Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks – The most beautiful walks on Heimaey

Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks – The most beautiful walks on Heimaey

Last update: 9 May 2021

An overview of several hikes around Heimaey

Mysterious peaks rising out of the sea, just off the south coast of Iceland, this stunning island is a must-see. Many people don’t take the effort to go there whilst travelling the Ring Road, but this is one of the most beautiful spots in Iceland. Find out more in this article.

Vestmannaeyjar is one of those fascinating places that will leave you in awe with the beauty of it all. Sailing into Heimaey harbour, through a narrow opening surrounded by a jumbled chain of steep cliffs and a huge field of intimidating lava flows, is an amazing experience in itself. Don’t be misguided by the island’s small size though. With its incredible density of spectacular sights and features, a daytrip would simply not do it justice.

Vestmannaeyjar island shapes, Iceland
The intriguing island shapes of Vestmannaeyjar, bathing in sunset colours and the moon rising above.

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. 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.

How much time do you need on Vestmannaeyjar?

This depends of course on what you want to do, and how much time you have in Iceland altogether. I’ve spoken to a lot of visitors. Some of them – whom I met on trips to the mainland – even changed their itinerary, specifically to visit Vestmannaeyjar.

The one thing everyone mentioned is that they wished they had chosen more time to spend on the island.

Landeyjarhöfn harbour art, Iceland
Artistic composition of rusty pillars at Landeyjarhöfn harbour, with Katla glacier in the background.

Things to see & places to explore

You’ll want to have at least a couple of days to explore the walking tracks with stunning views everywhere you look. It’s like a great variety of Icelandic landscapes densely compressed into one small island. There are steep and craggy mountain ridges, rocky coastlines with dramatic sea cliffs, hidden beaches, a couple of volcanoes, mossy lava flows and a magical valley. And the biggest puffin colony in the world.

There’s also a variety of nice restaurants, interesting activities & museums, and one of the best local breweries in Iceland – with its own Eldfell speciality beer. An appropriate & fitting reward after conquering the volcano 😉 The island even has its own glacier named after it – the IslandMountainGlacier. Not actually on the island itself, but directly across on the other side. It’s also known as Eyjafjallajökull.

Elliðaey and Eyjafjallajökull, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland
Eyjafjallajökull looming behind Elliðaey, the island with the little house on its grassy slope.

Hiking on Heimaey

I made detailed descriptions of several local walking tracks around the main island of Heimaey. Including lots of photo’s of what the track is like, what you can expect along the way, and of course the beautiful views that await. And a handy route map! I hope you enjoy these walks as much as I do 🙂

Islands shaped by volcanic activity

The chain of jumbled rocks on the north side is the oldest part of the island, 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. The rest of Heimeay didn’t emerge until about 6000 years ago. It was constructed by a combination of several eruptions. Stórhöfði, the headland to the south, was formed as a third island. When Helgafell arrived to the scene, all three were fused together into the present island.

Heimaey harbour and lava fields, Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Iceland
Heimaey harbour entrance, with the Eldfell lava fields and the towering shape of Heimaklettur on the other side.

The volcanic presence can be seen all around, and continues to create more additions at irregular intervals. In 1963 another island, Surtsey, bubbled up from the sea in spectacular fashion. And only as recent as 1973 Eldfell made its sudden entrance, when it erupted out of nowhere in a grassy field and created a whole new mountain.

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. No-one had ever fought an erupting volcano and won – but on Heimaey they did, in spite of it all and in the face of adversity.

Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks

This is an overview of the various hikes around Heimaey, with a short summary of each post. Click on the link in the title to see the full description & photo’s of the walking track. I also made a handy interactive map showing the details for all of these routes.

Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Heimaklettur, Iceland

The walking track to Heimaklettur – The Home Rock

Heimaklettur is the iconic Home Rock of Vestmannaeyjar. It may look a bit inacessible at first sight, but there are ladders and chains to help you up the path to the top. In the darker days of the year, people like to light candles on Heimaklettur. And around Christmas and New Year they get totally out of control, with a multitude of candles all over the upper slopes. It’s an incredibly beautiful sight.

Eldfell volcano and lava fields, Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Heimaey, Iceland

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.

Helgafell hike, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The walking track to HelgafellThe twin volcano

Helfgafell offers sweeping surround views of brooding volcanoes and a heart-shaped crater. 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.

Sunset over Herjólfsdalur, Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Iceland

The walking track to Herjólfsdalur – The Valley of Magic

Herjólfsdalur is intimidatingly beautiful, whichever angle you look at it. It looks like a giant natural amphitheatre, with stupendous rocks rising up on all sides as you enter the valley. The walk along the top ridge is one not to be missed. The distraction rate is very high, and there’s a great density of spectacular sights and features along the way. Herjólfsdalur is also the setting for the yearly Þjóðhátíð festival in August. On the last evening, the mountainside is set alight with a row of flames along the entire length of the valley – a magnificent sight to see!

View to Blátindur, Herjólfsdalur, Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Iceland

The walking track to Blátindur – The dazzling heights of Dalfjall

Blátindur is the imposing peak rising up above Herjólfsdalur, beyond the daunting peaks of Dalfjall. It takes a bit of effort to scramble up there, but you’ll be rewarded with some truly jaw-dropping views. Including Blátindur casting its mighty shadow majestically into the bowl of Herjólfsdalur, if you go up in the afternoon.

View to Klif from Heimaklettur, Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Iceland

The walking track to Klif – The beacon rock

The is is more like the scrambling track to Klif, with ropes down the slope and a beacon of light on the top. You can haul yourself up this stunning cliff along ropes and chains attached to the upper parts. That may sound a bit discouraging, but it’s actually a lot of fun, not as difficult as it looks, and well worth the effort. There’s also that incredible view of a multitude of jumbled rocks.

