The small island of Viðey, found in Kollafjörður, has for a long time been celebrated in the minds of Icelanders. It's a natural treasure in the heart of Reykjavík, a perfect place for individuals, friends and families wanting to enjoy a relaxing but also adventurous getaway from the city life.
It only takes a few minutes to sail to the island where you can enjoy the beautiful unspoiled nature, the island's various artworks, learn about its interesting history, sit down for a picnic or a cup of coffee in Viðeyjarstofa café.
Two million years ago, Viðey was an active volcano, which is known as the Viðey volcano, and the rock of Viðey island is the oldest in the Reykjavík area. At the end of the last Ice Age, 12–13,000 years ago, the sea level rose due to the melting of the glacial ice, and the island was inundated. When the sea level dropped, the island rose once more from the sea 9–10,000 years ago.
Viðey is an important historical site in Iceland's history. Archaeological excavations have disclosed that the island was already inhabited in the 10th century, or soon after the settlement of Iceland around 900 AD. In 1225 an Augustine monastery was founded on the island by Þorvaldur Gissurarson, with the assistance of scholar/chieftain Snorri Sturluson. The monastery in the southern quarter soon grew wealthy and at its zenith it was the second richest monastery in Iceland, owning up to 116 estates. In 1539 the monastery came to a dramatic end when it was raided by Danish soldiers when the Reformation was imposed on the Icelandic church. For the next two centuries, Viðey belonged to the royal estate of Bessastaðir. A home for paupers was located on the island.
The first Icelandic treasurer, Skúli Magnússon, was based on Viðey and had Viðeyjarstofa built as his residency in the years 1752 to 1755. Viðeyjarstofa is the first building constructed if stone in Iceland and one of the country's oldest buildings. For many decades, Viðeyjarstofa was the home to many of Iceland's most powerful men.
Due to increased shipping, a village rose on the eastern part of the island in the early 20th century. At that time the best harbour facilities in Faxaflói bay were on Viðey island. The island also had a farmstead but by the mid 20th century the island was more or less deserted.
On Viðey you find multiform artwork by both local and foreign artists. Nine pairs of basalt columns stand on the western part of the island. This is artwork by the US sculpturer Richard Serra called Milestones. In the area there are also inscribed stones by unknown artists. Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower stands by Viðeyjarnaust and by Kvennagönguhólar stands a statue of the Virgin Mary that was set up in 1994 in memoriam of 1000 years of Christianity in Iceland. In Viðeyjarstofa, a collection of paintings by renowned Icelandic artists are on display.
Nature is one of Viðey's biggest attractions. The island is 1.6 km2 comprising Heimaey (Home Island) and Vesturey (West Island), which are linked by a narrow neck of land or isthmus, Eiðið. The easternmost part of Heimaey is known as Austurey (East Island). You will find beautiful beaches, ponds and great hiking trails on Viðey. The islands highest point is 32 metres above sea level and is constantly being eroded by the sea, which is especially seen at Kríusandur and Þórsnes.
The island is rich in birdlife and at least 30 species of breeding birds have been observed on the island. The eider duck is the most common but other birds such as fulmars, graylag geese, snipes and oystercatchers can be found there as well.
In winter you can join the Imagine Peace Tower and enjoy a nice evening on the island with a small group and a knowledgeable guide. The tour provides incredible photographic opportunities and the northern lights are often seen during the tour.
Around Easter, Elding offers an Easter Egg Hunt on Viðey in good collaboration with Viðeyjarstofa Café and the Reykjavík City Museum. Hundreds of children and their families join us on the island to search for chocolate easter eggs and it's always a great hit!
During the summer months, the Reykjavík City Museum organises a lot of interesting events that are held in Viðey. Birdwatching, summer solstice walks, yoga and gong relaxing, herbal medicine, cumin picking and guided bike tours are only some of the things you can expect to see on Viðey's event calendar!
There are always things to do on the island even if there are no planned events. You can bring your bike and ride around the island, take your family on a picnic or even go for a walk with your dog (on a leash) for a change of scenery.
Viðey is only a short boat trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. The ferry departs daily in summer and on weekends in winter.
Skarfabakki is the main departure point for the Viðey ferry, but in summer, the ferry also departs from the Old Harbour in Reykjavík. A local bus stops near both departure points and Skarfabakki is even one of the stops on the Hop-on-off City Sightseeing Bus route.
Only a few minutes away from the busy city life is Viðey island, a special place that combines history, art and nature in a unique way. Daily ferry departures from 15 May - 31 Aug and on weekends from 1 Sept - 14 May.
Viðey Island is a unique place that combines history, art and nature. It is only a few minutes away from the city by boat and is well known for its tranquillity and the spirit of bygone centuries.