Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are important components of the tumor microenvironment, which are characterized by pro-tumor M2 phenotype and correlate with poor survival of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) plays a crucial role in macrophage polarization toward M2 phenotype, but its prognosis significance in NPC has been rarely determined. To gain insights into the HO-1 expression profile and to determine the clinical significance of HO-1 in NPC, we performed immunohistochemistry analyses in 126 NPC specimens. CD163, a highly specific marker of M2 macrophages, was used as a surrogate for the polarization state of TAMs. Our results showed that high expression of HO-1 and CD163 were detected in TAMs for 57.9% (73/126) and 61.9% (78/126) of the studied patients, and both of them were significantly associated with worse survival. Additionally, a significant correlation between the intensities of HO-1 and CD163 was identified, and HO-1 exhibited a superior ability in predicting survival compared with CD163. Our study revealed for the first time that overexpression of HO-1 characterized a poor-prognosis subtype in NPC. Individualized therapy targeting HO-1 might serve as a promising treatment modality for NPC.