Poor old Helgafell is often a bit overlooked, as everyone flocks to its famous neighbour Eldfell. For a long time, Helgafell was the ruling volcano on Heimaey. The one that merged the chain of rocks to the north and Stórhöfði to the south into the present island, its classic volcano-shaped silhouette dominating the interior. Until Eldfell turned up right next to it in 1973, and stole the show.
The impressiveness of Eldfell is undeniable, but on some days it can be a bit of an ant-heap, with lots of people going up & down the tracks and circling around its crater all at the same time. Especially in high season and when there’s a cruise ship in the harbour.
In the meantime, you may have Helgafell with all its beautiful views virtually for yourself. It’s got a heart-shaped crater, and there’s a viewdial on the top too, with the names of the mountains that can be seen in all directions.
The track can be somewhat challenging in parts due to its steepness and loose gravelly bits along the way, but it doesn’t take long to go up.
The start of the track
To get to the start of it, walk up to Heiðarvegur. It’s the main road leading south from the harbour. Pass by the only two sets of traffic lights on the island, and after about 15 minutes you reach an intersection with a signpost to Helgafell on the left side – and the volcano obviously looming in the background.
The track starts behind the red house with the same name. You’ll see a path going up on the right of it.
Before you take on the rocky upper slope, you can turn left into a grassy field for some fine views of Eldfell, the nearby islands Elliðaey and Bjarnarey, and the ominous Eyjafjallajökull looming in the background on the mainland.
View to the famous Eldfell – that sometimes looks a little like an ant-heap, with lots of people circling around it at the same time…
Start of the rocky & gravelly upper slopes, and some fine views along the way.
It gets a bit grittier here, but arctic flowers are taking hold and blooming in spite of adversity.
Heart-shaped crater ❤
Broad and sweeping views
Looking towards Herjólfsdalur and Klif from the top.
The famous ones – Eldfell and Eyjafjallajökull looming in the background.
Fine views all around. And another brooding volcano, Hekla, in the background to the right.
Looking out over the airport, Stórhöfði and the islands to the south.
Yes, Heimaey actually has its own airport; its landing strip barely fitting across the island. Surtsey is the last island on the horizon, and the latest addition to the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago.
The track around the crater rim, leading up to the viewdial.
Sweeping view from the top, with Eldfell, the lava flow that came from it, and the remains of the fissure that erupted out of nowhere.
Wilderness Coffee with a view, and a candle in the lava.
Inside the crater rim.
You can walk around and into the crater, and go down Helgafell from the other side of it. The first part of this track is quite steep and full of loose gravel, but it quickly gets more even along the side.
Track going down.
Steep upper section, and the path along the side further down.
Not long after, you are back at the grassy meadow where the track goes up on the other side.
Helgafell also provides a stunning background when the full moon is rising from behind it. And if you’re lucky, you might be treated to this incredible spectacle 🙂
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
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