Iceland's volcanic archipelago
Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westman Islands, is a stunning archipelago off Iceland’s south coast. Sometimes called “Pompeii of the North,” all of the archipelago’s islands have evolved from underwater eruptions. The newest addition to the group, Surtsey, was created during a submarine eruption that lasted from 1963 to 1967.
Mostly uninhabited, all islands are edged by steep sea cliffs that are home to millions of puffins and other sea bird colonies.
Heimaey, the only inhabited island, was the site of an eruption in 1973 that buried 400 buildings under thick lava— some of which have been partially uncovered and preserved. Short flights to Heimaey depart regularly from the Reykjavík Domestic Airport and the Herjólfur ferry has regular passages from Landeyjahöfn on the south coast.
The Eldheimar Volcano Museum on Heimaey focuses on the 1973 volcanic eruption in Vestmannaeyjar, which is one of Iceland’s largest natural disasters. The exhibit looks at the lives of the residents before the eruption that saw them evacuating their homes in the night and never being able to return.
Stórhöfði is the rocky, windy peninsula at the southern end of Heimaey. A narrow isthmus created by a 5000-year old eruption links this cape to the main island, and from the meteorological station at the 122 metre summit you’ll have wonderful views as well as a good puffin-watching spot about halfway up the hill. A marked trail in the area makes for a nice hike on days when the wind is more still.View South Iceland