Best Whale Watching Vacations

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Seeing whales in the wild is one of the most awe-inspiring sights the natural world has to offer. It’s no wonder whale watching vacations are on so many travelers’ wish lists.

From the mysterious blue whales of the Galapagos to humpback whales in Canada, these magnificent mammals are among the most fascinating of all the wondrous creatures on our planet. You can even see whales here in the UK, with playful orcas often spotted off the coast of Scotland.

Joining an expert-led group trip, like our unique Antarctic Expedition, will give you the best chance of seeing these animals in their natural habitats. Expedition teams working in these areas are equipped with the best local knowledge to ensure you have the best chance of seeing these incredible creatures.

They track and study the habits of whales and know where they are most likely to be sighted at different times of the year. Traveling with experts on your whale watching vacation means you can rest assured that these intelligent and often social animals are respected and not disturbed.

Seeing these animals in the wild is a memorable experience. There are also many amazing sights and tours to choose from and to help you out we’ve rounded up some of the best destinations for a whale watching vacation…

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Antarctic

Antarctica is home to a variety of whale species, with humpback whales being the most commonly seen, followed by minke.

Killer whales are also common here, and they are believed to be the only species of whale that breeds in Antarctic waters.

It’s a stunning and peaceful spot for whale watching, with towering icebergs as a backdrop. The best way to see whales here is on an expert-led trip, where an expedition team can take you on a zodiac inflatable boat to get you up close with the whales.

You can watch these graceful creatures drift a few feet below your zodiac or, if you’re lucky, follow a group of playful orcas as they leap and dive into the icy waters.

Whale watching period: End of October to March

How to visit: Country Living’s 15-day Antarctica tour will take you through the frigid waters of the Drake Passage to the Arctic Peninsula as you travel through seas home to whales, pods of orcas and seals.

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Scotland

23 incredible species of whales, porpoises and dolphins live or swim in the waters of Scotland’s stunning beaches. One of the best places to spot some of these species is on the coast of the Outer Hebrides.

The Hebrides are an archipelago of hundreds of islands of rugged beauty, renowned for their wildlife. There’s the tiny Isle of Iona, where you can occasionally see whales crashing in the sheltered waters of the Sound of Mull.

You can also choose to visit the uninhabited island of Hirta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you will have the chance to see minke whales swimming offshore.

Whale watching period: May to September

How to visit: Country Living offers an 11-day island-hopping tour of the Hebrides, where you’ll see many of these beautiful islands and have plenty of time to spot wildlife.

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Norway

The Norwegian fjords north of Tromsø are known as one of the best places in the world to see killer whales in the wild. These killer whales are permanent residents of Norway, but they spend a lot of time traveling the country’s beautiful fjords in search of herring.

These arctic waters are also home to beluga whales. These extraordinary whales are intelligent and curious and are difficult to confuse with other species due to their striking white color.

Belugas are very social and confident, often swimming alongside boats and putting on quite a show.

Whale watching period: May to September

How to visit: Country Living offers a 12-day expedition to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, where you can experience Arctic wilderness at its best.

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Madeira

Madeira’s location in the North Atlantic means it is ideal for spotting certain species of whales as they pass through their migratory routes.

The only species present all year round on this beautiful Portuguese archipelago are the sperm whales. You can spot adult sperm whales any time of the year, but during the summer months you might get lucky and spot small family groups swimming with cute young calves.

Whale watching period: April to October

How to visit: Country Living offers an eight-day tour of Madeira to coincide with its famous Flower Festival.

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Alaska

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a network of waterways winding through the fjords and vast forests of the largest state in the United States.

It is also home to humpback whales and killer whales, which can best be spotted as you sail past impressive fjords, glaciers, lakes and mountains.

There are thought to be around 500 humpback whales living here, and you might be lucky enough to hear the sound of the males singing their weird and mysterious songs or performing an acrobatic show in an attempt to win over a friend.

Whale watching period: May to September

South Africa

South Africa is one of the best destinations in the world for whale watching holidays. Each year pods of humpback and southern right whales visit the waters along the south coast from Cape Town to Mossel Bay.

There are certain places, like Plettenberg Bay, where you can spot whales all year round, especially Bryde’s whales, which thrive in the warmer waters.

The center of whale watching in South Africa is Hermanus, a seaside town southeast of Cape Town. The whales are so important to this area that it hosts an annual whale festival when thousands of visitors descend on the town to celebrate the return of the southern right whales to the coast.

Whale watching period: July to December

Iceland

Iceland’s unique geography makes it a fantastic place to see whales in the wild. Cold and warm currents cross the waters of the island and combine near the majestic fjords. This mix of currents makes Icelandic waters a perfect haven for whales.

Shallower waters teem with fish and krill, and plankton thrive in the midnight sun in warmer waters, meaning there’s always a feast for these amazing animals.

There are around 23 different species of whales that you can observe in Icelandic waters. Humpback whales are among the most frequently sighted – these large whales are known to be show-offs and will often leap out of the water to create a splash and impress passing boats.

Whale watching period: April to October

Galapagos

The UNESCO-protected Galápagos Islands are renowned for their diverse fauna, which inspired Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution after spending five weeks there.

This volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is still considered one of the best places in the world for wildlife viewing, and there are amazing creatures to see in the surrounding waters, as well as on land, along with whales. de Bryde, sperm whales, killer whales and dolphins to spot.

The largest animal in the world, the impressive blue whale, can regularly be spotted in Galapagos waters.

Whale watching period: june to november

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