The walking track to Eldfell – The Fiery Mountain

The walking track to Eldfell – The Fiery Mountain

The walk to the top of Eldfell is the one every visitor to Heimaey wants to do. It’s that famous volcano that spectacularly erupted out of nowhere in January 1973. Eldfell is very colourful, the track is easily accessible, and the views are absolutely stunning in all directions. From the top you can gawk onto the impressive lava flow that was furiously roiling & boiling only a few decades ago, and single-handedly enlarged the island by several square kilometers. It’s incredible to think it didn’t even exist 50 years ago.

Lava field walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Track through the lava field towards the harbour, with the towering shape of Heimaklettur in the background. The harbour entrance is between the edge of the lava and Heimaklettur… It’s incredibly beautiful, but intimidating at the same time.

Vestmannaeyjar is a volcanic chain of islands just off the south coast of Iceland, directly across from Eyjafjallajökull. Heimaey, the main island, may look tiny on the map, but there’s a lot of spectacular scenery densely compressed into its 13,4 square kilometres. The ferry departs from Landeyjahöfn and takes 35 minutes. You’ll see the turn-off to the harbour near Seljalandsfoss on the Ring Road.

The resilience of Heimaey

The eruption almost devastated the island, causing the entire population to evacuate overnight. Without knowing if they would be able to return, or if their beautiful island would ever be habitable again. The ingenuity that was pulled off to save the harbour is legendary. As they mention in this short documentary, ‘No-one had ever fought a volcano and won’ – but on Heimaey they did, in the face of adversity.

It must have been such an intimidating sight – yet awe-inspiring at the same time – to see great fountains of liquid fire over 100 meters high being coughed up from the ground just behind your back yard.

Eldfell hike, twin volcanoes, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Eldfell went on erupting for over 5 months. When it finished its business on July 3, hundreds of houses were buried underneath daunting lava flows up to 60 meters deep, and most of the rest of the island was covered in several meters of volcanic ash & rubble. It took months to clean up the aftermath, and make the island somewhat habitable again.

Volcanic improvement

But the intimidating lava flow that nearly closed off the harbour also created a new & improved version, making it even better and more sheltered than it was before.

Heimaey harbour and Eldfell volcano lava flow, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The harbour entrance of Heimaey, between towering cliffs and the huge Eldfell lava flows.

And the newly risen bulky volcano itself made the town more sheltered from the fierce prevailing winds coming in from the southeast, effectively forming a wind-blocking structure with its neighbour Helgafell. Before the eruption hardly any trees could grow on the largely windswept island. After Eldfell arrived, trees have slowly but steadily sprouted at several places and gardens around town, and continue to grow & blossom.

The weather station on the exposed southern tip of Stórhöfði still retains its reputation as one of the windiest places in Europe.

In 2014 the Eldheimar museum opened, where this compelling story is told with impressive images and interactive displays. It’s built around some of the houses that were excavated from underneath the lava, and it also features the Surtsey eruption. It’s a must-see in combination with the walk up to Eldfell.

Eldfell volcano lava flows, Helgafell, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The lava fields on the edge of town, with Eldfell and Helgafell looming in the background.

Ominous lava flows

The ominous rugged lava flows surrounding the eastern edge of town are clearly visible from the harbour and the town centre. At the end of Vestmannabraut you’ll see a few houses that escaped the inferno just in time, and literally ended up with a huge lava flow in their back garden.

Houses on the Eldfell volcano lava flow, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

A natural yet unusual garden fence…

House on the Eldfell volcano lava flow, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The front porch of one of the houses that hasn’t been so lucky is now reconstructed on the edge of the lava flow. It’s called Blátindur (after the second highest peak on the island), and it now features a wide screen showing a slideshow about the history of the house, the family who lived there, and the eruption. It was officially opened in July 2017, during the Goslok festival, a yearly celebration of the end of the eruption.

Blátindur house front porch, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The reconstructed front porch of Blátindur house.

Meandering paths across the lava field

Between the harbour and Vestmannabraut a stairway leads up from Kirkjuvegur to the top of the lava flow and the start of the walking track. You can meander along various paths across the lava field, and continue on to Eldheimar museum and up to Eldfell itself. From the stairs it takes about 45 minutes to walk to the top.

There are several signposts along the way, as well as memorials and wooden signs with the names of the streets that are now buried 30 to 60 meters below.

