Iceland is one of the youngest land masses in the world. Shaped by 2 competing forces, the lava that exploded to cover the sea bed and the glaciers which burrowed and grooved the land. The Westman Islands, known locally as Vestmannaeyjar is one such group of islands. Known most infamously for the 1973 volcano eruption of Eldfell which destroyed 25% of the island’s infrastructure and narrowly missing the the main arrival harbor.
Heimaey [pr: hay may] is main village and home to 4100 Icelanders and where are all ferry’s arrive. Heimay was almost completely wiped off the map back in ’73. You can literally see where the lava flow stopped along one of the avenues reaching over 30 feet in height. The townspeople have built a series of paths on top of the flow marking important structures destroyed in the volcanoes fury. It’s great for hiking as well as surveying the land and marking the distinct characteristics of the molten lava as it spread across the island. The city is very walkable and the more fortified traveler can even walk straight up to Eldfell, and see some incredible views of Heimaey, the harbor and the main cemetery.
Things to Do
- Eldfell, the volcano that blew its top and see the resulting lava fields + there is a small open air museum (free admission) burrowed deep into the lava where they have started to excavate the houses buried in the 30 + feet of flow.
- Hiking- paths crisscross all over the island and on top the flow from the 1973 eruption
- Rock climbing– Westman Island is a terrific place to see Puffins.
- Whale watching- tours are available for arrivals
- Golf- The island is home to a full and highly rated 18 hole course. Midnight tee times available in the summer.
- Westman Island Tour- 90 minute tour of the island and volcano. Some tours operators include lava stone baked bread.
The most popular way to arrive is by ferry service, 45-1hr from the mainland. There are 2 departure locations, Landeyjahöfn & Þorlákshöfn. The ferry is quite nice with a cinema showing episodes of Friends and plenty of cushy seating to relax. Reserve early for ferry service as it tends to fill up quickly and go without your car as they really makes the price skyrocket. Website for booking tickets is: www.herjolfur.is
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