10 Icelandic animals to spot from a yacht.

icelandic animals - image shows the tail flukes of a humpback whale

Not all of our top 10 Icelandic animals you can spot from a yacht live here all year round, but they definitely call this place home, even if they escape to warmer climates for a few months in winter!

Written by Lucky Byfleet

1. Humpback Whales.

Of course, our beloved humpbacks have to take the first position, in our list of Icelandic animals you can see from a yacht. But Iceland really is the best place in Europe to see whales in the wild, and people travel from all over to see these gentle giants perform acrobatics in our clean, rich, and very cold waters! If you want to see them in Reykjavik then have a look at our luxury yacht tours.

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Our firm favourite, the mighty humpback whale. top of our list of icelandic animals.

2. Atlantic Puffins.

Atlantic puffins are often mistakingly thought to be our national bird because we love them so much! 60% of the world’s population come here to breed every summer on the rocky islands off our coast, safe from predators in their burrows. We do specific puffin watching tours but you can often see them on our Island Explorer and Whale Watching cruises too.

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A jolly Atlantic Puffin, number 2 on our list of Icelandic animals.

3. Killer Whales.

Orca are technically a dolphin not a whale, but whatever you want to call them we adore them. They are known to circle around the whole country and go to Scotland regularly, and sometimes as far as the Mediterranean. Their iconic markings make them easy to identify, and we see the same individuals many times during their lives. Seeing a killer whale in the wild is something you’ll never forget! They’ve been spotted eating seals in our waters, we have several species including harbour seals and grey seals.

killer whale icelandic animals
Orca in Faxa bay, Reykjavik. Number 3 on our list of Icelandic animals.

4. Northern Gannets.

Specifically diving northern gannets. It is a truly impressive sight, they hit the water at up to 100kph, the slightest error could result in death! The males dive more often than the females, but the females have more success in their hunts.

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Northern Gannet soaring high above the water looking for fish. Number 4 on our list of Icelandic animals.

5. White beaked dolphins.

White-beaked dolphins come and play with our boats a lot, particularly bow-riding, and they are a pure joy to watch playing through the waves, it doesn’t matter how many times you see a dolphin you will always adore them! They look a bit different to dolphins you may have seen before, as they have shorter faces than bottle-nosed dolphins, and bolder markings. However, they are about the same size, and equally energetic!

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A white-beaked dolphin is 5th on our list of Icelandic animals to see at sea!

6. Porpoises

Harbour porpoises are found all over Europe, even up in large rivers! They deserve a place here for many reasons, but these charismatic creatures have a place in our hearts due to their playfulness, just like their cousins the dolphins. They are trickier to photograph because they are much shyer, but it makes seeing them an even bigger reward when we do.

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harbour porpoises, number 6 in our list of Icelandic animals!

7. Arctic Terns.

These loud sea birds see more sun than almost any other animal in the world as they have a really long migratory route, travelling over 70,000km annually. A lot of effort, but it means they get to see two summers a year! When they are fishing they look like a cloud of white because they fly so closely together, diving down to feed. Sometimes they get attacked by our largest bird of prey, the white-tailed eagle.

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A flock of arctic terns looks much like this from a distance. You can often hear them before you see them! Here there are also a lot of gulls and fulmars.

8. Minke Whales.

Minke whales have been sadly hunted here for many years, but now numbers are rising again and these cousins of the mighty blue whale entertain us regularly. Their bold pectoral fin markings make them easy to identify, as do their smooth dark backs, with subtle markings, and hook-shaped dorsal fin.

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A lovely minke whale is 8 on our list of Icelandic animals to see on a yacht.

9. Blue Whales.

Blue whales love the rich waters around Iceland, they need to eat an extraordinary amount every day to build up the fat levels to get them through the winter. Not just blue whales; we get many of the giant whale species in the waters off Reykjavik.

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10. Harbour seals.

Harbour seals and grey seals inhabit our waters, unfortunately, their cousins, the walrus, was hunted to extinction a couple of hundred years ago. The harbour seals delight us due to their playful behaviour, and how we can empathise with them as they haul out onto the rocks to enjoy the Icelandic summer!

harbour seal icelandic animals
The humble harbour seal makes number 10 on our list of must see icelandic animals by boat.

We hope that has helped you prepare for your awesome whale watching adventure! Of course, our highly skilled crew will talk you all through this when you come out whale watching with Sea Trips Reykjavik here in Iceland. Make sure you have a chat with our guides on the top decks, and with our wonderful captains in the wheelhouses. They are always delighted to share their favourite whale watching moments and want to share their love for these incredible creatures with the world.


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