A World in a Nutshell
For an excellent day-trip or even a weekend jaunt, there is almost nothing better than time spent in the Westman Islands, off Iceland’s south coast. Soak up the fascinating mixture of unspoiled nature, cosmopolitan culture and the laid-back lifestyle of the Westman Islanders. It is a must for those travelling by way of the south shore and is an easy 25 minute ferry ride from the new harbour at Landeyarhöfn, 20 minutes to the east of the village of Hvoslvöllur. There are also direct flights from Reykjavik city airport, if you must hurry, but taking the double decker car-ferry is decidedly much more fun!
You can take your car over on the ferry or just go as a foot passenger. Whichever way you choose, the main island of Heimaey is so small that getting around is a cinch. The ferry drops you off at the harbour at the centre of the village and from there you have several options.
Take a walk around and explore the still-warm earth that surrounds Eldafell, the mountain that was created as a result of the 1973 eruption on the island. Visit the Pompeii of the North excavation site, a fascinating, ongoing project which has been digging out several homes that were buried during the eruption of 1973. The project, which began in 2005, aims to uncover a total of 7—10 houses, one of which should be entirely dug out and ready for visitors to walk through in the summer 2013. Visitors are welcome to visit the excavation site and see how the project is progressing.
A visit to the Westman Islands would not be complete without touring the uninhabited outer islands by boat. Viking Tours offers a 90 minute boat tour, taking you right up to the immense cliffs where thousands of birds nest, as well as doing a bit of cave exploration to boot. Have a blast on a RIB safari tour of the islands or get around the streets of Heimaey on one of those fun contraptions called a Segway Personal Transporter.
Tourists are encouraged to have their eyes open for some of the new restaurants that will open this summer. At the end of April, Hotel Vestmannaeyjar will be opening a first class restaurant specialising in local cuisine in a Volcano themed atmosphere, run by the ambitious local chef, Einar Björn Árnason. The menu will include speciality seafood dishes, as proximity to local fishing grounds provides the opportunity to obtain fresh ingredients daily.