The most commonly sighted whale species include minke whales, harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and, occasionally, the prize humpback whale (pictured). .
For centuries, the people of Iceland hunted whales as a food source. On a glacial island where fresh meat can be difficult to find and the growing season for grains and vegetables is harshly short, seals and whales were an important part of the Icelanders' diet.
As it became easier
to import other foods and the whale populations began to suffer from over-harvesting, the practice of hunting whales declined.
Today, whale watching has become wildly popular worldwide. More people hunt whales with cameras than with harpoons.
As a result, the whale population is beginning to recover from the slaughter as more nations ban whaling especially of species like the blue whale which are endangered.
Whale watching in Iceland
The best time to go whale watching in Iceland is from May to September when large numbers of whales call Iceland's coastal waters home. So the chances of sighting one in summer are excellent. In fact, many charters offer a guarantee that you'll see whales or get another trip for free.
Around Reykjavik, the most commonly sighted whale species include minke whales, harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and, occasionally, the prize humpback whale.
Husavick, in far northern Iceland, is another popular port city often called "the whale watching capital of the world" that arguably offers the best whale watching opportunities in all of Europe.
Elsewhere, large populations of northern bottlenose whales, sperm whales, long-finned pilot whales, Orcas or killer
whales, fin whales, sei whales, blue whales and white-sided dolphins all swim in the waters off the cool Iceland coast.
Dress warm. The waters are chilly even in the summer months. Also make sure to bring memory cards for lots of digital pictures you'll want to share back home.
Catching a good picture of a moving whale from a boat can be a bit tricky, so before you go read up on expert tips for photographing whales to help ensure your have that "trophy" shot to brag about later. Basically, you'll want to avoid lens glare by always keeping the sun behind you, and "thinking like a whale" -- or trying to anticipate your subject's next move as it continually dives and surfaces.
The cost of the charters are quite reasonable and there are many to choose from. One in three visitors to Iceland goes whale watching!. Make sure you add an exciting whale watching cruise to your itinerary when you make your Icelandic vacation plans.
More about whale watching in Iceland around the Web:
watching in Iceland - Check out a great resource for finding charters to let you compare what each company offers before you decide which tour to take - with photos, videos and maps.
Húsavík Whale Museum - The home of Icelandic whale information is open in June, July and August from 09:00 - 19:00 and in May and September from 10:00 - 17:00. Tours can be arranged at other times on request. The ongoing and special exhibitions
are a must see if you plan a trip to Iceland.
Iceland Whales - Here's a brief introduction to the history of whales around Iceland with details on each species and links to more resources.