Memorial signpost Austurvegur, Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandAusturvegur.

Memorial signpost Vatnsdalur. Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandVatnsdalur, 40 metres beneath the lava…

Memorial signpost Urðarvegur and Heimaklettur, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The lava flows are covered in fields of blue and purple lupines in June and July – a spectacular sight under the midnight sun.

Lupine lava fields, view to Klif and Dalfjall, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Vast fields of lupines provide a colourful contrast, with a stunning view to Klif and Dalfjall in the distance.

Gaujulundur lava garden

Further on, there’s a sweet little garden tucked away in a sheltered trench in the lava field – complete with elf houses, a tiny garden house, and even something that looks like a miniature Dutch windmill 😉 It’s called Gaujulundur, and was created in 1988 by a local couple. They planted and cultivated hundreds of different local plant species, and turned it into a unique little oasis in the formerly barren lava field. The lava garden is entirely maintained by volunteers today.

Eldfell hike, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Eldfellsvegur crosses the lava field, and the track up to the volcano starts on the other side of this road.

Crater of Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandLooking down into the crater.

Colourful views

On the way up you’ll pass along the crater, with a cross memorial at the bottom. Along the colourful top ridge there are several features & outcrops sculpted by wind erosion into continuously changing forms. You can see natural art everywhere.

Top of Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The throne.

Top of Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

If you walk along to the very end of the ridge, you can find some steamholes still emanating heat from below. In earlier days they were sometimes used by recourseful locals as a volcano oven, to bake bread or cook a BBQ meal. Over the years the temperature has steadily cooled down, but they provide great little warm-up shelters for when it gets a bit chilly.

In wintertime, when Eldfell has been snowed upon, you can see exactly where it’s still warm on the top 😉

Eldfell volcano with snow and northern lights, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

And yes, you might catch some northern lights too…!

The views are incredible in all directions. Especially in the last hours before sunset, when the colours are enhanced and light up in brilliant shades.

Sunset on Helgafell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandHelgafell, the ruling volcano on Heimaey before the eruption of Eldfell.

View to Eyjafjallajökull from Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

View to that other famous volcano, across the sea on the mainland.

Mossy lava fields

On the way down, there’s a path veering off to the right, towards the bottom of the crater. It circles around the crater wall, and leads to a sweeping view of beautiful mossy lava fields. Along the way you’ll see a giant broken up lava bomb stuck on the outer side of the crater.

Mossy lava field, Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandGiant lava bomb from Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

You can continue along a small path through the lava field, or follow the gravel road back into town.

Eldfell hike, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandEldfell pyramid.

Eldfell volcano lava fields, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The vast lava fields behind Eldfell, on the eastern side of the island. It’s mind-boggling to think that only a few decades ago this was all furiously roiling and boiling…

Nowadays, Eldfell occasionally still erupts a rainbow 😉

Other tracks

Want to explore more of these spectacular views? Here you can find a variety of walking tracks around Heimaey. The biggest challenge is choosing just one…

You can read how to travel to Vestmannaeyjar in this article.

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

Share your thoughts at the bottom of this page. Or simply press the ‘like’ button below if you enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for sharing 🙂

Follow the Wilderness Coffee & Natural High page on Facebook for more stories and updates.

View from Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandWilderness Coffee with a view 😉

More stories & inspiration

Dalalæða – Spectacular waterfalls of fog

Ode to the mountains! – The magic of Mount Taranaki

Kerlingarfjöll – Steaming valleys and surreal landscapes

El Hierro – A volcanic hotspot underneath the sea

Etna – Vigorously steaming from all its craters

6 thoughts on “The walking track to Eldfell – The Fiery Mountain

  1. Hey! We are going to Iceland in July- how do we find the trailhead to the lavafields that lead to Eldfell? Also, how long did it take you to do that hike? Great post! Loved all of the information and the pictures!

    1. Hi Dakota, thanks for your comment. The easiest way would be the stairs in Kirkjuvegur, which is only a few 100 meters from the harbour. It takes about 45 minutes to hike to the top from there, but definitely take some extra time to circle around the lava fields. There are several paths you can follow, and it’s easy to find the way towards Eldfell.

      If you’re going to spend a few days on Heimaey, check out my other walking tracks too 🙂

Share your thoughts

%d bloggers like this: