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Comparisons: Whale watching tours in Tromso, Norway

Small inflatable boat in Tromso for a whale watching tour in Norway

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Tromso in Norway is undoubtedly one of the best places to go on a whale watching tour in the world. In the arctic waters in between the fjords and mountains, orcas, humpback whales and more are found here. Looking for these majestic creatures is definitely one of the best things to do here during the winter months.

On a clear day, you can almost see this far away from the Sherpatrappa viewpoint overlooking Tromso and the surrounding fjord lands to the northeast.

When you travel to a destination that has many companies offering a similar tour (like Tromso), it can become overwhelming trying to decide which tour you should take.

That’s why I’m here today, to try and give you some clarity in comparing 5 slightly different tour companies so you can pick and choose the best one for your needs.

If you’d like to check out my experience on one of the standard whale watching tour experiences you can check out this post. It’ll go more in-depth about the planned itinerary and what you can expect.

Currency:Norwegian Krona, NOK
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Whale watching season

You should bear in mind that the whale watching season in Tromso, Norway is during the winter. This means that there are significantly fewer hours of daylight throughout the season. If you arrive between late November and January you will even be in the region during “polar night” where the sun does not go above the horizon.

The months for whale watching are between October and January each year.

The window for whale watching in Tromso (and Norway in general) is relatively small. This means it is definitely worth planning ahead if whale watching is a top priority for your trip.

Want to see the northern lights during your stay in Tromso? Check out these quick tips.

Plus, if you want to stay connected throughout your time in Norway, consider getting an eSIM as they can be downloaded to your phone instead of being delivered to your accommodation.

Whale watching tours in Tromso Norway

Since Tromso is one of the best locations in the world to see whales, it can be hard to know which tour to pick. If you have deep pockets and a love for wildlife, there’s nothing to say you can’t check out more than one tour, but most visitors to Tromso (not all) just pick one.

After spending some time in this arctic wonderland taking tours, becoming friends with the local guides as well as doing my own research, I was able to grasp the differences between multiple tours that all offer whale watching tours in Tromso, Norway.

Did you know? Whales are not the only arctic animals found near Tromso. You can even hang out with reindeer at a Sami camp 20 minutes from the city centre!

Me on the ferry tour boat looking for whales on a whale watching tour in Tromso, Norway
Me standing by the boat railing when on a whale watching tour

Large group whale & arctic tour

  • Book the tour here: Whale & arctic – whale tour
  • Tour operator: Norwegian Travel Company
  • Cost of tour: £122.12 per person
  • Length of tour: 5-7 hours roughly

Meeting point: Stortorget 1, 9008 Tromsø, Norway. Guests need to be at the meeting point between 8.30 am and 8.55 am in order for the boat to depart at 9 am. The tour will end at the same place.

This whale watching tour in Tromso takes place on a large ferry-like boat for up to 100 passengers. It sounds like a lot but the boat is large enough that there are plenty of places for people to be without being on top of each other or too crowded.

Even though there is lots of space. If you are late to spotting an orca, you may be competing with other guests to see it.

Guests are allowed to help themselves to free cups of coffee, tea and hot chocolate throughout the voyage which is great for warming up in the Arctic. The friendly guides on this tour are all very well-educated when it comes to whales and their migration pattern in the area. You’ll experience a small presentation about the local wildlife as well as a safety talk so you’re prepared.

There is a small shop on board for guests to purchase some extra snacks or lunch. Plus, you will be able to take advantage of the included arctic thermal outfits that guests are welcome to wear!

Because the boat is so much larger than some of the others available for tours, it does not get AS close to the whales as some of the smaller boats. This is due to not wanting to disturb the animals in their environment.

A small RIB boat on a whale watching tour in Tromso Norway, driving past the fjords and mountains
Arctic Explorers RIB boat driving through the arctic sea past the mountains

RIB boat whale watching tour near Skjervoy

  • Book the tour here: Whale watching by RIB tour
  • Tour operator: Arctic Explorers
  • Cost of tour: £253.87
  • Length of tour: 12 hours roughly

Meeting point: Scandic Ishavshotel, Fredrik Langes gate 2, 9008 Tromsø, Norway. This tour begins at 5.30 am so you will need to be at the meeting point no later than 5.15 am so the tour can leave on time.

Whether you are a guest at the hotel or not, you will be able to access the lobby so you don’t need to stand in the cold while you wait.

The tour will take you out near Skjervoy island, which is about 2-3 hours from Tromso. This tour is conducted in what is called a RIB boat which is basically a small inflatable one. It is significantly smaller than other boats available for whale watching tours around Tromso and holds no more than 12 people at a time.

