Danny Yee >> Bushwalking & Travel >> South Iceland

Heimaey island - Eldfell volcano

Getting to Heimaey from Reykjavik involved an hour-long bus trip to Þorlákshöfn, then a three hour ferry trip (leaving at noon). Fortunately for us the weather was superb and the passage not too rough, but we hadn't had much sleep the night before. It was a glorious day and we had excellent views of the coastline, especially of the cone of Hekla (unusually without clouds) and the Eyjafjallajökull icecap. Approaching Heimaey there were views of the other Vestmannaeyjar (Westman) islands.

Heimaey harbour
looking out of the harbour
fishing nets in a pile
fishing is the industry on Heimaey

The entry into Heimaey harbour is extremely dramatic, matching the situation of the town itself. To the west are a series of cliff-knolls (with one gap), to the north is the narrow harbour entrance (through which can be seen the Eyjafjallajökull icecap on the mainland), to the north-east are the lava flows from the 1973 eruption of Eldfell, and to the east are the volcanoes Eldfell and Helgafell. To the south lies the remainder of the island, of which the town occupies a good fraction - with a population of nearly 5000, it's a big town in Iceland.

The intersection in front of the harbour has the only set of traffic lights on the island — there more for show than out of any actual need, I suspect. Not having had a proper lunch, the first thing we did was to grab a pizza (banana and pepperoni) from a Pizza 67 outlet.

We checked into our guesthouse, which I think was the Guesthouse Sunnuholl attached to the Hótel Þórshamar, a nice little building with shared showers and cooking facilities but proper linen on the beds (and at 10800 krona for three people for two nights, good value). After a short rest we headed off to climb Eldfell. Without a real map, we ended up wandering around a bit - first to a lookout over the harbour entrance, with boards describing the bird species. Apart from that there was not much at all in the way of signposting, but we could hardly get lost, with our target always visible.

Helgafell volcano
Helgafell
Heimaey harbour
looking down on the harbour

The climb up Eldfell itself was steep and sandy, typical two-feet-forward-one-foot-back kind of stuff. There were nice views at the top, and patches of steaming sand - too warm to touch for long. It was late, but it wasn't getting dark till after 9, so that was no problem.

looking down on climbers
climbing Eldfell
Eldfell volcano
Eldfell, looking north at Eyjafjallajökull

Getting down was much easier, and we were soon back in town.

We had dinner in Fjólan, the restaurant attached to the same hotel as our guesthouse. This offered table service in what felt like a really fancy restaurant, with excellent fish dishes - possibly our best meal of the entire trip - for only 1050 (fish of the day) or 1350 (mixed seafood).

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