World’s First Open Water Sanctuary for Beluga Whales Set to Open in Iceland

Beluga whale
Beluga whale | | © Mark Doliner / Flickr
Camille Buckley

While Iceland is known for spectacular opportunities to encounter whales through its many whale-watching tour operators, a new venture for whale enthusiasts is soon to open. In March 2019, Iceland is to open the world’s first whale sanctuary, a 32,000 square meter open-sea enclosure.

The sanctuary is intended for two 12 year old beluga whales named “Little White” and “Little Grey”. The whales’ current home is at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai, China where they perform for visitors. The Changfeng Ocean World has been home to the beluga whales since 2011. Beluga whales have a lifespan of 40 to 50 years old when they are living in the open sea, therefore, the plan is to have the sanctuary in Iceland as a place for them to live out the rest of their lives.

Westmann Islands

“Little White” and “Little Grey” will be the only ones of their kind living around this island in the North Atlantic, however. The natural whale visitors to Iceland are the Sperm whale, Fin whale, Blue whale, Minke whale, Orca, and Humpback whale.

The whales will live in a bay off the Westmann Islands to the south of Iceland and will, in fact, be in the location of the shooting for the 1993 film starring the Orca whale, Keiko, Free Willy. The new habitat in the clean and clear waters of the North Atlantic will hopefully provide a more healthy environment than the concrete tank where they currently live in Shanghai.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.