The walking track to Heimaklettur – The Home Rock

The walking track to Heimaklettur – The Home Rock

Heimaklettur is the biggest rock in the jumbled chain of cliffs wrapped around the harbour of Heimaey, the main island of Vestmannaeyjar. The harbour entrance is stunningly beautiful. People coming in on the ferry are often triggered into a photo-frenzy when they sail into it, through a narrow passage along mountainous rocks. They shelter the harbour like a protective arm from fierce tides and rogue winds coming in from the north. Heimaklettur rises up at the end of it, and sits proudly across from the harbour, watching over it.

Sailing into Heimaey harbour, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandHeimaklettur and the harbour entrance.

At 279 meters, it’s the highest mountain on Heimaey, and the defining landmark of the island. Its bulky shape is visible all around town. It literally means Home Rock.

Vestmannaeyjar is a volcanic chain of islands just off the south coast of Iceland, directly across from Eyjafjallajökull. Heimaey 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.

Sheer cliffs, ladders and chains

With sheer cliffs rising up on all sides, Heimaklettur may look a bit daunting and inacessible at first sight. But there is actually a walking track to the top. And there are ladders and chains to help you up the steep sections at the bottom. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top, and about 30 to get back down again – not counting the time needed to enjoy the great views, a picnic or a Wilderness Coffee along the way.

Heimaklettur hike, view to Heimaey harbour, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandWilderness Coffee on the rocks! 😉

I made a detailed description of this walk, including lots of pictures of what the track is like. This will give you a good idea of what to expect along the way. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Shaped by volcanic activity

The chain of craggy rocks on the north side is the oldest part of Heimaey, forged by volcanic activity from the hotspot underneath about 40.000 years ago. Initially the harbour kletturs and the cliffs around Herjólfsdalur were two seperate islands. Later on they were connected by Eiðið, the small isthmus that runs between them. Stórhöfði, the headland to the south, was formed as a third island about 6000 years ago. When Helgafell arrived to the scene, all three were merged together into the present island. The shifting and changing is still an ongoing process. Only as recent as 1973 Eldfell made its sudden and spectacular entrance, when it erupted out of nowhere in a grassy field next to Helgafell.

The start of the track

The track starts at Eiðið behind the small end of the harbour. The first part consists of a series of ladders against the cliffs, before you reach the grassy slopes and rolling meadows that lead to the top.

Heimaklettur home rock, emergency phone, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

In case of emergency, dial 112 😉

The walk can be a bit tricky in some places, with narrow paths, steep drop-offs and provisional steps carved into the rocks. There are chains attached at crucial points, to help you along the more precarious parts. But it should not be attempted in howling winds or horizontal rain. Or if you are sensitive to vertigo or fear of heights.

Warning signs

Recently a new sign has been placed at the bottom of the first ladder, to inform people and encourage them to take care and responsibility when they go up the track.

Heimaklettur hike, information sign, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

This track contains steps and ladders – not to mention ropes and chains…

If at any point you feel unsure about continuing, whether it’s a case of wobbly knees or a sudden bout of nasty weather rolling in, you always have the choice to turn back. It’s no fun being blown off the mountain, or slide down a steep grassy slope into the harbour.

Steep slopes, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

But don’t let that discourage you. It’s a spectacular and exhilarating walk, with stunning views to be enjoyed on all sides along the way. Especially when the weather is fine.

Heimaklettur hike, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The steep & rocky part

After scrambling up the gravel heap at the bottom, you’ll reach the first set of ladders. A path of steps leads across a grassy slope full of wildflowers up to the third ladder.

The first and second set of ladders and steps.

The third and last ladder goes up to a ledge with a (usually empty) sheep cage. The sheep are roaming freely around the grassy meadows further up. There’s a chain and a rope attached onto the ledge, and some small steps carved out into the rock to the left side of the ladder.

Heimaklettur ladder, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The third ladder leading up to the sheep cage ledge.

Heimaklettur hike, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandLooking down the track (and several ladders)…

Heimaklettur ladder, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

New and improved ladders and steps

Up until a few years ago, this ladder didn’t reach all the way to the top of the ledge. You had to balance on the upper steps to get hold of the ropes, braving wobbly knees and decide if you felt confident enough to make this rather big leap. With nothing else but the rope to hold on to while doing so…

But now it has been replaced by a new and improved version, reaching comfortably above the ledge. This makes it a lot less complicated to get hold of the ropes and step onto the ledge. After that, the rest is relatively easy.

Heimaklettur hike, ropes and sheepcage, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Still, it’s probably the trickiest part of the track…

Ropes and chains on the ledge below the sheep cage.

Heimaklettur walking track, ropes and chains, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Pleasant grassy ridge

If you feel unsure about continuing at this point: there’s a broad & pleasant grassy ridge near the bottom of this ladder, around the corner to the right. It’s an excellent place to enjoy a picnic and great views over the harbour and town. Usually it’s quite sheltered from the wind too, and worth a little side-trip at any rate.

Heimaklettur hike, grassy ridge, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Grassy ridge to the right.

View to Klif, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

View to Klif, on the other side of the Eiðið isthmus.

Intricate folded lava structures on the cliff face, and the view from the end of the ridge.

Heimaey harbour view, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandHarbour view from the ridge.

The track above the sheep cage

After a relaxing break, it’s time to conquer the daunting sheep cage ledge, and continue on the track further up. There are chains attached to some of the steeper and trickier parts.

