Ultimate Guide to Whale Watching in Tromso

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verificationVerified Expert

    The stunning Arctic city of Tromso is one of the most popular destinations for whale watching in Norway. Known for its stunning snowy landscapes, Tromso is the largest city in Northern Norway and is located on the island of Tromsoya, just off the coast of the Norwegian mainland.

    Tromso’s location on an islet above the Arctic Circle makes it an amazing place to spot the Northern Lights and Midnight Sun, as well as one of the best whale watching destinations in Norway. Let's explore all you need to know about whale watching in Tromso, including the best time to see whales in Tromso, which whales you can spot and the best whale watching tours you can choose from.

    Is Tromso Good for Whale Watching?

    The city of Tromso is surrounded by fjords, where several whale species migrate to during the winter season. Therefore, the city is one of the best places in Norway for whale watching. When herring spawn here, many whales are attracted to the fjords around Tromso to enjoy a tasty meal.

    Tromso offers one of the best locations in the world to see whales in their natural habitat among untouched natural surroundings. With one of the world’s best-preserved natural areas, the clear waters surrounding the glistening metropolis of Tromso make an ideal location for a picturesque whale watching experience.

    whale watching tromso

    Types of Whales You Can See in Tromso

    When whale watching in Tromso, you’re most likely to see orcas and humpback whales, as well as fin whales and harbor porpoises if you’re lucky. Let’s take a closer look at some of the whale species you’re likely to encounter around Tromso.


    Also known as killer whales, orcas are the world’s largest species of dolphin and are renowned for their striking black and white coloration. If you’re wondering where to spot orcas in Norway, Tromso is the place to be. As highly social animals that often travel in pods, you’re likely to be able to spot more than one orca on your whale watching tour in Tromso.

    Orcas are very commonly found in the waters around Tromso due to the large herring population here in winter – one of their favorite foods! Herring come to the coastal waters of Norway, including the Tromso region, to spawn, making Tromso one of the best places to see orcas in Norway.

    Orcas in Tromso

    Humpback Whales

    Another of the most common whales you're likely to encounter on a whale watching tour in Tromso is the mighty humpback. Humpback whales are known for their impressive acrobatic displays, such as breaching (when a whale propels its body out of the water) and tail slapping.

    These massive mammals live in every one of the world’s oceans and have one of the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth, swimming over 8,000 kilometers searching for fertile feeding grounds. In summer, humpbacks give birth in the warm waters of the Caribbean, before heading up north in search of fish during winter. This is when you’ll be able to spot these colossal sea giants around Tromso.

    norwegian whales

    Harbor Porpoises

    A small whale species, harbor porpoises are primarily found in coastal areas and are spread throughout the oceans of the Northern Hemisphere. On your Tromso whale watching tour, you’re fairly likely to be able to spot a harbor porpoise – look out for their little grey heads!

    Harbor porpoises whales

    Fin Whales

    The second-largest animal on Earth behind the blue whale, fin whales are mighty sea giants that you may be able to spot on your whale watching tour in Tromso. These mega mammals earned the nickname ‘razorback’ due to the distinct ridge on their back behind the dorsal fin. Not as abundant as orcas and humpbacks in Tromso’s waters, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled to spot an elusive fin whale here.

    best time to see whales

    What is the Best Time of Year for Whale Watching in Tromso?

    The best time to see whales in Norway is during winter, as the whale watching season in Norway runs from October to February for the mainland. However, it’s important to note that whales can be actually observed around the island of Svalbard from late spring to early autumn.

    Whale watching season in Tromso is generally from November to January. During this period, humpback whales, orcas and sometimes even fin whales can be spotted in the waters around Tromso. By February, the whales have generally left the waters around Tromso.

    Where to See Whales in Tromso

    Just north of Tromso is the sea area of Skjervoy, where the whales go to hunt fish. Here, you have an amazing chance of spotting different species of whales gliding through the crystal clear waters and engaging in their feeding rituals. A Tromso whale watching tour will take you right into the prime whale territory for the best chance of viewing these magnificent mammals for yourself.

    Whale watching in Tromso

    Whale Watching Tromso Tours

    Several tour operators in Tromso offer whale watching excursions. These tours typically last for a few hours and take you out into the fjords where the whales are known to swim. However, you can also find tours that last for several days if you’re a keen adventurer! 

