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Orcas and Aurora

from £1866 excluding flights

  • 4 nights
  • Feb


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Search for orcas on a two included boat trips from Olafsvik

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Countryside location for viewing the northern lights

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Explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula’s stunning coast and volcanoes

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Learn about local history on a guided village walk

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Look out for seabirds such as gannet, fulmar and eider

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Encounter white-beaked dolphins

Why this trip...

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Your guide

This holiday is led by an award-winning guide

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Like-minded travellers

Share your travel experiences with fellow travellers

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This itinerary has a strong focus on wildlife and natural habitat conservation, one of our pillars of sustainability


When vast shoals of overwintering herring gather along the coast of West Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula, it’s one of the best places for an unforgettable orca watching experience. Based in the colourful fishing town of Stykkisholmur, this small-group holiday led by Wanderlust award-winning guides puts you in prime position for whale watching, enjoying spectacular scenery and, with luck, witnessing the northern lights.

The best place to see orca in Iceland

During the late winter into spring, 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 time of year also typically brings more stable weather, producing better conditions out at sea and longer hours of daylight for whale watching.

Our boat trips are often rewarded by incredible close encounters with these mesmerising cetaceans and our expert wildlife guides will shed light on their behaviour as well as help you identify 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

You are in a prime location for witnessing the northern lights in this rural location, away from the big city lights. If the aurora borealis appears, you may only need to step outside to witness the shimmering curtains of green and white light. And travelling in the period around the spring equinox often means more active aurora. Seasoned aurora hunters and photographers, our guides will explain the science behind the magic, and help you capture the phenomenon with your camera.

Expert guides

Experienced guides Cathy Harlow and Alexa Kershaw have been leading this holiday since 2012. Both have been highly commended in Wanderlust magazine’s World Guide Awards and add something extra special to an already thrilling itinerary. With their in-depth knowledge, good humour and meticulous attention to detail you can be sure they will go the extra mile to make this a holiday to remember. See more under ‘Our Guides’ tab.

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 snow capped 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.


On arrival at Keflavik Airport meet your driver and guide and transfer to the small fishing town of Stykkisholmur on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula – a drive of around 3 hours. Check into your accommodation for 4 nights. Get acquainted with the group over a delicious welcome dinner this evening and keep an eye out for the northern lights.

Fransiskus Hotel

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fransiskus hotel lobby

Located by the harbour in Stykkisholmur on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, this hotel is the site of an original monastery, founded by three catholic nuns in the 1930's

Read more

Start the morning with a whale watching boat trip from Olafsvik. The length of the trip depends on whale sightings but usually lasts around 3 hours and if unsuccessful, don’t worry you’ll have another boat trip on day 4! After lunch (payable locally) enjoy some free time to explore the area.

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After breakfast set off on the road for a full day tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the company of a knowledgeable driver and your expert 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’.

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Enjoy a morning at leisure to relax or explore Stykkisholmur’s colourful houses and busy harbour. This afternoon you’ll return to Olafsvik for second opportunity to cruise in search of orca. Don’t forget to look out for white-beaked dolphin & seabirds too!

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After breakfast, you’ll leave Stykkisholmur and head back to the airport with a stop en-route in Reykjavik, which includes 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.

The appearance of orca around the coast 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 (non whale watching) arrangements may be made.

Your Guides

Both Cathy and Alexa have been highly commended in Wanderlust magazine’s World Guide Awards.

cathy harlow

Cathy Harlow

A true Iceland expert, Cathy has worked as a guide in Iceland for 30 years, is author of the Horizon Visitors’ Guide to Iceland and contributor to several other publications on travel on the island. She has worked 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.

Sometimes working alongside orca research teams, she has 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. Read Cathy’s profile

“It’s hard to describe a typical day on one of our trips. You often see orcas cruising offshore, or, out on the boat, be circled by several pods of whales gorging on herring in the fjord. While the adults are hunting, the youngsters often play, rolling around, slapping their tails on the surface and even popping up to have a look at the people on the boat”

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Alexa Kershaw

Fascinated by wildlife since childhood, Alexa began studying cetaceans off the west coast of Scotland for her Masters degree in Ecological Management 20 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 North and Baltic Seas, photo-id studies in South Africa and New Zealand, aerial surveys in Australia and Belize and a 5,000nm research voyage crossing the Atlantic.

Alexa is a keen wildlife photographer, passionate about conservation, and combines 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. Read Alexa’s profile

Prices and Departures

Price from £1866 excluding flights

Airfares vary widely and are quoted separately to the holiday price, starting from around £250pp return with Icelandair and British Airways, though may be lower with Play or EasyJet. We'll provide the best fare available at the time of enquiry, which tend to be cheaper the earlier you book.

UK Airports with flights direct to Iceland are Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. We can also arrange flights from non-UK destinations. Discover more »

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
  • Breakfast throughout, one evening meal
  • Expert guide throughout
  • Two whale watching boat trips
  • Excursions as per itinerary
  • Services of driver
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection

Prices in £ per person

These are starting prices based on two sharing standard rooms with private facilities, unless otherwise stated.

Departure Duration Twin Price Single Price Tour Status
14 Feb 2024 4 nights £1,866 £2,251 Guaranteed
28 Feb 2024 4 nights £1,866 £2,251 Guaranteed

Group Size

This escorted group requires a minimum of 10 participants in order to operate, and will have a maximum of 16.

Note: on occasion tours may operate with less than the minimum number of participants specified above (or exceed the maximum number indicated) – please refer to our booking conditions for more details

Tailor made trips

As independent destination specialists, we are able to tailor make holidays to suit you, be that customising the itineraries shown on this website or creating something bespoke.


Travelling sustainably

We believe travel is about finding the right balance between minimising our impact on the environment and broadening minds through new experiences and cultural interaction.