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Why Heimaey Island Needs to Be On Your Iceland Itinerary

Breathtaking views across the ocean, quaint little houses with brightly colored roofs, the greenest moss-covered cliff faces, an abundance of birdlife, and much more can be found on Heimaey Island. This, along with its exciting history, makes it a must-visit stop for those planning to visit Iceland.

So, read on if you are curious about this little island next to our bigger (but still small) island. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about Heimaey and why it needs to be on your Iceland itinerary.


Where is Heimaey Island in Iceland?

Heimaey is in Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland. If this doesn’t ring a bell, it’s probably because most know Vestmannaeyjar as the Westman Islands. These are little clusters of islands (some no bigger than a pile of rocks) lying off the south coast of Iceland. The largest of these islands, and the only one that is really inhabited, is Heimaey.

How to Get to Heimaey

There are various ways one can get to Heimaey from the mainland:

You Can Catch a Flight

Catching a flight can be very convenient for those with limited time on the island. Flights depart from Reykjavík Airport (not to be confused with Keflavik Airport) most days and will take only 20 minutes before reaching your destination.

You Can Go on a Tour

Many tour operators and private guides offer tours to Heimaey (whether as part of an existing package or a customized private tour). While many depart from the capital city of Reykjavík, you will find options all across the island. Just ensure you book well in advance if you plan to visit during our busy summer season.

heimaey island iceland

You Can Take the Ferry

We highly recommend this route as added fun to your Heimaey adventure. Rent a car in Reykjavík and drive the 2-hour scenic route to Landeyjahöfn Harbor, where you will catch the Herjolfur Ferry. Remember to be at the harbor at least half an hour before the ferry departs.

You can take the car with you on the ferry or leave it behind in the harbor parking lot (don’t worry, it’ll be perfectly safe there and waiting for your return). Since it’s pretty easy to explore Heimaey by foot (the entire island is just over 13 square kilometers), there’s no reason why you can’t leave the car behind. The ferry ride takes about 40 minutes.

The History of Heimaey Island

Heimaey Island has an incredible history, and if you really want to delve into it, you must make Eldheimar Museum your first stop upon arrival. One of Heimaey’s intriguing tales of old is that the island’s first settlers (around 900 AD) had to face a pretty formidable foe.

Whilst pirates roamed the seas and also targeted Iceland’s mainland, those on the mainland could run deeper into the country and seek safety. But for the inhabitants of Heimaey Island, it was a completely different story. Stuck on a tiny island with little to no place to run or hide, they became an easy target for pirate raids, and many of the settlers were captured and sold as slaves. 

heimaey, vestmannaeyjar, iceland

What to Expect from a Visit to Heimaey in Iceland

The word Heimaey translates to ‘Home Island’, a reference to the fact that it’s the only inhabited island of the Westman Islands. But depending on how you define ‘inhabited’, you might be surprised to learn that Heimaey has a population of only 4300 people. But it’s this old-timey, small-town feeling that adds to Heimaey’s charm and majestic landscape.

Activities & Attractions to Look Forward to On Heimaey

For such a tiny island with such a small population, there is a surprising number of things to do and see. These are a few of the things you can look forward to:

  • Go on the popular Eldfell Mountain Hike.

  • Check out the Beluga Whale Sanctuary.

  • Go Puffin spotting (only during their breeding season between May and August).

  • Try your hand at Sprangan (a popular, blood-pumping local activity where one swings across the cliffs).

  • Go on a whale watching tour (especially nice between April and September, when certain migratory species also make Iceland their home).

  • Check out Elephant Rock (especially nice to see up close during a boat tour).

  • Have a cold one at Brothers Brewery.

  • Visit the Eldheimar Museum (a must if you’re interested in volcanoes, pirates or want to learn more about the history of and life on Heimaey).

Attractions on Heimaey

Heimaey Island; What’s Not to Like?

Intriguing and mysterious tales of old, incredible fauna and flora, breathtaking views, and plenty of exciting activities – what’s not to like about Heimaey?

This little island certainly leaves a big impression, and we highly recommend that you rent a car in Iceland, take a drive down the coast to the harbor, and start your Heimaey adventure off with a ferry trip to the island. Go and experience first-hand what a magical place Heimaey is.



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