It is almost impossible to separate the town Vestmannaeyjar and the clusters of islands Icelanders call Vestmannaeyjar or Westman Islands. It is a small town on a tiny island south of Iceland, placed on a rock in the middle of the harsh forces of the Atlantic Ocean with an active volcano underneath. Most of the islands are steep rocks with difficult access. It is one of the most exciting locations in the country and scores high on any indicator you would usually use to measure and compare anything of interest. Be it historical, geological, natural wonder, a spectacular view, or otherwise. It is possibly one of a kind on planet earth and a place you do not want to miss if you visit Iceland.
One of the oldest spots of settlement in Iceland
The Book of Settlement mentions that slaves who arrived with the Viking Ingólfur Arnarson, allegedly the first settler, fled to this island. The slaves were usually called Men from the West or Vestmenn. Although Ingólfur Arnarson and his Viking followers captured and killed all of them around 870, the islands were given their name, the islands of the Wes Men or Vestmannaeyjar. But the islands have been inhabited ever since despite the horrible fate of the slaves. One reason is the extremely rich fishing grounds around and near the islands. Another reason is the many species of seabirds that hang out in the cliffs and have provided a generous addition to the food sources. From the 10th century, the islands were sought after and possessed by most of the highest authorities in Iceland until the late 19th century. The usual suspects; are the Church, the King of Norway, and the King of Denmark.
Vestmannaeyjar has always been a tough town to live in
There are few indications that people that lived there gained any particular advantage compared to other Icelanders throughout the centuries. Most of the owners tried to squeeze as much as possible out of them. Living on those islands was always challenging and uncertain. In addition to severe natural forces, there were always other dangers. In the summer of 1627, three ships of Algerian pirates rated the island with a brutal attack and either killed or captured in slavery most of the inhabitants. In 1963, a new island was added to the cluster of islands in an eruption only a few kilometers south of the main island. Approximately a decade later, another eruption started unexpectedly, now practically in the town. At that time, Vesmannaeyjar was a thriving town at the forefront of fishing and fish processing in Iceland. Every single person living in that town had to evacuate their home and move to mainland Iceland.
A product of generous fishing grounds
Vestmannaeyjar is one of the oldest towns in Iceland. Because of the island's small size, a cluster of houses formed early on. The main base of livelihood has always been related to the sea and the natural conditions for a harbor. Although land for agriculture and conditions to farm has always been difficult, people in Vestmannaeyjar have farmed for many centuries. But the main force has always been fishing. Today it is home to some of the largest fishing and fish processing companies in Iceland. After the eruption that lasted only for a few months, many of the island's residents moved back and rebuilt the town. Not minding the two volcanos tower over the town's northern end.
A great place to live in, although small measured in land space
Vestmannaeyjar has always been highly appreciated by those who are born there and those who live there. Most of them get a bit cocky when they refer to themselves as Westman Islanders. Especially around other Icelanders, but they are great people to visit, happy and friendly. Because of the strong economic base from fishing and fish processing, the community has always offered excellent service to the residents. Schools have been around for a long time, as reading and education have always been highly valued in Iceland. The municipal offers good schools, a state of the art outdoor and indoor sports facilities. Culture has always flourished in Vestmannaeyjar and music, and some islanders are known for their cheerful songs and songwriting. The town also has great seafood restaurants with fish as fresh as fish can get and a variety of accommodations, plus an excellent camping site in Herjólfsdalur. The World of Fire, a volcano museum, recently opened to commemorate the fascinating eruption in 1973.