Imagine the outer reaches of Scotland where eagles soar and puffins strut whilst harbour seals make the most of sheltered coves and dolphins dance to delight vacationmakers huddled on the beach. Now ramp that feeling up a few notches by adding polar bears, whales, walrus, sea eagles and the occasional Arctic fox and you’re getting closer to wildlife vacations in Norway. The islands of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja, offshore from one of the most northerly cities on earth, Tromsø, demand wildlife cruises in small ships while, further north, the Svalbard archipelago conjures up cliffs covered in birds and pristine pack ice where polar bears prowl as binoculars tremble. This is a world where wildlife outnumbers visitors; where midnight sun creates 24hr animal encounters; and the darkness of winter provides one of nature’s most enthralling spectacles, the Northern Lights. Explore Norway on land or at sea and be prepared to drop everything, at any time, other than your camera.

Read more in our Norway wildlife vacations travel guide.



Seeing polar bears in their natural habitat is not something to be taken lightly with ice strengthened small ships enabling expeditions close to the pack ice that surrounds the fjords and rugged coastline of North Spitsbergen within the Svalbard archipelago. Rigid inflatable boats take you deeper into the ice filled fringes of the Arctic Ocean with expert, knowledgeable guides on hand to lead and offer important insights into the untouched Arctic wilderness which they understand like the back of their mitted hand.
Nothing is guaranteed when wildlife watching in Norway although venturing north, at the right time of year, on a well organised tour, certainly increases chances of success with walrus, blue whales, minke, reindeer, Arctic foxes and bearded seals all to be found during the summer season.

Wildlife watching south of Svalbard still allows for small ship cruising or guesthouses on dry land as well as hiking expeditions over the mountains, tundra and along the deserted beaches of the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands where bird nesting colonies on remote rocks make for fascinating day trips. A warm Gulf Stream encourages an abundance of skrei (cod) and herring which, in turn, attracts sperm whales from May to Sept as well as humpbacks, orcas and porpoise which can often be seen afloat during special nocturnal excursions, making the most of the midnight sun.
Wildlife watching in Norway requires a sense of adventure where taking pleasure from being outdoors in some of Europe’s most unspoiled and captivating natural surroundings is reward enough and catching a glimpse of Arctic animals in their natural habitat is an added bonus.

Thermal layers, camera, binoculars, waterproofs and swimmers (for winter saunas or summer dips) are basically all you need although you will be provided with a full list of packing and responsible wildlife watching instructions which are worth following – to the letter.
Finally, if you’re in any doubt as to what a wildlife watching vacation in Norway entails, please read on or get in touch with Responsible Travel for more information because there’s nothing that’s left to add other than you, in Norway, on the best wildlife watching vacation ever.




Norwegians do winter rather well with saunas, fish soup and chunky jumpers keeping out the cold whilst snowmobiles, huskies and snowshoes negotiate snow-covered lumps and bumps. Another warming factor that handily coincides with orca and humpback whale watching in Nov and Jan is the Arctic’s natural light display. Experiencing the Northern Lights at any point is a lucky and magical moment but from a safe anchorage in a Norwegian fjord or on a dog-sledding tour on the Finnmark Plateau, is incredibly tough to top.
Norway’s Lofoten Islands are an absolutely stunning setting for wildlife watchers interested in photography with winter and summer tours offering contrasting colour configurations against a backdrop of isolated fishing villages, smooth rock formations and wildlife-filled bays. Summer boat trips let you access steep sided fjords such as Trollfjorden in order to capture images of white-tailed eagles at extremely close quarters whilst snow-capped mountains, deserted beaches and the Aurora Borealis ensure the naturally low lighting of winter is anything but dull.
Norway may not boast the Big Five but it does hold wonderful stomping grounds for walking safaris with Fulufjellet National Park an incredible protected area to search for signs of lynx, wolf and wolverine whilst golden eagles soar overhead. Camping out in Fulufjellet, in several locations, is the best way to really envelope yourself within the natural world and woe betide the careless camper when bears, moose and wood ants abound.


Stick to dry land. It’s all very well wildlife watching on the mainland but set sail amongst the fjords and nature reserves surrounding the islands of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja, and you’ll be able to place puffins, seals and sea eagles in much sharper contrast. Sea kayaking and are more alternatives to sticking to dry land and if you’re hoping to get all at sea and witness wildlife in some phenomenal untouched environments then small ship cruises are the way forward.
Stay south. The best advice is to get as far north as possible because although the fjords and towns of the south are all rather nice, nothing matches life above the Arctic Circle. Svalbard, especially, is just astonishing with opportunities to watch walrus, Arctic foxes and polar bears from a safe distance. Alternatively discover the Northern Lights and Sami culture within the northernmost region of Finnmark.
If you’re going to watch wildlife in Norway, please don’t be tempted to ‘cheat’ and visit a zoo. Bergen has one such venue but in our opinion, animal conditions are cramped at best, and certainly not in keeping with the norms that dictate many other aspects of Norwegian society. Get out into the wild with a guide; camp under the stars; cruise past whales, porpoise and dolphins; just don’t be tempted to duck out of the unpredictability of nature in favour of something a lot more contrived.
Photo credits: [Topbox: Christopher Michel] [Entail: subherwal] [Entail: Christopher Michel] [Helpdesk: Erik F. Brandsborg]
Written by Chris Owen
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