In the event you’re on the lookout for a singular spot to go to in Iceland with unbelievable landscapes and an fascinating historical past that hasn’t been to finished to dying by each different vacationer, permit me to introduce you to Heimaey Island, one of many Westman Islands.
The Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are an archipelago off Iceland’s south coast, comprising 15 small islands fashioned by underwater volcanic eruptions. The biggest and solely inhabited island within the chain is Heimaey, which has a inhabitants of about 4300 individuals.
Westman Islands vs. Heimaey Island
“Vestmannaeyjar,” or the “Westman Islands” seek advice from the entire archipelago of volcanic islands situated off the south shore of Iceland. Heimaey Island is the most important of the Westman Islands, and is the one island that’s inhabited – and can be the primary island that vacationers can go to. (The city on the island can be simply often known as Heimaey.)
So, when somebody says “I will the Westman Islands,” they most likely imply that they’ll Heimaey. It’s normal for guests to Iceland to seek advice from Heimaey as “the Westman Islands.”
get to the Westman Islands
When you technically can fly to Vestmannaeyjar (there are each day flights from Reykjavik on Eagle Air), the preferred technique to get there may be by ferry. The ferry Herjólfur sails from the city of Landeyjahöfn on the south coast of Iceland (roughly 1 hour from the city of Vik), taking about 40 minutes to cross over to Heimaey.
The ferry is massive (it is a mixed automotive and passenger ferry that may maintain 65-70 vehicles and as much as 540 passengers), and comes full with a number of lounge areas and a small cafe onboard.
The ferry sails a minimum of 7 occasions per day between Landeyjahöfn and Heimaey throughout good climate. (Be aware that in tough winter climate, the ferry generally sails from Þorlákshöfn as an alternative.)
You’ll find extra information on ferry costs and the crusing schedule right here. (And sure, I undoubtedly advocate reserving ferry tickets prematurely should you plan to take a automotive with you!)
When to go to the Westman Islands
You possibly can go to the Westman Islands year-round because the ferry runs year-round, however summer season is excessive season right here. Not solely is the climate essentially the most favorable in the course of the summer season months, however Might-August can be when 1000’s of puffins nest on Heimaey. The truth is, extra puffins nest on this one island than in another a part of Iceland.
So if you wish to see puffins, get pleasure from lengthy days, and have the most effective likelihood of excellent climate, you will need to go to the Westman Islands in the summertime.
Issues to do within the Westman Islands (on Heimaey Island)
When you get to Heimaey, listed below are the highest issues I personally assume are value doing there:
1. Go to the Eldheimar museum
Heimaey Island has truly been inhabited for a very long time, however the defining second that modified the course of its historical past perpetually occurred within the early morning hours of January 23, 1973, when a previously-unknown volcano dubbed Eldfell (“Hill of Hearth”) erupted violently.
By means of a stroke of eerie luck, a storm the day before today had stored all of the native fishing boats in Heimaey’s harbor, and all the island’s 5300 inhabitants had been in a position to be safely evacuated from the island. Not one life was misplaced in the course of the eruption.
The Eldheimar Museum chronicles the story and aftermath of the Eldfell eruption, with the museum being constructed round a number of houses that had been buried in ash and different volcanic particles.
To totally perceive Heimaey and its individuals, you want to go to this museum and perceive the lasting impact this occasion had on the Westman Islands.
2. Hike a volcano
Talking of Eldfell, you’ll be able to hike to the highest of the volcano’s crater to see the way it (fairly actually) modified the panorama of Heimaey. The hike to the highest is a 3.2-mile loop path that has some good elevation acquire to it.
(In the event you’d favor a shorter volcano hike, it is also potential to hike to the close by Helgafell volcano crater, which is only a 1-mile loop path.)
3. Search for puffins
Like I discussed above, tons of puffins nest on Heimaey every summer season. There is a bulbous little bit of land referred to as Stórhöfði on the southern finish of Heimaey Island the place the vast majority of the puffins nest on the cliffs. There are some strolling trails up right here, in addition to just a few marked “Puffin Lookout” areas.
Through the summer season months, the puffins are tremendous straightforward to identify right here – simply be quiet and maintain your distance from their burrows.
