From Iceland — Surtsey Makes The UNESCO List

Surtsey Makes The UNESCO List

Published July 29, 2008

Photo by
Jóhann Vilberg

Surtsey, an uninhabited volcanic island and the southernmost point of Iceland, is a spectacular ecological wonder to behold. The island was created by dramatic eruptions of undersea vents in between 1963 to 1967, (a multimedia exhibit can be viewed of its formation at The Culture House on Hverfisgata) and has been designated a nature preserve since its inception. Surtsey is closed off to the public, only accessible to scientists studying its distinctive geology, as well as the flora and fauna of its surroundings. Plant life includes mosses and lichens; wildlife is comprised of a remarkable plethora of seabirds (approximately eighty-nine species of birds have been recorded) as well as nearby marine life.
    Due to its unique existence, the island was newly added last week (July 7) to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) list of World Heritage Sites, which are global places of exceptional “cultural or natural importance.” UNESCO calls the island a “pristine natural laboratory” and is Iceland’s second World Heritage Site after Þingvellir National Park.
    While mainland Surtsey is closed to tourists, there is a guided boat ride that circumnavigates the island given by Viking Tours, a travel company in the Westman Islands. “It’s an amazing tour,” says Sigurmundur Gísli Einarsson, captain of the Víkingur tour boat. “We take 4-hour tours around the island. Surtsey has one of the biggest colonies of gannets, puffins and lots of killer whales also.” The tours occur weekly, every Friday, costing 7,000 ISK for each person; tours also require at least 10 people on the boat with good weather permitting the journey. 

  • SIGHTSEEING Viking Tours Surðurgerði 4 900 Westman Islands You can make reservations by calling +354 488 4884 or email the tour agency at More info at
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