Heimaey island - Eldfell volcano
Getting to Heimaey from Reykjavik involved an hour-long bus trip to
Þorlákshöfn, then a three hour ferry trip (leaving at noon). Fortunately
for us the weather was superb and the passage not too rough, but we
hadn't had much sleep the night before. It was a glorious day and we
had excellent views of the coastline, especially of the cone of Hekla
(unusually without clouds) and the Eyjafjallajökull icecap. Approaching
Heimaey there were views of the other Vestmannaeyjar (Westman) islands.
The entry into Heimaey harbour is extremely dramatic, matching the
situation of the town itself. To the west are a series of cliff-knolls
(with one gap), to the north is the narrow harbour entrance (through
which can be seen the Eyjafjallajökull icecap on the mainland), to the
north-east are the lava flows from the 1973 eruption of Eldfell, and to
the east are the volcanoes Eldfell and Helgafell. To the south lies the
remainder of the island, of which the town occupies a good fraction -
with a population of nearly 5000, it's a big town in Iceland.
The intersection in front of the harbour has the only set of traffic
lights on the island — there more for show than out of any actual need,
I suspect. Not having had a proper lunch, the first thing we did was
to grab a pizza (banana and pepperoni) from a Pizza 67 outlet.
We checked into our guesthouse, which I think was the Guesthouse Sunnuholl
attached to the Hótel Þórshamar, a nice little
building with shared showers and cooking facilities but proper linen on
the beds (and at 10800 krona for three people for two nights, good value).
After a short rest we headed off to climb Eldfell. Without a real map,
we ended up wandering around a bit - first to a lookout over the harbour
entrance, with boards describing the bird species. Apart from that there
was not much at all in the way of signposting, but we could hardly get
lost, with our target always visible.
The climb up Eldfell itself was steep and sandy, typical
two-feet-forward-one-foot-back kind of stuff. There were nice views at
the top, and patches of steaming sand - too warm to touch for long.
It was late, but it wasn't getting dark till after 9, so that was
Getting down was much easier, and we were soon back in town.
We had dinner in Fjólan, the restaurant attached to the same hotel as our
guesthouse. This offered table service in what felt like a really fancy
restaurant, with excellent fish dishes - possibly our best meal of the
entire trip - for only 1050 (fish of the day) or 1350 (mixed seafood).
Next: Heimaey - birds and cliffs
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