5 Ethical Tours for Whale Watching in Tromsø (+ FAQ Answered!)

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Norway is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and it’s not only Norwegians calling the country home, but a lot of sea life as well! This guide contains the best tours to go whale watching in Tromso!

Planning your trip to Tromsø last minute?

Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more! Donʻt forget to plan ahead when visiting Tromsø and nearby!

Top Experiences and Tours in Tromsø:

  1. Whale Watching tour with orcas and humpbacks (my favorite tour!)
  2. Top-rated Northern lights tour from Tromsø (must-do if not summer!)
  3. Whale watching in Skjervoy on a RIB boat (great for adventurers)
  4. Dog sledding through Arctic Norway (the ultimate winter tour!)
  5. Sami and reindeer experience w/ Northern Lights

Top Lodging and Hotels in Tromsø:

  1. Radisson Blu (luxury)
  2. Thon Hotel Tromsø (mid-range – I have stayed here!)
  3. Smarthotel Tromsø (budget option – I have stayed here too!)

Not all Tromso whale watching tours are created equal… so choose your tour in Norway wisely!

We have created this guide to encourage you to pick the Tromsø whale safari that is best for you!

Do you have any questions about whale watching in Tromsø? Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Whale watching in Norway
Whale watching in Tromso, Norway

Tromsø Whale Watching Tours (in this Guide)

I have listed merely a few of the Tromso whale watching tours available in this guide and you can get a quick overview here.

I think each tour offers something unique and a reason to book. Here is a quick round-up of the whale safaris in this guide:

My top whale watching option:

Other fantastic choices for a trip:

Is Whale Watching in Tromsø Worth It?

Tromsø, Norway is the epicenter of winter travel in Norway when it comes to tourism. Many people flock to this part of Norway to view the northern lights, make friends with a reindeer, go dog-sledding, and enjoy the dark Arctic skies.

I was always that person who wanted to visit Tromso in the summer. I guess when you’re living in Norway you don’t see the appeal of full-on darkness and the cold… so you flock south.

But, what a huge mistake that was. I finally went to Tromsø when I was living in Germany (and have been back multiple times since)!  

One of my favorite activities in Tromso was my whale watching tour in winter so it is one of the first tours I advise you to book when heading there! It truly is spectacular… but I encourage you to do your research to ensure you pick the right tour!

Catamaran whale watching in Norway
Catamaran whale watching in Norway

While there are many companies out there, we have selected 5 ethical tours for whale watching in Tromso for this guide that will offer you the full-on experience while witnessing these magical mammals in their natural habitat.

In this guide, we cover those Tromso whale watching tours as well as frequently asked questions that you should definitely give thought to before taking a tour. We also cover a little info about the animals themselves!

In the end, we give our tips about what to expect as well as some items to pack for the journey!

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments or send us a message!

Best Tromsø Whale Watching Tours

Whale Watching Tour by Hybrid-Electric Catamaran

Duration: 8.5 hours
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Languages: English, Norwegian, Danish
<< BOOK HERE >>

One of the coolest things about this whale watching tour is that it strives to be silent and to capture the Tromsø whales in their natural environment by taking place on a hybrid-electric catamaran.

The boat is silent and it is the perfect way to ethically encounter the whales feeding on the herring-rich waters of Northern Norway!

This tour is perfect for English or Norwegian speakers and it lasts 8.5 hours. It is wheelchair accessible.

Inside the boat on a whale watching tour in Tromso
Inside the boat on a whale watching tour in Tromso

On board the boat, you will be able to enjoy food and drinks for a surcharge. The boat has wifi and it will take around 3.5 hours to reach the whales in the fjord north of Tromsø.

Once you reach them, you will have about 1.5 hours to enjoy their presence and admire them from afar in their natural habitat.

Whale and Arctic Wildlife Cruise Safari

Duration: 7 hours
Wheelchair accessible: No
Languages: English, Norwegian
<< BOOK HERE >>

This Tromso whale watching tour leaves from the harbor and departs up the fjord, allowing passengers to enjoy the gorgeous views and Arctic wildlife and sea life along the way!

It is a 7-hour tour that gives you the chance to spot harbor porpoises, orcas, humpback whales, and more! This is not a suitable tour for those with a mobility impairment, unfortunately.

