Pompeii of the North: The Westman Islands - Hotel Rangá

Pompeii of the North: The Westman Islands

The Westman Islands, or Vestmannaeyjar in Icelandic, is an archipelago of 15 islands located just off the south coast of Iceland. Out of the 15, only one is inhabited year round: the island of Heimaey. There you will find a community of 4.000 that has prospered from a thriving fishing industry. With stunning landscapes, charming villages and the largest puffin colony of the world, these small yet enchanting islands offer a variety of activities and attractions for visitors.
The Westman Islands.
The Westman Islands. Photo by Phil Nuttridge


A full day excursion or a one/two night stopover on the Westman Islands are great ways to experience a taste of life on this beautiful volcanic isle. Here are our suggestions for exploring Heimaey and the surrounding islands:


Boat Tour

Take a boat tour or rib safari and enjoy the thrilling ride that will take you in and around the islands, passing the famous elephant rock and puffin spotting along the way of course.



Sæheimar Natural History Museum and Aquarium

Make friends with a real puffin. Visit the Sæheimar Natural History Museum and Aquarium and cuddle Tóti the puffin. A wonderful experience for children and adults alike.

Video of Tóti the puffin:


Eldheimar museum

Visit the Eldheimar museum and learn about the volcanic eruption that hit Heimaey island in 1973. The eruption caused an emergency evacuation for the entire island and many of inhabitants couldn’t return to Vestmannaeyjar for over a year. Sadly the devastating lava flow destroyed around 400 homes and some islanders never returned. One of the homes hit by the lava and ash has been excavated and is displayed in the museum for an incomparable reminder of nature’s power and cruelty.



Hike across lava fields

After visiting the Eldheimar museum, take a hike around the lava fields created following the 1973 eruption. Walk along the lava covered streets once lived in by the islanders before the volcano struck – in some places, you may even find a roof sticking out of the ground.



The volcano that erupted that fateful night in 1973 is called Eldfell. It’s a 200 meter high formation, where you can take a short yet steep hike to stunning views across the islands. Be careful when digging your hands into the ash at the top – it may be warm or even hot.



Elephant Rock

A rock formation shaped like an elephant. We dedicated a blog post this special rock formation.


If you are looking for a more adventurous trek, you can take-on Heimaklettur – the highest peak in the Westman Islands. You will need a good head for heights as this hike includes climbing wooden ladders that lead you to the peak, 900 feet above sea level.





Another adventures hike starts at the setting of the popular annual music festival Þjóðhátíð. It results in a breathtaking view of islands and oceans.


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