Whale Watching In Norway

Whale watching in Norway: Discovering whales in Norway

Whale watching in Norway is one of the top items on anyone’s Scandinavian bucket list. Ranked alongside skiing through the fjords and watching the Northern Lights, discovering whales in Norway is one of the most magical things you can do in the Nordic region.

Huge, mysterious, and truly fascinating, whales are some of the most incredible creatures on our diverse planet. Unfortunately, most of us will never have a chance to see these phenomenal mammals in-person without investing in a little travel. 

Norway is one of the best places for encountering whales, in part due to the region’s unique climate, as well as the rich supply of herring on the Scandinavian shores. The question is, how do you plan and enjoy a Norwegian whale-watching adventure?

Here’s everything you need to know about viewing whales in Norway.

The types of whales in Norway

Whale watching is one of the highlights of many trips to Norway, with many species of whale, dolphin, and other aquatic life to discover on the Norwegian shores. Unfortunately, the number of whales is decreasing at present, due to the increase of whale hunting in the area. 

If you want to see certain whales in Norway, you’ll need to act fast. Though there are hope wildlife preservation acts will reduce the number of whaling activities in the region, numbers are depleting

It’s also worth making sure you choose an ethical tour if you’re whale watching in Norway, as this helps to ensure whales aren’t harmed during your adventure. 

The kinds of whales living in Norwegian coastal areas include:

Sperm whales in Norway

Sperm whales (or cachalot whales) are located mainly in the Nordland and Vesterålen regions. You can find them all year-round, particularly within the Bleik-canyon outside of Andenes. 

The most popular tourist season is in the summer. 

Orcas in Norway

Killer whales in Norway are another popular sight in the Nordland region. Similar to sperm whales, they can often be seen around the Andenes region, and appear all year long. 

If you’re visiting during the winter months, between November and January, you’ll be more likely to spot orcas in the Skjervøy or Tromsø harbors. 

Humpback whales in Norway

Humpback whales, sperm, and minke whales are often located in the fjords and off the coast of Northern Norway. The Vesterålen coast is an ideal spot for finding humpbacks in the Summer, along with Stø. 

During the winter months, you’ll often see these whales in Skjervøy or Tromsø. Humpback whales also appear year-round at the Andenes Harbor. 

Pilot whales in Norway

Lesser known than some of the other whales on this list, long-filled pilot whales are well-suited to cold waters. You can usually see these whales all along the Norwegian coast, commonly within the Vestfjord. 

The peak season for long-finned pilot whales is between May and September, where groups come together for breeding and feeding. 

Minke whales in Norway

The most common of the rorqual whales in Norway, there are estimated to be more than 100,000 minke whales in the region. Usually, minke whales appear along the coasts and in the Svalbard fjords. Sometimes, they’re also visible in Stø during summer. 

These are the whales Norwegians often hunt for food. 

Other whales in Norway

The harbor porpoise, though not always classified as a whale, is one of the most common species spotted easily from the shore in Norway. As some of the smallest whales in the world, these mammals are frequently confused with dolphins. 

Speaking of dolphins, there’s also a number of white-beaked dolphins which swim along the Andenes in the summer months in Norway. 

If we bring Svalbard into the mix, the variety of possible whale species is even bigger, including belugas, bowheads, narwhals, and blue whales.

Whale Watching In Norway

What is the best time to go whale watching in Norway?

The best time of year for whale watching in Norway mostly depends on you. As mentioned above, the whales in Norway appear all year-round, so even if you wait until the winter months, you may still be able to spot them, provided there’s a decent number of herring in the water.

Officially, the whale watching season, which is when the most tours are running, lasts from the end of October to mid-January. This is when you’re most likely to be guaranteed a sighting. 

Humpbacks are present off the coast of Norway to the end of March, so you can definitely still see them during the later months of the winter, particularly in the sheltered water around the fjords

From the end of May through September, killer whales and porpoises are usually active in the coasts of the Lofoten islands.

What is the best month to go whale watching in Norway?

Generally, it’s best to plan your whale watching trip at the same time as your skiing adventure. In other words, the depths of winter will generally provide the best whale watching experiences. 

November, December, and January are all great months for spotting whales. 

Notably, there will be times when it’s better to see specific kinds of whales. During June, July, and August pilot whales are pretty common.

Where is the best place to go whale watching in Norway?

The sheer number of whales in the Norwegian region means you can visit many parts of the country and still find people giving whale-watching tours. Generally, the best whale watching adventures take place in the north of Norway. 

The Lofoten islands and Vesterålen, located about 300km north of the polar circle, are two of the main chains of islands worth visiting for whale watching adventures. Since you’ll be visiting this area during the winter months, it’s best to wrap up warm, as the weather will be icy. 

