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Discover Iceland’s whale watching capital on this varied self-drive along the scenic north coast, to see an abundance of cetaceans and the country’s natural phenomena.

Starting in Akureyri, drive the Diamond Circle in the north, and the Golden Circle in the south, to experience Iceland’s natural wonders such as the incredible Dettifoss waterfall, Mývatn geothermal springs and Thingvellir National Park. 

Spending two nights at Husavik – Iceland’s whale watching capital - go in search of minke and humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and even the occasional blue whale. Four whale watching trips are included, which explore the cetacean-rich waters of Skálfandi Bay, Eyjafjӧrður and Olafsvik.

Aside from the fantastic whale watching, there will be opportunities to see abundant birdlife, including a range of waterbirds at Lake Mývatn, including Barrow’s goldeneye, harlequin duck and gadwall, as well as Slavonian grebe and great northern diver.

Suggested itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to Reykjavik

    Fly to Reykjavik on a scheduled flight from London. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your accommodation. Depending on your arrival time, there may be time to join an optional whale watching excursion from Reykjavik harbour.

    Accommodation: Hotel Klettur, 1-night

  2. Day 2: Fly to Akureyri & transfer to Husavik

    This morning, make your way back to Reykjavik airport for a flight to Akureyri in the north. On arrival, pick up your rental vehicle and drive to Husavik – a delightful fishing town that’s become the whale watching capital of Europe - stopping at Goðafoss Waterfall on the way. Stretching across 30 metres, and falling at a height of 12 metres, Goðafoss is one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls. 

    In the afternoon, join a three hour whale watching trip to Skálfandi Bay on a restored oak fishing boat, to look for humpback and minke whales, with an outside chance of blue whale, as well as white-beaked dolphin and harbour porpoise. The waters of Skálfandi Bay are considered to provide the best chances to see whales and dolphins than anywhere else in Iceland. During your stay in Husavik, you may wish to visit the whale watching museum to learn more about the cetaceans seen around Iceland’s coasts.

    Accommodation: Husavik Cape Hotel, 2-nights

  3. Day 3: Husavik & Mývatn

    This morning, join an early morning whale watching excursion, which will hopefully provide more sightings of humpback, minke or possibly even blue whales.

    Later in the day, drive to Mývatn, where a spring-fed lake teems with ducks and wading birds during summer; 13 species of duck nest at the lake including tufted duck and greater scaup. Other birds frequently seen include Barrow’s goldeneye, wigeon, long-tailed duck, gadwall, red-breasted merganser, Slavonian grebe, red-necked phalarope, great northern and red-throated diver and whooper swan. 

    There is plenty to do in this amazing place which is surrounded by volcanic features – not only visiting craters, lava fields, bubbling mud pits, basalt towers and geothermal springs but there are also other natural wonders - including waterfalls like Dettifoss and Goðafoss and the ice-crusted Lofthellir Lava Cave. 

    During your visit, you may wish to take a dip in the scenic Mývatn Nature Baths – one of the many geothermal pools which Iceland is renowned for - or take an evening whale watching excursion. 

  4. Day 4: Explore Lake Mývatn, Ásbyrgi or Dettifoss, drive to Akureyri

    Today, there is an opportunity to revisit Lake Mývatn to look for any bird species you may have previously missed. Continuing on the route of the Diamond Circle – from Husavík, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Lake Mývatn  to Dettifoss Waterfall – you drive 50 minutes east from Husavik to reach Vatnajӧkull National Park to explore Asbyrg, where a horseshoe-shaped canyon, which according to Norse mythology was formed by the hoofprint of Sleipnir, a Norse god’s eight-legged horse. Measuring three-and-a-half kilometres in length and just over one kilometre in diameter, this impressive depression contains woodland of birch and willow, while the lake supports an array of waterfowl species. You can also visit the famous Dettifoss waterfall – one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.

    In the evening, continue driving to Akureyri to check-in to your overnight accommodation.

