On day two we awoke to an amazing sunrise over the stunning coastline of The Westman Islands. We arrived in the dark the night before, so had no idea what to expect, and were thoroughly impressed by what the golden light of 8:00am revealed. Excited to get outside and take some photos, we checked out of the Aska Hostel and headed to the bakery/cafe ("bakari/konditori") across the street for coffee and a quick breakfast.
From there we got in the car and decided to wing it. The island of Heimaey (the only populated island) is not very big, but has lots to see and is totally gorgeous, with a rugged coastline, lava fields, and a surprisingly bustling but quaint town in the center of it all. We were extremely lucky to have clear sunny weather, especially since the Westman Islands are known for being very, very windy, so any precipitation would take things from beautiful to miserable pretty quickly.
We first happened upon Heimaklettur, the biggest rock jutting from the coastline in the north, where hundreds of sea birds were flocking just over the rough roaring waves as they crash against the cliffs. At the base of the steep rock wall face we noticed a couple of big bundles of hair. At first we were confused by what they could be, but upon seeing a few intrepid sheep grazing atop the rock, we deduced that the hair bundles must've been the unfortunate few who were blown off and then tumbled to the rocky shore below. 😳
From there we drove around the island and conquered some steep roads to go onto the (dormant) volcano Eldfell in the east, famous for its last major eruption in 1973, which caused major damage and a total evacuation of the island. From around the volcano is a wonderful view of the town below, the harbor, and Heimaklettur.
The wind on Heimay is no joke, I mean it does murder sheep, so prepare yourself for that. After Eldfell we stopped at the stave church next to the harbor, a gift from Norway commemorating 1000 years of Christianity in Iceland. Then we stopped back into town on a search for lunch, and since much was closed mid-day (winter is certainly the off-season,) we were able to get pizza, which is surprisingly ubiquitous in Iceland, at 900 Grill.
Before our departing ferry, we did a last lap around the island in our rental car to check out Elephant Rock from the road, as well as a local church and graveyard. We snapped a few quick pictures then boarded the ferry for the 3 hour return trip back to mainland Iceland.
And then back into the car we went, tracing the path we had taken the day before in error. But since we were going through Selfoss a second time, I decided to make the best of it and treated myself to a second ice cream at Isbudin Huppu (yolo).
Over three hours of driving in the dark with occasional snow and ice, we came to our second overnight stop, the Hof 1 Hotel, which was basically in the middle of nowhere (like many things in Iceland) desperately ready to sleep.