Things to consider
- Almost any boat based trip to the Arctic is likely to encounter whales, with 17 different species to be found across the top of the world
- Hot spots include Disko Bay in West Greenland, as well as Svalbard where summer currents rich in nutrients attract cetaceans from across the globe
- The Northwest Passage is home to 75% of the global narwhal population
- Beluga congregate in huge numbers in Hudson Bay over the summer months of July and August
- Travelling on a boat with plenty of deck space is key to ensuring you get the best of any sightings
Where to see whales in the Arctic
Svalbard & the Norwegian Arctic
Most famous for polar bear sightings, Svalbard is often overlooked as a whale watching destination. It's true that there is a dark history when it comes to man's relationship with whales, and the remains of whalers stations such as Smeerenberg and Bamsebu are testament to the slaughter. In recent years, however, it is a much happier story where the rich waters attract humpbacks, fin, minke, blue and beluga whales and numbers are growing year by year.
Northern Norway in the latter months of the year becomes a rich hunting ground for humpbacks, fin and especially orca as they follow the herring's migration routes. It was also be a great time to see the aurora borealis.
Svalbard & Norway whale-watching trips
Svalbard Wildlife In-Depth
Travelling at the height of summer this 14-day trip is the longest of any Svalbard cruise - providing the best possible conditions for wildlife encounters. This circumnavigation of Spitsbergen includes huge glaciers, bird cliffs and ice choked channels. There's even…
- 14 Days
Scouting Svalbard’s ice floes for wildlife by zodiac and on foot, cruising the magnificent 14th of July glacier and reaching the world’s most northerly settlement at Ny Ålesund are just some of this 10-day voyage’s many highlights. There's also the…
- 10 Days
Guided by an experienced team who know the best places in Svalbard for wildlife encounters, make the most of each day’s local ice and weather conditions. Fully immerse yourself in this Arctic archipelago, exploring by zodiac and on foot. Optional…
- 8 Days
Snorkelling with Orcas
Norway is the only place in the world where you can safely snorkel with orcas following the herring migration. This boat-based trip is ideally suited for wildlife enthusiasts willing to put up with a bit of hardship for spectacular one-off…
- 6 Days
Across the Arctic Circle: Scotland to Svalbard
Join this spring journey from historic Edinburgh in Scotland all the way north to finish in Svalbard, deep inside the Arctic Circle. En route explore in depth Norway’s dramatic glacially sculpted coastline, UNESCO sites and the charming villages of the…
- 15 Days
Northern Lights, Fjords and Whales
Sail onboard a historic vessel inside the Arctic circle through beautiful channels and past spectacular islands. Watch for humpback whales as they search for squid and then relax on deck in the evening, waiting for clear skies and the Northern…
- 8 Days
Lancaster Sound, a wildlife superhighway, opens each year for a couple of months as the ice retreats, allowing boats to navigate the channels that make up the Northwest Passage. Along this edge of ice runs a rich seam of zooplankton, a particular favourite of the massive bowhead whale who can eat up to 100 tonnes of them a year.
In the shallow water, narwhal and beluga hunt fish and shrimp and stay away from orca as best they can. Expeditions to the Northwest Passage offer amazing opportunities to see these rare cetaceans and many trips start or end in West Greenland, adding Disko Bay which is famous for its humpbacks, to the spectacle.
Northwest Passage whale watching trips
Arctic Wildlife Safari: Northwest Passage
An all consuming introduction to the Arctic, with a strong focus on wildlife, this trip is hard to beat. Search for bears, narwhal, beluga, walrus and musk ox, marvel at Greenland's ‘big ice’ and learn about the early explorers as…
- 12 Days
Greenland, Baffin & Northwest Passage In-Depth
This comprehensive westbound voyage stands out for its compelling combination of West Greenland, in-depth exploration of the east coast of Baffin Island and the historic Northwest Passage. Jaw dropping scenery, towering icebergs, thrilling wildlife encounters, Inuit community visits and fascinating…
- 17 Days
Ultima Thule: Northwest Passage & West Greenland
Spending time exploring Canada’s historic Northwest Passage and West Greenland, we like this voyage’s balance and variety as much as exploring little visited spots such as Thule, one of the northernmost towns in the world, and Smith Sound. Big ice,…
- 20 Days
Northwest Passage: In Franklin's Footsteps
The big ice and small towns of West Greenland provide a stunning start to this trip before you sail across the Davis Straight to Baffin Island and enter the Northwest Passage. Blend history, scenery and wildlife; pay your respects at…
- 17 Days
Churchill & the Canadian Arctic
For just a couple of months in late summer (July & August) thousands of beluga whales gather in Hudson Bay to feast on the rich waters of the Churchill River and to calve in the shallow, relatively warm waters. This amazing migration allows you to get up close to these cetaceans, affectionately known as sea canaries, either by boat, kayak or even by getting in the water with them.
