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HomeIceland TravelVestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) | Information to Iceland

Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) | Information to Iceland

Image of the town on Heimaey, Westman Island.

The Westman Islands, or Vestmannaeyjar, are an archipelago of 15 islands and 30 rock stacks off the South Coast of Iceland. Other than their unimaginable pure magnificence, the islands have the world’s largest inhabitants of nesting puffins in summer season and their very own fascinating historical past.

Discover these islands on a Westman Islands tour or package deal trip

Historical past of the Westman Islands

The historical past of the Westman Islands is as darkish as it’s intriguing, starting on the very begin of Iceland’s historical past, with the primary household to settle right here.

The primary individual famend for completely settling Iceland was a person known as Ingólfr Arnarson (though it needs to be famous that he hardly got here alone; he was accompanied by his spouse Hallveig Fróðadóttr and several other slaves). His half-brother joined him within the nation, just a few years later, however met his loss of life by the hands of two of his personal captured males.

These slaves tried to flee and conceal, to flee Arnarson’s vengeance. They reached the Westman Islands, however sadly, had been discovered by ‘Iceland’s father’ and killed in retribution.

The islands since have been named after these males; they had been Irish slaves, and on the time, the Irish had been known as ‘Westmen’, as Eire was regarded as the westernmost landmass earlier than Iceland’s discovery.

This brutal starting could be a touch on the later occasions to happen on and form the archipelago.

The biggest island, Heimaey, was settled within the early period, and the folks on it lived off the fertile oceans, puffins, and eggs. Life was difficult however manageable till a horrible tragedy occurred in 1627.

On the peak of the Ottoman Empire, it was Barbary Pirates from Algiers who dominated the seas, they usually managed to search out their option to this little island. They took management of it for 3 days, earlier than setting off again dwelling with 237 slaves.

The overwhelming majority of those lived out the remainder of their lives in bondage, although some had been ransomed again in 1638.

The trials of the voyage and their captivity had been captured in a novel by a priest who managed to flee in 1628.

Sadly, this was not the final main calamity to befall the islands.

The Westman Islands boast many strange formations.Photograph from Fascinating 1.5 Hour Chicken Watching & Sightseeing Boat Tour across the Westman Islands

Within the twentieth Century, it appeared that the Westman Islands had overcome their hardships, modernising and higher connecting to the mainland. That, nonetheless, was to be overturned in 1974.

At 01.55, on January twentieth, a fissure tore open in the course of the city of Heimaey and the beforehand unknown Eldfell volcano started to violently erupt. In hours, it had torn throughout the island, spurting fountains of lava peak within the air and pouring noxious gasses into the environment.

Unbelievably, nonetheless, nobody was killed. There was an emergency plan for a scenario resembling this, and fortunately, storms the times earlier than meant that the entire fishing fleet was docked within the harbour. Your entire inhabitants of the island was taken to security.

That’s not to say, nonetheless, that the work was accomplished. 5,300 folks’s houses had been within the city, and the Icelandic authorities had been determined to do what they may to assist shield them. On the time, the US had a NATO base within the nation, and their assist was enlisted.

By pumping seawater onto the nice lava fronts, it was doable to chill the molten rock, gradual it, and alter its course.

This modern, beforehand unused approach was notably efficient when it got here to defending the harbour. It appeared at one level that the eruption might have closed it completely, successfully destroying the island’s financial system, but by spraying the lava, the harbour was truly enclosed extra and improved.

When the eruption ended, the island slowly repopulated to about 85 p.c of its earlier inhabitants; about one-fifth of the buildings had been destroyed.

The city, nonetheless, now had a protracted stretch of latest land to construct a runway on, and a volcano in its centre to attract visitors. Ever for the reason that Westman Islands have recovered as a preferred vacationer vacation spot.

A puffin stands on the Westman Islands.

The Westman Islands right this moment

In the present day, the Westman Islands appeal to hundreds of tourists for years, for quite a lot of causes. Many want to go to the Eldborg crater and study in regards to the eruption in depth on the Eldheimar Museum. Others come for unimaginable nature alternatives.

At the beginning amongst these are the probabilities for puffin watching. Ten million puffins nest in Iceland between Could and September, and extra of them come to the Westman Islands than anyplace else.

They nest in cliffs, crags and sea stacks, and may be simply seen by travelling on foot or by boat. In the direction of the top of the season, lots of the pufflings get confused by the lights of the city as they attempt to make their option to the ocean, and find yourself within the streets; it’s thus an area custom amongst the youngsters to gather them and throw them within the sea.

Some business-savvy younger ones used to even acquire them up, and ‘promote’ them to vacationers to launch.

The puffins are simply one of many thirty or so species that nest on the islands however by far essentially the most ample.

More puffins nest in the Westman Islands than anywhere else on earth.

The Westman Islands additionally boast among the greatest whale-watching alternatives within the nation, with Fin, Minke and Humpback Whales seen typically in summer season, and Orcas all year long.

Heimaey itself is dwelling to the world’s first beluga whale sanctuary. In trade for a donation charge to the charity, guests can meet Little White and Little Gray of their houses in Klettsvik Bay.

Issues to do in Westman Islands

Following is an inventory of concepts for issues to do within the Westman islands.

  1. Go to Heimaey Island: That is the most important island within the group and is dwelling to a lot of the native inhabitants. It provides loads of out of doors actions, together with mountain climbing, hen watching, and boat excursions.

  2. Go to Eldfell volcano: This volcano erupted in 1973, inflicting the evacuation of the island’s inhabitants. In the present day, you possibly can hike to the summit of Eldfell to see the crater and benefit from the spectacular views of the encircling panorama.

  3. Discover Stórhöfði: That is the southernmost level of the island and is a well-liked spot for birdwatching. You may see puffins, guillemots, and different seabirds nesting on the cliffs.

  4. Go to the Eldheimar Museum: This museum tells the story of the 1973 volcanic eruption and its impression on the local people. It options reveals on the historical past of the island and the eruption, in addition to a theatre exhibiting a movie in regards to the eruption.

  5. Take a ship tour: There are a number of firms providing boat excursions across the islands, which is a good way to see the rugged shoreline and the number of wildlife within the space, together with whales, dolphins, and seabirds.

  6. Go to the Sæheimar Aquarium: This aquarium is dwelling to quite a lot of marine animals, together with puffins, seals, and numerous fish species. It additionally has reveals on the historical past of fishing within the space and the native marine setting.

  7. Go to the Herjólfsdalur Valley: This valley is situated on the west aspect of the island and is dwelling to a number of mountain climbing trails. It’s also the positioning of an previous farmstead and a historic church.

  8. Benefit from the native delicacies: The Westman Islands are recognized for his or her contemporary seafood, particularly langoustine and cod. There are a number of eating places on the island providing native dishes, in addition to conventional Icelandic delicacies.

Attending to the Westman Islands

The ferry Herjolfur sails to the Westman Islands from the city of Landeyjahöfn, on the south shore of Iceland, for the shortest journey. In poor situations, notably between November and March, it could as an alternative depart from  Þorlákshöfn. It’s also doable to fly to the islands from Reykjavík Home Airport.



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