How to get to the Westman Islands
Vestmannaeyjar or Westman Islands is a town off the south coast of Iceland. Vestmannaeyjar is an archipelago formed by volcanic eruptions underwater. The largest island is called Heimaey and has a population of around 4,500 inhabitants. Most of the islands have steep cliffs that are rich with birdlife.
In 1973 the Eldfell volcano erupted which destroyed many buildings and the inhabitants were forced to flee to the mainland. Before the eruptions the inhabitants of Westman islands – Vestmannaeyjar were around 5,200. Some of the families never returned back to Westman islands – Vestmannaeyjar. See our Westman islands – Vestmannaeyjar tours and experience the island with a local.
Since Westman Islands – Vestmannaeyjar are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean you can visit us by taking the ferry, flying from Reykjavík or flying from south of Iceland.
Option nr.1 – Take the ferry Herjólfur
Herjólfur sails from Westman islands / Vestmannaeyjar to Landeyjahöfn which is located on the south of Iceland. You can both drive to Landeyjahöfn by a regular car (no 4×4 car is needed) or you can take the bus, if you are travelling from Reykjavik, you could go from the Mjódd bus terminal to Landeyjahöfn
If you have a car you can take it with you over to Westman Islands.
Option nr.2 – Fly from Reykjavik to Westman islands / Vestmannaeyjar.
You can fly to Westman islands / Vestmannaeyjar with Eagle Air, the flight takes around 20-23minutes.
Puffins spend most of their lives on sea. They mate for life and the oldest puffin that we know of was 42.years old. During the winter, puffins stay on the sea by Greenland or Newfoundland. They are great swimmers and can dive down to 60.meters under the water to cath their fish. The puffins beak is colorful in the summer to attract mates but has a dull grey colour in the winter time. In springtime the male returns to Westman islands a week sheds snnd get the nesting hole clean for his spouse.
Westman islands – Vestmannaeyjar are the largest puffin colony in the world. The puffins can be seen on the island between April and September.
If you are traveling in Iceland during that time, visiting Heimaey to see the Puffins is definitely a must do! Westman islands – Vestmannaeyjar are most famous for the puffins but there are also more bird species living there. You are able to see the most famous Puffin on the Puffin and Volcano Tour in Westman Islands.
Elephant rock is natural rock formation located on the Westman islands – Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. It is a wonderful sight to see the gigantic elephant rock rising from the water. The elephant rock is formed from a basalt rock which gives it a look just like the rough skin of elephants. You can experience the elephant rock for your self on our Westman Islands Express tour.
Sprangan – scaling and swinging in the rocks of Heimaey
Men in Westman Islands, did not go to the cliffs in the early days untrained. Suitable places on Heimaey were found to train for the rope swinging used when gathering eggs. There is one place in particular near the western harbor that has the conditions needed to teach the different techniques used when hanging from the face of the cliffs on ropes. That is called Sprangan.In recent years classes have been held during the summer so children can safely learn this sport. The “experts” that come there show off their gymnastic skills while swinging, making turns and twists as they fly from one side of the cliff to the other, pushing off with their feet as they approach the face of the rock.
As the young people progress in learning the sport, they climb from the lowest ledge, about 3 meters above the ground, to the higher ledges, each ledge having its own name. From the higher ledges they leap down with the rope in their hands, and from the ground it looks like exhilarating fun.
It depends on the level of expertise how high one can go and the sites bear different topological names, like barnasteinn – Child’s rock, Almenningur –The public, Stígvél – The boot, Gras – the Grass.
When visitors come to the island, it’s a common custom to take them to the cliff face and let them try their hand at flying through the air on the end of a rope. But even off the lowest ledge one quickly discovers it takes skills and strength to swing in the cliff. People should be very careful there and it’s not recommended to swing unless with locals.
Eldfell volcanic cone is located on Heimaey and is over 200m high. It formed in a volcanic eruption on the morning of January 23rd 1973 and caused the big evacuation in Heimaey. During the eruption, volcanic ash fell from the sky and covered most of the island. About 400 families lost their homes in the eruptions and it nearly lead to permanent evacuation of the island. Luckily there was a stormy weather the day before the eruptions, so all the fishing boats were in the harbour so most of the inhabitants were able to flee.
The eruption lasted until July 3rd, when it was officially pronounced as being over. The damage was overwhelming. Nearly one-third of all the homes and buildings had burned or been covered under the lava and ash. A thick layer of ash covered nearly the entire island, especially the part of town nearest the crater. Immediately in the summer of 1973, clean-up and reconstruction plans were implemented and the townspeople started to return to the island. It was decided that the schools would open in the fall. Many islanders who had lost their homes in the eruption decided not to return, but in their place a large group of new people arrived on the island, full of energy and an interest in participating in rebuilding the town.