Iceland is a big island of 103,000km2 in the North Atlantic. However, Iceland is more than one big island, it has about 30 smaller islands and thousands of rocks and skerries. Four of these islands are inhabited, some islands you can visit, and other islands are better left alone because they are perfect nesting spots for birds.
In this article, we will tell you more about Iceland’s four inhabited islands: Flatey, Grímsey, Hrísey, and Heimaey.
Flatey is the biggest island in Breiðafjörður in West Iceland, a fjord filled with close to 3,000 small islands. Quite a few of these used to be inhabited. These days, only Flatey is inhabited year-round, by just a handful of people.
You can visit Flatey by taking the ferry from Stykkishólmur, a town on Snæfellsnes peninsula. The ferry ride takes about 1.5 hours. When you arrive at Flatey, you can stay for a short visit, explore the island by following its only road and continue your journey farther to the Westfjords (Brjánslækur) or head back to Stykkishólmur. Of course, you can also stay overnight, in which case you will have more time to enjoy its rich birdlife and unique surroundings.
Grímsey is an island 40km off the coast of North Iceland, touching the arctic circle at its northern point. On January 1, 2018, the island had 61 inhabitants. The island is home to many birds, of which especially the Atlantic puffin attracts many visitors each year.
You can take the ferry from Dalvík to get to the island, a boat ride that takes about three hours one way. Good news, it has happened more than once that people see whales along the way. In summertime, you have four hours to look around on the island before the ferry heads back to Dalvík, which is enough to see most of it and take a picture on the arctic circle. You can also fly from Akureyri to Grímsey in about 30 minutes.
Hrísey is Iceland’s second largest island, after Heimaey in South Iceland. It’s located just off the coast of Dalvík in North Iceland and it has a population of 151.
You can reach the island by ferry from Árskógssandur, and the boat ride takes about 15 minutes. On the island you will find a swimming pool, a guesthouse, a restaurant, a campsite, a café and a shop.
You can hike around the island following its good hiking trails. Please note that most of the land of Hrísey is privately owned so please stay on the paths. If you’re looking for something different, try the sightseeing tour by tractor.
The Westman Islands are an archipelago of 15 islands off the south coast of Iceland. Only Heimaey is inhabited and with a population of almost 4,300 in 2018, you could say it’s densely populated compared to the other islands.
Heimaey reached international news when in 1973 volcano Eldfell erupted unexpectedly, burying 400 homes in lava and ash. The island recovered since then and visiting Heimaey is a popular tourist activity. The cheapest way to get to the Westman Islands is by ferry. There are two harbours from where the ferry can depart, depending on weather conditions. The first is Landeyjahöfn harbour. A one-way trip to Heimaey takes about 35 minutes. The second option is Þorlákshöfn harbour. The ferry will leave from this harbour when the weather is bad, or when there is too much sand in Landeyjahöfn harbour. The ferry ride from Þorlákshöfn to Heimaey takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. You can also fly from Reykjavík Airport to Heimaey in about 25 minutes.