Heimaey Tourist Attractions
Best known for its volcanic eruption in 1973, when for half the year the island was subjected to lava flows which threatened its houses and harbor, starkly beautiful Heimaey with its towering puffin-covered cliffs is the largest and the only inhabited of the Vestmannaeyjar or Westman Islands off Iceland's southern coast (pop. 4,500).
Eldfell and Helgafell Volcanoes
The high-jinks of Helgafell and Eldfell are Heimaey's main attraction. The lava field newly-created in 1973 covers 3sq km/1.14sq mi and has enlarged the island by 2.1sq km/.8sq mi.A network of hiking paths can be climbed to the top of newly created Eldfell while investigating the steaming fissures and vents on the way. On the summit are lots of steaming vents and brilliantly colored mineral deposits.Helgafell, 5,000 years older than neighboring Eldfell, can also be climbed on the south-west slope.
Heimay Puffin release
In August young puffins (pufflings) no longer fed by their parents attempt to leave their cliff-side nests. Drawn by the lights of Heimaey, hundred of the young birds spread their wings and glide down from the mountains only to strand themselves on the pavement of the town. Local children collect them in cardboard boxes, releasing them in the morning by tossing them high in the air towards the ocean.
Vestmannaeyjar Museum of Natural History
One of Iceland's best natural history museums has a research aquarium that contains peculiar creatures of the deep and it played role in returning Keiko, the orca whale of Free Willy fame, back to Icelandic waters. Fish, including a collection of live Icelandic cod and catfish and other natural species are on display plus a rock and mineral collection.
Herjolfsdalur is a natural grassy amphitheater surrounded by the steep slopes of an extinct volcano.Home of Heimaey's first intentional settler, excavations of his 10th C home are underway. Today the valley is occupied by a golf course and a camping site.From Herjolfsdalur, sheep-tracks can be hiked towards the west coast towards the rugged cliffs and lava caves where nesting northern fulmar, black-legged kittiwake, Atlantic puffin, razorbill, gannet, and black guillemot are found and down towards the bay at Stórhöfði where residents collect kelp.
Pjódhátíð means 'People's Feast' and is pronounced 'Thod-Ya-Tid'. The three-day festival held in early August commemorates the signing of Iceland's first constitution on 1 July 1874, which granted semi-independence from Denmark.Foul weather prevented islanders from traveling to the mainland so they hold their own feast a month or so later.Many mainlanders attend this event which means camping in a tent city and enjoying barbeques, bonfires, fire-works, singing. and dancing.
Heimaey Folk Museum
The Heimaey Folk Museum has a large collection of art from the area, nautical relics and samples of Icelandic currency and stamps. Maps and photos of Heimaey Island prior to the 1973 eruption are available for viewing.
The best place to see puffins in the summer months is this southern-most point of land. On the 122m/400ft summit is a lighthouse.
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