    Accommodation: Guesthouse Lamb Inn, 1-night 

  5. Day 5: Whale watching at Eyjafjӧrður, drive to Grundarfjӧrður

    This morning, take a whale watching tour at Eyjajӧrður to look for humpback and minke whales, bottlenose dolphins and a variety of seabirds feeding in the fjord. In the afternoon, take a leisurely scenic drive to Grundarfjӧrður in the east to explore the stunning Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

    Accommodation: Hotel Framnes, 1-night

  6. Day 6: Whale watching at Olafsvik, take the Golden Circle tour

    Today, enjoy an early three-hour whale watching cruise from Olafsvik, where  you can see sperm, minke and humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and possibly even orcas. Late morning, begin driving south towards Thingvellir National Park, which forms part of the Golden Circle route. This unique collection of hot springs, waterfalls, geysers and gorges form part of Iceland’s natural wonders. Other iconic stops include the Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal area in Haukadalur – home to geysers: Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir has been dormant for many years; however Strokkur continues to erupt every 5-10 minutes.

    Accommodation: Hotel Geysir, 1-night

  7. Day 7: Explore the dramatic Reykjanes coastline

    Explore the Reykjanes peninsula on the south coast, which is a geothermal wonder where lighthouses outnumber villages, and spectacular lava fields stretch as far as the eye can see. 

    Northern Light Inn, 1-night

  8. Day 8: Drive to Reykjavik and depart

    Depending on the time of your return flight, you may have time to visit the Blue Lagoon, which is located just a short two-minute drive away from your accommodation. Pre-booking the Blue Lagoon is recommended, particularly during the peak summer season. Mid-morning, make your way back to Keflavik airport to return your hire car, and check-in for your return flight back to the UK. 

Key info

Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 8 days from £1,795 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 8 days from £1,595 pp
  • When to go: May-Sep
  • Activities available:
    • Birdwatching
    • Nature drive
    • Photography
    • Swimming
    • Walking
Featured locations:

Mývatn

Mývatn is situated on a lake which was formed during a massive eruption 2,300 years ago. Today the area is known for the huge numbers of waterbirds that visit in the summer, including tufted duck and greater scaup, and for the fascinating volcanic features that surround the lake.

  • Where: North Iceland
  • Ideal for viewing: tufted duck, harlequin duck, Barrow’s goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, greater scaup
  • Excellent for: Self-drive, Birdwatching

Husavik

Situated on the north coast of Iceland, on the shores of Skjálfandi Bay, is the small fishing town of Husavik. Known as the whale watching capital of Iceland, the surrounding waters boast humpback, minke and sometimes even blue whales, as well as white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises.

  • Where: Norðurþing Muncipality
  • Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, minke whale, white-beaked dolphin, harbour porpoise, fulmar
  • Excellent for: Self-drive, Whale watching

Reykjavik

Iceland's capital and its largest city, Reykjavik sits on a coastline consisting of peninsulas, straits and islands. This colourful city lies on the southern shore of Faxa Bay, whose waters are often visited by humpback and minke whales, as well as puffins, Arctic tern and other seabirds.

  • Where: South-west Iceland
  • Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, minke whale, Atlantic puffin, common eider, tufted duck
  • Excellent for: Self-drive, Whale watching

Grundarfjordur

Grundarfjordur lies on the north shore of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a two hour drive from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. Set on the shore of a half-moon bay, the town is backed by beautiful mountains, including steeple-shaped Kirkjufell, and provides the perfect location for whales watching trips to observe orca.

  • Where: Snaefellnes Peninsula
  • Ideal for viewing: orca, Atlantic puffin, eider duck, fulmar, purple sandpiper
  • Excellent for: Whale watching

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a 90km stretch of coastline comprising a world of diversity and includes the Snaefellsnes National Park at its western most end. Friendly towns and villages, spectacular mountains, a multitude of bird species nesting on treacherous cliffs and superb whale watching opportunities.

  • Where: Borgarfjörður
  • Ideal for viewing: orca, white-beaked dolphin, Arctic tern, kittiwake, rsven
  • Excellent for: Whale watching, Dolphin watching
Suggested accommodation options are shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Hotel Framnes

Occupying a waterfront spot in the fishing village of Grundarfjordur, this charming traditional hotel is perfectly located for whale watching and northern lights sightings on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It offers 29 rooms with mountain or sea view, as well as a fantastic restaurant and outdoor hot tubs.

Husavik Cape Hotel

Husavik Cape Hotel is situated just a short walk from the fishing town, whale museum and whale watching harbour, and is the ideal base for exploring the natural wonders of the Diamond Circle, including Lake Mytavn, the incredible Dettifoss and Goðafoss Waterfalls and Ásbyrgi Canyon.