Stafsnes beach, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks, Iceland

The zen of Stafsnes – The hidden beach

The walking track to Stafsnes, a beautiful hidden beach, peacefully nestled in a cove behind the impressive folded cliffs of Blátindur. It’s almost like Hawaii – but without the palm trees. It can be blissfully sheltered – and wind-free! – and significantly warmer than the rest of the island. On the way you’ll pass by the little house on the giant plug.

Stórhöfði coastal walking track, puffin colony, geological beach Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

The coastal track to Stórhöfði – Puffin colony and geological beach

Stórhöfði is the southernmost point of Heimaey, and home to the biggest puffin colony in Iceland. There’s also the surreal geological beach of Klauf, formed by volcanic eruptions from several directions. On the coastal track to Stórhöfði you can see incredible views, wild cliff formations and lots of puffins along the way. This is an easy walk that follows the west coast of the island, and doesn’t involve as much scrambling or balancing across tiny paths above steep drop-offs as the other hikes.

Easiest: The coastal track to Stórhöfði (in terms of relatively flat terrain) and
Eldfell (in terms of gradual ascent).
Most challenging:  Blátindur and Klif (because of the steepness and scrambling).
The best one? As for that, I can’t make a choice. They are all beautiful 😉

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

This is one of the top-5 blog posts of 2018.

Heimaey hiking map

This handy interactive map shows the locations of all these awesome hiking spots around Heimaey. You can zoom in for more details as well, click on the icons for pictures or go directly to the description of each track.


There’s also a printable map of Vestmannaeyjar hikes and walking tracks in this PDF file.

Places to stay in Vestmannaeyjar

There are several cozy & comfortable guesthouses on Heimaey. Some of them have (shared) kitchen facilities, so you can cook your own meal if you like. The guesthouses Árný, Sunnuhóll, Hamar and Hóll are all nice places to stay, as well as Lava House & Apartments. Other options are the charming Glamping Cabins in Herjólfsdalur or the Aska Hostel on one of the main streets. Hotel Eyjar and Hotel Vestmannaeyjar are also right in the centre of town. Ofanleiti Cottages are situated near the airport, with great views over Herjólfsdalur and the west coast of the island.

Read how to travel to Vestmannaeyjar in this article.

The twin volcanoes Helgafell and Eldfell, Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland
The twin volcanoes of Eldfell and Helgafell shimmering on the edge of town.

Have you done one of these walks? What is your favourite Heimaey hike? I’d love to hear about your experiences! If you have a question or a comment, please share them in the comment box at the bottom of this page. Other readers can also benefit from your feedback and the extra information in my reply. You’re welcome to share these articles with others who are interested in visiting this beautiful place 💚

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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 – Midnight sun in Iceland

This is what the midnight sun looks like from the top of Heimaklettur… Luminous clouds & pink skies throughout the night. It’s like fiery red & orange northern lights! The video 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.

© All photo’s on this blog are my own, and subject to copyright (unless credited otherwise). Please contact me if you would like to use a particular picture you’ve seen in one of my articles. You’re welcome to share a link to my blog articles and pictures on social media.


More to explore & discover

Ode to the mountains – The magic of Mount Taranaki

Thórsmörk – Útigönguhöfði and Hvannárgil canyon

Solar eclipse – A mind-blowing experience

The Vierdaagse of Nijmegen – Four days of long-distance trials & tribulations

Island hopping on the Aeolian Islands – A volcanic archipelago

6 thoughts on “Vestmannaeyjar walking tracks – The most beautiful walks on Heimaey

  1. I received this question by email from Tina & family from Germany: ‘It is such an inspiration to read your Blog. We will come in a couple of weeks to visit Iceland and do not want to miss Heimaey. Is there a walk / hike you can recommend for smaller children age 6-8? Thanks so much.’

    1. Here’s the reply I sent them, so other families with similar questions can read this too 🙂 ‘Hi Tina and family, thank you for your lovely comment! I’d definitely recommend the walk through the Eldfell lava fields. There are beautiful paths throughout the fields, and they’re easy to reach from the town (the steps near the houses on the edge of the lava) or from the Eldheimar museum. The beach of Klauf and the puffin hut on Stórhöfði is also a great option. With a car you can drive directy to the beach (about 5 kms from town), or you can do the entire coastal walk. It’s a beautiful walk and you can see lots of puffins along the way. Have a great time on Heimaey!’

  2. Hi, I do not normally comment on articles very often but I just wanted to thank you for this amazing article. I have been to Iceland 4 times before and I make a custom itineraries for people who want to explore this beautiful country. Even though I have not been to Vestmannaeyjar myself yet, your blog post provided me with amazing information and helped me to create an amazing itinerary that involves the Vestmannaeyjar. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your compliment! 🙂 I know a lot of visitors to Iceland bypass Vestmannaeyjar when they bumble along the South coast. But those who’ve taken the effort & made the journey all love it. You will have an amazing time! What is your favourite place in Iceland?

  3. Helle Madsen says:

    Vi (5 voksne i god form) har kun 6 timer her på øen. Hvad skal vi prioritere? Vi har i øvrigt bil til rådighed. Elsker naturen. På forhånd tak for input. Helle

    1. Hæ Helle, if you only have 6 hours on the island I would definitely do the hike up to Eldfell and through the lava fields by the harbour. Not only for the fantastic views & variety of colours, but also because it’s such a significant part of the history of Heimaey. If you have enough time, I’d also recommend the ridge hike above Herjólfsdalur, or a walk around the valley. With a car you can drive up to the puffin hut on Stórhöfði or to the lighthouse, and do a short walk around there too. Enjoy your time, and hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to come back & explore some more 🙂

Ask a question, leave a comment or share your thoughts 💚

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