Heimaey, Iceland cruises

Sail to the unique port of Heimaey, a tiny island located roughly 8 miles south of Iceland’s mainland.

Heimaey port guide

Heimaey is the largest island off the coast of Iceland, but at just over 13 square kilometres, this serene spot can still be explored in just a few hours. It’s the only island in the Westman Island Archipelago that’s inhabited, and as such is a haven of unique lifestyles and Icelandic culture. From puffin-spotting and whale-watching, to exploring the ruins left behind by the Eldfell volcano, after its 1973 eruption, Heimaey has plenty to keep you busy.

Top landmarks and sights in Heimaey

When you step ashore in Heimaey, you’ll find yourself in the main town of the Westman Island Archipelago, Vestmannaeyjar. You’ll quicky see that the region offers plenty in the way of natural beauty, as well as a warm and welcoming reception courtesy of its small population, of just over 4,000 residents.

The entire island is home to an abundance of wildlife, but the southern peninsula of Storhofdi is a particularly well-known location for spotting puffins. In the summer months, Heimaey is the most popular place in the world for Atlantic Puffins to nest. The island is also a great place for whale-watching - keep an eye out for orcas and fin whales especially.

Heimaey is home to two volcanoes, Helgafell, which is 5,000 years old, and Eldfell, which famously formed and erupted in 1973. Thanks to a footpath that leads up to the 725-foot-high summit, it’s possible to hike up Eldfell and be rewarded with a view of the entire island.

Close to Heimaey, in 1963, another underwater volcano erupted, continuously, for around four years. This remarkable act of nature created an additional neighbouring island, known as Surtsey. It’s possible to see Surtsey from the top of Eldfell, but unfortunately, it’s not possible to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site. Only research scientists are permitted to access Surtsey, for their work in observing and understanding the island’s ecosystems.

One other natural sight that can be well-appreciated in Heimaey are the ever-elusive Northern Lights. Because of the low population here, there are not too many electric lights on the island that could obscure a sighting, so on clear nights be sure to gaze up at the skies from the decks of your ship.

Things to do in Heimaey

Wildlife-spotting is one way to ensure your time on Heimaey is a memorable one. Should this sound like your idea of an enriching few hours, perhaps bring a pair of binoculars and your most reliable photography equipment, so you can capture some wonderful memories.

Hiking is another great way to truly experience the best of the island. The volcanic landscape has created an otherworldly land to explore, as jagged cliff edges and lava formations lie in almost every frame. These include the remarkable Elephant Rock on the northwest coast, which formed from basalt rock when Eldfell erupted. Throughout the new land that was created at the same time, now referred to as Eldfellshraun, you’ll find a number of hiking trails awaiting your exploration. In the summer, the region is filled with vibrant blue and purple blooms which make for an idyllic scene.

Should you want to learn more about Eldfell and the events of 1973, there is no better place than the Eldheimar Museum, the foundation of which is one of the homes that has been excavated since the volcano erupted. Over 400 homes were destroyed altogether, and an ongoing archaeological excavation known as ‘Pompeii of the North’, seeks to continue unearthing more remnants. While the impact of the eruption was of course terrible, miraculously all but one of the island’s residents were safely evacuated, and only this one person is believed to have died. The work of the Icelandic rescue services and US troops was remarkable – they were able to limit the damage and spread of lava by pumping seawater on top of it, thereby freezing it more quickly.

Eating and drinking near Heimaey

One of the best locations for a meal with a view in Heimaey is at one of the many restaurants at the harbour. Enjoy peaceful Icelandic scenery as you dine on a range of cuisine, including tasty fresh seafood. Perhaps you’ll want to try something traditional, such as plokkfiskur, a stew made with simple ingredients including white fish, potatoes, and butter.

Other authentic, Icelandic delicacies to try include hakarl (fermented shark) and hardfiskur (dried, unsalted pieces of fish). The national drink of Iceland, should you wish to partake, is Brennivin, a warming white spirit made with grains and flavoured with caraway seeds.

Homemade broths, soups, breads, and cakes are all widely sold in Heimaey, and make for delicious, hearty sustenance especially after an invigorating hike.

Shopping in Heimaey

Most of the shopping opportunities you’ll find in Heimaey are in the main town of Vestmannaeyjar. Here you’ll find souvenir shops and art galleries where you can purchase a memento or two to commemorate your visit, or perhaps something special to take home to a loved one.

Getting around: Heimaey transport

At just over 13 kilometres square, the island of Heimaey can predominantly be explored on foot. Disembarking your ship, you’ll arrive in the main town, and from here it’s possible to walk to most of the island’s highlights. Should you have limited mobility, there are a few taxis available for use.

Heimaey port facilities

Heimaey is a modest cruise port with limited facilities but, owing to its close proximity to the main town of Vestmannaeyjar, this should not be a problem. You can find shops, restaurants, ATMs, and other facilities in the town.

Top tips for Heimaey


As with the rest of Iceland, the currency used in Heimaey is the Icelandic Krona (ISK). At the time of writing $1 AUD is the equivalent of roughly 94 ISK. While cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants, a little bit of cash can be useful for small boutiques and tipping.


Tipping is not expected in Heimaey, or indeed Iceland, but is appropriate – and appreciated - in instances where you receive an especially high standard of service.


On the south coast of Iceland, Heimaey shares a similar climate to the mainland. The lowest temperatures occur in the winter months of November to April, when highs are around 6 degrees Celsius, and lows are roughly 3 degrees Celsius. The hottest month is August, which reaches around 13 degrees Celsius. It’s wise to expect some rainfall throughout the year, but the driest period is June/July.