Whale Watching And Aurora Spotting In Iceland?!

It’s no lie to say that one of things I was most looking forward to was whale watching in Iceland.  We’ve seen plenty of dolphins, seals and porpoises around Scotland and although there are whales I’ve never been lucky enough to see them!

So I was very hopeful that we would see something in Iceland.  Admittedly there is slightly less chance of seeing whales in winter, but still we hoped to see something.

Reykjavik Sailors

Our boat tour was organised with Reykjavik Sailors, who have tours all year round sailing from Reykjavik harbour.  Only a stones throw from the maritime museum and whale museum.  The whale museum was a particular favourite of the boys with the huge models of whales and perfect to visit before going out on the trip.

whale watching boat Iceland

We arrived half an hour before the trip departed, I am one of those people who is always early (much to my husbands annoyance!).  Once we had checked in at the Reykjavik Sailors building we walked down onto the boat to get suited up for the trip.

Downstairs in the ship is a selection of insulated oversuits that can be worn over your clothing to keep you warm during the trip. It can get very cold out on the deck, especially if it’s windy too.  Both my husband and I suited up, but the boys wore their own jackets and fleece lined waterproof trousers and about 4 layers underneath too (the suits aren’t small enough for children).  Any children under the age of 12 also have to wear life jackets whilst aboard the ship.

whale watching suits

Once everyone was aboard the crew gave us a little introduction about what to expect and of course the inevitable health and safety talk as the ship sailed out of the bay.

Reykjavik sailors

We loved listening to all the little anecdotes and history of the area, all the time scanning the ocean for any signs of activity.  One of the crew was always on deck watching the water around the boat.  Also if you are unlucky and don’t spot any whales or dolphins you are invited back the next available day to try again.

Whale Watching

iceland whales

We were actually not very lucky to begin with and reached the feeding ground after an hour or so where the crew hoped to spot some activity.  Unfortunately no whales were spotted and disappointingly we turned around and headed back toward Reykjavik.

On the way back the majority of people on board had headed into the boat to warm up and rest their heads on the way home.  Both of our boys were asleep (just as well, they were still tired from the flight the night before!) when suddenly there was a call that an ORCA was spotted just off the ship.

Everyone was suddenly animated, grabbing hats and gloves as they ran outside to see the Orca.  Except me.  I was trapped underneath a heavy 3 year old… I could hear the action over the speakers telling us where the whale was and the boat steered to follow.  I was starting to feel a little annoyed that my child was fast asleep when the action was actually starting!  I willed my husband to come back downstairs to swap places!  Luckily for me he is the good sort and came back down as soon as he got a photo of the Killer Whale (he is clearly a blogger’s husband!).  I raced back upstairs and caught the whale surfacing again just ahead of the boat.  Then my husband (not wanting to miss the action) appeared with both boys, littlest still asleep in his arms and eldest coming across to peer over the side and help with whale spotting.

whale watching trip

We saw the Orca swimming ahead, surfacing again and again.  It was a wonderful sight and well worth the hours of waiting and seeing nothing!  Apparently Orca’s aren’t normally around this side of the island, tending to stick to the South, it was the first the crew had seen the entire year and appeared to have been separated from his pod.  So we were very lucky to see it indeed!

Reykjavik sailors

We chased the Orca for a little while before calling it a day as the sun set over the sea and headed back to Reykjavik buzzing.  You could tell that everyone was pleased to have been part of something exciting and our eldest clearly found it memorable as he spent most of the next day talking about whales!

Northern Lights Trip

We chose to do a combined trip, so after whale watching in the afternoon we came back in the evening to look for the Northern Lights.  This trip spends a couple of hours out in the bay across from Reykjavik looking for any glimpse of the Northern Lights.

As per the previous trip we picked up our suits downstairs and had our boys fully layered up so they wouldn’t get cold.  Also, don’t forget snacks, lots of snacks to keep little ones going through the trip.  If you do forget there are drinks and some snacks available on board the ship.

aurora borealis

We did manage to see a faint aurora just as the boat started to pull out of the docks, but it didn’t last long and unfortunately was the only glimpse we had.


There were also great views of the stars and Reykjavik lit up in the background.  I have to say that (when the kids fell asleep) we had a nice relaxing time floating about on the sea, gentle music on in the background, it could be perfect for a romantic evening under the stars!

stars iceland

As with the whales, seeing the aurora is all down to luck.  You can’t plan in advance for a clear night and good aurora forecast, you can only hope you are lucky.

We had an amazing day with both boat trips and felt truly lucky that we could see a whale off Iceland’s beautiful coastline.  We’ll just have to head back again one day to see the aurora properly!

reykjavik sailors

Head over to Reykjavik Sailors page to book your own trip when you’re in Iceland with a 15% discount using the code MONKEYANDMOUSE, valid until the end of 2018!

* We were given tickets for the boat trips for the purpose of this post, however all opinions are our own.


  1. December 6, 2017 / 12:08 pm

    Wow, this would literally be my dream day. We had the whale watching trip of a lifetime in NZ years ago because we saw so many whales. I’m not sure another one will ever live up to that, but I’d definitely give it a go in Iceland, such a beautiful place to go whale watching. I’d love to see the aurora too.

  2. Catherine Barton
    December 6, 2017 / 8:33 pm

    I have been lucky enough to go whale watching in New Zealand too…..in Kaikoura sperm whales are resident all year & what a fantastic sight to see both from a boat & helicopter. We also went to Iceland for our honeymoon & embarked on minke whale sight seeing boat but did not encounter any. Although we did come across a pod of dolphins…… Happy memories. Unfortunately we didn’t experience the Northern Lights, but maybe one day we will return!!

  3. May 8, 2018 / 1:39 pm

    We will definitely go to Iceland! It’s in top 5 on our Bucketlist! Great site and blog! Safe Travels – Stay Awesome!

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