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Heimaklettur, the highest mountain in the Westman Islands, is a popular hiking destination in Iceland. Find out about the area and the trail in our expert guide.
When it comes to choosing hiking trails in Iceland, you’ll simply be spoilt for choice. You can hike around breathtaking waterfalls, climb active volcanoes, trek through steamy hot springs, and ascend staggering mountains. Hiking Heimaklettur offers an unforgettable mountaineering experience and the peak will reward your efforts with views of the Eldfell Volcano, the surrounding coast, and nearby islands.
Heimaklettur, which literally translates to ‘Home Rock’, sits proudly at 928 feet (283 m) above sea level in Vestmannaeyjar, the Westman Islands. It is thought to have been created over 10,000 years ago by eruptions underneath the glacier. The craggy mountain provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife including sheep, northern fulmars, and puffins.
Puffins on a cliff in the Westman Islands, Iceland
Where is Heimaklettur?
Located just off of the Southern coast of Iceland is Heimaey Island - the largest of the Westman Islands and home to Heimaklettur. To get there, you’ll need to take a ferry from Landeyjahöfn, a port on the mainland.
Once you’ve arrived on Heimaey Island, you’ll need to head to Eiðisvegur Street, which is North of the harbor and the point at which your hike of Heimaklettur will begin. With fairly infrequent ferries and limited public transport, getting to the mountain from Iceland is half of the challenge.
Heimaklettur on Heimaey Island
THE HEIMAKLETTUR HIKING ROUTE
From start to finish, the hiking track to Heimaklettur offers stunning views over this old portion of the island. The geological history of the landscape makes it a unique one. While the hike might be challenging for those not fond of heights or scrambling, the sights at the top are well worth your efforts.
WHERE TO START YOUR HIKE
The demanding, exhilarating climb of Heimaklettur begins with a fairly steep set of wooden ladders. You’ll find these steps against the lower cliffs at the narrowest end of the harbor. The walk to the beginning of the track will take you around 20 minutes if you’ve just disembarked the ferry. If you’re afraid of heights, then you should be aware that this isn’t the only set of ladders you’ll have to contend with on your journey! After the ladders, you will be welcomed at the top by grass and much flatter ground.
View of a port in Heimaey Island, Iceland
The rest of the trail consists of a zigzag route across the hillside and some footpaths to the top. At difficult points, you will find ropes and chains to assist you on your trek. Due to the nature of the track, it’s important to bear in mind both the weather and your own condition before embarking. If at any point you have doubts, it’s always best to turn back. It’s difficult to make a hasty retreat once an injury has set in or the weather has turned for the worse.
WILDLIFE ON THE TRACKS
If the views around you just aren’t enough, you’re also in a great place to admire the wildlife of Iceland. By far the most notable animals on the Heimaklettur hiking route are: Sheep! These clever creatures have no fear of heights, and will often beat you to the top without trying.
You may also spot puffins on your hike! They are usually found in the higher portions of the Heimaklettur track perching on rocky outcrops. Note that it’s never recommended to get too close to puffins in Iceland, but to enjoy these curious little birds from the marked paths. If you have your heart set on puffins, why not opt for one of our puffin tours?
Once you reach the peak, a journey which typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour, it is recommended to celebrate your arrival by signing the guestbook. This book is usually filled with the thoughts and feelings of hikers brave enough to make it to the top. You might encounter locals summiting the peak as their regular exercise and using the guestbook as some lighthearted competition between friends.
The descent from the peak of the mountain can often be more difficult, so make sure to allow plenty of time to get back down so that you can concentrate fully without rushing and risking an accident.
WEATHER CONDITIONS FOR HEIMAKLETTUR
The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and can change very quickly, which is why you should always assess the conditions before heading off on a hike, particularly steep, mountainous ones. Strong winds and ice can make this hike dangerous, do not be afraid to change your plans should the conditions not look suitable.
THE AREA SURROUNDING HEIMAKLETTUR
Heimaey Island is a beautiful destination and although it is the largest of the Westman Islands, it’s still small enough to navigate on foot from the port. The island feels extremely remote with quaint colorful housing and moss-covered cliff edges, but there are plenty of activities to partake in such as golf, sailing, horse riding and whale-watching.
The Eldheimar Museum is a popular attraction on the island that exhibits the shocking events of the Eldfell volcano eruption in 1973. You can visit to find out how the actions of local people, who fought to cool the lava flow with seawater, saved many lives.
If you’re keen to explore Heimaey Island and the surrounding Westman Islands without the worry of arranging your own transport, why not take a look at our popular Vestmannaeyjar Island tour?
Starting in Reykjavík, you’ll get the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Elephant Rock, take a refreshing hike at Eldfell Volcano, admire the puffins at Stórhöfði cape, and visit the Eldheimar Museum. You will then be taken back to Reykjavík following some free time in one of the local towns.