Saturday, July 2, 2016

Iceland: Westman Islands - Vestmannaeyjar

Last time I was in Iceland was 9 years ago. It was December, very dark, cold and rainy. This time we came in June, and while it was still rather chilly, it was bright and beautiful. In fact, it never ever got dark. Which is a joy for a travelling photographer :)

We travelled as a family of 4 - our kids are 2,5 and 6. During our trip I did not see many people travelling in Iceland with kids. At least not with young kids. In fact, you do need to keep a very close eye on your little ones as while the nature is amazing, it is a also dangerous.

I hope to write a few more reviews but I'll start with our favourite daytrip, which was to Westman Islands. I had promised my volcano obsessed son a volcano. There are many volcanos in Iceland but not so many that are easily accessible with young kids. The one on Westman Islands is perfect.

We stayed at a guesthouse about 1,5h drive from the harbour. The boats to Westman islands leave from the south of Iceland.

 If you want to take a car over, make sure you prebook your tickets online. We booked the day before and there were no car places available. We still decided to go and conquer the island on foot. It was nice but with a car it would have been easier to see more of the island. Luckily our kids are very good walkers and we saw a lot without the car too.

At the port there is a small playground that was nice for the time we waited for the boat.

The ferry

The ferry itself has a couple of cafes and places to sit inside and outside. It took around 30min to get to the islands. We had a beautiful calm day and the ferry ride was a breeze.

We first went for lunch after arriving. There is a very nice small place called Fiskibarinn (1,Bárustígur). I had an amazing lobster soup while the kids loved the fish and chips and my husband got a local pan baked fish dish with potatoes. All excellent. I highly recommend. 

After this we started to climb up the volcano. There are several routes on the maps that you can get from tourist information (very close to Fiskibarinn) but we still managed to go somehow different and it ended up being quite a steep climb as opposed to the smooth walk how it is advertised on some travel blogs. It was amazing though.

The route starts off with some stairs on Kirkjuvegur street and then you are already on the lava field. We tried to follow the signs... with little luck. When you take the car you get closer but then you lose out on a beautiful hike. It took us about 50min to reach the top. 

Here you can see signs for where the houses used to be. This house is 15m under the lava.
Our destination. The top of the red mountain - Elfell volcano that erupted in 1973 covering half the town under lava and increasing the size of the island.

A bit more to go

Almost at the top.

The view was phenomenal. You can see here the volcano crater, then further back the lava fields which reach to the border of the town. On the left hand side where there are houses is where the lava stopped. The lava is around 15m high.

Here is the border of the lava field towards the sea .

The ground is still hot. When we were at the top we dug a little hole with our hands and put a piece of cholocate inside. The chocolate melted immediately.

We took the normal path back down. Much smoother. :)

At the bottom there is a volcano museum describing the events of 1973. I loved the place! The built the museum around a house that was excavated from under the lava. 

There was explanation about volcanoes, wildlife, etc. And a cafe with a very nice view. 

If you have a car then you should drive to the other side of the island (opposite to where the port is) to see puffins. They are best seen at the southern tip. We did not have time to walk there and so we did not manage to see them. The puffins are the other thing Westman Islands are famous for. 

We decided to just walk around a bit in the town and then took the last ferry back. 
You can see Eldfell volcano in the background

We went with a 12 o'clock ferry and returned with a 18 o'clock one. In this time we managed to have lunch, climb the volcano, visit the museum, look around in the town and have a glass of wine at the port. 

It is a perfect day out, especially with kids (and even more if your kids are into volcanoes).