When vast shoals of overwintering herring gather along the coast of West Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula, large pods of orca are rarely far behind. Based in the peaceful hamlet of Hellnar, this expert-guided small-group holiday puts you in prime position for witnessing an orca feeding frenzy, as well as spectacular scenery and, with luck, the northern lights.
- Two whale watching boat trips in search of orca, white-beaked dolphin and seabirds such as gannet, fulmar and eider
- Stay in a countryside hotel with views of mountain and sea
- Learn about wildlife and the northern lights from our award-winning guides
- Full-day tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula’s stunning coast and volcanoes
- Search for the northern lights at Hellnar away from light pollution
The best place to see orca in Iceland
From mid-December to mid-April, the coastal waters of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula are often teeming with herring – a food bounty which can attract large pods of killer whales, dolphins and numerous seabirds. This holiday is based in the ancient fishing village of Hellnar where it is not uncommon to see orca from shore! Our boat trips are often rewarded by incredible close encounters with these mesmerizing cetaceans – our expert wildlife guides will shed light on their behaviour and help you identify dolphins and seabirds.
Renowned whale and dolphin researcher Erich Hoyt believes this is the “best place in the world to see killer whales in winter”. We’ve been fortunate to have many orca research teams and cetacean experts join this trip, including zoologist and TV presenter Mark Carwardine.
Northern lights watching in Hellnar
Staying in a hotel at the remote tip of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, far from any artificial light pollution, you are in a prime location for witnessing the northern lights on this holiday. If the aurora borealis appears, you only need to step outside to witness the shimmering curtains of green and turquoise light. Experienced aurora hunters and photographers, our guides will explain the science behind the magic, and help you capture the phenomenon with your camera.
Highlights of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Not just for whale enthusiasts or aurora seekers, this holiday is a perfect opportunity to enjoy some of Iceland’s most dramatic scenery. Dominated by the snowcapped peak of a 1,446m-tall volcano, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula has black-sand beaches, blowholes and basalt sea stacks. Wildlife includes Arctic foxes (tricky to spot in their white winter coats) and white-tailed eagles, while the region is rich in culture, with everything from troll legends to turf-roofed houses.
Group sizes are usually around 15-25 people (maximum 25)
Cathy and Alexa were so wonderful - 24 hours of every day nothing was too much trouble - their enthusiasm was contagious!Rosalind & Kevin Carter, Killer Whales & Northern Lights
We saw more orcas than people and the northern lights were absolutely spectacular... we could not have wished for more.Kim Savage & Lizz Whitehouse, Killer Whales & Northern Lights
Within hours of arriving we were treated to an unbelievable display in the sky with the aurora welcoming us in the most spectacular way, dancing across the sky, illuminating the fjord and surrounding snow covered mountains.Michael Claassen, Killer Whales & Northern Lights
Itinerary & Accommodation
- Day 1: arrive Iceland
- On arrival at Keflavik Airport meet your driver and guide and transfer to the remote village of Hellnar on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula - a drive of around 3 hours. Check into Fosshotel Hellnar for 4 nights, including a three-course evening meal each night (set menu - chef's choice).
- Day 2: whale watching
- Morning whale watching trip from Grundarfjordur (starting at approximately 10:00 - subject to change locally). The length of the boat trip depends on whale sightings (usually around 3 hours). Return to Grundarfjordur for lunch before the journey back to the hotel with stops en route if time allows. Get better acquainted with the group over a delicious dinner at the hotel before a relaxing evening awaiting the northern lights.
- Day 3: explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- After breakfast set off on the road for a full day tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the company of a knowledgeable driver and guide. See sweeping lava fields and the mystical Snaefellsjokull; a glacier sitting atop a sleeping volcano. This area was the setting and inspiration for Jules Verne's famous book 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'.
- Day 4: whale watching and afternoon at leisure
- Morning whale watching excursion by boat (starting at approximately 10:00 - subject to change locally). Following lunch take advantage of some free time to relax at the hotel or to take a short hike around the local area.
