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All About Iceland's Minke Whales

|July 26, 2023
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The shores of Iceland are a hive of marine activity, from playful humpback whales propelling themselves above the surface to isolated blue whales navigating the deep waters.


The smallest of these majestic whale species is the minke. Although small in size, the acrobatic displays and inquisitive nature of the minke whale make them a marvel to see. 

About Minke Whales in Iceland

With an estimated 12,710 minke whales in Icelandic waters, offshore activity is abundant. They choose to roam these colder waters as they boast an array of food and shallow bays, which are popular with the species.

Minke whales are recognizable by their distinctive white undersides and dark gray or black upper bodies. Around their small and streamlined pectoral fins, they have a bright white band which gives them their unique characteristic. Fully-grown minke whales can reach a size of 10m in length and weigh up to 10 tonnes, making them smaller than their close relatives, the humpback and the blue whale. With their small size also comes agility. These whales are known for their agile swimming and ability to reach a speed of up to 15 miles per hour.

Minke Whale Breaching The Surface Of The Water With Iceland’s Coastline Behind

Minke Whale breaching the surface of the water with Iceland’s Coastline behind

As the smallest member of the baleen family, minke whales don't have any teeth; they feed by gulping mouthfuls of fish, cetaceans, and water. To get rid of the water, they filter it through the baleen plates, which are in place of teeth and instead have rows of brush-like keratin.

Minke whales tend to live in isolation or in small groups of 2 or 3. When there is a feeding frenzy, these small whales can gather in larger groups for hunting.

When is the Best Time to See Minke Whales in Iceland?

The best time to see minke whales in Iceland is from April to October. During the summer months, the whales are breeding, which makes them more likely to be spotted, particularly on a guided whale-watching tour with expert whale spotters on board. However, it is possible to see them off the coast of Iceland all year round.

Tracking minkes can be tricky because of their erratic and unpredictable nature. They often surface for a time before making a deeper dive which can last in excess of 20 minutes. Their unpredictable and random behavior means they can be trickier to find.

Where is the Best Place to See Minke Whales in Iceland?

Minke whales can be seen across Iceland, either from the land or on a boat tour. For the best chances of seeing these whales, we recommend heading to the best spots for a whale-watching tour.

Minke Whales Diving Off the Coast of Iceland

Diving Minke Whale off the coast of Iceland

Reykjavík

Reykjavík is an excellent spot to go whale-watching. Boat tours take you from the city into Faxaflói Bay, where minke whales are commonly spotted. Faxaflói Bay is also popular with many other whale species and is just a short distance from the main harbor.

Dalvík

Located in the north of Iceland, Dalvík is an ideal spot for whale-watching. It is situated towards the north of Eyjafjörður Bay and near the open ocean of the Atlantic. The north is famous for having the most whale activity, and with its proximity to popular minke feeding grounds, there is ample opportunity to see them here.

Húsavík

If you're interested in Iceland's whales, then there is no doubt you’ll have already heard of this small northern town. It's known for being the whale capital of Iceland and even boasts its very own whale museum. From Húsavík, you can take a boat tour out into the bay to hopefully spot some of the most popular whales in the area like the humpback.

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