Rising like craggy icebergs from the waves, Heimaey and the Westman Islands are a perfect example of nature’s extraordinary power to both create and destroy. Haunted by the same volcanic forces that once forged the islands, it was only the brave actions of the island’s villagers - who stopped the flow of lava from the Eldfell volcano with a wall of seawater - that saved this charming whitewash wooden town from destruction.
The volcano that exploded in 1973 made headline news around the globe and saw the islanders evacuated during an elaborate rescue mission. Learn more of the most fateful day in the islands’ history at the museum, and see houses - charred black by lava - which have been salvaged and exhibited, frozen in time.
The volcanic forces created a beautiful mosaic of craggy islands, just off-shore from the mainland. Alive with animal life - pods of orca whales roll through the Atlantic’s choppy waves, seabirds call in the skies overhead, and baby puffins take tentative first steps on the cliffs hugging these islands. You’ll notice that the islanders have a particular bond with the 8 million Atlantic puffins who live here. Statues of the birds stand on the streets, and extraordinary rescue missions sometimes take place at night – when locals comb the streets to help return lost pufflings to their cliffside homes. Be sure to walk out along the coast to Stórhöfdi, to view the extraordinary colony of these remarkable, adorable birds that live here. For some more tips on spotting the puffins, take a look at our blog