Icelandic Road Trip: Westman Islands

Time to say goodbye to our little apartment in Laugarvatn and head out to our next destination: The Westman Islands of south Iceland. The weather started cold and rainy, but got better as the day progressed. We had some time to kill before we had to catch the ferry to the island, so we made some obligatory stops at some waterfalls along the way.  The Seljalandsfoss falls was one of the most interesting that we encountered so far. These falls are unique in that you can actually walk behind them, allowing for some interesting photographs looking out through the water. Be prepared to get wet though; my poor Canon DSLR got soaked, but seemed to survive the experience OK.

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Seljalandsfoss from the Outside

 

 

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Seljalandsfoss from the Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We caught the ferry for the short, 30 minute ride to the town of Vestmannaeyjar on the island of Heimay.  The island is very small (about 7×4 miles in size), so it doesn’t take long to get from one end to the other. The island is nearly surrounded by jagged cliffs that are chock full of bird nests. We got out and walked along some of the high cliffs hoping to catch a glimpse at some of the islands population of colorful puffins.  Didn’t see puffins, but we still enjoyed a beautiful walk along the rugged coast as we watched waves pounding the rocks.

We were really wanting a good view of the island, so we climbed Mt. Hedefll, a now-dormant volcano that erupted in 1973 and devastated a portion of the town. Although the wind nearly blew us away, we were not disappointed with the view from the summit.

Valerie on the Summit of Volcano Heldefll Overlooking Heimay Island

Valerie on the Summit of Volcano Heldefll Overlooking Heimay Island

After our climb, it was time to head into town where we would be staying with a resident family. We stayed with Heather, a marine biologist, and her two kids. At first it felt a little strange staying in someone’s home, but Heather was very welcoming and invited us to join her and her family for dinner after our arrival. Heather gave us some wonderful information about life on the island, and also provided some good intel on where/when to catch a glimpse of the islands resident Puffins. So, after dinner, we packed up the photo equipment and drove to the south end of the island where there is a short walk to an observation shack overlooking a Puffin rookery. As the evening went on, we started seeing the first few puffins sticking their heads out of their nests. They would have a look around, stretch their wings, and fly down to the ocean to feed.

We stayed in the Puffin blind until about 9:30 (doesn’t really get dark in Iceland in May), then headed back to Heather’s place for a good night’s rest.

A Pair of Puffins

A Pair of Puffins

Some additional info on our stay at Vestmannaeyjar: We booked our stay with Heather through Air BnB, which allowed us to make the lodging arrangements quickly and easily. Staying with a local is a great way to experience Iceland and I highly recommend doing this at some point during your exploration of this country. Iceland offers many opportunities to lodge with a local, and in some of the more remote parts of the country, it may be the only option available.

 

 

 

 

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About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company (http://www.offtrailtravel.com). After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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