The walking track to Helgafell – The twin volcano
Helgafell offers sweeping surround views of brooding volcanoes and a heart-shaped crater. But poor old Helgafell is often a bit overlooked, as everyone flocks to its famous neighbour Eldfell. For a long time, Helgafell was the ruling volcano on Heimaey.
The one that merged the chain of rocks to the north and Stórhöfði to the south into the present island, its classic volcano-shaped silhouette dominating the interior.
Until Eldfell turned up right next to it in 1973, and stole the show.
The twin volcanoes of Eldfell and Helgafell shimmering on the edge of Vestmannaeyja town.
The twin volcano
The impressiveness of Eldfell is undeniable. But on some days it can also be a bit of an ant-heap, with lots of people going up & down the tracks and circling around its crater, all at the same time. Especially in high season and when there’s a cruise ship in the harbour.
Midnight sunset on Helgafell.
In the meantime, you may have Helgafell with all its beautiful views virtually for yourself. Helgafell has a heart-shaped crater, with a viewdial on the top. Here you find the names of the mountains that can be seen in all directions.
The track up to Helgafell can be somewhat challenging in parts, due to its steepness and loose gravelly bits along the way. But it doesn’t take that long to hike to the top.
The former red house at the foot of Helgafell.
Helgafell volcano hike & start of the track
To get to the foot of Helgafell, walk up to Heiðarvegur, the main road leading south from the harbour. Pass by the only two sets of traffic lights on the island, and after about 15 minutes you reach an intersection with a signpost to Helgafell on the left. The track starts behind the red house with the same name.
Update 2019: Sadly, this cute historical house is now demolished. A new house will be built on the same site, so there’s a lot of construction going on in the meantime. Continue a bit further on the road towards the airport (Flugvöllur) and then take the next path to your left. You will see a signpost pointing towards Helgafell.
View to the famous Eldfell. Sometimes it looks a little like an ant-heap, with lots of people circling around its tracks and crater at the same time…
The rocky and gravelly slopes of Helgafell.
On the way up
Before you take on the rocky upper slope, you can turn left into a grassy field for some fine views of Eldfell and the nearby islands of Elliðaey and Bjarnarey. The ominous Eyjafjallajökull is looming in the background on the mainland.
It gets a bit grittier on the upper part of Helgafell. In the meantime, arctic flowers are taking hold and blooming in spite of adversity on the gravel slopes.
Sweeping view from the top of Helgafell.
Broad and sweeping views
Once you get to the top, broad and sweeping views unfold all around you. Behind Helgafell there’s a breathtaking view towards Eldfell, the lava flow that came from it, and the remains of the fissure that erupted out of nowhere.
Looking towards Herjólfsdalur and Klif.
The famous ones – Eldfell and Eyjafjallajökull looming in the background.
Fine views all around. And another brooding volcano, Hekla, in the background to the right.
To the south there are views to the southern islands, Stórhöfði peninsula, Litlhöfði and Sæfjall behind the Vestmannaeyjar airport. Yes, Heimaey actually has its own airport – its landing strip barely fitting across the island.
Surtsey is the furthest island on the horizon, and the latest addition to the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. It rose from the sea in 1963.
Looking out over the airport, Stórhöfði and the islands to the south.
The crater rim path, leading up to the viewdial.
Helgafell crater rim
You can walk around and into the crater, and go down from Helgafell on the other side of the crater rim. The track around the crater leads up to the viewdial, where you can check out the surrounding scenery.
The first part of the track going down is quite steep and full of loose gravel, but it quickly gets more even along the side. Not long after, you are back at the grassy meadow at the foot of Helgafell, where the path goes up around the other side.
Colourful panoramic views to mountains, volcanoes and islands all around.
Inside the crater rim.
The heart-shaped crater of Helgafell ❤️
Wilderness Coffee with a view, and a candle in the lava.
Helgafell hiking map
This handy interactive map shows the walking route from the intersection near the old Helgafell house to the top of the Helgafell volcano. You can also zoom in for more details of the track, and click on the icons for pictures of stunning views along the way.
Other tracks & hikes on Heimaey
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…
Moonrise, sunset & candles
Helgafell also provides a stunning background when the full moon is rising from behind it during summer. And if you’re lucky, you might be treated to this incredible spectacle… 😮
Where is Vestmannaeyjar?
Vestmannaeyjar is a volcanic chain of islands just off the south coast of Iceland, directly across from Eyjafjallajökull. They are also known as the Westman Islands. 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 to Heimaey departs from Landeyjahöfn and takes 35 minutes. You’ll see the turn-off to the harbour near Seljalandsfoss on the Ring Road.
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
You can read how to travel to Vestmannaeyjar in this article.
A Christmas candle on Helgafell 😉
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Video – Amazing sunset on Helgafell
A beautiful winter sunset & surround view from the top of Helgafell.
Last update: 20 February 2023
First published: 28 July 2017
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Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks – The best walks on Heimaey
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