The Westman Islands are a mountainous archipelago just south of Iceland’s mainland. The most scenic way to get there is to drive and catch the Herjólfur ferry, then zip between the town, the Nýja Hraun lava field, and the Stórhöfði peninsula. Here’s our itinerary for the perfect summertime day-trip.
The 35-minute ferry ride is an adventure in itself. As you pull out to sea from Landeyjahöfn, majestic glaciers will rear up behind you before you glide between the craggy islands and arrive in the stunning Heimaey harbour. Stand on the right as you dock, and have your camera ready.
Next, walk over to Gott for lunch. This bright, family-run café has a lot of great options; highlights include a vegan flatbread with hummus, avocado and melon, and the spicy Eldfell burger, named after the nearby volcano.
Explore: Nýja Hraun & Eldfell
The volcano in question was the culprit of the famous 1973 eruption that reshaped the island. It produced 2km² of new land that was christened “Nýja Hraun” (“New Lava”), navigable via a network of discrete roads. The hike to the 200m summit of Eldfell yields beautiful views, and there are many more trails with secrets to discover.
This smart museum is dedicated to the eruption. It’s built over a pair of houses that were destroyed by the lava flow for a visceral reminder of the destruction it wreaked on the island. There’s engaging newsreel footage of the evacuation of Heimaey’s entire population, and some vivid interactive displays charting the terrifying flow of lava through the heart of the town.
At the other end of the island, an 8km drive away, lies the Stórhöfði promontory. Topped by one of the oldest lighthouses in Iceland and a working weather station, it’s famous both as the windiest point in Europe, and for its steep cliffs—which become a teeming puffin colony during summer. Hike the trails or visit the birdwatching hide to spot them.
Tour: Rib Safari
Arguably the best way to see The Westman Islands is from the ocean. The Rib Safari tour takes you out on a small speedboat that’s maneuverable enough to allow it inside the watery caves along the shore. It’s an invigorating trip and very much worth your time. Book your trip here.
Drink: Brothers Brewery
After being out on the choppy ocean, you might well need a drink. The Brothers Brewery is the island’s brewpub, producing over 20 craft beers. It has proven popular—so much so that it recently moved to a larger space with a seating area outside to catch some afternoon sun. Try their limited seasonal ales, some of which are named after well-known local fishermen.
No trip to The Westman Islands would be complete without a meal at the fine-dining paradise of Slippurinn. Worth the trip alone, the phenomenal tasting menu makes for an unforgettable feast of local produce, from bright blue guillemot eggs to oyster leaves, wild herbs, sea truffles, cured fish, juicy lamb, and desserts so good they’ll bring tears to your eyes. Book in advance, set aside a few hours, and go all in on juice or wine pairings—you won’t regret it.
Read more about The Westman Islands here.
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