On the plus side, the Northern Lights may be present during the winter months, so you can check two items off your bucket list at the same time.

If you’re committed to visiting Norway during the summer, your best bet is to visit the harbor town of Andenes, which is one of the best places to spot whales around the year. 

While only a handful of people (3000) live in the town, there are about 15,000 tourists coming to the region each year just to watch the variety of whales. 

If you’re interested in visiting a whale museum, Norway also has the whale center, with life-size models, and plenty of informative insights into these incredible creatures. 

About 50% of all the summer whale watching in Norway happens at the Andenes and the neighboring town of Stø. Alternatively, the other half of the whale tours are offered in winter, within the Lofoten and Vesterålen fjord regions. 

You’ll have a great chance of seeing plenty of humpbacks, orcas, and the occasional finback here. 

In recent years, Norway’s whales have begun moving further North, attracted by the migrating schools of herring. Tysfjord near Narvik used to be one of the main destinations for wintertime whale watching, the region was quickly overtaken by Senja and Tromsø, as well as the fjords of Skjervøy.

There are also plenty of Norway tour packages available which focus specifically on taking you to the locations where you’re most likely to spot whales.

Whale Watching In Norway

What to expect when whale watching in Norway

Every whale watching experience in Norway will have its own unique elements to consider. However, for the most part, there are a few commonalities you should be able to expect during your adventure. 

Most whale watching trips will begin with a quick “introductory” section where you learn about the whales. The Hvalsafari whale tour involves a trip to the Andenes whale museum. 

After you’ve learned a little about the whales you’re going to spot, you’ll usually be given some rules about how to behave on the water. This is an important part of ethical whale watching, and it involves ensuring you don’t disturb the whales too much.

Boats can take quite a while to reach the whale destination, so make sure you wrap up warm and bring something to keep yourself entertained on the trip. You can always chat to the other people on tour, of course. Most safari boats have an indoor lounge where you can converse with others. 

Keep in mind the boats usually won’t go out into the water if the conditions are poor, so you may need to rearrange your trip due to bad weather. 

Here are a few things worth taking on your trip:

Seasickness medication

Seasickness medications or wristbands can be useful — even if you don’t usually feel queasy on boats. The water can be quite choppy in Norway.

Warm clothing 

You’ll need a heavy winter parker and some great gloves at the very least. Although there are indoor sections to most boats, it can get very cold in Norway during winter, particularly in the Northern regions.

Lip balm

Your lips will definitely dry out if you’re not careful during extreme weather. Make sure you have some lip balm available. Hand cream can be useful too.

Warm boots

Bring a proper pair of winter snow boots for your trip. This is particularly important if you’re going to be watching the whales, but also going for a hike to check out the Northern Lights.

Dry bags

If you’re going on a RIB boat for whale watching, you’ll need a dry bag to protect your gear (camera, phone, and other essentials) when you’re on your boat. Even on a larger boat it’s easy to get soaked if it starts to snow or rain.

A warm hat 

Keeping your head and ears warm is crucial to staying comfortable when you’re on a Norwegian whale watching tour. The wind can be particularly problematic for a lot of people. 

As mentioned above, bring something to do to keep you entertained too, like a book, and a fully-charged phone and headphones. Make sure you have a waterproof case for your phone too if you’re going to be using it to take photos and videos. 

Is whale watching ethical?

The answer to this question really depends on what kind of whale watching you’re talking about. If you’re just watching whales from a distance and not actually doing anything to interact with them, there’s no reason your behavior should be “unethical”. 

The problems often begin with certain kinds of whale tours, which involve essentially chasing whales around the ocean, causing them significant stress, and even polluting the waters they’re going to be swimming in. 

Generally, the best way to ensure you’re only getting involved with ethical practices is to do your research in advance.

A good tour for watching whales in Norway will follow the guidelines provided by the IWC (International Whaling Commission) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation group. 

It’s important to look for tour providers who offer “silent” tours, as the noise from many boats can interfere with the hearing and communication of these creatures.

Going too near to the middle of the whale pod also upsets the animals, so you shouldn’t be situated right in the midst of the whales when you’re out exploring. 

On the plus side, tourism does provide an incentive for whalers in the Norwegian region to stop hunting whales, so they can continue to attract more financial benefits in the future. 

If you want to go on an ethical whale safari, choose your operator carefully, and ask about how the boats approach the whales in advance.

How much is whale watching in Norway?

The exact price to go whale watching in Norway will depend on a number of factors, including which tour provider you choose, and what might be involved with your tour. 

