Here’s a big revelation. You’re actually not allowed to visit Surtsey. The island of Surtsey emerged from the water about 60 years ago. This thanks to a massive underwater volcanic eruption. It lasted almost 4 years and eventually lifted it up out of the sea! How crazy amazing is that? Ever since its creation in November 1963, it’s been heavily protected. The only ones allowed to visit Surtsey, to set foot on the island are authorised scientists.
The good news is that there is a way to get at least very close to Surtsey and see it from a distance. First, you’ll need to get yourself down to the south coast of Iceland. Roughly halfway between the towns of Selfoss and Vík, you head to the Landeyjahöfn ferry terminal. There, or online, you book a spot on the Herjólfur ferry. Regardless of buying it online or there, the price is the same.
The ferry will take you to Heimaey 7 km, 11 mi, about 45 minutes south off the coast. You can either travel on the ferry as a regular passenger or bring your car. The ferry crossing takes about 45 minutes. There are some comfy seats inside. You can enjoy the fresh air (okay, let’s be real here – some brutal wind) on the outer and upper deck. We spent our time equally divided between inside and outside (warm and cold). If you don’t mind the cold, we’d recommend the outside. The views are stunning and at one point there were actually dolphins swimming near our boat. Coming into the Heimaey harbour we also saw seals swimming near and resting on the cliffs.
Another way to get to Heimaey is to take a direct domestic flight. Eagle Air and Air Iceland Connect fly from and to Reykjavik Domestic Airport. The flight only takes about 25 minutes but will obviously be more expensive.
We came in a car and we definitely recommend bringing a car. Heimaey is not super large but the hilly landscape is not the most walkable. It is more than an hours walk across the island. Hiking the coastline will take you more than 7 hours. If you only want to visit the town, visit Eldheimar and climb the Eldfell volcano then you probably don’t need a car. You will spend about 3 hours walking and it is by far not all scenic. If you want to truly see the island, the stunning cliffs, beaches and many viewpoints you want a car. This includes if you actually want to visit Surtsey, well see Surtsey to be precise. Like we said more than one hour one way to the viewpoint where you can see it. Are you looking for puffins (we’ll tell you later where to find them) then you will also appreciate having a car. A car will on top give you some time to enjoy, rest, sit down in a café and even go on a short hike or two.