Last update: 9 June 2020
Klif is the bulky, flat-topped rock with a beacon of light on the top, on the island of Heimaey (Vestmannaeyjar). It stands across from Heimaklettur on the other side of the Eiðið isthmus. You can haul yourself up the stunning cliffs of Klif along ropes and chains attached to the upper parts. That may sound a bit discouraging, but the hike is actually a lot of fun, and not as difficult as it looks. And well worth the effort!
Náttmálaskarð – sunset through the gap between Klif and Dalfjall.
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.
Beautiful views to Heimaklettur and Eyjafjallajökull on the way up to Klif.
Shaped by volcanic activity
Klif rises up at the eastern end of the intricate formation of jumbled rocks and craggy cliffs stretching via the HáHá plateau to Herjólfsdalur, Dalfjall and Blátindur. Together with the harbour kletturs they form the oldest part of Heimaey, forged by volcanic activity from the hotspot underneath the sea about 40.000 years ago.
Lupine covered lava fields with Klif and Dalfjall in the distance.
The rest of Heimeay didn’t emerge until about 6000 years ago. It was constructed by a combination of several eruptions, after Stórhöfði and Sæfjall arrived in the south, and finally Helgafell fused them all together. The shifting and changing of the island 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.
Sculpted cliffs and jumbled rocks
Steady erosion on the seaside has resulted in beautifully sculpted cliffs with several nooks and crannies, filled with a multitude of jumbled rocks, tiny beaches and bizarrely shaped spires rising up from below.
This handy interactive map shows the walking route from Heimaey harbour to the top of Klif. You can also zoom in for more details of the track, and click on the icons for pictures of stunning views along the way.
Klif hike & start of the track
The track up to Klif isn’t clearly marked. It starts directly across from the narrow end of the harbour, where you’ll see a gravel road and a parking lot behind a few shacks (and building materials). You’ll see it when you zoom in on the map above.
Friðarhöfn, the narrow end of Heiamey harbour.
The path towards Klif.
The path leads up from behind the parking lot towards the protrusion of Litla-Klif – that stubby plug jutting up between Klif and the HáHá plateau. After a few hundred meters the path continues behind a sheep fence with a wooden step over it. The first part is still firm and grassy. But shortly after the slope becomes steep, with increasing gravel, loose sand and rocks along the way.
This is where you’ll see the first rope lying in the sand, attached to a rock further up.
Rope hanging down the slope, and more ropes on the upper side of Klif.
The view to Helgafell, with some beautiful wispy translucent clouds floating above 🙂
Ropes and chains
From here on, there are ropes at several points to assist you in hauling your way up onto the steep, gravelly slope. Even though you might not need them so much going up, you’ll definitely do on the way down!
The gravelly upper part of the slope.
Don’t forget to enjoy the views along the way… 😉
At the end of the loose gravelly bit you reach a rocky area on the upper slope, with chains and more ropes attached by helpful islanders.
Series of chains & ropes and steps carved out in the track.
The last part up to the top. Almost there!
Your efforts will be rewarded by this jaw-dropping view of a multitude of jumbled rocks…
The Klif plateau
And finally, broad grassy & flowery meadows await behind the electricity station on the top.
There are sheltered spots along the sides of the plateau, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and a Wilderness Coffee in the thick grass, looking out over Heimaklettur, the hustle & bustle of boats and the ferry coming in to the harbour on the other side of the Eiðið isthmus.
Heimaklettur and its hidden beaches.
On clear days you can see Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull looming on the other side, and even the silhouettes of Reynisfjall and Reynisdrangar on the coast near Vík towards the east.
Bird cliffs and hidden beaches
Along the sides of the plateau you can take a peek over the edge, to steep drop-offs and crumbly cliffs full of seabirds nesting and floating around. If you’re lucky, you might also spot puffins during the summer months.
Bird cliffs down the north side and towards Dalfjall.
There are great views along the seaside to small hidden beaches behind Dalfjall, some of which may be accessible from the back during low tide.
Dalfjall and Blátindur, with the youngest island of Surtsey (born in 1964) on the horizon.
Delicate arctic flowers on the top.
There’s a small ridge between Klif and Litla-Klif, where you can walk below its crumbly edges. Unfortunately there’s no path up to the top of Litla-Klif – or at least not one I found.
The ridge to Litla-Klif.
Stunning harbour panorama.
A candle on Klif
And yes, Klif has received its own candle at some point too 🙂
Klif candle & Wilderness Coffee in the snow.
Can you spot the candle…?
On dark nights and foggy evenings, the red light on the electricity station sometimes seems to float in thin air like an otherworldly beacon. It’s a captivating sight.
Other tracks & hikes on Heimaey
Not sure if Klif is the right track for you? There are plenty of other walking tracks around Heimaey. Not all of them involve ropes and chains or scramblling up gravelly slopes 😉
Sunset and winter view over Heimaey.
You can read how to travel to Vestmannaeyjar in this article.
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
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Video – Snowy view from Klif
A snowy surround view from the top of Klif on a blissfully calm & wind-free winter morning, just after sunrise – around 11 o’clock…!
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