Some whaling tours offer the option to swim with certain whales, like whale sharks, but this isn’t always considered the most ethical option in many parts of the world.

If your whale watching adventure involves other things like food, or trips to see the Northern Lights, you might expect to spend a little more. In general, most whale watching tours will start at around $50 to $150 per person, depending on numerous factors. 

Some of the things which may influence how much you pay include:

  • The time of year and whether it’s peak whale season.
  • The region you’re exploring.
  • How far you’re travelling in the boat.
  • How many kinds of whales you’re going to see.
  • Additional amenities provided (food and drinks).
Whale Watching In Norway

What are the best whale watching trips?

There are plenty of options out there for whale watching in Norway. We recommend doing plenty of research before you sign up for anything. Some trips are likely to be more ethical than others. 

Some of the most reliable options include:

Wild seas 

The wild seas whale watching trip is hosted by dedicated marine scientists who study whales and their behavior. They only take a very small number of people out on each trip, to avoid overwhelming the whales. 

There’s an “adopt a whale” project in process which will allow you to learn more about different species and potentially get closer to the creatures, without risking their safety.

Pukka travels

Pukka travel’s whale-watching  adventures feature a number of different tour options, all designed to help you discover the magic of Norway. The whale watching events are only sometimes available, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for when the trips are available. 

There are definitely some great options for checking out reindeer and camping if you’re looking for something to do off the water too.

Whale watching Tromsø

This whale watching adventure takes around 7 hours in total and should teach you a decent amount about whales while you’re exploring. There’s Wi-Fi on the boat, which is nice for keeping you entertained when you’re on the sea. 

You’ll also have access to food and drinks on-board. Plus, the company promises a completely eco-friendly and ethical approach to finding the whales. 

Magnetic North Travel 

This whale watching tour combines views of the incredible orca and humpback whales with a night watching the Northern Lights. The trip is available between October and February and promises a highly ethical approach to exploring the seas. 

The itinerary takes a total of around 5 days to cover, so you’ll be able to check out experiences from husky sledding, to Nordic drinks and food. 

You can also consider exploring the beauty of Norway and checking out some amazing whales with a RIB boat. This does mean you’ll be exposed to the elements when you’re out on the water, but it generally offers a much more personal experience compared to other boat trips.

Viator 

This whale watching adventure is a full-day tour from Tromso to Skjervoy. The island is home to orcas and humpback whales. You’ll spend a couple of hours on the waters in a boat with up to 12 passengers to search for whales. Then it’s time for a bite to eat before embarking on the panoramic drive back to Tromso.

What to remember when watching whales in Norway

Whale watching in Norway is an incredibly memorable and special experience, provided you approach it the correct way. However, it’s worth noting your exact experience will change over time. 

The whales are always moving and migrating, and there will be fewer whales at some times of the year compared to others. 

Before you plan your whale watching trip, make sure you learn as much as you can about what your adventure is going to evolve. It’s best to be truly prepared if you’re going to be spending several hours on some icy cold water. 

Other points to remember include:

Whales are not guaranteed

Please don’t blame the tour company if you don’t end up seeing any whales. This isn’t the fault of the tour company — it’s just an unfortunate factor when watching any wild animal in its natural habitat. 

While whale watching tour companies use trackers to figure out where the whales are going to be, the conditions are always changing. If you don’t see any whales, you should still see some incredible sights out on the water.

Stay quiet 

Don’t scream and freak out when you see a whale. Stay calm and collected. Remember making a lot of fuss could disturb the animals and cause them to swim further away if they did decide to come close. 

You will have certain rules to follow given to you by the tour company, so make sure you follow these carefully. 

Wrap up warm

The weather is going to be extra cold in Northern Norway, particularly during the months of the year when whales are most likely to appear. Do your research and invest in clothing which offers both warmth and waterproofing where possible. 

Great shoes are a must-have too, as they’ll help with keeping you warm and cosy when you’re exploring Norway outside of the boat. 

Do your homework 

The more you know about the whale experience, the better. You’ll want to do extensive research into your chosen tour company before you commit to anything. 

Find out whether your tour provider is as ethical as they appear. Ask questions if you need to, and don’t be afraid to change your plans, if necessary, too.

Whale watching in Norway

Watching Wales in Norway can be an amazing experience, and it’s something many visitors look into when they arrive at this amazing Nordic destination. Make sure you do your research before you embark on your adventure. 

Taking your time to explore your options and find an ethical tour provider will ensure you can feel comfortable about the impact you’re having on Norway and the natural wildlife. 

Don’t forget there are also plenty of other things to see and do when you’re in Norway too. Make sure you have plenty of time to explore the sights. 

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