    One of the best things about taking a whale watching Tromso tour is that you’ll have an experienced guide on board to share interesting information and stories about the whales and their behavior. Some tours even offer hydrophone systems to listen to the whales' underwater vocalizations! Here are some of our favorite whale watching Tromso tours to explore:

    • Swimming with Orcas in Norway – If you’ve always dreamt of swimming with orcas, this is the tour for you. Swim with the Norwegian orcas on this once-in-a-lifetime expedition in Tromso. You can choose between a 3 or 6 day tour for your Norwegian orca experience and you’ll be in a small group of 12 fellow whale watchers.
    • Whale Watching Fjord Cruise – Glide along the serene waters of the fjords around Tromso as you spot the mighty whales in their natural habitat. Lasting 8 to 9 hours, this whale watching fjord cruise allows you to get up close to the whales among the most spectacular landscapes.
    • Silent Whale Watching Tour – Visit the Norwegian whales in a boat with a silent electric engine, causing minimal disturbance to these beautiful sea creatures and giving you the best chance to witness the whales swimming in the sea. An onboard hydrophone allows you to experience sounds and images of the whales during this 7 to 8 hour tour.
    • RIB Boat Whale Watching in Tromso – This tour takes you in a small RIB boat with 4 to 12 passengers on a 12 hour tour to see the whales near Skjervoy. Enjoy panoramic views of amazing natural scenery as you spend a day at sea with the whales!

    norwegian orcas

    Top Tips for Whale Watching in Tromso

    Make your Tromso whale watching trip the best possible experience with our handy tips to help you get fully prepared. When planning your whale watching experience in Tromso, we recommend keeping these important things in mind:

    • Choose a responsible whale watching tour company – It's crucial to choose a responsible whale watching operator that follows ethical guidelines for approaching and observing the whales. These guidelines prioritize the wellbeing and conservation of the animals. Respect for the whales' natural behavior and maintaining a safe distance are important measures to avoid disturbing them. Generally, smaller boats are better, as these disturb the whales less.
    • Wrap up warm with waterproof layers – You can expect snow and chilly weather when visiting Norway in winter. As an Arctic city in the very north of this Nordic nation, Tromso experiences cold temperatures throughout the year. When out at sea looking for whales, it can be particularly cold, so it's important to dress appropriately with warm layers. We recommend wearing a padded waterproof jacket, thermal layers, hat, gloves and sturdy footwear.
    • Check before you set out – Remember that weather conditions and whale behavior can vary, so it's advisable to check with local tour operators or visitor centers for the most up-to-date information about whale watching opportunities during your visit to Tromso. You can also check the local Tromso weather forecast online.

    Whale watching rib tour

    • Bring your camera in a waterproof case – Make sure to pack your camera to capture the amazing sight of these magnificent marine mammals swimming, playing and feeding in the water. You’ll need a waterproof case to protect your electronic gear and we also recommend bringing spare batteries as they tend to run out quicker in the cold weather.
    • Schedule your day to make the most of the limited daylight winter hours – It’s important to note that whale watching tours in Tromso only take place in the winter months, which is when daylight hours are most limited. Whale watching tours that depart in the morning will give you the most time to enjoy the lightness outside. But don’t worry, it’s not pitch black all the time; you’ll experience a lot of ‘civil twilight’, which is when the sky looks light and hazy but without the sun shining, such as just before the sun sets or rises. Seeing the whales swim among gorgeous pinks and purples in the sky is so beautiful!
    • Book your whale watching Tromso tour ahead of time – Whale watching in Tromso is a very popular activity for tourists. Most boats are fairly small to give you the best experience and avoid disturbing the whales, meaning places book up quickly. Guarantee your spot by reserving your whale watching Tromso tour tickets ahead of time. Most tour operators offer online tickets and require booking.

    Get Set For Your Tromso Whale Watching Adventure!

    Excited for your own whale watching Tromso adventure? Wrap up warm and get set for your trip to Norway, complete with whale watching tour, Northern Lights hunting and fjord cruise! Sounds good? Book your Norway campervan rental now to allow you to travel around our spectacular country freely, following wherever your heart leads you. One thing’s for sure – it’ll be an experience you’ll remember forever!

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