When you think of whale watching, what do you think of – Boston? Maine? California? True, but did you know that you can go whale watching in Iceland? Heck yes! Iceland is full of natural beauty – and that extends beyond the waterfalls, geysers, and hot springs. Even better? You can go whale watching in Iceland in the winter. From November through March, you can have a unique whale watching experience! Keep reading to find out more!
A huge thank you to Elding for hosting me on their winter whale watching tour.
Tips for Whale Watching in the Winter
I know, I know. The first thing you’re thinking is “Wouldn’t it be cold?” Well…. yes. Yes it is very cold. It’s winter. There’s probably snow on the ground. Plus, you’ll be on a boat, so it’ll be windy. Just accept that you’ll be really cold for a few hours, but it will definitely be worth it! Here are a few tips to make the best out of the chilly situation.
What to Bring:
A good, heavy coat. You’ll want something to protect you from the wind.
True, whale watching cruises, particularly in Iceland, are not always the friendliest to your wallet. But fear not! There are a few ways to save some cash on your cruise.
Use the promo code “WANDERLUST19” when purchasing your tickets on Elding’s website to save 10%.
If you plan to visit multiple attractions, get the Reykjavik city card to save 10% when purchasing your tickets in person.
The Day of your Cruise
It’s a good idea to purchase your tickets ahead of time – whether online or at the ticket stand at the harbor. But, that is not a guarantee that the tour will run! Luckily, Elding keeps a whale diary on their website that lets you know if the weather is good enough to sail each day. Even better, after the cruise, they add photos and a diary entry of the wildlife that was seen on that day’s tour. So you might get some insight as to what whales, dolphins, and birds have been spotted recently.
About 45 minutes before your cruise, visit the ticket stand – easily identifiable by the bright red sign – to pick up your tickets. They will also give you an idea of the water conditions and offer free motion sickness tablets for those with sensitive stomachs. Once you have what you need, walk across the pier to the Elding boat!
Inside the first boat you will go through a gift shop with a whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling. Don’t worry about shopping now, you can do that after the tour! Keep moving with the crowd onto the second boat – the one that you will be cruising on.
Safety Over Fashion
Hopefully you took my advice and dressed warmly. If you didn’t, well… you’re in luck. Elding provides “overalls” to put on over your clothing. These are not your typical farmer overalls – no, they are thick suits that cover your whole body! They keep you nice and warm for your journey. Don’t worry about looking silly! Everyone will look like giant red smurfs!
Here’s my story: so I tried to put a suit on. Tried being the key word. My klutzy self couldn’t handle it. First, I grabbed the wrong size suit. Oops. Then I grabbed a different suit that had a broken zipper. Third time I thought was the charm… but I got so frustrated that I gave up. Word of advice: sit down when you’re putting the overalls on so you don’t nearly fall over like I did! Oh well. Luckily my coat and snow pants kept me warm enough!
Stay Warm. Don’t Get Hurt.
Keep in mind that these tours last 3-5 hours. In the winter. It’s okay to admit that you’re cold! Give yourself some breaks to warm up on the lower levels and get a cup of cocoa if you’d like.
As you’re moving around the decks of the boat, please be safe! There are signs that tell you to hold on to the railings for a reason! Parts of the decks can get icy, plus you’re on a boat. Boats move in the water. Keep a hand on a side railing when you’re searching for those whales. Because if the boat rocks just enough, you might lose your footing and become really good friends with the people around you! Stay smart.
What If There Are No Whales?
On the rare occasion that you don’t see a whale, don’t worry! Elding offers complimentary tickets to return and try again. For free. So you’re not missing out. To help with this, they do plenty of research in the waters to get a good feel for the behavioral patterns of the local sea life. That way they know where it’s best to look each day. Also, it’s really important to note that Elding practices responsible tourism. The workers are very knowledgeable about what they are doing and they always keep the animals’ best interests in mind. They do not participate in any activities that would lead to harm for the wildlife or nature of the area.
If you don’t see whales, that’s okay! The landscape views of Iceland are worth the boat ride alone. Iceland’s natural scenery is truly magical. Every direction you look in is even more beautiful than the last. Take advantage of your location on the water to really appreciate your surroundings.