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The Westman Islands: Why This Epic Place Needs to be Added to Your Icelandic Bucket

  • Post last modified:April 1, 2024
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Did you know Iceland has more than just the one main island? Actually, there is a small set of islands, called the Westman Islands, that you should definitely add to your Icelandic bucket list!


We decided to spend one night in the Westman Islands of Iceland, and explored so many cool things that most tourists skip out on!


In this guide we're going to share all of the details for getting there, why you should visit, and how to plan the perfect itinerary for the Westman Islands.

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An Intro to the Westman Islands in Iceland

Before jumping into the details about how to visit the Westman Islands, and all that they offer, we're going to share some of the island info with you.


Where are the Westman Islands in Iceland?

The Westman Islands are located south of the island of Iceland, on the western side of the country. They are just 10 km off the coast, making them easily accessible from the main island of Iceland.

Why are They Called the Westman Islands?

The Westman Islands are named after Irish slaves that were captured by Norsemen. Westman comes from the Old Norse word "Vestmenn", which was applied to the Irish.


Do People Live on the Westman Islands?

Out of all of the Westman Islands, there is just one of them that people live on, which is the island of Heimaey. The population is 4,414, and the majority of them live in the main city, which is Vestmannaeyjabær.


How Many Westman Islands are There?

There are 16 islands that make up the Westman Islands in Iceland. 15 of them are uninhabited, and 6 of them have 1 single cabin on them, which were used for hunting in the past.

There are a lot of small islands in the Westman Islands with one house.

Why Visit the Westman Islands?

The Westman Islands are one of the most unique and least visited areas of Iceland! It is mostly known for its unique elephant shaped rock, as well as the intriguing vibrant green islands surrounding the main one.


Heimaey is full of beautiful landscapes, and is a great off-the-beaten-path destination for those looking to experience something different in the land of ice and fire.

Westman Islands in Iceland
Westman Islands in Iceland
Westman Islands in Iceland

How Do You Get to the Westman Islands?

In order to get to the Westman Islands in Iceland you have to take a ferry from the main island.


Where Do You Take the Ferry to Westman Islands?

The ferry to go to the Westman Islands leaves from Landeyjahöfn, which is in the south of Iceland, and goes to Vestmannaeyjar, the main island of the Westman Islands.


How Long is the Ferry to Westman Islands?

The ferry to the Westman Islands takes about 35-40 minutes each way. Tickets must be purchased in advance, as there is limited space and availability. You can purchase them directly on the Herjolfur Ferry website, and are 2,400 kr each way per passenger.


Ferries have both indoor and outdoor seating, outlets, and a cafe onboard for snacks and sandwiches.


Ferry Times for the Westman Islands

Here are the daily times for going from Landeyjahöfn to Vestmannaeyjar, and from Vestmannaeyjar back to Landeyjahöfn.


Landeyjahöfn to Vestmannaeyjar Ferry Times

8:15 am-8:55 am

10:45 am-11:20 am

1:15 pm-1:55 pm

3:45 pm-4:20 pm

6:15 pm-6:55 pm

8:45 pm-9:20 pm

11:15 pm-11:55 pm


Vestmannaeyjar to Landeyjahöfn Ferry Times

7:00 am-7:40 am

9:30 am-10:10 am

12:00 pm-12:40 pm

2:30 pm-3:10 pm

5:00 pm-5:40 pm

7:30 pm-8:10 pm

10:00 pm-10:40 pm 

 

How Far is the Ferry from Reykjavik to Westman Islands?

The ferry station to the Westman Islands is 137 km away from the center of Reykjavik, and is about 2 hours away in car.


Can You Take a Car to the Westman Islands?

You can take a car to the Westman Islands, as the ferry is a car ferry. We actually took our car with us, and it was a rather seamless process.


Cars, bikes, and motorcycles all are for an extra charge, on top of the passenger tickets. Cars from 1-4.5 meters are 3,600 kr, and are 4,800 kr for vehicles that are above 4.5 meters. Motorcycles are 2,400 kr, and bikes are 360 kr.


Tours to the Westman Islands

If you'd like to experience the beauty of the Westman Islands without having to plan on your own, you can also take a tour that covers everything for you. 


Here are a few of the tours that we have found that visit the Westman Islands:


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Entry Requirements for the Westman Islands

Since the Westman Islands belong to Iceland, you won't have to worry about bringing any specific documentation. Just make sure to have your tickets available for the ferry, and a form of ID just in case they ask for it, or if you plan to use your credit card on the island.


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Local Adjustments for the Westman Islands

Whenever traveling somewhere new, there are things that may differ from where you are coming from (even if it is inside the same country). Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind when visiting the Westman Islands in Iceland.


What Language Do They Speak in the Westman Islands?

In the Westman Islands they speak Icelandic. Pretty much everyone also speaks English, so you won't have any problem communicating with the locals.


Currency Used in the Westman Islands

The currency used in the Westman Islands is the same as Iceland, which is the Icelandic Krona. Currently (November 2023) 1 USD is equal to 140 ISK, 1 euro is equal to 150 ISK, and 1 pound is equal to 173 ISK. Everywhere takes credit card, so you won't need to carry any cash on you.