Further north there are ice camps where you can catch sight of the elusive narwhal or 'Unicorns of the Sea' as they follow the ice edge during May and June. These trips also offer the chance of polar bears and beluga in one of the remotest corners on the planet.
Canadian Arctic whale watching trips
Narwhals, Bears & Ice
A startling opportunity to explore the ice edge and see the elusive narwhal as well as bears, whales and walrus. Travelling by snowmobile and staying in heated yurts this journey will take you parts of the Arctic that very few…
- 7 Days
Beluga Whales & Arctic Wilderness Adventure
Fly deep inside the Arctic Circle to a remote tented lodge offering outstanding opportunities for close interaction with Beluga whales, as part of a very special overall Arctic experience. Run by polar explorer Richard Weber, it's perfect for wilderness lovers.…
- 8/10 Days
Hudson Bay Beluga Safari
Each year Hudson Bay becomes home to around 60,000 beluga whales as they gather to give birth in the safe waters. Many thousand gather at the estuary to Churchill River, get in a kayak to see them up close and…
- 7 Days
Belugas, Bears and Summer Flora
An incredible opportunity to experience the 60,000 beluga whales congregating in Hudson Bay in July and August each year, with experienced guides to teach you about these cannaries of the sea. Visit regions frequented by polar bears and witness the…
- 7 Days
While much of Greenland is ice trapped during the winter months, when the sun appears and the sea starts to move again the waters quickly fill with life. There are now fifteen species of whale that frequent these waters. While the beluga, narwhal and bowhead remain year round, the other species including humpback, minke and fin only pass by in warmer months.
In recent years the number of bowheads sighted in East Greenland has grown substantially. This magnificent mammal can live for 200 years (as evidenced by the find of an ancient harpoon found in an animal that had died of old age) and grow up 20m (66ft) long!
In West Greenland, Disko Bay becomes the humpbacks playground in the summer as they chase down herring-type fish in their tens of thousands. In the capital, Nuuk, it is not unheard of for residents to complain of a lack of sleep due to the noise made by humpback whales in the bay!
Greenland whale watching trips
Basecamp Greenland: Into the Wilderness
Stay in a specially designed seasonal safari-style camp as your base and explore this little visited land by kayak, zodiac, motor boat, helicopter or on foot. The long summer days help maximise exploration, while the rustic luxury of the camp…
- 9 Days
Sail from Reykjavik to the East Greenland coast and follow the route of Eric the Red as you sail around the southern coast exploring fjords, small towns and viking remains with specialist guides. The journey will take you all the…
- 12 Days
West Greenland & Disko Bay
This might be a short trip but it packs a huge amount in. Sail among the ice of Disko Bay and spot humpbacks hunting herring; trek to the look out over Jakoshavn Glacier; explore the settlements of Sisimiut and Itilleq…
- 6 Days
Luxury Glamping in Greenland
An amazing opportunity to glamp Greenlandic style in true wilderness with a good dollop of comfort thrown in. Spend time with your guide fishing, kayaking through ice or trekking in spectacular surroundings and visit local communities, before returning to meals…
- 4 Days
Icebergs & Auroras: East Greenland & Svalbard
Beginning deep inside the High Arctic and finishing in subarctic Iceland, we like this voyage for its diversity, sense of journey and extended time exploring East Greenland. Zodiac cruising amongst towering icebergs, glimpsing the Northern Light and tracking musk oxen…
- 14 Days
An Arctic Summer Adventure
Summer in Greenland is short lived and everyone makes the most of it. Sisimiut, the self-proclaimed adventure-hub of Greenland, is the place to embrace the season. Visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, spot whales, ride e-bikes through spectacular landscape, pick crow-berries…
- 5 Days
We'd really recommend choosing a trip that allows you to kayak in the presence of whales. There's nothing like being that close, with no sound but your paddles and the graceful rise and fall of these giants in the water.