husavik:

  • 20% discount at Husavik Whale Watching Museum
  • 10% discount at Restaurant Gamli Baukur
  • 10% discount at Cafe Hvalbakur
  • 10% discount at Restaurant Fjaran
  • 10% discount at North Sailing’s Souvenir and Clothing Store

Contact Information

Address – Hafnarstétt, Húsavík, Iceland
Tel – +354 464 7272
Website – North Sailing

Whale and Puffin Tour

Prior to boarding the gorgeous traditional wooden oak boat named Bjössi Sör, we were given a short briefing by our tour guide who pointed out the overalls that would be provided to each of us if we wanted some additional layers.

whale and puffin tour iceland

Given that it was a gorgeous early evening and the prospects were for excellent weather during our tour, we opted again wearing these.

whale and puffin tour

What we didn’t realize is that we would be the only ones NOT to wear them! There is always someone right. However, in hindsight, we didn’t need them as it was a pretty comfortable temperature throughout the three hours at sea.

husavik north sailing

Our guide told us that we could find a seat anywhere on the boat so we opted for the back but throughout the tour, we moved around and even headed to the very top to admire the breathtaking views across Skjálfandi Bay.

north sailing whale and puffin tour

The typical safety briefing followed to ease everyone’s nerves about possibly being thrown overboard but I think we all had the same motive for this trip – a desire to see whales and puffins!

whale and puffin tour

Shortly after 5:00 PM, our captain lead the Bjössi Sör out of port and into the open waters of the Bay. The view looking back to the town of Husavik was breathtaking but we immediately focused our attention on the water to try and spot our first wildlife sighting…we didn’t have to wait long!

Minke Whale Sightings

We had only been sailing for about 20 minutes when our guide pointed out a whale sighting in the distance. As we all scrambled to the front of the boat, we caught a glimpse of not one but two whales. Our guide let us know that these were “minke whales” and as we approached the area, we were fortunate to see further sightings of the pair.

whale and puffin tour

Minke whales are a type of baleen whale and in comparison to other species are relatively small. We felt honored to get several sightings of these whales because our guide told us that these are generally pretty elusive whales and rarely stay on the surface for long, particularly when tour boats approach. We were hoping that this was going to be a good omen for the rest of our excursion!

whale and puffin tour

One of the challenging aspects of taking a whale sighting tour is trying to take pictures. You quickly realize that you have several factors working against you. Firstly, you are on a moving vessel which can be pretty challenging to stay upright once you are in the heart of the open water. Secondly, you have no idea when or where the whales are going to appear!

Puffin Island

I think it’s fair to say we were all pretty ecstatic at seeing those two minke whales within the first few minutes of our excursion. We shifted focus for a while as our vessel headed for the wonderfully acclaimed Puffin Island.

puffin island

The Whale and Puffin tour is a relatively new tour offered by North Sailing and the decision was made to add this to their schedule when they considered how they could make the Husavik Original Whale Watching tour better. By adding a visit to Puffin Island of course!

whale and puffin tour

Our guide shared some pretty impressive statistics about this island as over 250,000 puffins migrate here every year to use this as a nesting ground. This is undoubtedly a great opportunity for visitors to enjoy amazing sightings of these puffins, both on the island and flying around.

puffin island

It’s not just puffins that you can see either. A variety of other bird species can be seen enjoying Skjálfandi Bay, including guillemots, gannets, fulmars and many others. But it’s the puffins that the majority of visitors are interested in admiring and for good reason! Puffin Island is such a popular hotspot for puffins because they nest in colonies on the grassy areas of the island before heading out to feed in the ocean, mainly on small fish.

puffin island iceland

In hindsight, it would have been great to have a 600mm lens to get some really cool shots of the puffins but we had an amazing experience seeing these gorgeous birds in their natural habitat.

Humpback Whale Sightings

We always like to save the best experience until last and perhaps our captain and his crew knew this when he chose to head away from Puffin Island into the heart of the Bay and give us the opportunity to find more whales.

husavik whale and puffin tour

We didn’t have to wait long despite experiencing some pretty choppy waters and we soon stumbled across a humpback whale which was at the very top of everyone’s bucket list for this excursion.

whale and puffin tour

For the next hour, we sailed around in search of whales and I think by the time we headed back to port, we had experienced about 6 or 7 sightings.

husavik whale and puffin tour

Again, trying to capture pictures was difficult but we managed to take a few, perhaps because those humpback whales enjoyed having their pictures taken! I finally figured out it was easier to video our experience so hopefully, you will enjoy this as much as we did.

whale and puffin tour iceland

The Northern Atlantic humpback whale migrates to the Caribbean every year before returning to the Icelandic waters in time for us to enjoy this amazing experience.

whale and puffin tour iceland

It is estimated there are about 1500-1800 humpback whales in this area and although they are pretty elusive creatures, we felt pretty fortunate to see several of them surfacing.

whale and puffin tour

Summary

What an incredible experience! If you have the opportunity to visit Husavik, you would be CRAZY to not enjoy the whale and puffin tour. Whether you choose to go with North Sailing or one of the other tour operators, I am convinced that you will have a memorable experience that you will always cherish.

north sailing whale and puffin tour

When you start looking at the prices, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s pretty expensive. Let me tell you, it’s well worth the price! We were a little skeptical because of course, they cannot 100% guarantee any sightings but the reality is, they have been doing this for a while so know pretty much which areas are likely to have whales.

Have you experienced an excursion like this? Are you inspired to visit Iceland and enjoy this epic experience? Let us know your thoughts!

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been on a whale and puffin tour in Maine which was pretty incredible so I can’t imagine how incredible it would be in Iceland. Wow! Just wow!

  2. Oh, I simply love whales and puffins! What a great experience. I went on a whale watching tour in South Africa and it was one of the best things I have ever done. These friendly giants are so beautiful!
    #WeekendWanderlust

  3. This is something we really wanted to do when we were in Iceland, but we missed out because of our bad timing. I am glad to see some of the tours have an age range on them, we would be taking our son and would need to know he is comfortable

  4. Lovely trip to see the puffins before they departed for winter. They are quite small so you may not get to see them up close! Very good guide, lots of information and interesting facts about puffins.

    • Hi Julian, yes we were very fortunate to experience all of the puffins before they ventured off. We really appreciate the kind comments regarding our guide, we glad you found it beneficial and as we indicated, we strongly recommend anyone visiting this part of Iceland to experience one of these tours. I would LOVE to go back and do this again but next time take a bigger lens to get some really great shots of the puffins!

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