From Reykjanesta and the next 100 km onwards, the south shore is characterized by lava formations constantly battered by the wild ocean waves (‘brim’ in Icelandic). For the next 300 km after that the shore consists of sands with hardly any harbours.
Along with the powerful brakers, there is rich birdlife in the lava shore area. As for the sand shores, despite the lack of harbours, people would set off for fishing there anyway, at tremendous risk and this would indeed often result in great losses of life.
The Westman Islands have the largest nest of Puffins in the world and you may see many whales around the island. Heimaey is the only one that is inhabited.
In 1973 the islands gained international attention with the eruption of Eldfell volcano in Heimaey, which destroyed many buildings, and forced a months-long evacuation of the entire population to the mainland. In an eruption at the seafloor in 1963 a new island was formed, Surtsey.
The ferry Herjolfur sails to the Westman Islands from the town of Thorlakshofn, on the south shore of Iceland and from Landeyjahofn harbour. The latter is located south of the small town of Hvolsvollur. The harbour was built in 2010 and remains at an experimental stage, its future useage as of yet unclear. Fares are lower on this route and the route itself is faster, as a one way trip from the harbour takes about 30 minutes, but this is entirely dependant on favourable weather- and harbour conditions. Otherwise the Thorlakshofn harbour will be used. There are also flights to the islands.
Heimaey is the largest of the Westman Islands, south of the mainland, and the only inhabited one, with a population of around 4000 people.
The volcano Eldfell is situated on Heimaey. This volcano brought the islands to international attention when it erupted in 1973. The highest mountain of the Westman Islands is also located on Heimaey, the 283 high he tuff mountain Heimaklettur.
In 1984 fisherman Gudlaugur Fritthorsson saved his life as his boat went down by swimming a distance of about six kilometers to Heimaey, with the sea temperature about 6 degrees Celsius. Director Baltasar Kormakur based his film Djupid on this remarkable feat.
In the first weekend of August, the Verslunarmannahelgi people flock to Heimaey from all around to attend the weekend long outdoor festival Thjodhatid i Eyjum. Read more about this festival in our Top Ten Festivals in Iceland article.
Eldfell ('Mountain of Fire') is a composite volcano cone in Heimaey in the Westman Islands. It is just over 200 meters high.
The volcano brought the islands to international attention when it erupted at the outskirts of the village there in 1973. Many homes were destroyed and the entire population had to temporarily flee to the Icelandic mainland.
Klettshellir is the largest and best known cave in the Westman Islands.
The cave lies innermost of sea rock Ystiklettur. It is quite high and has a deep sea level. Brass concerts in the cave are popular, as the cave gives off fantastic accoustics.
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