Electrical Outlets in the Westman Islands

The Westman Islands use the same plug types as the rest of Iceland, which are plug types C & F. The standard voltage in Iceland is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.


Can You Drink the Water in the Westman Islands?

The water in Iceland is some of the cleanest in the world! The Westman Islands are included in this, so you can feel free to drink directly from the tap, and skip the bottled water.


Tipping Culture in the Westman Islands

In The Westman Islands it is not normal to tip, which means it isn't expected at all, even in restaurants. That being said, if you really had excellent service and want to leave something extra, you can always leave some change.

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Things to Do in the Westman Islands, Iceland

Now that you know all the basic info for visiting the Westman Islands in Iceland. Now let's dive into all of the fun things to check out!


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Westman Islands Iceland pin
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Things to Do in the Westman Islands #1: Check Out Elephant Rock

The Westman Islands' number one claim to fame is the impressive Elephant Rock. Completely natural, its form is simply insane!


The rock can be appreciated from the coast of the island, or you can opt for a boat tour to get you up close and personal.

Elephant rock in the Westman Islands, I eland

One of the coolest things to do in the Westman Islands is to check out the elephant shaped rock.

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #2: Stop at the Cutest Black Church (Stafkirkjan)

There's something so mesmerizing about a black church, and there really something you can only find in Iceland or Norway.


Located just a short walk from the ferry port, Statkirkjan also has a small museum next to it, and makes for the perfect start or end to your Westman Islands exploration.

black church on the Westman Islands of Iceland
museum in the westman Islands, Iceland

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #3: Take in the Views from the Flakkarinn Scenic Overlook

Just a few minutes from Statkirkjan you can head up the hill for a truly spectacular view, With little effort, you can make it up there without needing a crazy hike or anything. There is also a picnic table where you can enjoy your lunch as you watch the waves crashing down, and admire some of the surrounding islands.

Westman Islands view
Westman Islands view
Westman Islands view

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #4: Learn About the Island's History at the Herjólfstown Viking Museum

Head to the north of the island and you'll find what looks like a home from over 1,000 years ago. Actually, this stone house covered in grass is a museum, and it shows the story of what it looked like to be the first family on the island in the year 900!


Things to Do in the Westman Islands #5: Explore the Eldfell Volcano

The Westman Islands were actually created 10-20,000 years ago from volcanic activity. So seeing the volcanoes is definitely one of the top highlights in the area. The first one we checked out was Eldfell, which you can easily walk around enjoying the views.


Things to Do in the Westman Islands #6: Walk Along the Helgafell Volcano Crater

Located right next to the Eldfell Volcano, is the stunning Helgafell Volcano. This one you can actually hike around the rim, and also enjoy stunning views from different angles. The crater is full of various colorful hues, making it a truly spectacular experience while visiting the Westman Islands.


 It gets really windy at the top, so make sure to bring some layers with you!

Westman Islands in Iceland

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #7: Stop at the Urðaviti Lighthouse

This adorable lighthouse is locate on the east coast of the island, and has great views of a rock bridge, as well as the nearby islands.


Things to Do in the Westman Islands #8: Walk Around Storhofdhi

One of our favorite areas of the Westman Islands in located all the way in the south. This whole area is full of green hills, and some of the best views of the surrounding islands. It's also the highest part of the island, so you'll be able to appreciate the breathtaking cliffs that make up the southern coast of the island.

Westman Islands in Iceland
Westman Islands in Iceland

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #9: Look for Puffins

One of the best parts of visiting the Westman Islands is the chance to see puffins! These adorable birds can only be found on areas with cliffs, making it the perfect area for them to flock to. Actually, the hunting cabins were all built for people to hunt puffins back in the day, which just goes to show you how high the chances are of you seeing them!


There is a spot in particular that has been marked on Google Maps for frequent sightings. Simply look up "Beautiful Puffin and Shore View", and you'll find it!

 

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #10: Go to a Black Sand Beach

Located close to the southern tip of the island on the west coast is a tiny beach you can stop by, and it has black sand!


Things to Do in the Westman Islands #11: Play a Round of Golf

Being such a small island, we were surprised to find out that there is a golf course there! Just right outside the center of town is the course, and it's right on the water, facing the famous Elephant Rock. For more details about rates and availability you can check out the Golfklúbbur Vestmannaeyja website.

 

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #12: Roam Around Vestmannaeyjabær

The main city of the island is very charming, and we definitely recommend just taking some time to walk around and speak with the locals. Then once you make it through the city walk further up into the island, and you'll be able to get some great views of the entire city.

Westman Islands in Iceland

If you walk outside the city you can get great views.

Things to Do in the Westman Islands #13: Go on a Boat Tour

One of the top things we wanted to do that we didn't get the chance to was to go on a boat tour in the Westman Islands.


You can sign up for one from a local tour agency, and have the choice between a traditional cruise around the islands, or opt for the adventurous rib boat.