Due to the smaller vessel and faster speed, you are able to get much closer to where the animals swim and hunt. You will be much less of a disturbance which is great for the whales.

Lunch is included in the price of the tour and due to the smaller number of people, you’ll have a more intimate experience. This means the guides will have fewer people to offer their attention to and give a more personal experience. If travelling alone, this will make it much easier to get to know the others in your group.

On this tour (compared to those in the larger boats) guests are expected to keep a life jacket on for the duration of their time on the boat. There is also a much higher chance of getting wet due to being so low to the water. Consider using a waterproof camera or case for your phone.

Orca fins cutting through the water near Skjervoy Norway on whale watching tours in Tromso
Orca fins poking through the still water near Tromso

Silent whale watching tour

  • Book the tour here: Silent whale watching
  • Tour operator: Brim Explorer
  • Cost of tour: £153.72
  • Length of tour: 7-8 hours roughly

Meeting point: Kaigata 6, 9008 Tromsø, Norway. Guests should aim to be at the Skarven Kro Restaurant by the Tromso harbour before 7.45 am. The tour is due to depart at 8 am so everyone needs to check in before then.

This boat is slightly different to the rest as they focus their entire business model on the environment with a silent engine. This engine allows the large boat to travel through the waters near where the humpback whales and orcas spend time – all without disturbing them.

By having a silent engine they are able to travel around the arctic waters as quietly as possible.

The boat has everything you could need during a tour including passionate and well-informed guides, restrooms, sitting areas and even wifi on board! The boat also has enough technology to record sounds from the whales underneath the water and capture them in photos beneath the waves.

The tour concludes back in Tromso harbour between 3 pm and 4 pm.

A group of orcas swimming past snow capped mountains spotted during a whale watching tour in Norway
A group of orcas swimming near the surface between Tromso and Skjervoy

Skjervoy whale watching tour from Tromso

Meeting point: Scandic Ishavshotel, Fredrik Langes gate 2, 9008 Tromsø, Norway. The tour needs to depart at 8 am so it is advised to be at the meeting point in advance, around 8.30-8.45 am. The tour returns to the same spot.

This tour takes you on a journey through the fjords from Tromso to Skjervoy (also known as Whale Island). This tour not only takes you to the local area where the whales and orcas are found but also teaches you about much of the wildlife in the process.

The Tromso – Skjervoy whale watching tour includes lunch and snacks in the price which is one less thing to worry about taking with you. Plus, it is one of the larger style boats so you will likely be with more people to have a chat with when looking for whales.

You’ll have the option to enjoy whale watching from inside a heated lobby in the centre of the boat with large windows or stand outside on the deck to get a real arctic experience. You can expect the typical amenities on this boat such as bathrooms and refreshments to make your voyage more comfortable.

You will have enthusiastic and passionate guides on this boat tour.

The tail of a humpback whale cutting through the waves in front of a mountain in Norway
A humpback whale fin (the camera looks blurry as it was a little foggy this day)

Sailing boat arctic safari

  • Book the tour here: Arctic Sail Safari
  • Tour operator: Pukka Travels
  • Cost of tour: £152.12
  • Length of tour: 5-6 hours roughly

Meeting point: Kirkegata 1, 9008 Tromsø, Norway. The meeting begins at 9 am sharp outside Pukka Travel. You should be able to meet your skipper or guide for 30 minutes before the tour begins.

With no more than 12 passengers, this is another tour option that is great for avoiding crowds. This tour heads out on a sailing boat so you will have less deck space to stand on, but the inside is more comfortable than other large boats. They have comfortable “trampolines” which are also known as loft nets, for guests to sit comfortably while looking for whales.

One feature that makes this tour a little different from the rest (other than the boat type) is that the guides will often help you try arctic fishing. This is a fun way to spend your time while waiting for the whales to show up and can keep you distracted from the cold.

Plus, if you’re new to fishing it’s an interesting activity to tick off of your arctic to-do list.

After a few hours looking for and admiring the sea life, you will then be finishing the tour around 2 pm back at the same place you met the skipper in the morning.

Where should you stay in Tromso?

Even though some of these tours head out to Skjervoy or other islands in the area, all of them meet at locations in the centre of Tromso. This means it makes the most sense to stay at an accommodation nearby – especially when starting a tour early in the morning.

For budget or solo travellers, I’d recommend checking HostelWorld for Aurora’s friend’s apartment as it is regularly more competitive in price. It is basic but with everything, you will need and is a great place to meet people as it is quite sociable. Being solo travellers, most people head here and share activity recommendations with new friends.

For those who prefer luxury and want to be in the heart of town, through Booking.com you can book to stay at the Radisson Blu. This hotel is better for those who want more relaxation time and is located right next to the harbour.

How did you like your whale tour?

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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