Heimaklettur hike, chains along the upper track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The track above the sheep cage.

More narrow & rocky tracks, some with chains attached to the side.

Heimaklettur walking track, sheep traffic jam, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandTraffic jam on the track may occur at any time… 😉

Heimaklettur hike, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

After some narrow and rocky sheep tracks along steep sides, you’ll reach an intersection. Here you take a sharp turn to the left. Soon after, you will reach the broad and grassy upper parts of Heimaklettur.

Heimaklettur hike, walking track, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The intersection and final approach to the top.

Steep drop-off to the seaside… the notorious Dufþekja.

Steep dropoff, Dufþekja, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Heimaklettur guestbook

At the top there’s a guestbook to leave your thoughts and impressions of the walk. Some locals frequently write in it; they go up on a regular basis as a way of exercise. And perhaps some friendly competition amongst each other as well – to see who has gone up the most times within a year. When the sun goes down, it’s a popular hangout spot for the local sheep too 😉

Heimaklettur is the only Vestmannaeyjar peak with its own guestbook. The light on top also doubles as a beacon for incoming and outgoing regional planes.

Guestbook at the top of Heimaklettur, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandGuestbook and airplane beacon at the top.

Don’t miss the view hidden behind the top! Beyond the guestbook, walk a little further down the slope on the other side. You’ll be greeted by a stunning view over the other kletturs, forming a beautiful circle of cliffs around the harbour. On clear days you can see the main land with Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla in the distance, and the vast lava fields coughed up by Eldfell in 1973.

Ring of kletturs, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

Ring of kletturs and lava fields panorama.

Candles on Heimaklettur

When the days grow shorter, candles are often placed on the slopes along the cliffside facing town. The candles are lit by dedicated locals who frequently go up to Heimaklettur – so people in town can enjoy some pretty lights blissfully shining during the darker days of the year. It’s a quirky and enchanting Vestmannaeyjar tradition that has been going for over a decade. Some of the regulars even have their own ‘candle spot’ 😉

Candles on the mountain side, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandCandles light the way in the impending darkness.

Usually you can spot one or two candles. But around Christmas and New Year it gets totally out of control, when Heimaklettur is decorated with a multitude of candles all over the upper slopes. It’s an incredibly beautiful sight.

Christmas candles on Heimaklettur, the Home Rock, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandChristmas and New Year’s candles on Heimaklettur.

New Year's candles on Heimaklettur, the Home Rock, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

It inspired me to become an avid candle lighter too. I took part in the New Years’ Eve candle lighting session in 2017, and went & lit candles on several other kletturs as well. Proud to contribute to this unique tradition <3 Kveikjum eldana! 🔥

Candle on Heimaklettur, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

I’ve added my own candles a couple of times too… 😉

Other tracks

If you’re up for another klettur, you can continue on to Klif – with the flat top and the beacon on the other side of Eiðið. Or go up behind Klif to the HáHá plateau, for the stunning ridge walk around Herjólfsdalur. Not sure if Heimaklettur is the right track for you? There are plenty of other walking tracks around Heimaey. And not all of them involve ladders or ropes and chains 😉

View to Klif, Heimaklettur, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, IcelandLooking towards Klif across from Heimaklettur.

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

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

This is one of the top-5 blog posts of 2017.

Video

The sunset views from the top of Heimaklettur are absolutely magical. This is what the midnight sun looks like… Luminous clouds & pink skies throughout the night. It’s like fiery red & orange northern lights! This was taken around 01.30 hrs on Solstice night (20-21 June 2018), with an amazing view to Eyjafjallajökull across on the other side. The sun took a short break down the horizon at 23.40 hrs, and was bright & shining again at 03.05 hrs.

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2 thoughts on “The walking track to Heimaklettur – The Home Rock

  1. i am visiting next year and just making a list of possible things to do (i like to be prepared) and i think i am up for this. my knees are not great, but i am active and think i could manage this. my main on concern would be doing it alone, and with camera equipment on my back, but as it will be june, hopefully ill have plently of time to enjoy this – i like a challenge and am not afraid of heights, will just take it slow and hope for a decent weather day of just a light icelandic breeze 🙂 & hopefully see some puffins along the way.

    thanks for this post – im hoping it will be fairly obvious what way to go and wont need to refer to this as i climb!

    1. Hi D, thanks for your comment! June is an excellent time to visit. There will be huge fields of lupines everywhere, and you’ll see those incredible colours of the midnight sun. Make sure to plan at least a couple of days on Heimaey if you have the chance, as the weather can be a bit unpredictable & changable. You won’t regret it – there is so much to see! 🙂 There are a few sheep trails circling around Heimaklettur, but the path for the hike to the top is quite obvious once you’re on it. If you feel uncertain, just take it slow as you go. There are plenty of views to enjoy. The first time I went on Heimaklettur I didn’t make it beyond the sheep cage ladder; it still had the old rickety one that didn’t reach quite high enough, and it was a bit too windy as well. With the new ladder it has become a bit easier to take that step. You can see lots of puffins on that stubby rock sticking out near the top, and also on the slopes behind the top on the other side (where you have the view of the ring of kletturs). Best chance to see them is late in the evening before sunset. Or very early in the morning – but that’ll be in the middle of the ‘night’ in June! 😉

      If you want to do other walks around Heimaey, check out this post too:
      https://wildernesscoffee-naturalhigh.com/vestmannaeyjar-walking-tracks-best-walks-on-heimaey/

      Have a great time! This island is truly stunning.

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