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Vestmannaeyjar – Westman Islands

When I started planning my trip to Iceland, my friend from work told me that there is one place I have to visit there and that is Vestmannaeyjar or the Westman Islands.

If you have a car you can go there with the ferry from Landeyjahöfn.

We rented a car only for the Golden Circle so for the Westman Islands we took a tour from Reykjavik.

We reserved a tour online with Gray Line.

This tour takes you from Reykjavik to Landeyjahöfn harbour and with a Herjólfur( ferry) to Vestmannaeyjar island.

It took us appr. 1 hour 40 minutes to get to the harbour and then appr. 40 minutes with the ferry to the biggest island of Vestmannaeyjar  – Heimaey.

The Westman Islands are a group of 15-18 islands, depending on how they are classed, and about 30 skerries sand rock pillars, located off the mainland’s south coast. The islands were formed by submarine volcanic eruptions .

The islands are named after Gaelic slaves who had been captured into slavery by Norsemen. The Old Norse word Vestmenn, literally “Westmen”, was applied to the Irish.

Population on the island is around 4000.

The other islands are uninhabited, although some have single hunting cabins.

Vestmannaeyjar came to attention in 1973 when  the Eldfell volcano erupted, which destroyed many buildings and forced a months-long evacuation of the entire population to mainland Iceland.

The area is very volcanically active.

Surtsey island was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 metres  below sea level, and reached the surface on 14 November 1963.

It was studied by volcanologists during its eruption, and afterwards by botanists and other biologists and today only scientists are allowed to the island.

When we got to the Heimaey first we went to a boat tour with Viking tours.

It was a great tour around the island enjoying the view on the rocks, many different seabirds that nest in the Cliffs.

At the end of the tour they took us to cave Klettshellir where the Captain played the saxophone in  the natural echo of the ocean cave.

We saw Puffins and many other seabirds.

After the tour we had a free time for lunch and then we went to a bus tour around the Island.

We had a great tour guide Alfreð, he was very funny and he gave us lot of facts and stories about the Island and the eruption and Vikings.

After the bus tour we went to visit Elheimar museum . Visitors get a glimpse into people’s lives on Heimaey before the eruption.

The highlight of the exhibition is the house, the home to Mrs. Gerður Sigurðardóttir and Mr. Guðni Ólafsson and their 3 young children. They were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night. A few days later their home had drowned in ash and lava. After being buried in ash and lava for over 40 years, house has now been excavated and shows how cruelly nature treated the homes of so many islanders.

After the museum we had a free time on the Island so went to the Sæheimar Natural History Museum and Aquarium.

It’s a small museum but the best thing about it is that the owner rescues birds and they have alive Puffin you can see up close.

After this island I’ve definitely  confirmed that the islands are always worth a visit.

There is always something beautiful about them, the nature, the people, the animals.

Just something special. 🙂

 

 

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