Westman Islands is a place belonging to Iceland. It is located in the south of Iceland and it is one of the destinations, where not a lot of tourists venture. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do there. There is a lot of things to do and see in the Westman Islands. Besides it is easy to get there on the ferry. In recent years, the popularity of this place went upwards, so there is a lot of restaurants and hotels in case you would like to stay longer than just one day.
Things to do in Westman Islands
South of Iceland is a very popular destination for a lot of waterfalls, black beaches, incredible hiking spots, and hot springs. Westman Islands might not offer you waterfalls, but it is certainly possible to watch here birds that are so typical for Iceland and north of Atlantic overall. Puffins. On Westman Islands, there is one of the biggest populations of Puffins, living freely next to people or in the closeness of some cliff. And the Westman Islands have a lot of cliffs. The whole island border is mostly high cliffs.
And where to find puffins? there are several areas around islands where you can find them. In some places, you can even hunt them. One of them is right behind the city in the west of Iceland. You will go around the golf field and behind you will see huge cliffs. Even though those are relatively close to civilization, there is still a lot of birds hunting fishes in the sea. And so it is completely possible to see them. This place is mainly if you don’t want to hike too much around and want to be close to the local city.
Another place, where you can find puffins in on Puffin lookout.Which is closer to Stóhöfdi. Stórhöfdi is a peninsula and the most southern point of the main Westman island. It is only about 5km away from the main village on the island and you can get there by walk. From there, you will be a little bit further to any civilization. But you will have a great position for seeing these little birds at their best. There is a lot of them around the Puffin lookout – the name isn’t there just for the sake of it.
Play golf under the cliffs
It might not be the most obvious thing, but playing golf in Westman Islands is one of the things to do. It is also one of the reasons why these islands are so popular. There is a big golf school, where you can take beginner lessons and play golf right under cliffs. Also very close to the open sea.
If you are already a pro golf player, you can also join. Westman Islands has one of the biggest golf clubs in Iceland. Besides, you will get to try to play in very windy terrain. One of the popular things that people are doing is to play it around sunset, which in summer can be around 11 pm or later.
For getting a lesson of golf, you will have to book it on their website. Most of the golf courses work only in summer, so it is probably better to book it well ahead.
Visit local museums
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It might seem a little unusual but Westman islands have relatively a lot of museums considering how small this place is. I will mention the museum of the local volcano further down the post. But except for this one, there is a Beluga whale sanctuary which also works as a museum of Beluga whales. In that museum, you will get to know everything about these sea creatures including why there is a beluga sanctuary on the south of Iceland. The opening hours in the main season (April to October) are from 10 am to 5 pm. When you are entering the museum, you can choose whether you are interested just in museum and sanctuary or a trip around the bay. There are different prices on each option.
Another museum to visit here is the Aquarium and natural history. In this little museum, you will get to know more about the wildlife around the Westman Islands and the protection of it. Except for that, you will also get to know about all the sanctuaries around Iceland and what are they protecting. The opening hours are the same as in Beluga center.
Hiking in Westman Islands
Iceland has a lot of volcanos, starring from the one that in 2010 stop the air traffic all over Europe. This one isn’t too big or dangerous. Neither it is too old. Eldfell rose from the earth in 1973 and it is just 200 meters tall. And yet the name translates to a hill of fire. The first and last eruption happened in 1973 and since then, there is a little hill behind the village on the island. This place is very easy to hike. From the center of the city, it shouldn’t take more than just half an hour. And that is because some parts of the hike are rather steep.
From the peak of this little volcano, you can see all the islands that are part of the Westman Islands and also the village below. It is an amazing place to go to.
Museum of volcanos
If you feel like there is more that you should know about this volcano, you should visit the local museum that is dedicated to Eldfell. But you will get to know here more about the volcanoes in general. In the museum, you will hear the whole story. How the earthquake started, how people evacuated and where they found refuge and place to stay until things get calm again.
The museum also offers a wider view of how volcanos work and why they couldn’t see that this one is about to erupt. There is also a part where they will explain to you how is the volcano activity measured. Things like that are super interesting. At the same time, I got a little bit worried about how do people live with the fact that there is a mount full of fire behind your house, that can erupt any time soon.
The beautiful thing about it is that the museum is opened daily, from 11 am till 5 pm. And the entrance fee isn’t too expensive. It cost only 2100ISK.
Hike around the cliffs
As I mentioned before, the Westman Islands has a lot of cliffs. The best thing about them is that you can hike all around the island including the cliffs. It is completely safe. Once you come to the islands, you will get a map of the island. On the map, you can see all of the hikes including how long will they take. You can hike all around Island in just one day and cliffs are a big part of it.