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Local Food & Drink in the Westman Islands

While visiting the Westman Islands, we were on a time crunch, as well as a tight budget. For this reason we opted for the local supermarket, and stocked up on Skyr (Icelandic yogurt), as well as made sandwiches.


However, if you do have the budget and time, there are actually some really great restaurants in town! We were surprised by the variety, as they even have Italian and Chinese options on the island. We definitely think you should opt for one of the local choices though, that feature freshly caught fish, and local ingredients.


We read a great article by one of the hotels in town, about the best restaurants in Vestmannaeyjar to check out, which we will definitely be exploring next time!

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Getting Around the Westman Islands in Iceland

There is only one island in the Westman Islands that you can actually visit, which is the main island. If you'd like to explore the other ones, you can take a boat tour, which will sail around and show you the other Westman Islands.


As far as getting around the main island, we brought our rental car, and were able to easily explore everything the island had to offer in little time!


Do I Need a Car on Westman Islands? / Is Westman Islands Walkable?

While we liked having our car with us (the weather was a bit cold), you can absolutely explore the island on foot! It actually only takes an hour and a half to walk from the north side of the island where the ferry drops you all the way down to the southern tip.


How Long Does it Take to Drive Around the Westman Islands?

If you want to drive around the island, everything is just minutes away from each other. You can actually drive the entire island in 10 minutes, so if you want to drive and stop at each attraction, you can drive around the Westman Islands in just a. couple of hours.


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Can You Stay on the Westman Islands?

The Westman Islands are small, but there are actually a few different places that you can stay! We stayed at Glamping & Camping, an adorable Glamping site with wooden barrels and cabins to stay in, and absolutely love it!

Glamping in the Westman Islands in Iceland

We noticed there no longer is a posting about it, but do encourage you to visit some of the other few properties on the island, by checking on the map below:

 

Are the Westman Islands Safe?

For 13 years Iceland has actually been ranked the number one safest country in the world! This also goes for the Westman Islands, as there is literally no crime there at all! Also, as there is just one main city, it is a great place for solo female travelers.


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Other Things to Know About Visiting the Westman Islands in Iceland

Now you know almost everything you need to know for visiting the Westman Islands in Iceland! But here are a few final things to keep in mind.

 

Weather in the Westman Islands

The weather in the Westman Islands is pretty similar to the main island of Iceland, except windier. Weather can change at any given moment, and is truly unpredictable! The best weather is in the summer, when you can expect to wear just a light jacket, and experience the Midnight Sun. 


Winters are long, dark, and very cold in the West Man Islands, but you can have the chance to experience the Northern Lights.


The Best Time to Visit the Westman Islands

The best time to visit the Westman Islands is in the summer. This is when you can really appreciate the nicer weather, go one boat rides, and even explore all night if you'd like!


Can You Visit the Westman Islands in Winter?

The Westman Islands ferries run year-round, so you can visit at any time! Just keep in mind that if you wouldn't like to visit in the winter there may be some restaurants and hotels closed.


Packing For a Trip to the Westman Islands in Iceland

When packing for a trip to the Westman Islands you don't need to worry about bringing anything different than what you would typically bring to Iceland. Here is a list of some things we brought with us:

  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use this water bottle from Cafago because it holds the temperature)

  • Steripen as a second-check for clean water

  • Umbrella

  • Poncho

  • Jacket and plenty of layers

  • Sneakers (for hiking the volcano)

  • Eye mask (if you are visiting in the summer)

  • Lotion or vaseline (our skin got super dry)

  • Zippered Bag or Backpack - take a look at these backpacks for travelers!

  • Power Bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)

  • Drone (Our Mavic Mini Pro 3 held up well even with the strong winds!)

  • Action Camera (we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof)

  • Travel Adapter (we use Tessan travel adapters as they are affordable and reliable)

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Is it Worth Going to the Westman Islands?

It is absolutely worth going to the Westman Islands! If you are on a short trip to Iceland, we would stay on the main island of Iceland. But if you are staying closer to a week or more, then we definitely think it is worth visiting the Westman Islands for a unique experience.

westmand islands in Iceland

The Westman Islands in Iceland are definitely worth a visit if you have time!

How Much Time Do You Need in the Westman Islands?

You can easily see everything the Westman Islands in Iceland have to offer on a full day experience. While you can do a day trip there, we spent the night, and found that spending that extra time really allowed us to immerse further into the island life, as well as fully enjoy everything that the islands had to offer.

westmand islands in Iceland
westmand islands in Iceland
westmand islands in Iceland

There are some beautiful views that you can appreciate above the canyon.



So have we convinced you? Will you book your trip to the Westman Islands in Iceland? We loved our visit, and we're sure you will too!


Want to see all of the other cool things to do in Iceland? We have a few other guides to check out, like what to expect while visiting the Blue Lagoon, what it's like hiring a car in Iceland, and a complete Iceland Travel Guide. In addition, we have more Iceland guides coming up, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the latest content and exclusive discounts!


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