The Westman Islands – called Vestmannaeyjar, or simply 'Eyjar' in Icelandic — make up a spectacular archipelago off the south coast of Iceland.
Icelandair passengers from Europe and North America land at Keflavík International Airport (KEF). To travel to the Westman Islands by air, passengers need to first transfer from Keflavík to the city airport in Reykjavík – a distance of 50 km (31 miles). The flight time between Reykjavík domestic airport and the airport on Heimey in the Westman Islands is only 20 minutes.
The Westman Islands lie off the south coast of Iceland, and in many ways a visit here takes you to an older Iceland, to a relaxed yet hard-working and creative community. The friendly, welcoming islanders will happily tell you about their home island and its captivating history.
The archipelago's main island is called Heimaey (literally, 'Home Island') and it's home to the population of around 4300. Heimaey is surrounded by 14 uninhabited islands and around 30 rock stacks and skerries, making the area rich in sea life and bird life.
The archipelago is a prime destination for natural adventures. If you're looking for unique activities, try these on for size: you can swing in a rope from a cliff, see beluga whales and puffins, take scenic boat rides and kayak tours, cycle the island from end to end, and hike stunning trails through lava.
The most popular time to visit is for the annual three-day Þjóðhátíð, the biggest festival in Iceland drawing around 16,000 people. It's held on the first weekend in August, and bonfires, fireworks and the Sunday sing-along are the highlights of the event.
The January 1973 eruption of the Eldfell volcano is one of the largest natural disasters in Iceland's recent history. It forced all the Westman Island inhabitants to evacuate to the mainland of Iceland.
By the end of the eruption, which lasted more than five months, around one-third of homes on Heimaey were covered in lava and ash, and the island had grown by 2 sq km. Today, the Westman Islands are sometimes called the 'Pompeii of the North', where visitors can witness Icelandic nature's mighty powers. A great museum on Heimaey documents the event.