Heimaey, Westman Islands, Iceland

Heimaey Island is the largest in the Westman Islands located four miles off the south-west coast of Iceland. One of the most visually impressive islands in Iceland, it is ringed by tall, vertical sea cliffs many hundreds of feet high.  Heimaey is also the home to over eight million Atlantic puffins, more nesting puffins than anywhere else on earth. A local story tells that puffin chicks, taking their first flights at night, often become stranded in the village streets, where the local children rescue them and set them free the next day.

 

In January of 1973 the island received the nickname, ‘Pompeii of the North’ when a volcanic eruption and lava flow destroyed half the town. This caused a crisis when the town’s only harbor was nearly blocked by advancing lava. Nowadays it is a lively place with a vibrant culture and over four thousand residents. Archaeological excavations suggest that people lived on Heimaey as early as the 10th Century.