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Surtsey Island

Surtsey, on the UNESCO World Heritage list, from July 7, 2008

Surtsey, Iceland's youngest volcanic island, has been added to the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list following the World Heritage Committee held in Quebec City on July 7, 2008.
"Surtur comes from the South... the hot stars down from Heaven are whirled. Fierce grows the steam and the life-feeding flame, until fire leaps high about Heaven itself."
- From the Icelandic poem Völuspá, ca. 950 A.D.

Surtsey is not only one of the world's newest islands, but the most filmed and researched and one of the most restricted. Ever since the eruption in 1963 which heaved it up out of the waters 18km (11 miles) south-west of Heimaey, its progress has been monitored. This has been giving scientists a fascinating insight into how a new island evolves, how flora and fauna develop and so on. Because of this very few people are now allowed to visit the island, and special permits are only granted for scientific research.
On the 14th of November, 1963 Icelandic seamen, that were fishing about 20 km southwest of Heimaey ( Vestmannaeyjar ) observed the beginnings of an undersea eruption that originated at a 130 meters depth. When the eruption first occurred, columns of ash were sent almost 9,146m (30,000 ft) into the sky and could be seen on clear days as far away as Reykjavík. An island eventually rose to a height of 169 metres above sea level that had an area of 2,5km².

This island was named Surtsey for Surtur, the fire possessing giant of Norse mythology who would set fire to the earth at the Last Judgment. Because of pounding seas, there was a considerable amount of early erosion, but the island core quickly solidified as rock and is now holding its own while scientists watch everything.

For three and a half years Surtsey rumbled and lava flowed. Long before the eruption stopped the island was proclaimed a nature preserve and all travel there was restricted to scientist that used this unique opportunity to study the gradual development of life on a sterile landmass. The first living found in the ash deposits close to shore. In May of the same year a fly was found on the island. Sea gulls visited the tide waters furthest from crater. The first vascular plant to flower along the shore was the sea rocket, observed in 1965. By 1987, twenty-five species of higher plants (including tomatoes!!) had been observed, transported there by seed in the sea currents, some from nearby island, other from the southern Icelandic coast 40 kilometres off. Other species of plants have been carried there by yhe winds or birds from Europe.
Surtsey is a favorite resting place for migratory birds during seasonal flights to and from Iceland and Europe. They visit there yearly by the thousands. Seals also visit the island and relax on its beaches. Today five species of birds nest on Surtsey: the Herring Gull, the Black Backed Gull, the Black Guillemot, The Kittiwake and Fulmar which was the first species to nest there and hatch its young on the warm lava in 1970. BBC and David Attenborough have produced acclaimed television programs from this amazing little island.

Surtsey Island
GPS Points N63° 18' 8.253" W20° 36' 15.061"

Travel directory for Surtsey Island

The official travel index of Iceland

Others

Vestmannaeyjar Hostel
Hostels
  • Vestmannabraut 28
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 481-2900
Vestmannaeyjar Camping Ground
Camping
  • Herjólfsdalur
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 846-9111
Private accommodation
Bed & Breakfast
  • Háaleitisbraut 53
  • 108 Reykjavík
  • 698-2962
Guesthouse Heimir
Guesthouses
  • Heiðarvegur 1
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 846-6500
Glamping & Camping
Camping
  • Herjólfsdalur
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 846-9111, 863-4224
Guesthouse Hreiðrið
Guesthouses
  • Faxastígur 33
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 481-1045, 699-8945

Others

Þekkingarsetur Vestmannaeyja
Tour Operators
  • Strandvegur 50
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 481-1111
Lyngfell horse riding - Ása Birgisdóttir
Tour Operators
  • Lyngfell
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 898-1809
Vestmannaeyjar Golf Club
Golf Courses
  • Torfmýravegur
  • 902 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 481-2363
Vestmannaeyjar Sport center
Swimming Pools
  • v/Brimhólabraut
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 481-2401
H-Göngur
Tour Operators
  • Flatir 16
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 859-3559
Eyjavespur
Car Rentals
  • Höfðavegur 16
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 481-1230
Viking Tours
Tour Operators
  • Suðurgerði 4
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 488-4884
24seven
Booking Services
  • Faxastígur 9
  • 900 Vestmannaeyjar
  • 534-4700

South Iceland

Towns & Villages

The south of Iceland has several towns and villages, each with its own style, charm and points of interest. Selfoss is the largest town and has a variety of shops, services, many restaurants and fast food places. Most towns are close to the main route, making them accessible and enjoyable.

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Map Höfn Kirkjubæjarklaustur Vík Vestmannaeyjar Hvolsvöllur Flúðir Laugarvatn Reykholt Laugarás Borg Brautarholt Hveragerði Árnes Selfoss Hella Stokkseyri Eyrarbakki Þykkvibær Þórlákshöfn