Going on a whale safari when visiting northern Norway is one of the most amazing things you can do, and if you visit during the whale watching season, you are pretty much guaranteed to see a whale. Most whale watching safaris take you out to the sea in a big ferry with certified guides that know where to find the whales.
But when is the best time for going on a whale safari in Norway?
There are whales in Norway all year long, but the main whale watching season is between October and February. You are pretty much guaranteed to see whales during this winter season, but it’s also possible to go on a whale safari other times.
Some species of whale are only found in the winter, while others can be found all year round. Let’s take a closer look!
The main whale watching season (in Lofoten and Vesterålen)
As mentioned above, the main whale watching season begins in early October, and ends somewhere between January 15 and January 30. This is when you will find the most tour operators offering guided whale safaris, and many of these even offer a guarantee that you will see a whale.
This guarantee is often that you will get your money back if you don’t see a whale on the tour. However, this is very unlike to happen during the whale watching season in winter.
The main whales to see in the whale season is orcas, humpbacks and finbacks. These follow the herrings, so they are most frequent in the Lofoten and Vesterålen regions during the whale watching season
Seeing whales outside of the whale watching season
If you want to see whales outside of the main whale watching season, then you will want to go to the town called Andenes on Andøya. This is not too far from Tromsø.
From Andenes, you can see spem shales, pilot whales, minke whales (which are also hunted in Norway) and occasionally other species as well. This little town is the whale safari capital of Norway.
The general rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the summer, to less chance you have of seeing a whale. So the early spring or late autumn is much better than around the summer.
You are unlikely to find an operator that offers a “money back guarantee” outside of the main whale watching season.
The exceptions are orcas (killer whales) and porpoises, who can often be found around Lofoten, Vesterålen and Andøya between May and September. However, it’s like like you are likely to see one from the beaches of Lofoten, and they are usually further out at sea.
Seeing whales in the fjords
Whales, especially ocras, tend to stay close to the entrances to the Norwegian fjords after having finished the herring frenzy in Lofoten and Vesterålen. This means that the whales often migrate further south around the middle of January, and stay there until around the end of March.
One of the big benefits of going on a whale safari in the fjords is that you can often see them from your car. The fjords tend to be somewhat narrow, and a good pair of binoculars could be everything you need for a whale safari.
It’s not common to have guided whale safaris in the fjords. So this is rather something you need to be on the lookout for yourself if you are traveling in the fjord region at this time period.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.