You may not know it, but you’ve probably seen the dramatic Vestmannaeyjar Islands off the south coast of Iceland before. It’s like sailing into an Instagram picture. The uniquely sculpted land is both picturesque and memorable. Heimaey is the most amazing. The harbor here was nearly sealed off by an enormous eruption in the late 1970s that demolished many of the houses in the town at the water’s edge. Today, we climbed the remaining lava pile, still warm from the magma lurking beneath the island’s surface. The blue sky gave us broad views, and the strong winds gave us a true taste of the local life. After dinner, we got a closer look at Surtsey—a volcanic island that is younger than many of us on board. It’s a bittersweet but fitting end to our explorations of the land of fire and ice.
National Geographic Explorer
This morning, we woke up to find National Geographic Explorer cruising the Westman Islands off the southeast coast of Iceland proper. These islands rise straight out of the ocean with towering, vertical cliffs that offer amazing views. With thousands of birds and interesting geology, this archipelago was fun for everyone to explore and photograph. In the afternoon, we went ashore for hiking and panoramic tours of Heimaey. This fishing community was the site of an intense volcanic rift eruption in 1973 that forced residents onto boats, not knowing if their homes would be there when they returned. After five months, residents returned to what was left of the village and began to rebuild. Guests were able to explore this dynamic place by hiking up the volcanic rim or viewing the surroundings via private coach, all affording excellent views and photographic opportunities. Our evening was spent cruising the newest island in the area, Surtsey. This island rose out of the ocean in 1963 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. As the sun slowly made its way toward the horizon, we all began to reflect on an amazing expedition around Iceland. Sharing stories with new friends was a great way to spend our last night on board.