- Day 5: depart Iceland
- Leave Hellnar after breakfast and drive back to the airport with a stop en-route in Reykjavik with time to explore at your leisure. Say your goodbyes to the guide and the rest of the group, then check in for the late afternoon flight.
- This itinerary is based around flights which arrive at Keflavik at 16:00. Other flight options are available from the UK but may involve a short wait upon arrival in Iceland or require extra nights to be added in Iceland before and/or after the tour. Please contact our team of travel specialists to discuss the options available to you.
- Please note, the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and therefore can cause substantial delays which can result in the need to re-arrange or extend your holiday itinerary. Whilst we and our contacts in Iceland will do everything possible to minimise any disruption, it is important that you check the details of your travel insurance and allow for some flexibility in your plans.
- The appearance of the orca to the shores of Iceland is an unpredictable event. Their arrival time has varied from year to year and we can not guarantee sightings. If the orca are not in the region at the time of your visit, alternative arrangements may be made.
Accommodation OptionsThis itinerary is based on the hotels shown below in rooms with private facilities. We offer a wide range of accommodation from farms to self catering cottages, budget hotels to luxury properties, ask our Iceland experts for recommendations.
Prices & Dates
2018 Departure Dates
Prices are in £ per person based on rooms with private facilities, unless otherwise stated.
|Prices for 2018||Duration||Two sharing||Single|
|Fosshotel Hellnar (Full Board)||4 nights||£1,471||£1,677|
Prices include flight credit of £150*, transfers as per itinerary; 4 nights on full board in rooms with private facilities at Fosshotel Hellnar (dinner is a three course set menu, lunches at a local cafe), two whale watching boat trips excursions as detailed in the itinerary; the services of a driver and guide and a Northern Lights Bradt Guide
Prices exclude travel insurance, personal expenses, tips and gratuities
* Flight credit is based on a typical airfare for a budget airline with checked in luggage and the actual cost of the flight will be shown on your quotation. This may reduce or increase the cost of your holiday.
Important note: The appearance of the orca to the shores of Iceland is an unpredictable event. Their arrival time has varied from year to year and we can not guarantee sightings. If the orca are not in the region at the time of your visit, alternative arrangements may be made.
Your expert guides
A true Iceland expert, Cathy has worked as a guide in Iceland for 25 years, is author of the Horizon Visitors' Guide to Iceland and contributor to several other publications on travel on the island. From 2006 to 2008 she worked during three winter seasons as a whale watch guide in Tysfjord and Lofoten in northern Norway, where hundreds of orcas gathered to feed on overwintering herring in the fjords.
"Taking visitors out to see orcas was the most challenging, exciting and rewarding job I've ever done."
Sometimes working alongside orca research teams, she gathered a wealth of knowledge on killer whales, one of the most enigmatic of cetaceans. Cathy has also worked as a natural history guide and tour leader in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Azores, Dominica and Bahamas.
Fascinated by wildlife since childhood, Alexa began studying cetaceans off the west coast of Scotland for her Masters degree in Ecological Management 15 years ago. After falling in love with the Hebrides, she spent many years living on the Isle of Mull, guiding whale watching trips while studying harbour porpoises and minke whales.
She has since worked as a researcher, guide, campaigner and consultant on a wide variety of marine mammal research projects, including visual and acoustic surveys in the Baltic Sea, photo-id of cetaceans in South Africa and New Zealand, and an aerial survey of the Great Barrier Reef.
Alexa is a keen wildlife photographer, passionate about conservation, and has combined her cetacean research with her love of guiding and sharing her knowledge of the marine environment. She has led whale watching trips for Discover the World in Scotland, Iceland and South Africa and is thrilled to be returning to Iceland this year.
Group sizes are usually around 15-25 people (maximum 29).
How to book
So that we may send you a personalised quote and confirmation of availability, please click on the link below and complete our Enquiry form. One of our Travel Specialists will then be in touch to complete your booking or answer any further questions you might have.
We will always offer the best price available at the time of booking and guarantee no surcharges - see our 100% Guarantee for full details.
Speak to a specialist: 01737 214 250Book this trip
Our team of Travel Specialists have extensive first-hand knowledge of our destinations and are passionate about travel.