Westmaneyar Island Attractions


I admit right away - I have a special passion for the Westman Islands in the south of Iceland and on summer tours I always recommend my guests to visit this amazing place. Once I was even lucky to live here for two years, but I really discovered Heimaei - the main island of the archipelago - and the surrounding islands only when I chose to organize and conduct tours in Iceland as my profession.

In my subjective view, the view of a local resident and an experienced guide in Iceland, the Westman Islands should be on the checklist of everyone who travels to Iceland. Due to nature, landscape, surroundings and island spirit, this place I can safely call the most interesting and worthy of attention on the southern coast of Iceland. At least, without visiting the archipelago, acquaintance with this region of Iceland would be incomplete.

Here are five reasons, subjective and obvious, intangible and material, for which it is worth visiting the Westman Islands archipelago.

1. Nature and landscape of the island

When you get from Reykjavik to the ferry from where the ferry goes to the Westman Islands, you already have an impression of the nature and landscape of Iceland and how unique and original the local environment is. On the Westman Islands, these purely Icelandic pieces - rocks, volcano, lava, the sea around - you will see again, but more concentrated and accessible.

A tall rocky ridge on the right and a volcano with a massive lava field on the left precede the entrance to the bay of the main island of the archipelago - Heimaei. Even the ferry has not docked, and you already choose which way to go, which path to explore first. There are no trees on Heimaei Island, but the eternal cliffs, water meadows and brown soil from the volcano create their own special atmosphere.

Flora in the Westman Islands, of course, let us down, but the richness of nature is more than compensated by the local fauna: numerous colonies of seabirds on Heimaei and surrounding islands, seals and killer whales in the water and, of course, sheep, which appear as small white spots on the peaks cliffs overgrown with thick grass.

Heimaei Island is very small. You can get around it in one day, having studied in detail the entire coast. But for the sake of completeness, for the present load and the most vivid impressions, it is worthwhile to overcome steep paths leading to the tops of the nearby cliffs, from where an incredible view of the island, Iceland itself and the ocean around opens.

If you prefer not the picturesque sea cliffs, but the harsh volcanic landscape, then you should definitely take a short hike along the lava field and climb to the top of the local Eldfetl volcano.

Actually, the Eldfetl volcano and its history is the second reason it is worth visiting the Westman Islands.

2. Volcano Eldfetl

The eruption of the Eldfetl volcano occurred in February 1973. The mountain, spewing ash and hot lava, grew just in the middle of the island. Ashes from Eldfetl poured the city of Vestmannaeyjar to the very rooftops, and the new, just built microdistrict on the outskirts of the city was simply buried under a thick layer of lava.

Fortunately, the casualties were minimal. Only one local resident died tragically, saving his belongings from a house in flames. The streamlined evacuation process and the dedicated work of firefighters and rescuers helped to avoid large casualties. After the eruption, most of the inhabitants of Vestmannaeyyara returned to Heimaei, dug up their homes from the ashes and continued their peaceful life on the island.

The eruption of the volcano significantly changed the landscape of the island. Now the entire eastern part of Heimaei is a reddish-brown wasteland crowned by a volcano crater. You can take a walk along the lava fields around Eldfäthel even all day, and climbing to the top of the crater will not take even half an hour - despite its ominous appearance, the volcano is easily accessible to those who like to walk and in the city prefer to climb floors by stairs rather than by elevator .

The reward for climbing is the fantastic view around and the warmth that still comes from the volcano. At the foot of the volcano, the earth has long cooled down, but at the top in places you can still hear its hot breath.

3. Sea adventures

You can explore the island of Heimaei for as long as you want, bypassing it on foot or moving by car, but not see the main beauty - sea cliffs and islets that form the archipelago.

To do this, boat trips are organized every day in the port of Vestmanneyyara during the summer season. If you are a leisurely person, like to contemplate and are indifferent to extreme sports and speed, then feel free to take a boat trip on an ordinary, small and comfortable pleasure boat. You will see the surrounding sea grottoes and rocks, colonies of seabirds, seals and, with luck, killer whales that hunt in the archipelago.

I, for those who are chasing adrenaline, emotions and speed, recommend a boat trip along the archipelago on a speed boat RIB. A maneuverable and fast boat will take you to distant sea cliffs, you will see hidden beaches, swim in the sea grottoes, find outlines of fairy-tale characters in the rocks and take a closer look at the most famous sea rock of the archipelago - the huge head of an elephant, which nature itself skillfully carved from basalt.

The feathered fauna of the archipelago is extremely rich and diverse. Nearby cliffs were occupied by gulls, gannets, polar terns and other seabirds. But the main living attraction of the islands - dead ends.

It is believed that the largest colony of dead ends in the world gathers on Heimaei Island every summer. On the island, they took a fancy to Cape Storhovdi, where an observation deck is equipped and you can get to the birds very close without scaring them away.

By the way, Cape Storhovdi is also notable for the fact that according to measurements of local meteorologists, the strongest wind in the history of Iceland was recorded on the cape. However, there is calm weather on the cape. It is worthwhile to get here not only for the sake of dead ends, but to admire the neighboring rocky islands, take a walk along the flood meadows and get to know better the lambs that have chosen the steep slopes of the cape.

In a city with a population of 4.5 thousand people there are not many establishments, but you can be sure that everywhere you will be served dishes of the freshest seafood and the most delicious lamb. On the island with the largest fishing port in Iceland and the lamb, which for the summer is transported to the pristine meadows of the surrounding sea cliffs, it could not be otherwise.

For healthy and vegetarian food, head to GOTT. If you want to enjoy a juicy burger and drink it with cold Icelandic beer, stay for lunch at the Tanginn Restaurant, located right on the pier and with its windows overlooking the port and the picturesque entrance to Vestmannannaeyyara Bay. Beer lovers even in such a small town will find something new for themselves if they visit the bar of the local Brothers Brewery brewery.