June, July, and early August are the most effective months to search for puffins.
4. Go on a RIB boat safari
RIB stands for “Inflexible Inflatable Boat,” and a RIB safari within the Westman Islands is certainly one of many high issues to do! An organization referred to as RIBsafari presents these excursions (together with extra conventional boat excursions), taking company throughout Heimaey and a few of the smaller surrounding islands.
The RIB boats go quick, and also you’re inspired to face up (whereas holding on) and dance to blaring music as you journey between factors of curiosity. At every cease, a information will let you know about issues like wildlife, historical past, and anything it’s possible you’ll be interested by.
You will sail out and in of sea caves, and in addition see some well-known rock formations like Elephant Rock on a tour like this.
My buddy and I did the 1-hour RIB Safari on a good looking sunny August day, and instantly regretted not doing the longer 2-hour tour. It actually was that a lot enjoyable!
5. Play a spherical of golf
I am not a golfer myself, however if you’re you would possibly need to lease some golf equipment and deal with the links-style course at Golfklúbbur Vestmannaeyja. This golf course on the sting of the ocean has arguably a few of the finest views on Heimaey; you’ll be able to see Elephant Rock and nesting puffins as you play!
6. See the black church
Close to the harbor the place the RIB excursions go away from, you will discover a curious picket church: an all black stave church.
Stave church buildings are often present in Norway, and the Stafkirkjan on Heimaey was certainly a present from Norway. The church was gifted to Vestmannaeyjar by Norway within the yr 2000 to commemorate the 1000-year anniversary of Iceland’s conversion to Christianity.
The church is situated in an space often known as Skansinn or “The Fort,” which dates again to the 1500s. Right here you’ll be able to see the place the lava stream from the 1973 Eldfell eruption was stopped actually in its tracks by a joint effort of US Military and NATO forces who force-cooled the lava utilizing sea water. They saved the Heimaey harbor (and subsequently the entire island’s livelihood) by doing this – although simply barely!
7. Loosen up on the swimming pool
Each city in Iceland has a public swimming pool, and Heimaey isn’t any exception! Whereas there are not any sizzling springs or thermal swimming pools to get pleasure from on the island, you’ll be able to go to the city swimming pool (search for indicators for the “Sundhöll Vestmanneyja”) as a customer.
This pool advanced has a big indoor pool, together with heated out of doors swimming pools, three sizzling tubs, and a few epic water slides. The entry price is round $5 USD per particular person. (Simply be aware that, as at any public bathtub or pool in Iceland, you will have to bathe totally bare earlier than getting into the pool space!)
8. Have drinks and dinner on the town
In the event you’re staying in a single day on Heimaey, then you’ll be able to get pleasure from a meal on the town (seafood is unsurprisingly wonderful right here). Slippurinn is without doubt one of the top-rated eating places, and we additionally beloved the cocktails and meals at Gott. There’s even a brewery on the island referred to as The Brothers Brewery.
How a lot time do you want within the Westman Islands?
You possibly can technically match all of the actions talked about above right into a day journey to the Westman Islands. However, if you wish to totally soak the whole lot in and never fear about speeding to make a return ferry, then I like to recommend staying in a single day on Heimaey.
The place to remain on the Westman Islands
The vast majority of lodging choices on Heimaey embrace guesthouses and hostels. However just a few choices which are extremely really useful embrace:
I personally stayed in a little bit glamping cabin, which was tremendous cute!
Do I want a automotive on the Westman Islands?
Many individuals will let you know that you do not NEED a automotive to go to the Westman Islands (and definitely the ferry ticket is cheaper should you’re not bringing a automobile!). However I truly disagree. I might advocate that you simply do deliver a automotive with you to Heimaey should you’ve already rented one in Iceland.
When you can simply stroll from the ferry dock into city, the island is not *that* small. For instance, should you needed to stroll to the puffin cliffs on the south finish of the island, it will take you virtually 1.5 hours, with components of it being uphill.
I used to be very pleased that we determined to being a automotive with us to the Westman Islands, because it made getting round fast and straightforward. And we had no points discovering parking wherever, regardless of visiting throughout excessive season.
Who’s able to plan a visit to the Westman Islands?