Great overview about geology and wildlife on the archipelago
As some of my plans during my stay at Vestmannaeyjar did not work out as expected, I had time to explore some of the more hidden gems on the main island Heimaey. I opted to have a look into Sagnheimar Náttúrugripasafn, which is a natural history museum about the archipelago (which overall consists of fifteen islands, located South of Iceland). Here is my review.
Sagnheimar Natural History Museum – Location & Admission
Overall, the main Vestmannaeyjar island of Heimaey is rather compact. Most people arrive by ferry and the museum is just a short walk up to the harbor. All major central attractions are in short walking distance. However, also the rather remote places like the island’s airport (VEY) or the famous Eldheimar museum are very doable walks. Don’t mix the place up with the Sagnheimar Folk Museum, which is maybe more well known and just a few blocks away.
Unfortunately, you are very often directed to the folk museum when looking for information about the place. Admission is free. There used to be tame puffins as the place was running as a rescue station. I met them in the Sea Life habitat building and read that this part has permanently moved there. Opening times in summer are daily, 11:00 to 17:00 hrs. Admission is free.
Sagnheimar Natural History Museum – The Visit
The museum is located in the upper floor of the building. Some exhibits are explained multi-lingual (Icelandic, English and German). Other parts are in Icelandic only, but the museum is great in offering guide leaflets which explain the different animals and minerals in displays. As you see in the first picture, they also cover rather exotic languages like Finnish. A large part of the Natural History Museum is a collection of minerals. I especially liked to learn about the very specific geological structures of Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar in general, i.e. the volcanic origin exhibits. There is also a lot of interesting information about how the islands have been created from volcanic activities, which is very impressive.
The second part of the visit is a lovely overview of the wildlife of the islands. The museum has beautiful dioramas of stuffed animals. Bad luck that there are no more living puffins – but I really liked to see the rich range of species. They of course majorly concentrate on bird life and on maritime species. But there are also some minor mammals you find on the “Westman Islands”, which is the typical translation of the archipelago’s name. Overall, you may spend between 30 and 60 minutes in the museum, depending on how much you are into the topics.
Sagnheimar Natural History Museum – Services
There were no special services in the museum. The staff was very friendly, but does not really care about you until you have questions. The museum also drives a small souvenir store.
Sagnheimar Natural History Museum – My View
I really loved to visit the Sagnheimar Natural History Museum. It is a good place (especially for lazy people like me) to explore the very special, but also rich geology and biosphere of the Vestmannaeyjar islands. It is just a short walk from the harbor area, so that I definitely suggest to put this on your schedule when visiting Heimaey.