However, when I visit the Westman Islands, I always try to visit two places: Fiskibarinn and Slippurinn. I love the absolutely simple and glamorous Fiskibarin for the most delicious fish pan. I am convinced that you have never eaten such delicious cod or salmon in a hot frying pan in your life and after Fiskibarin you will try somewhere else something close in taste and pleasure.

Slippurinn is a different story. This is a real, top-end fine-tuning in a non-traditional surround-dancing environment.

Restaurant Slippurinn is located in the building of the former workshop for servicing fishing vessels, built back in 1912. Being the oldest concrete building on the island, this building is the only one in the port that is included in the Westman Islands heritage list. The history of the fishing industry of the city of Westmanneyar can be traced to the various tools that remained after the workshop and became part of the interior of the restaurant.

Slippurinn's ingredients are provided by farmers on the South coast of Iceland, a fish factory located just around the corner and rich in wild herbs and algae in the Westman Islands. Steers in the kitchen of Gistley Matthias Oidunsson, in the offseason honing his skills in restaurants in Reykjavik and New York.

The basis of the Slippurinn menu is seafood: cod, haddock, halibut, lobster, and whale meat, which, under pressure from environmentalists, have recently been denied by many restaurants in Iceland. But, like most similar establishments in the country, Slippurinn cannot be called a purely marine restaurant. On the menu you will definitely find Icelandic baked leg of lamb, tenderloin steak and a selection of vegetarian dishes.

Slippurinn is one of the few Icelandic establishments included in the prestigious catalog of the best Scandinavian restaurants White Guide.

Short description

To the south-west of Iceland are islands with their very interesting, though not very pleasant, history. Vestmannaeyjar Islands got their name after the events of the 11th century. As everyone knows, Iceland is a Viking country that, according to history, did not have a tender feeling for the Celts.

In those days, one free brother of Ingolfur Arnarson belonged to the Celtic slaves who on one of those days killed their master and fled. Naturally, having discovered the murder, Ingolfur set off in pursuit of criminals and overtook them precisely on these very islands.

The Celts, in fear of retribution for the perfect themselves, threw themselves off the coastal cliffs into the water, which became of course a fatal act for them. Since then, the Vikings began to call these islands Vestmannaeyyar, which means "Islands of the Western people."

In fact, if you dig deeper into history, these islands one after another arose from the ocean from 10 to 5 thousand years ago, due to the fact that lava constantly flowed out through a rift in the crust at the bottom of the ocean, thereby forming these pieces of land on the surface of the water . In total there are 14 of them and the most famous and youngest among them is the island of Surtsey, which appeared as a result of a volcanic eruption in 1963. If we consider these islands by their territorial standards, then the largest of them is Heimaei, the rest are practically not inhabited. As for Heimaei, in 1973 a whole epic broke out on him.

The fact is that the volcano located in the eastern part of the island began its eruption. People could hardly be saved by ferrying them on fishing vessels. On the island, a lava poured out of a 1.5 km long gap for so long that a layer of ash and dust during all this time managed to completely bury the houses underneath. When the eruption ended, people still could not move to the island because instead of the streets in the village there was a continuous lava that did not have time to cool down.

Thanks to the help of scientists and millions of tons of water, it was still possible to cool the hot island and its new fragment. Today, the city of Heimaei, literally rebuilt from the ashes, is an important city in Iceland. Almost all of the country's fish products are produced here. In the city there is even a street running along a wall of frozen lava that was stopped from water cannons.

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The archipelago consists of one large island (Heimaei - the only inhabited island with the main city of the Vestmannaeyeyar archipelago), 13 small, as well as several dozen cliffs and cliffs.

Volcanic activity, as in Iceland itself, is very active. A major eruption of the Eldfetl volcano in 1973 forced the evacuation of the population of Heimaei. At its end, a mountain about 200 meters high formed on the site of the meadow.

Vestmannaeyjar lies on the flight path of many species of birds. Some species nest on the archipelago.

Author Evgeny Smirnov

Russian emigrant in Poland.

He is currently on the UNESCO List of Cultural Heritage.
Of all the islands, only one is currently inhabited - Heimaey - at the foot of the Eldfel volcano, there is also the only city in the Westmaneyar archipelago.

Westman Islands are called "Pompeii of the North". In 1973, the Eldfel volcano woke up and, filling the city with lava, wiped it off the face of the earth. Residents were evacuated, but soon returned again to their homeland. Currently, about 4,500 people live on the island, despite the fact that the Eldfel volcano is officially in the active phase.

Another interesting fact in the history of the Westman Islands is that Keiko, who played a major role in the movie “Free Willy,” was caught in 1976 when he swam into High Bay.

Eagle Air Airlines operates daily flights from Reykjavik to Vestmannaeyjar. The flight lasts about 25 minutes, the ticket price is 125 euros.

You can also use the services of Air Iceland, net offers at a price of 80 euros, but flights are not possible every day or even every week.

Eimskip Ferry Company operates flights on the route Torlaukshöbn - Vestmannaeyar. One-way fare is 1000 ISK (250 Russian rubles). Ferry twice a day: there at 12.00 and 19.30, back at 8.15 and 16.00. The journey lasts 2 hours 45 minutes.

You can get to Torlaukshöbn from Reykjavik by car on the ring road, moving east, or buy a ticket for bus number 3a.
The most convenient thing is that the ferry schedule is synchronized with the schedule of this bus.

A pointer to the memory of the street after the eruption of the volcano.

Vestmannaeyjar in the major football league of Iceland represents the club of the same name, which plays in this tiny stadium :)))

One of the attractions of tourists is golf. The fields are gorgeous.