There are places in Iceland that simply have to be experienced. Vestmannaeyjar fill that group by virtue of their natural beauty, the bounty of their wildlife, particularly birds, and by being historically and geographically one of Iceland´s most distinctive places. The islands are part of a young and still active submarine volcanic system, most of them coming into being 10-20.000 years ago. The youngest of the group, however, Surtsey, south of Heimaey, only grew from the sea floor in episodic eruptions from 1963-1966. The famous eruption on Heimaey, the largest and sole inhabited island was, however, even more spectacular. It began in January 1973, lasting until early July. The cone Eldfell (fire mountain in Icelandic), rose, the island became 2,3 km² larger and block lava flows and ash burned or buried almost 400 buildings. The remains of the eruption are among the island´s most fascinating historical locales.
A journey to Vestmannaeyjar is neither more expensive nor difficult than to many mainland places. The only difference is in the preparation as prior booking whether by sea or air is advisable. From Reykjavík the trip by air is only 20 minutes, from Bakki in Landeyjar mere 6 minutes. The passenger and car ferry Herjólfur makes the trip from Þorlákshöfn in 2.45 hours, offering the obvious advantage of a relaxing sea voyage and your vehicle on hand on arrival. Heimaey may only be about 13 km², but that small area contains enough magical scenery and birdlife to delight the visitor for days.
Visitors there have always been, but as an industry tourism is a young one in the islands. It is even possible to put a date to its birth: 1973 after the eruption, when visitors from all over the world came to view the aftermath and remains of the catastrophe. Thirty years later, Eldfell, the new cone, and the cooled and hardened lava flows, have befittingly become part of a magnificent environment, only a part of what awaits the visitors.
Other popular attractions are one of Iceland´s best 18 hole golf courses, deep sea fishing, bird- and whale watching and hiking: up volcanoes, over lava fields or along the shore. Museums show the history of the two and four legged inhabitants of land as well as those of air and sea through the centuries. Comfortable accommodation is available as well as first class restaurants and coffee houses. A short daytrip, as the only option of visiting us, is therefore very much a thing of the past. The islands´ tourism industry endeavours to make visitors feel welcome and preferably wish to prolong their stay.