Today’s subject is Haimaey, the largest of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). The key attractions on Haimaey are the lava flows of Eldfell, dramatic ocean cliffs, and lots and lots of puffins. The following are not attractions on Haimaey: nightlife, comfortable hotels, a large selection of quality restaurants, or accurate maps.
H recommends that you stay at the campsite on the North side of the island. I was intrigued by a little hostel that we passed on the Southern part of the island (here, I believe), but I can find no information about it on the Internet. Perhaps they don’t welcome foreign tourists.
The thing to do in Haimaey, if you’re not a rock climber (and I’m not), is to walk along the coast and spot puffins. The trail on the West side of the island starts rather vaguely near the golf course. Walk down Hamarsvegur to somewhere near the clubhouse, cut across the course to the top of the cliffs, then turn South. At this point, you’ll still be on the golf course and may be in the way. As you head further South, the course will end and you will find yourself on a reasonably unambiguous hiking trail, continuing pretty much uninterrupted down to the Southern tip of the island.
On the Southern tip, you are face with a choice: double back the way you came, walking up the Western coast, or forge ahead to the East, where the trail is not nearly so well marked and you will be blocked from making a full circuit by the airstrip in the center of the island. Taking the (bad) advice of The Rough Guide, we tried the latter course. It starts off well, with an interesting black sand beach, but then the trail sort of disappears. We reached a fence with no stile and were forced to scramble up a fairly steep hill and then improvise.
Not that it was a total loss. There were ponies
but in the end, we had to walk at least a kilometer back into town, sore and tired, along the puffinless road.
A last word of advice: don’t bother trying the puffin, it’s not very tasty. Instead, have a delicious lamb “boat” sandwich with crispy fried onions.