Islands of Iceland I: Vestmannaeyjar

The main island, Heimaey.

The main island, Heimaey. Photo: Árni Sæberg

This is the first of a four-part Easter series presenting and celebrating some of the islands which decorate the edges of this island nation. Our first destination is Vestmannaeyjar.

Vestmannaeyjar

Vestmannaeyjar (often known as ‘the Westman Islands’ in English) is an archipelago of fifteen islands located of the coast of South Iceland.

The islands are very much the new kid on the block geologically – most were formed just 11,000 years ago by submarine eruptions of the underlying volcanic system. The very youngest island, Surtsey, emerged from the sea in 1963.

Part of the splendid archipelago.

Part of the splendid archipelago. Photo: Árni Sæberg

The biggest island Heimaey is the only permanently inhabited one, and is currently home to some 4,300 people.

Vestmannayjar hit the headlines in January 1973 when a massive volcanic eruption in Heimaey spewed out millions of tonnes of lava, leading to the evacuation of thousands of inhabitants by boat to the mainland.

Stranded islanders stayed with friends and families on the mainland and watched the eruption – which lasted five months – from afar. Only two-thirds of them returned to the ruins.

The new island of Surtsey.

The new island of Surtsey. Photo: Árni Sæberg

How to get there

BY AIR

Eagle Air operates 2-3 return flights from Reykjavik City Airport (RKV) every day except Saturday during the winter season, and two flights a day every day during the summer season. Prices are currently quoted as €89-130, one way. Flight time: approx. 25 minutes.

Eagle Air flies direct to Vestmannaeyjar from the capital Reykjavik.

Eagle Air flies direct to Vestmannaeyjar from the capital Reykjavik.

BY FERRY

The passenger and car ferry Herjólfur sails return services between the South Iceland port of Landeyjahöfn and Vestmannaeyjar 3-5 times a day in winter and 4-5 times a day in summer.

In the event of bad weather, Herjólfur sails instead to the mainland port at Þorlákshöfn. The price for an adult passenger is ISK 1,260 (€9), and for a normal-sized car ISK 2,030 (€14.50). Crossing time: 35 minutes (from Landeyjahöfn); 2 hours 45 minutes (from Þorlákshöfn).

The Herfjólfur ferry at Laneyjahöfn.

The Herfjólfur ferry at Laneyjahöfn. Photo: Árni Sæberg

Accommodation

You can find a selection of possible accommodation options for Vestmannaeyjar on Iceland Monitor here.

A dog exploring the islands' volcanic landscape.

A dog exploring the islands' volcanic landscape. Photo: Eggert Jóhannesson

What to do

Vestmannaeyjar is most famous for its annual Þjóðhátíð outdoor festival, which attracts thousands of visitors and party-goers in early August every year. A full account of the history of the festival can be found here.

Thousands flock to Þjóðhátíð every year.

Thousands flock to Þjóðhátíð every year.

The islands are also a bird-watcher’s paradise, as millions of brightly coloured puffins come to Vestmannaeyjar each year to breed.

Puffins galore in Vestmannaeyjar.

Puffins galore in Vestmannaeyjar. Photo: Markús Örn Antonsson

Outside of festival and puffin time, Vestmannaeyjar is always worth a visit thanks to its interesting volcanic history, its striking green and black landscapes, and the friendliness of its inhabitants.

Join us again tomorrow as Islands of Iceland moves on to the Reykjavik island of Viðey.

One of the smaller islands, Bjarnarey.

One of the smaller islands, Bjarnarey. Photo: Árni Sæberg

Catching fish off the Vestmannaeyjar coast.

Catching fish off the Vestmannaeyjar coast. Photo: Árni Sæberg

Vestmannaeyjar is a place clearly shaped by volcanic activity.

Vestmannaeyjar is a place clearly shaped by volcanic activity. Photo: Rax / Ragnar Axelsson

Currency

USD USD 114.60 EUR EUR 128.55
GBP GBP 148.81 DKK DKK 17.24
NOK NOK 14.12 SEK SEK 13.42
CHF CHF 118.15 JPY JPY 1.14

Most Popular

Zeitgeist

events