Journey to Westman islands

Date 07 August 2016

Journey to Westman islands

Journey to Westman islands

Today the sun came out as soon as we woke up at 8AM. This was ideal as we planned to go to the Westmann Islands that day. We had booked the Ferry a few months ago from Landeyahöfn, and it was waiting for us at 12:30PM sharp. We took the time to enjoy our last breakfast at Jon's and were a little sad to leave the guesthouse around 9 am, heading south.


Very close to Road 254 that led to Landeyahöfn was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and since we had time, we decided to go take some photos from that fantastic spot behind the curtain of water. Then we took the small path that led to another waterfall, less known but very nice, that of Gljufrafoss. The path that led to it was easy on foot and the next fall only 800 m away.

Gljufrafoss was hidden in a fault and much like the Rauðfeldar canyon a few days earlier we had to rock-hop across the water to get to the fault and admire the scenery. The fall was impressive from below, and a small platform allowed us take a few photos from the bottom of the waterfall for a spectacular angle.

We got back on the road around 11AM and arrived at the ferry departure terminal at 11:45AM and got in line with the cars that had booked the ferry. We had made the choice to book well in advance, and good thing we did because there were no tickets available on the day. We then went to the reception desk to get our electronic tickets and boarding tickets, 1 per person +1 for the car. At around 12:10PM, the cars started moving into the ferry bays and it left as planned at 12:30 for a 40-minutes sea-trip to the Westmann Islands, Heimaey in this case.

The boat had just about everything we needed, relaxing seating, a snack bar to eat, and a movie theater showing US series. The sea was rough during the outgoing journey and the ship canted so far we had to stand on the bridge to avoid falling, but the view when we arrived near Heimaey really made it all worth it. The cliffs of Heimaey were sublime, and the island of Elliðaey with its cottage of a house in the middle of nowhere was beautiful as ever.


Arriving near the island, people started going back down to the ship's level 0 to get back to their vehicles. The town of Heimaey was bigger than we expected and we even got a bit turned around trying to find our way as the streets were all quite similar. We started our adventure with a short stop at Stafkirkjan, the oldest church on the island, a gorgeous made entirely of wood.

We then parked at the Volcanism Museum at the foot of Mount Eldfell. Near here were several hiking trails including the Eldfell hike that we had planned to do. Indeed, above the museum was the trail looping around Eldfell, and along it, a small dirt road climbed Eldfell itself. A sign indicated that it took between 45 minutes and 1 hour to climb to the top.

The climb was steep but superb. We stopped many times to snap photographs of the view of Helgafell as well as the city. This hike is a must-do on the island; when we got to the top, the colors were absolutely incredible, the rock bright red or jet black, and the panorama simply breathtaking. Without a doubt a highlight of this trip. We stayed for a good quarter of an hour admiring the view from the top, then we went the opposite way to find our Duster, reaching the car park in less than 30 minutes.

Then we headed south to Storhöfdi, crossing the whole island in 5 minutes of driving! A small car park near a lighthouse had a convenient trail that took us along the southern cliffs to potentially observe puffins. Along the way, we saw many puffins from afar, but it was finally near the lighthouse that we found a breathtaking view of a small creek where we could see them up close. Puffins don't nest in the cliff-faces like seagulls or other birds of the Westman Islands, preferring to nest in the grassy scrub at the top of these cliffs.

Back on the road, we stopped just after Storhöfdi on the southern beach of Heimaey. The place was peaceful, with rich birdlife around the creek.

Around 4PM and we headed back to Heimaey to wander the streets of the city. The place was great with numerous shops, and the colorful houses gave the place a typical Scandinavian style. At 6PM we got back in line with the cars taking the ferry which left at 6:30PM. With more time we no doubt would have hiked Helgafell and visited the North Coast, but that would have to wait for the next time!

40 minutes later, we found Landeyahöfn and headed to Skögar and the Edda Hotel for 2 nights. After having dinner at the hotel, to end a busy day in style we decided to head to the famous Seljavallalaug swimming pool. This one was quite easy to find; you had to take Road 242 towards the Eyjafjöll valley and the Seljavellir swimming pool. You actually have to drive to the end of the road to reach the Seljavellir swimming pool car park (the official one). From there, a small path runs along the river and after 20 minutes of walking you will find the 28 m long and 10 m wide outdoor pool. The water was 36 °C, the pool just carved into the bedrock in the middle of the mountains.  A peaceful and perfect way to end the day...