Whale watching in Norway provides the perfect opportunity to catch a glimpse of marine mammals in their natural habitat. In fact, Norway is a fantastic location for whale watching, since there are several spots throughout the country where you can see cetaceans.
The primary region for Norwegian whale watching, though, is Northern Norway. There, you can see everything from humpbacks and orcas to blue whales and sperm whales.
Of course, first, you’ll need to know the best time for whale watching and the best Norway whale watching tours. As such, this article covers the following:
- Best time for whale watching in Norway
- Where to see whales in Norway
- Best Norway whale watching tours
- Types of whales in Norway
When we visited Tromso, Norway, we took this whale safari and fjord cruise tour and had a fantastic time, so we can heartily recommend going whale watching in Norway.
Best time for whale watching in Norway
The best time for whale watching in Norway depends on the region you visit, as well as the wildlife you want to see, since different types of whales appear at different times of year. Generally, though, Norway whale watching season lasts from the end of October to the middle of January.
As for humpback whales, they can be spotted off the Norwegian coast from October until the end of March. Norway orcas appear in the region from the end of October to the middle of January, while porpoises flock to Northern Norway in the summer months. Furthermore, you can see blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, minke whales, and belugas from May to September by the Svalbard Islands.
Some locations even allow for year-round Norwegian whale watching. For instance, many marine mammals can be seen off the coast of the Vesterålen Islands throughout the year: sperm whales, humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, pilot whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises.
Where to see whales in Norway
Whether you want to see whales or orcas in Norway, the best places to view cetaceans are along the coast of Northern Norway. Some of these locations are home to marine mammals throughout the year, while other spots must be visited at specific times. Either way, taking a Norway whale watching tour from these locations should increase your chances of seeing marine mammals up close.
We already have a guide to whale watching in Tromsø, which is one of the best places to go whale watching in Norway. Many tours leave from this city, including the whale safari we took, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
If you’re planning a visit to Tromso and want to make sure you have a high chance of having a whale encounter, Tromso’s whale watching season lasts from November to early February. During that time, you might see humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, or even dolphins.
The Lofoten Islands
You should plan to visit the Lofoten Islands if you want to go whale watching in Norway at any time of year. Just book yourself this wildlife sightseeing cruise and chances are high that you’ll see at least some kind of marine mammal. That said, certain whale species can only be seen at specific times.
Winter is the season for orca and humpback whale viewing, while sperm whales and porpoises appear during the summer.
The Svalbard Islands
If you’re looking to do some beluga whale watching in Norway, the Svalbard Islands are the place to go. Belugas, fin whales, blue whales, humpback whales, and minke whales flock to the area from May to September, since the Isfjorden fjord is where they feed.
Many day tours, including this whale watching eco-tour, depart from the islands’ small town of Longyearbyen. In addition, you can also book longer expeditions (7-10 days) that leave from Longyearbyen if you want to see narwals, bowhead whales, and belugas.
The Vesterålen Islands
Yet another location to go whale watching in Norway year-round is the Vesterålen Islands. In fact, the island of Andøya, which is part of the Vesterålen archipelago, is known as the “Whale Kingdom of the North” because it’s such a top whale watching spot in Norway.
Many Norway whale watching tours leave from the small town of Andenes on Andøya or from the nearby village of Stø. Various whales can be seen off the coast of the islands throughout the year, including sperm whales, humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, pilot whales, white-beaked dolphins, and porpoises.
Best whale watching tours in Norway
With so many Norwegian whale watching locations to choose from, it can feel overwhelming to select a Norway whale watching tour. To help you narrow your search, I’ve compiled a list of the best Norway whale watching tours, one for each location (Tromsø, the Lofoten Islands, the Svalbard Islands, and the Vesterålen Islands).
1. The best whale watching in Norway (Tromso)
We experienced some of the best whale watching in Norway when we took this fjord cruise and whale safari boat tour while we were in Tromso. We managed to see orcas, dolphins, and humpback whales and were blown away by how beautiful these animals are up close.
This catamaran cruise departs from downtown Tromso and sails through the fjords, a hotspot for marine wildlife. Your guide will tell you all about the local fishing history and culture, and you’ll also get to watch some short films on Arctic ecology and Norway’s whales.
Moreover, there’s no need to worry about going hungry, as coffee, tea, and biscuits are all provided. You can even borrow a thermal winter suit if you want to stay warm on the outdoor viewing deck.
If you’d prefer to cozy up indoors, you can stick to the boat’s indoor viewing deck, where you’ll also be able to get some great photos.
- Highlights: Humpback whales, dolphins, orcas, porpoises
- Starting point: Kystens Hus., Tromso
- Duration: 7 hours
- Number of participants: 12/30/144 (depends on size of boat)
- Price: $148
2. The top Norwegian whale watching tour (Lofoten Islands)
Another Norway whale watching tour to consider is this wildlife cruise through some of the most dramatic landscapes in the area.
The tour departs from Svolvaer and sails through the Øyhellsundet strait to the Trollfjord. This narrow fjord is only accessible by boat, so you’ll be able to see some of the most stunning landscapes in the region. During the tour, you’ll also pass by Skrova, a whaling island with a quaint harbor and beautiful scenery.
