Did you know that around 40,000 whales are swimming in the waters around Iceland? This means there is a good chance to see such a whale. The best place, however, is in Húsavík, in the north of Iceland, where whales visit the fjord every day for a nutritious breakfast. The bay of Skjálfandi is eagerly visited by whales due to its specific microbiological composition. Several rivers flow into the bay, carrying material ideal for the rapid multiplication of plankton and the reproduction of krill, which are delicacies and the main nutrients of whales.
Húsavík Iceland – a short history
Húsavík is the oldest settlement in Iceland and a pioneer in organizing whale watching tours. The city was founded in the 9th century by the Swedish Viking Gardar Svavarsson, who, while sailing around Iceland, stayed in Húsavík for the winter and built the first few houses there. The name Húsavík means “bay of houses”. These events took place in the years 860-870, so before the founding of the city of Reykjavik.
Húsavík was granted city rights in the middle of the 20th century, in 1950. Currently, around 2,300 people live here. The town gains money mainly on fishing and tourism, including organized whale watching tours.
About 100,000 people come to Húsavík in the summer season, mainly to go for whale watching. Therefore, interesting accommodation and gastronomic offer are available in the town.
Whale watching expedition
In Skjálfandi Bay, where Húsavík is situated, about 23 different species of whales have been seen, including the blue whale – the largest animal in the world. Most often, however, humpback whales, minke whales, white-bearded dolphins, porpoises and blue whales come here. There are also large colonies of puffins around Skjálfandi Bay, which can be seen between mid-April and mid-August.
Whale watching tours are organized by several companies. The place on the ship can be booked online or on-site. In the summer season, of course, there is a high risk of lack of places for selected tour times, so it’s better to book in advance.
The companies that offer whale watching or puffin expeditions are listed below. All prices according to 2020 price list
- North Sailing, Original Whale Watching: traditional oak fishing-boats, 3 hours, March – November. Price 10690 ISK (about 78$)
- Húsavík Adventures, Big Whales and Puffins, speedy RIB boats, 2 hours, May – September. Price 17900 ISK (about 130$),
- Salka Whale Watching, Whale Watching, traditional oak fishing-boats, 3 hours, April – October. Price 10500 ISK (about 77$)
- Gentle Giants, GG1 Whale Watching, traditional oak fishing-boats, 3 hours, March – November. Price 10490 ISK (about 77$).
A standard boat trip around the bay takes approx. 3 hours. Most companies offer the rental of warm waterproof suits, included in the ticket price. During the pandemic, however, rentals are closed. You should therefore come on the trip properly dressed. In the summer season, the air temperature may be 10-14 degrees, but on a ship sailing on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the rush of wind can pierce with strong and frosty air. In my opinion, you should have a warm hat (plus a hood), scarf and gloves.
Whale Museum, Husavik Iceland
In addition to undoubtedly one of the greatest attractions in Iceland, which is the opportunity to see a whale, in Húsavík it is also worth visiting an unusual place. The Whale Museum, which is located right on the bay, is a must-see place. Its main attraction is the blue whale skeleton, which is 25 m long! It’s worth adding that there are only two such skeletons in Europe, so the one in Húsavík is a real treat. The skeleton, located in Húsavík, was washed ashore in Ásbúðir, Skagi in northern Iceland in 2010.
The Húsavík Whale Museum is one of the few museums in the world dedicated exclusively to whales. Established in 1997 as a small local exhibition, it has grown to 1,600 sqm in just a few years. Thru the years it has become one of the most interesting attractions on the island.
Inside there is a fantastic cross-section of marine mammals that inhabit the shores of Iceland. The museum houses 8 different themed exhibitions. There are also 11 whale skeletons and a wide selection of documentaries and educational films. The aim of the museum is to provide information about whales, marine ecology, and how whales interact with humans.
The museum is open all year round. In winter, Mon-Fri. from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. During the summer season, the museum is open longer and daily, from 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Entrance ticket ISK 2000 (about 15$), children and teenagers up to 17 years old – free admission. Discounts for ticket holders for Whale Watching tours – admission ISK 1600 (about 12$).
All information about the museum’s activities and the current opening hours can be found on the website of the Whale Museum.
What else to see in Húsavik?
