Last update: 29 May 2021
Tucked away in the northwest corner of Heimaey you can find Stafsnes, a beautiful hidden beach in a sheltered cove behind the impressive folded cliffs of Blátindur.
It’s almost like Hawaii – but without the palm trees 😉 Part of this pebbly beach is beneath an overhanging cave, displaying layers of vivid colours when sunlight sparkles off the incoming waves onto the cave walls. It can be blissfully sheltered – and wind-free! – and significantly warmer than the rest of the island.
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.
Looking down to the hidden beach of Stafsnes from behind Blátindur.
Tantalizing little glimpses
Tantalizing glimpses of Stafsnes can be spotted only if you brave the walking track to Blátindur, down the coastline just before you reach the gravel slope and the seemingly dead end below the first ridge.
Other than that, its not visible from anywhere else on the island. The only way to get there is by private boat and go around the back of the island. Or shuffle down the steep sliding slope on the sea side of Eggjarnar, the ridge above the valley of Herjólfsdalur.
Local boat operator Ribsafari pops into Stafsnes cove on some of their island trips, so you can get a close-up look. As an added bonus you also get to see various sea caves around the other islands. But they don’t actually go on shore.
The Dalfjall peaks in Herólfsdalur. Stafsnes beach is hidden behind this formidable formation, where you can also spot the famous Elephant Rock…
Sliding down to Stafsnes
If you want to enjoy & and explore the beach at leisure, the only option is to walk – which involves climbing up the steep slope of Herjólfsdalur, and down towards the coast on the other side.
There are several ways to combine this walk with one of the other beautiful walking tracks around Heimaey. You can do it as an extension of the Herjólfsdalur ridge track, go up Blátindur first and then to Stafsnes, or the other way around. The most direct way is by going up on the zigzag path from the bottom of Herjólfsdalur – on the left side as you look into the valley.
This handy interactive map shows the walking route from Herjólfsdalur up to the ridge and down to Stafsnes. You can also zoom in for more details of the track, and click on the icons for pictures of stunning views along the way.
The little house on the giant plug
Once you reach the intersection on the top of the ridge you’ll see a small grassy path going down to a giant rocky plug protruding towards the sea.
The little house on the giant plug.
This striking feature is called Upsaberg. There’s a solitary little cabin at the bottom that makes you want to stay there overnight, and watch the sunset from the veranda while enjoying a Wilderness Coffee in this idyllic location. And – when it gets dark enough – the densely starry skies and perhaps even northern lights flowing in as a bonus…
Sunset view over Stafsnes from the cabin.
View from the back of Blátindur to Upsaberg and the little cabin.
Stafsnes hike & track down behind Dalfjall
On the upper part of the path there are a few markers, but it progressively fades into a sheeptrail as you slide further down the hill towards the cabin. You will most likely encounter various sheep wandering around too at some point. Sometimes they’re even hanging out on the cabin’s veranda.
Sheep watching over the veranda.
A peek inside the solitary little cabin.
The western tip of Upsaberg.
The hidden beach
From the grassy field below the cabin, a small path descends steeply further down to the rocky Stafsnes peninsula and its hidden beach.
Stafsnes peninsula, with a Ribsafari jetboat coming into the cove.
The hidden beach of Stafsnes.
Beautiful views unfold around every corner
As you enter the bay, you are welcomed by breathtaking views of towering folded cliffs and into the narrow cove. The beach is peacefully nestled between the cliffs behind Blátindur and an overhanging cave at the base of the peninsula, with aquamarine waters lapping blissfully around their colourful edges, and the southern islands lounging on the horizon.
View to the beach from beneath the overhanging cave.
Sunset view into the hidden cove.
The cave overhang.
Hawaiian style folded cliffs towering above the beach.
Swimming at Stafsnes
Swimming is not recommended. Not only for the risk of hypothermia in the cold Arctic currents, but also because there can be strong undercurrents and unexpected freak waves rolling around the cove. A cross at the base of the peninsula reminds of the tragic death of a young boy who was dragged out to sea and drowned at Stafsnes.
However, the beach is a great place to explore & enjoy the beautiful surroundings, have a picnic, and even sunbathe (!) on warm sheltered days.
Upsaberg tip and Stafsnes peninsula.
Skies full of puffins
Birds like this isolated spot too. There are huge amounts of them circling above the cliffs and into the bay, including puffins and flocks of eider ducks floating around on the waves. On summer evenings you will see skies full of puffins, returning to their burrows on the peninsula.
It’s worth sticking around for the sunsets too – they are magical 🙂
This is one of the top-5 blog posts of 2018.
Other tracks & hikes on Heimaey
Want to explore more of these spectacular views? Here you can find a variety of walking tracks around Heimaey. Not all of them involve scrambling up or sliding down steep slopes. The biggest challenge is choosing just one 😉
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
You can read how to travel to Vestmannaeyjar in this article.
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Stafsnes peninsula and Smáeyjar, the little islands.
Covid travel restrictions Iceland
In these uncertain times, things can change quickly. Procedures are constantly evaluated and updated. For the current situation regarding Covid-19 related travel advice and restrictions in Iceland, see Covid.is (in English).
Video – The zen of Stafsnes
Waves peacefully lapping in the sheltered Stafsnes cove.
Stafsnes puffin bird cliffs
The impressive folded cliffs towering above Stafsnes beach, with lots of seabirds and puffins flying around.
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The Hazards – Scrambling up to prehistorical views
Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks – The best walks on Heimaey