There are outdoor viewing decks and you can either stand out there or see from inside. The hot coffee and tea on board will keep you warm and fresh for your Arctic adventure!

Humpback whale in Northern Norway
Humpback whale in Northern Norway

Once arriving at the fjord where the whales are feeding, you will have about 1-1.5 hours to enjoy the scene! This includes a Thermal winter suit and life jacket as well as hot drinks and biscuits.

Whale Watching in Magical Skjervoy (RIB Boat!)

Duration: 12 hours (only 2.5 hours in boat)
Wheelchair accessible: No
Languages: English, Norwegian
<< BOOK HERE >>

This tour is one of the top-rated whale watching tours in Tromso and for good reason – you are seeing them from a RIB boat!

The 12-hour whale watching tour by RIB boat will take you and no more than 11 others on an adventure to the Kvaenangen Fjord by Skjervoy for the magical sight of the whales feeding and going about their daily lives.

The RIB boat allows you to see the whales from up close (closer than a catamaran) and you will be able to feel at one with nature while you do so.

Whale watching from a RIB Boat in Tromso
Whale watching from a RIB Boat in Tromso

Floatation suits are available and you will feel secure in the boat on the 2.5-hour adventure. You will actually be driven by vehicle up to Skjervoy before hopping into the boat (honestly, a great thing for those that get a bit seasick)!

After the trip, you’ll get to enjoy some refreshments before heading back to Tromsø.

This tour is not for those that have a mobility impairment, back issues, heart problems, or are over 120kg (264lbs).

Overnight Lavvo Stay with Whales & Northern Lights

Duration: 29 hours (includes overnight stay)
Wheelchair accessible: No
Languages: English
<< BOOK HERE >>

This adventure is a bit different than the other day tours in that it is a full-on Arctic experience and you will stay overnight in a lavvo (Sami tent).

From the glass roof of the lavvo, you will even have a chance to be away from the light pollution of Tromsø which means a far better chance of seeing the northern lights.

Orcas in Norway
Orcas in Norway

The tour is 29 hours in total as it is overnight and throughout, you will head to the Kvaenangen Fjord by RIB boat to check out the orcas and humpback whales.

Accommodation is included in one of the six private Crystal Lavvos and breakfast, dinner, and lunchtime sandwiches are also included in the price. This is not a tour for those with mobile impairments or back issues.

All-Inclusive Whale and Sea Bird Boat Cruise

Duration: 8 hours 
Languages: English
<< BOOK HERE >>

Head from Tromsø to alluring Skjervøy on this boat where you will have a chance to witness whales in their natural habitat as well as seabirds in theirs!

The tour lasts for 8 hours and is in English. You’ll have a chance to see orcas and humpbacks feeding on the herring and you’ll be able to witness sea eagles along the journey!

The boat will offer refreshments and thermally insulated suits.

Best Season for Whale Watching in Tromso

The best time to go whale watching in Tromsø is from early November until early February. This, naturally, depends on the whales’ feeding and migration habits.

This is always subject to change so just be sure to book it early and chat with the company to ensure everything is as it seems ahead of time. 

Marine biologists study and track the whales in Tromsø, and these communications are sent to various companies so they should have a good idea of things.

Where and What is Skjervøy?

If you’re booking a whale watching tour in Tromso, you might notice the word ‘Skjervøy’ written everywhere. So, what and where is Skjervøy?

Skjervøy is an island north of Tromso that is on the Kvænangen fjord and actually has a really interesting history. However, today, it is where the whales are currently feeding during the winter months!

Pod of whales in Kvaenangen fjord (Skjervoy)
Pod of whales in Kvaenangen fjord (Skjervoy)

The whales used to feed on herring closer to Tromso and taking a tour out to see them was a half-day trip at most.

Today, due to overfishing and climate change, the whales go further and further north, and the only way to see them from Tromso is to take an all-day tour up north to Skjervoy.

The tours are well worth it but it is something you must incorporate some time for. Make sure you plan a full day for whale watching in Skjervoy if departing from Tromso.

The good news is that you can also fit an evening northern lights tour into your itinerary if planning ahead!

Tromsø Whale Safari FAQ

Before I went on a whale watching trip in Tromso, there are a few things I wish I had known. Some of this is quite repeated throughout this post, but I hope it helps prepare you slightly for the trip:

Whale watching in Tromsø changes year by year.  The whales are not always in the same place feeding on those herring! They used to hang out a bit closer to Tromsø, but sadly, many factors have changed their patterns and behavior. So, prepare an entire day as you need to head north to Skjervoy.