In Húsavík, it is worth walking along the bay. During summer days when the sky is clean and bright, that place looks lovely and the views are fabulous and picturesque.
In the summer season, there are several places open where you can eat a very tasty dinner. However, it’s good to reserve a table for dinner in advance, because it’s hard to find a free seat.
There are 6 restaurants, 5 cafes, 1 brewery and two supermarkets in the town. That means it is easy to find there an interesting place where you can eat or drink. However, the most interesting restaurant is located right on the Skjálfandi Bay – Gamli Baukur Húsavík. It is famous for not only an interesting interior design but also for very tasty cuisine and professional service. For Whale Watching tour ticket holders, the restaurant offers a 10% discount.
On the main street in the town, it is worth paying attention to the historic wooden church built in 1907. Some people say it is one of the most beautiful churches on the island. There are several car parks around the church (one is on the street behind the church). In the summer season, it is difficult to find a parking space right next to the bay, so you can park a few meters away, e.g. near the church.
There are also several geothermal pools in Húsavík. The most popular one is the Geo Sea, however, due to its popularity, the place must be booked well in advance.
There is also a golf course in Húsavík and a frisbee golf course. Moreover, there are two horse stables nearby where you can rent horses: Lava Horses and Saltvik. In the winter season, there is an ideal place nearby for skiing and snowboarding, Húsavík Ski Area at Reyðarárhnjúkur
Eurovision – the history of the Fire Saga band
Icelanders love to watch Eurovision. Every year, in May, the inhabitants of the island gather in large groups and watch the artists’ struggles together. It looks like, Iceland has the highest audience share among all countries participating in Eurovision and it is over 98%.
In 2020, Netflix platform made Icelanders extremely happy. They made a movie about the Eurovision Song Contest: The History of the Fire Saga Band. The movie tells the story of two Icelandic singers who have a chance to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. The two artists representing Iceland come from Húsavík. They get a unique chance to make their dreams of participating in a big competition come true. However, the stakes are very high, the rivals are cunning and the music stage is treacherous and full of traps. It is a comedy and a little bit a pastiche of the competition itself. From the other side, the movie is also touching. It shows beautiful and harsh landscapes of Iceland, Húsavík bay, the islanders and their culture.
Eurovision Song Contest
Interestingly, the movie was actually shot during the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, Scotland and Iceland. It also features real artists who participated in the competition at the same time.
Part of the action of the film takes place in Húsavík. The actors and the crew visited the town in October 2019. Creating a film set in the Húsavik city was an extraordinary event for the locals and a key event of the year. One of the main songs in the movie “Húsavík” reached the top ten of the iTunes world ranking (WiwiBlogs, 2020). You can listen to it on Youtube, search for: Husavik – My Home Town | Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
When we were visiting Iceland in August ’20, the song “Húsavík” was played on the local radio every 10 minutes. Today, when I am thinking about Húsavík, I immediately hear that song from the movie in the background. “Where the mountains sing, through the screams of seagulls. Where the whales can live, ’cause the’re gentle people. In my hometown, my hometown….”
Húsavík Iceland, is it worth coming here?
Húsavík is the perfect destination for a day trip. Its biggest attractions are definitely boat trips around the bay and whales watching with the camera’s eye. This experience made a very strong impression on me, and I think that this memory will stay with me for a long time. Seeing these beautiful mammals in their natural habitats is a wonderful experience. What surprised me the most, however, was hearing the whales singing. This music, sound, tone of the melody – made shivers down my spine and complete silence on the ship. No one said anything. Everyone stood hypnotized. And when the whale stopped singing and disappeared under the water, joy erupted on the ship. Everyone was clapping their hands and talking to each other about their emotions.
Whales are wonderful and beautiful animals. A visit to the Whale Museum also helped us understand how intelligent these mammals are and how they work together perfectly as a group.
It is a very valuable, educational and unforgettable experience. I recommend it to everyone.
Other interesting information about Húsavík
For those willing, below is a link to city cameras in Húsavík. You can preview live what is happening in the town or check for example if there is already snow in the nearby mountains – city webcams in Húsavík.
You can read about events in the city, accommodation and what else to do in the Húsavík area on the Visit Húsavík website.
Iceland, my other post
I encourage you as well to read my other posts about Iceland