If you decide to hike the cliffs, be careful, especially if its wet and humid weather, the trecks can be slippery. But otherwise, there is a great view from the high cliff on the rest of the islands and the little village. Besides that, a lot of puffins and other birds live on the cliffs, so there is a great potential to see them there as well.
Hiking the highest hill of Westman Islands
The highest hill of the Westman Islands is called Helgafell. Helgafell is also an active volcano. But it didn’t erupt since 3920BC. At least that is what the scientist says. And so it is completely safe to hike it up. You will get an even better view than from the cliffs since it is the highest hill, with a height of about 227 meters. It doesn’t seem like a lot but the truth is, that hiking this mountain can be difficult. Not because there is a harsh terrain around, but mainly because the hill is kind of steep. At the same time, the Westman Islands lay right on the border with the Atlantic ocean, very close to the open sea. Meaning that it is a rather windy and little bit difficult to do.
Hiking Helgafell is still very doable, even though it might not be for everyone. I would encourage you to do so if you don’t have back issues or don’t mind a little bit of wind. Even if you decide against hiking the hill, there is still plenty of hiking places that are not that difficult or at least not that steep.
More info about Westman Islands
Finding a hotel
Because this destination isn’t that well known, it is still possible to get accommodation here for cheap price comparing to the rest of Iceland. But at the same time, it is necessary to keep in mind that Westman Islands are very small so there aren’t too many accommodations and you can certainly won’t find here 5-star hotel with all-inclusive services.
Most of the hotels here have 3-stars and in some of them, you will still need to share a bathroom or kitchen. A lot of them are more like apartments, where you will live close to the Icelandic family that got spare space in their house.
One of the most popular hotel here is called Camping and glamping. If you have already decided to save some money and just want to find a cheap camping site, this is your answer to where to spend a night here. You will get plenty of room and food facilities around. However, if you feel like really having a roof to sleep under, it is also an option. This hotel offers little houses, very convenient for a couple. In those houses, you will have your bathroom living room and even bed sheets. It costs from 8000ISK to 11 000 ISK for 2 people. So it is still relatively cheap.
Where to eat
If you are looking for just something to get by and survive the day, there are two supermarkets. Bónus and Krónan. Bónus is cheaper but doesn’t have that many options. Krónan very often offers premade sandwiches that you can also use as cheap lunch or dinner. Besides that, there is a lot of snacks.
There is also bistro from the chain Grilhús 900. It is a relatively cheap steakhouse with very decent meals. Very close to Grillhus is also restaurant Gott. Very cozy place with local delicacies including meals from puffins. My last recommended place would be The Brothers brewery. As the only brewery on Westman Islands. They have their beers which are amazing to taste. But at the same time, they have some food as well. Pricewise all those three places are the same.
Generally, there is a lot of places where to eat in the Westman Islands, you can find here everything from local delicacies which would include seafood or puffins and whales to general places like Chinese restaurants, pizza place, and others. All of them are located in the main village, usually very close to each other.
How to get to Westman Islands
Westman Islands are relatively easy to find. If you are planning to go to the south of Iceland, there is a side road close to the Seljanasfoss waterfall. It will also say that this is the way to the ferry to Westman Islands. The ferry is the only way to the islands. And if you are planning to visit the place between April and October, it is recommended to book the tickets ahead. You can choose both if you want it just one way and then find the tickets back once you are there, or you can choose a round trip, which I would certainly recommend especially in the main season. One of the things that no one will tell you in Iceland that it is also necessary to call if the ferry is coming. Sometimes is not due to bad weather.
The ferry to the islands goes 7 times per day, in the main season, it can be even more. But generally, it comes every hour and a half. It takes about 35 minutes to get to the harbor. On your way, there will be a parking lot, where you can keep your car for free. You can also choose to take your car with you, but that will get much more expensive.
The islands are relatively small and even if you are planning to come just for a day, it is enough to walk around just by foot. Even though you will be tired at the end of the day, it is still worth it and generally, the main island is so small, that you don’t need a car if you don’t mind having about 20km in your feet in one day.
Are Westman Islands worth it?
I would say yes. A lot of people will skip the place because they can see cliffs with puffins in some other places. There are also volcanos that are much higher or much more interesting than those two small ones. But for sake of finding hidden gems, the Westman Islands are definitely worth it. Maybe not for two days but one day here can be very nice, especially if you would like to go hiking or see puffins.
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