Did you know that there are sea cliffs on our beautiful Nordic island that look like a giant elephant? Elephant Rock Iceland is a massive rocky mammoth head with moss-covered ears and the resemblance is absolutely uncanny. So where is Elephant Rock and how can you see this atypical natural occurrence? Let's break it down and get the skinny on this uniquely Icelandic wonder.
Elephant Rock in Iceland
Elephant Rock is a natural rock formation on Heimaey island (Home island) in southern Iceland. Elephant Rock earned its name because it looks just like an elephant dipping its trunk into the sea. Perhaps the basalt pachyderm got a little thirsty and needed to grab a drink from the Atlantic? This volcanic rock formation creates a visual illusion that will have you doing a double-take. The “skin” of the elephant is made of gray volcanic basalt rock, which gives it a very realistic appearance.
But how exactly did we get a rock formation which eerily resembles an elephant? Like many of Iceland's most spectacular natural wonders, it all comes down to underwater volcanic activity.
The Westman islands or Vestmannaeyjar
Let's dive into a little bit of background of the Westman islands. The Westman islands (or Vestmannaeyjar in Icelandic) are a group of islands located about 7.4 km (4.6 miles) off the south coast of Iceland. This is just under four nautical miles and is close to the Ring Road. Volcanic eruptions created this archipelago of 15 islands and 30 natural reefs. The entire area of the Westman islands is around 13 square kilometers (5 square miles).
Southern Iceland, especially along the southwestern coast, is part of Iceland's temperamental volcanic zone. This area rests between two tectonic plates and is a hotbed of volcanic activity. Because of plate boundaries between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, you'll find many of the island's most active volcanoes here.
The Westman islands were formed during one of the numerous volcanic eruptions in the area. Because of this, the island has plenty of remarkable landscapes and unusual rock formations.
Heimaey is the largest island of the cluster in the Westman islands archipelago and is the only inhabited island. Even though it's the largest island in the volcanic zone, its 4,000 residents have lived a relatively peaceful existence. The one exception to this is the 1973 eruption of Mount Eldfell. The entire population had to be evacuated in order to save them from the island's advancing lava.
Eldfell has experienced a large number of eruptions over the years and many believe that the Elephant Rock in Iceland was formed during one of them. You may hear people sometimes referring to Heimaey as the elephant island in Iceland due to this unusual rock formation.
Elephant Rock Heimaey Iceland: How to arrive
So you've decided to take a trip to visit the famous rock formation. Well, the first thing you'll need to do is to get from the mainland to the big island. It's easy to get to Heimaey island either via ferry or by plane. The Herjólfur passenger ferry runs from Landeyjahöfn in the south. The journey takes around 35 minutes each way on the ferry can hold up to 500 passengers and 60 cars.
As with most travel arrangements in Iceland, demand is high, so I recommend booking in advance from April to September. During the months of the summer high season, tickets for the ferry tend to sell out. If you can't bring your car rental, don’t worry; there's free parking in Landeyjahöfn. And most sites on Heimaey island are within a 5 to 20 minute walking distance.
Heimey island ferry schedule
There are seven departures and returns daily, so you'll have no trouble finding a ferry that works with your schedule. The ferries leave approximately every two to three hours from morning till night.
Prices for the ferry
Children up to 11 years old ride the ferry for free and teens from 12 to 15 pay 800 ISK ($6.50 or $5.85€) for a ticket. Seniors 67 years and up as well as students and disabled travelers pay the same price. Adults from 16 to 66 years old pay 1600 ISK ($13 or 11.70€).
Prices from April through November:
Adults: 16-66 years old: 1600 ISK
Teens: 12 – 15 years old: 800 ISK
Children: 0 -11 years old: 800 ISK
Seniors: 67 years and older: 800 ISK
Disabled Travelers: 800 ISK
Students: 800 ISK
Where is Elephant Rock?
The rock itself is located on the northwestern side of the island close to the Westman Islands Golf Club as well as the Latter Day Saints Church Monument and Mormon pond. Elephant Rock’s island location and position off the coast mean that you'll need to actually be on the water in the Atlantic Ocean see it from the most flattering angle.
There are boat tours of the Westman islands that include Elephant Rock. They also visit various coves and inlets, rock formations, and birds cliffs during the season. Please note that tours depart from Heimaey rather than the mainland.
If you don't happen to have a boat, the rocky coast just to the south offers the best views.
Elephant Rock in Heimaey Iceland
Anyone familiar with horror fiction writer HP Lovecraft may also see something familiar when looking at Elephant Rock in Heimaey Iceland. In his 1928 short story "The Call of Cthulhu", the weird horror genre writer introduced readers to a fictional cosmic entity with the face of an octopus. The description of the sea monster Cthulhu, HP Lovecraft’s underwater demon, bears a resemblance to Elephant Rock.
Movie fans will also note that the Elephant Rock in Iceland and the Lovecraftian Cthulhu also look a little bit like the Davy Jones character from the Pirates of the Caribbean films. The holes close to the top of the rock look just like eyes.
Elephant Rock Iceland: The volcanic natural wonder
If you get the chance, you should definitely try to visit Elephant Rock in Iceland. It's one of those natural wonders that will have you wondering how on Earth it occurred.
Geology lovers and fans of natural formations that look like real-life creatures should definitely come check out this remarkable natural creation during their Iceland road trip. Iceland’s Elephant Rock is one you definitely don't want to miss.