When you fly into Reykjavik and head towards the city center, you’re no doubt ready for the art, history and culture that await you. But did you know that just beyond the shores of Iceland’s capital there’s a beautiful little island filled with more cool things to see and do? Viðey island off the coast of Reykjavik has some pretty interesting sites that definitely warrant a visit. If you’ve read about Viðey island on Trip Advisor or other travel forums, you know it’s a recommended destination. You can enjoy typical Icelandic nature, stunning views, and unique monuments like the Imagine Peace Tower.
Let’s hop on the ferry and check it out.
How to Reach the Island
There are ferry rides every day in the summer from both Skarfabakki pier and Ægisgarður harbor. In the winter you can only catch the ferry on Saturdays and Sundays between Skarfabakki and Viðey. Regardless of the time of year you go, there are multiple trips daily, so consult the Viðey island ferry times for the schedule of departures and returns. The cost of a ticket is 1500 ISK but holders of the Reykjavik City Card can take the ferry for free. If you’ve decided to take advantage of this money saving discount card, it could be worth it to also pay a visit to the island since it’s already included.
As you take the ferry to Viðey island from Reykjavik, you’ll be able to take in spectacular views of both the mainland and the outline of the Snaefellsnes peninsula in the distance. After taking this short boat ride, you’ll find yourself in a whole new world.
The Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey Island
Singer-songwriter John Lennon was more than just a member of the Iconic rock group The Beatles. He was also a peace activist a symbol of hope for an entire generation. To honor his legacy, his widow Yoko Ono conceived this work of art that lights up the Reykjavik sky. A single beam of light is transmitted into the heavens and it carries the message of peace. The dream of Ono and Lennon was to have world peace, and this tower represents wisdom, healing and joy. It also serves as a reminder that peace and love are what connect all of us here on Earth.
Visitors to the Peace Tower and from around the globe can send their wishes of goodwill either in person or through the internet.
Richard Serra’s Milestones
American sculptor Richard Serra is another artist displaying his work on Viðey island. Milestones, as the work is called, was unveiled in 1990 as part of the Reykjavik Arts Festival. It’s made up of nine pairs of pillars of columnar basalt which frame destinations and landmarks.
The Viðey Island Puffins and Other Bird Life
The island is rich in bird life and is a haven for bird lovers. There are about 30 species that breed on the island and some parts are closed off during nesting season. The most common species in the area is the eider, which provides down feathers that Icelanders use to stay warm. Other types of birds on the island are the black-tailed godwit, the snipe, the greylag goose, the purple sandpiper, the fulmar, and the oystercatcher among others. The isthmus ponds (Eiðið) are especially popular among ornithologists.
It’s easy to find and follow the trails that go all around the island. Both the West Island and East Island trails are perfect for a day hike and exploring the area.
Historical Ruins and Sites
Iceland was settled just before the 10th century and Viðey became inhabited soon after that. There are historical ruins that trace the history of the island over the last thousand years. A monastery was founded in 1225 by Þorvaldur Gissurarson, with the assistance powerful chieftain and scholar Snorri Sturluson. It continued to grow and at one point become the second richest monastery in Iceland. Three hundred years later the monastery was taken over by Danish soldiers and Iceland was swept up in the Reformation.
The island then belonged to the royal Bessastaðir estate for the next two centuries. Powerful Icelander Skúli Magnússon commissioned Viðey House (Viðeyjarstofa) as his official residence and construction ended in 1755. Many call him the father of Reykjavik thanks to his role in bringing the Industrial Revolution to Iceland
Viðey House is one of Iceland’s oldest buildings and plays an important role in Iceland’s architectural history. You can stop here for a light lunch at the Gallery restaurant during your excursion to the island.
Viðey Island: Nature, History, and Art Just Off Reykjavik’s Shores
The list of Viðey island things to do includes a little bit of everything. The combination of historical monuments, contemporary art installations, impressive views, and chance to explore Icelandic nature all make Viðey island a wonderful destination for those staying in the Reykjavik area. Enjoy the short, scenic ride on the ferry and the beautiful views of the capital city from the water. Why not make a day of it and go for lunch at the Viðey house after a hike and exploring? It’s the perfect activity for a sunny day in the capital region.