Vestmannaeyjar, (“The Westman Islands”) a group of 15-18 steep and rocky islands, with green mountain sides and ridges. All the islands come from submarine eruptions, the oldest from about 10,000 years ago and others from 5,000 years ago when the mountain Helgafell erupted.
In 1963 there was a submarine eruption which went on for almost 5 years and eventually formed the island Surtsey.
Then, in 1973, there was an eruption on the only inhabited island of the group, Heimaey. No lives were lost, though almost 400 of the 1,200 houses of the town were buried under lava from the new volcano Eldfell (“Fire mountain”). Before the town was evacuated in the 1973 eruption the population was 5,300. Eldheimar, a museum of remembrance, giving visitors the chance to go back in time and learn about this dramatic event.
The islands of Vestmannaeyjar are famous for the millions of birds in puffin and other sea bird colonies there. The hunting of puffins is widely practiced throughout the islands and each year thousands of fulmar and guillemot eggs are collected from the cliffs by locals who lower each other on long ropes to get at them.
Since 1900 Heimaey has been one of the most important fishing towns in Iceland. An interesting aquarium is located there, an historical museum and a library. A replica of a 11th century wooden church has been build in the Islands as a gift from Norway on a occation of the 1000th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in the year 2000.
A special Vestmannaeyjar activity is Sprangan at Skiphellar (“Ship caves”) where children and teenagers practice lowering each other and swinging along the cliffs on ropes. Ferry connections between Vestmannaeyjar and Landeyjahöfn.