Today we will drive to Landeyjarhofn where we take the short ferry ride over to Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). The Westman Islands are situated just off the south coast of Iceland. The main island, Heimaey, has a population of about 4,000.
The islands formed by submarine volcanic eruptions along a 30-km long fissure lying southwest to northeast. We will go on a scheduled boat trip around the island Heimaey. The boat tour gives you a look at colorful ocean caves, the newly formed volcanic island of Surtsey and other islands of Westman Islands, and the lava coastline with its dark bird cliffs. You can observe the variety of seabird and occasionally whales. Our trip ends by sailing into the Cliff Cave near the harbor, where you will hear the sound of an instrumental music and enjoy the unique acoustic in this cave.
Our next stop is Storhofdi with its magnificent views over the island and majestic glaciers of mainland Iceland. During spring and early summer, Storhofdi is home to the largest puffin colony on Heimaey.
Our drive back to the harbor takes us between two volcanoes, the 5,000-year-old volcano Helgafell and the considerably younger volcano Eldfell (Mt. Fire) whose history is somewhat more recent. At 2 am on the night of January 23rd, 1973, a massive eruption began in the eastern part of Heimaey. Almost all of the 5,000 inhabitants safely evacuated to the mainland. Our next stop is the viewpoint located over the old town of the new lava over the new lava field.
Welcome to Eldheimar, a museum of remembrance. The exhibition focuses on the 1973 volcanic eruption. Visitors get a glimpse into peoples lives on Heimaey before the explosion that would change their lives forever. This volcanic eruption is, without a doubt, considered the largest natural disaster in Iceland in recent history. The show also covers the Surtsey eruption, the island that emerged from the ocean south of Heimaey in 1963.
The Surtsey eruption lasted for almost four years and ever since only scientists have been allowed on the island to monitor how new ecosystems come to life. Surtsey was inscribed as a natural property on UNESCOs World Heritage List during the 32nd session of the World HeritageCommittee in July 2008. You will also learn about the Turkish Abductions, series of slave raids by Barbary pirates that took place in Iceland in 1627. Pirates from Morocco and Algeria attacked few towns in Iceland, including Westman Islands. As there were no harbors or landing sites along the south coast, three ships eventually came on July 16th to Westman Islands. They raided the village and the home island for three days, capturing 234 people and killing 34. On July 19 the ships left Westman Islands and sailed back to Algiers.
We now head towards the ferry and to your accommodation in the south of Iceland, Hotel Ranga.