A welcome from the mayor

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A welcome from the mayor of Westman Islands

It is always with a great pleasure and pride that Westmann Islanders welcome guests to Vestmannaeyjar.

To many Vestmannaeyjar is unique; rising from the North-Atlantic Ocean, far off the beaten track, a destination only to those who specifically set out to go there. This, perhaps dated and fanciful remoteness, lends the islands an aura of magic and adventure, particularly to those living in a modern, western, large-city society.

There are places in the world that simply have to be experienced. Vestmannaeyjar fills that definition by virtue of its natural beauty, the bounty of its wildlife, particularly the huge colonies of puffins and other seabirds, and by being historically and geographically one of Iceland’s most distinctive destinations.

The islands are part of a young and still active submarine volcanic system, most of them coming into being 6-40,000 years ago. The youngest of the group, however, Surtsey,
only 20 miles south of the main island of Heimaey, grew from the sea floor in sporadic eruptions in very recent times from 1963-1966.

The famous eruption on Heimaey, the largest and solely inhabited island was, however, even more spectacular. It began in January 1973, lasting until early July covering a third of the town with hot glowing lava and black ash, increasing the island’s size by 2.3 square kilometres, and forming the volcanic cone of Eldfell (Fire Mountain in Icelandic) now overlooking the small fishing community. The remains of the eruption are among the Iceland’s most fascinating historical locations.

Hunting and fishing are the traditional mainstays of the economy on the islands. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds. There is such an abundance of natural resources that the inhabitants often refer to the sea cliffs and the ocean surrounding Vestmannaeyjar as a “food chest”.

There is no doubt in my mind that visitors who come to Vestmannaeyjar will experience the magical and unique adventure that could only happen in a place like these islands located in the remote North Atlantic off the south coast of Iceland.

Elliði Vignisson

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