The history of the settlement in the Westmann Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) is at least as old as that of the settlement of Iceland which is considered to have taken place in 874 A.D. Carbon dating from the archaeological excavations in Herjólfsdalur ("Herjólfur´s valley", where the Vestmannaeyjar festival now takes place) certainly indicate that Vestmannaeyjar was inhabited at that time, if not even earlier.
The geological history of the islands themselves, however, can easily be read in the lava and cliffs of the islands. The fifteen islands and the numerous rocks and skerries scattered about them were formed by submarine volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.
The youngest island, Surtsey, was created during an eruption which lasted from 1963 till 1967. The most recent volcanic activity in Vestmannaeyjar took place in 1973 when the earth opened in a long crevice on the east part of the main island of Heimaey.
This crevice emitted magma (lava) and huge quantities of volcanic ash which eventually formed the new mountain of Eldfell. This history of eruptions, as well as the often harsh winds and the power of the surrounding ocean, have built and shaped the islands.
One of the most obvious creations of these tremendous forces of nature are the many sea caves on the islands, which have caused the archipelago to be given the nickname,"the Capri of the north".
The inhabitants of Vestmannaeyjar have made a livelihood for themselves from the surly sea that surrounds them, and the precipitous cliffs that gaze down on them. Their courageousness has been exemplified in both their work and their play.
The culture that has evolved in Vestmannaeyjar reflects this struggle with nature's forces which has become an inherent part of everyday life. Solidarity in both tragedy and happiness is a strong feature of the people.
Tragedy often comes in the form of losses at sea. On the other side of the coin, the Westmann Islanders capacity for joy can be witnessed at the celebrations which take place during their annual outdoor festival, held the first weekend of every August.
Nature's special beautyin Vestmannaeyjar and the abundance of varied bird life hold an enchanting attraction for both Icelanders and visitors from abroad. Visitors will find a variety of things to interest them, not least in their exploration of the newly formed landscape, and its effects on the town and the people.