You are not guaranteed to see any whales. This is not the fault of the tour company. They have trackers to see where the whales are, but conditions don’t always cooperate so the whales would rather hang out below the water. Just enjoy the day on the fjord and water and don’t view it as a loss as much as it will sting!

Orca in Skjervoy
Orca in Skjervoy

Don’t scream when you see a whale. When we saw whales, I think every single person on my boat decided to announce it to other corners of the planet! Just keep calm, take photos, and move aside for others to enjoy once you get your shot.

The weather is cold in Northern Norway during the winter. Obviously- I am sure you didn’t choose the destination as a tropical one. Dress accordingly, especially if you’re on a RIB boat! 

If you’re in Tromsø whale watching during December or January, you will likely not have a sunrise. If you’re photographing whales, be sure to have your low light settings ready to go as it will be slightly more difficult to photograph them if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Is Whale Watching Ethical?

If whale watching is done correctly, it should merely be humans on a boat from afar marveling at these stunning and majestic creatures. 

In Tromsø, there is a rule that says that only three boats can be in the fjord at a time whale watching. There is also a rule that you must approach the whales in a certain way and can not chase them.

Because the demand to see the cetaceans was so high many years ago (and still today), the companies started having larger boats and working together to fit everyone into one vessel.

Male feeding on herring in the Kvaenangen fjord of Skjervoy
Male feeding on herring in the Kvaenangen fjord of Skjervoy

This move was a result of the rule that only three boats could be in the fjord at a time watching the whales.

Boats must stay at least 50 meters away from whales and 100 meters away from calves.  

If your boat company does this and follows these rules, there is nothing wrong with enjoying whales in their natural habitat from afar and without any disruption to their routine.

What to Bring on your Norway Whale Watching Trip

Below are some of the things I suggest bringing with you on a Norway whale watching trip:

Whale Watching Photography Tips

Photographing whales in Norway is not the easiest task during the winter months if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Why? Well, you’re dealing with no sunlight, so you already need to know your way around a camera and low light as a starting point. 

Whale watching travel guide
Whale watching travel guide

Once you see the whales, you won’t have a lot of time to react and get photos, so you need to be fully prepared on how to shoot them before going out to sea.

If you’re on a RIB boat (or even a regular one)- it could be rocky and hard to get the photos you want. These are the pieces of equipment I recommend to have with you for your Tromsø whale watching trip. I am including the camera I have (Sony a7iii) and its lenses/equipment.

  • Your camera (the best camera you have is the one in your hand – is what everyone tells you!)
  • Zoom or telephoto lens (you’re supposed to be at a distance from the whales at all times so this helps you get that shot!)
  • Tripod (helps with low-light and rough seas!)
  • Remote (hands will get cold if uncovered)
  • Lens cleaner (if there is rain, snow, or seawater splashing up – you’ll be grateful for this!)
  • GoPro10 (great for the RIB boat tour!)

Where to Stay in Tromsø, Norway

I actually stayed at the Thon Hotel in Tromsø multiple times (listed below). I also booked a night at the Smarthotel one night, as well. The Radisson Blu is a good recommendation, too, as many tours leave from there!

If you’re looking for additional Tromsø hotels and where to stay in Tromsø, check out our linked guide.

More Norway & Tromso Travel Guides

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3 thoughts on “5 Ethical Tours for Whale Watching in Tromsø (+ FAQ Answered!)

  1. Allie says:

    Hi there! I am trying to choose the most ethical tour company to see whales with this month. You mentioned your tour guide was leaving to start her own company. Do you have more info on that? Thanks.

    • Megan Starr says:

      Hey! Unfortunately, she ended up not doing it as she moved too far south eventually (toward Trondheim) and had to stop! She had planned to do it in the Vesteralen islands I believe… however.

  2. Patricia Fiori says:

    Hello, Megan, I loved your blog, so helpfull!
    My family and I are going to Tromso in January and I was wondering if was better go from there to Bergen directly and then take the train to Oslo, or come back to Oslo from Tromso then take the train from there to Bergen. Would you have some tip to give us? Thank you, regards

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