Catching Ferries in Iceland
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Travelling by ferry definitely has a certain charm to it. There is a nostalgic quality and quite a symbolic element to boarding a ship and setting sail from port. It feels like a real adventure. Back in the day this used to be the only way to cross the great oceans after all!
Ferry travel can also feel more authentic and exciting than aeroplane travel. Instead of the quick fix of hopping time zones by plane boat travel has a slower and more human pace. The rolling waves and the slap of the water on the keel makes you feel like you are really travelling. It is something akin to train travel. Instead of being enclosed in an air-conditioned cocoon you feel much closer to the elements and to the distance travelled. Tempted to give it a go? Here comes our guide to the different ferries in Iceland.
Iceland Ferry Routes
There are several ferry journeys to enjoy in and around Iceland. Several of them are really useful for taking your rental camper and exploring hidden corners of the country. Others are on much smaller foot passenger only vessels. For the committed it is even possible to catch a ferry to Iceland. Imagine boarding a boat and arriving on this remote island by navigating across the wild North Atlantic Ocean. In this article we will look in more depth at the different ferries in Iceland. We will also explore the places that they can take you and the things to do once you get there.
The Westman Islands Ferry
The Westman Islands lie off of the South Coast of Iceland. It is possible to reach them from two different ports. Landeyjahöfn for a shorter journey of around thirty-five minutes or Þorlákshöfn which takes about two and a half hours. On both it is possible to take your vehicle with you. Depending on the weather and the seasons there are around two sailings every day. In summer when there is more going on taking your rental camper van or motorhome is a good option. There is a good campsite on the island and you can also camp at the island’s summer festival.
The islands in the archipelago number fifteen with around thirty rock stacks dotted between them. Only one of the islands is inhabited though. Heimaey is the largest island in the mix and this is where the ferries all dock.
The island is a prime spot for walking and bird watching. In the summer months from around May to September literally millions of puffins make their homes here. They make their nests on the steep coastal cliffs of the islands and rock stacks. Visitors can see them on foot or by taking small boat journeys around the islands. The rich waters here also sustain whales. So in season whale watching boat tours are another favourite.
Westfjords Ferry Iceland
To get to the remote and beautiful Westfjords by boat you head to the north-western side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. From there a car ferry navigates across to the southern Westfjords. This is a useful route for local residents. Especially when the high mountain passes of the southern Westfjords are cut off by snows.
The ferry takes about two and a half hours to make the journey. It calls briefly at the island of Flatey to drop off and pick up passengers. This is a car free island so if you would like to visit it bear that in mind. Once you have arrived in the Westfjords you can spend several days enjoying the sights. From one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls to some seriously spectacular drives.
This remote spit of land lies on the north coast of the remote Westfjords. This ferry route runs from the small town of Ísafjörður. You can reach Hornstrandir by road but this makes for a much shorter journey from the Westfjords’ main town.
Grimsey Iceland Ferry
Grimsey is Iceland’s most northern island and it lies just within the Arctic Circle. If an Arctic visit is on your travel bucket list then you should definitely book your passage in advance. The ferry only sails three times a week and takes just over 100 people. In the summer months seats do book up quickly. It is a wonderfully remote place with fantastic views and birdlife. As the seasons shift it can be an incredible place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland too.
Hrisey Ferry Route
Hrisey is another car-free island off of the North coast of Iceland. It lies in the Eyjafjörður fjord to the north of Akureyri. This makes for a great day trip destination in summer. Bird lovers will be in their element here and there are expansive views out in all directions. Iceland weather permitting the ferry sails every other hour in both directions. The journey takes about fifteen minutes.
This is a small foot passenger only ferry that takes visitors to Papey island off of the east coast. The boat runs back and forth once a day and it is an enjoyable four-hour day trip. The island is currently uninhabited but there were people living out here until the mid nineteen sixties.
Videy is a small car free island off of the coast of Reykjavik. It is a popular day trip from the capital. The return ferry trip is actually included in the price of a Reykjavik City Card. This card includes access to several museums and galleries as well as hot spring swimming pool entrance. Back on Videy you can visit the Yoko Ono Peace Tower and enjoy pleasant and peaceful walks on rural paths. There are lovely views back across the sea to the city too.
How to get to Iceland by ferry
To arrive in Iceland by ferry you will need to travel to Denmark first. From there you can board the Smyril line ferry to Iceland. The ferry goes via the Faroe Islands where it has a stop over. The whole journey takes several days and departures are generally once a week. For further information you can visit the Smyril Line website.