Witness the gorgeous mountains and see sandy Norwegian beaches, perhaps with a sunbathing seal on the shoreline. This cruise is led by an experienced wildlife expert who will point out different species like eagles, seals, dolphins, and porpoises. If you go during orca season in Norway, you may spot some killer whales.
- Highlights: Øyhellsundet strait, Trollfjord, wildlife spotting, Skrova
- Starting point: Svolvaer
- Duration: 2 hours
- Number of participants: 45
- Price: $108
3. The best Norway whale watching tour to see wildlife (Svalbard Islands)
Another Norway whale watching tour that I recommend is this Svalbard whale cruise. You’ll travel in an enclosed, heated boat and make your way to Isfjorden, the second-longest fjord in Svalbard.
This is where you can see all kinds of wild animals like reindeer, arctic foxes, and even rare blue foxes. You’ll also get a beautiful view of Isfjorden’s natural scenery, including glaciers. Keep an eye out for huge sheets of ice, perhaps with a polar bear or two on them.
The tour offers a wonderful opportunity to see different whales of Norway, like humpbacks, belugas, and blue whales. Your guide will also point out various bird species like rock ptarmigans, long-tailed ducks, fulmars, gulls, and puffins.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best whale safaris in Norway. Not only will you get to see amazing wildlife from a comfortable boat, but a warm lunch is also included.
- Highlights: Glaciers, wildlife viewing, humpbacks, belugas, blue whales
- Starting point: Svalbard
- Duration: 5 hours
- Number of participants: 12
- Price: $225
4. The top orca watching in Norway tour (The Vesterålen Islands)
Experience some of the best Norwegian orca watching by booking an Andenes whale watching tour. Besides orcas, you might also see pilot whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, or even fin whales depending on the time of year.
Start your Norway whale watching tour off with a guided tour of the Andenes whale museum, which is included in the price of your ticket. Then, you’ll head to the boat and start off on your journey.
As you keep an eye out for whales of all kinds, you’ll be served biscuits and warm drinks. Additionally, if you sail on the MS Reine, you’ll be treated to warm soup with bread.
- Highlights: Pilot whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, orcas
- Starting point: Andenes
- Duration: 2.5 to 5 hours
- Number of participants: 80
- Price: $132
Types of whales in Norway
While your guide will tell you more about the marine wildlife you can expect to spot on your Norway whale watching tour, it helps to know a bit about what you might see ahead of time.
There are many types of whales that can be seen in Norway, but if you’re whale watching in Tromso or around the Lofoten Islands, you’ll most likely see humpback whales and orcas. On the other hand, if you take a Norwegian whale watching tour around the Svalbard or Vesterålen Islands, you’ll probably see fin whales, pilot whales, or even dolphins.
Orcas in Norway
Orcas, or killer whales, are drawn to Norwegian coastal waters in late fall/winter by the copious amounts of herring. If you’re going orca watching in Norway, you may see killer whales that reach up to 26 feet in length and weigh as much as 11,000 pounds. Orcas can be easily identified by their distinctive black-and-white markings.
Humpback whales in Norway
Humpback whales, like orcas, are attracted to the waters of northern Norway by the herring that come to spawn. These cetaceans can be seen in the waters around the Norwegian coast from late fall to mid-winter; their round, bumpy heads and large size make them easy to recognize.
You may even get splashed by water from their blowholes, which can shoot water up to 9 feet into the air!
Fin whales in Norway
Unfortunately, you won’t see fin whales on every Norway whale watching tour, but you may see them if you take go whale watching near the Vesterålen Islands. These migratory baleen whales can reach up to 90 feet in length and weigh up to 126 tons. However, they are difficult to find in Arctic waters, and they’re also endangered and hunted by orcas.
Pilot whales in Norway
The long-finned pilot whale is another marine mammal you can see if you travel to the Svalbard Islands during the summer months.
Interestingly, pilot whales aren’t actually whales; they’re large dolphins with rounded heads and dorsal fins that are close to the tops of their backs.
Sperm whales in Norway
Sperm whales can usually be seen in the vicinity of Norway’s Vesterålen Islands. These gigantic whales are only surpassed in size by the mighty blue whale. They regularly dive over 3,000 feet underwater in search of food, and you can recognize them by their large, square heads.
Dolphins in Norway
There’s a good chance you’ll see dolphins if you’re whale watching in Norway, since a variety of species live in Northern Norway and like to swim in the fjords. Some of the dolphin species you may see include the Atlantic white-sided dolphin and the bottlenose dolphin.
Wherever you choose to go whale watching in Norway, whether that be Tromsø, the Lofoten Islands, the Svalbard Islands, or the Vesterålen Islands, you should have a good chance of seeing cetaceans in the wild. Just remember to have your camera at the ready to capture the whales of Norway when you see them!
Hopefully, this article has helped you plan a fantastic Norway whale watching trip. At the very least, now you should be able to tell the difference between a humpback whale and a pilot whale!
Enjoy your whale-watching adventure!