Norway whale-watching

Whale Watching in Norway – Best Time and Tours

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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:

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.

The best time for whale watching in Norway, for orca watching in Norway, and to see dolphins in Norway

Best time for whale watching in Norway

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.

Tromsø

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.

Norway whale-watching in Tromso, one of the best places to go humpback whale watching in Norway

Whale watching in Tromsø

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.

Whale watching in the Lofoten Islands, a place you can see the whales of Norway throughout the year

Whale watching in the Lofoten Islands

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.

Beluga whale watching in Norway, a thing you can do in the Svalbard Islands during the summer

Whale watching in the Svalbard Islands

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.

Minke whale watching in Norway, something you can do throughout the year in the Vesterålen Islands

Whale watching in the Vesterålen Islands

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.

The best Tromso, Norway whale watching tour, perfect for killer whale watching Norway

1. The best whale watching in Norway (Tromso)

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 (The Lofoten Islands)

Marvel at a wide variety of whales and wildlife on this flexible and affordable Lofoten wildlife sightseeing cruise, which can pick you up in Hamnøy, Reine, or Å i Lofoten.

You’ll have the opportunity to see humpbacks, orcas, and blue whales, as well as eagles, puffins, and seals. As this Norway whale watching tour sails to the island of Vaerøy, your guide will share information on the local wildlife and geography.

The best Lofoten Islands, Norway whale watching tour, one of the best whale and wildlife watching tours in Norway

2. The top Norwegian whale watching tour (The Lofoten Islands)

Once you reach Vaerøy, you’ll get four hours to yourself to explore. There are many ways you could spend your time, including hiking Håen, the island’s second tallest peak; visiting the oldest church in Lofoten that’s still in use; or walking around the town center.

After you’ve finished your island adventure, you’ll head back to the boat, where you can buy snacks and drinks onboard as you sail back to Hamnøy, Reine, and Å i Lofoten.

  • Highlights: Humpback whales, orcas, blue whales, seals
  • Starting point: Hamnøy, Reine, or Å i Lofoten
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Number of participants: 55
  • Price: $95

3. The best eco-friendly Norway whale watching tour (The Svalbard Islands)

If you’d like to book an eco-friendly Norway whale watching tour that includes other attractions besides wildlife watching, this Longyearbyen catamaran cruise is the tour for you.

Because the boat is hybrid-electric, it can move silently, minimizing the disturbance to marine life. As you sail through the Isfjord and Billefjord, your guide will point out wildlife and tell you about the area’s history.

One of the best eco-friendly Norway whale watching tours, a Svalbard Islands, Norway whale watching tour with a hybrid-electric boat

3. The best eco-friendly Norway whale watching tour (The Svalbard Islands)

Along the journey, you’ll pass by the eerie Pyramiden ghost town, the beautiful area of Skansbukta, and the Nordenskiöld Glacier. If you listen closely, you may even be able to hear the ice of the glacier cracking.

Best of all, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious lunch as part of your cruise.

  • Highlights: Nordenskiöld Glacier, wildlife watching, Pyramiden ghost town
  • Starting point: Longyearbyen
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Number of participants: 120
  • Price: $307

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.

The top orca watching in Norway tour in the Vesterålen Islands, a chance to see a Norwegian whale watching museum

4. The top orca watching in Norway tour (The Vesterålen Islands)

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.

Humpback whales in Norway, which can be recognized by their large size and bumpy heads

Humpback whales in Norway

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.

Pilot whales in Norway, which are actually dolphins with rounded heads

Pilot whales in Norway

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.

Dolphins of Norway, a marine creature you can see in many places throughout Norway

Dolphins in Norway

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!

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COFOUNDER & TRAVEL JUNKIE

Hi, I'm Ascen, a globetrotter based in Philadelphia, USA. I enjoy exploring new landscapes and creating in-depth travel guides for Capture the Atlas.

I have felt a special connection with nature and all the inhabitants of the planet since I was a kid. I am passionate about discovering new countries and especially their wildlife, but no matter how many places I visit, I will always belong to the remote beaches of Almería, in Southern Spain.

You can know a little more about me here.

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