The Best of Both Worlds - Whales and the Aurora
February 2015

northern lights

The Aurora (or the Northern Lights) can be considered as one of the most fascinating wonders of nature. How exciting would it be if one can watch this natural wonder while having chances to see whales or dolphins? Iceland is the place where you may have the best of both worlds. But you need to go there during the cold seasons and take risks because of the unstable weather.

Iceland resumed whaling in 2007. Honestly, this had made me hesitate about going to this place. Yet, as a whale and dolphin lover, if we support the local whale watching industry, we can indeed help those Icelanders that are working hard on promoting whale watching to set a good example for the whalers and give them incentives to quit whaling. It is important to show our support as tourists. This is a notice we saw at the whale watching company we joined. Their guides also urged tourists NOT to consume whale meat while in Iceland.

whale watching vs whaling

Whale watching in winter at Iceland can be risky because of the weather. In view of this, we reserved six days for whale watching. This is the whale watching company we joined: Elding Whale Watching ( It is conveniently located at the harbor of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. They offer very good discount for multiple trips (Please email them for details). They also offer combo tours and Northern Lights tours as well. Whale watching season is year round.

Species: Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Orcas, White-beaked Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, etc.

whale watching company

We were able to go out for three times during our seven full days' stay at Iceland. It was always very windy in winter and three of our tours got cancelled. During our three days at choppy sea, no dolphins were sighted unfortunately. We were disappointed but this is nature. The guides explained that the cetaceans there follow the movement of herrings or caplins. If fish shoals are not present in the bay area, it will be quite hard to locate whales and dolphins. The company set off from different harbours with the aim to get shelter from strong wind and to cover a larger area. These are some of the birds we saw at sea:

Eider Duck


Whale Watching Centre

whale watching centre

whale watching centre

Whale watching in a whaling country ~ points to note

While eating...

While in Iceland, we saw quite a few restaurants with whale or puffin in the menu. To be honest, it's distressing to see restaurants like this one but this is not the only one in town. Minke Whales often fall victim to this so called tradition. While Iceland resumed whaling in 2007, there are many Icelanders working hard against this.

As tourists that love whales and dolphins, we have to be very careful when choosing restaurants. By going to whale-friendly restaurants, tourists can show the government and those involved in the whaling industry how much we value about being whale-friendly. Here is a very good list of whale-friendly restaurants:

Do bookmark them before you go to Iceland and choose restaurants carefully to make sure you won’t accidentally eat your whale friends. Whale-friendly restaurants can be identified by this sign at the door:

A survey was conducted by the whale watching company we joined. As the consumption of whale meat is low by locals, we as visitors, have a very important role to play in stopping whaling in Iceland.

While shopping...

We found that some souvenir shops in Reykjavik of Iceland sell T-shirts with whale fluke and "Kill them all" message. These shops can be identified by a "Buy 3 get 1 free T-shirt" post outside the door. We chose NOT to buy from them. (picture of T-shirt:

The Aurora

As said earlier, it's qutie risky to go to Iceland in winter times in terms of sightings. We had waited for six nights before we can have the chance to go and look for the Aurora under a sky with scattered clouds. It was the last night of our stay. Although the lights were very subtle and not easy to see with bare eyes, at least we saw it before we leave.

What to do on bad weather days?

City of Reykjavik - Church of Iceland (Hallgrímskirkja)

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church with a special architectural design. During our stay, we were lucky enough to view the local Light Festival.

City of Reykjavik - Sun Voyager by the seaside

Blue Lagoon

Golden Circle - National Park, Golden Waterfall and Geysir

South Shore Excursion - glacier, black beach, waterfalls, museum (with whale bone exhibits)