What does Iceland have in common with Hartlepool UK, Nevada, Utah and Missouri, USA, Duntroon, New Zealand, and a few more places across the world? An ‘Elephant Rock’.
'Elephant Rock' is a natural rock formation in Heimaey, part of the Westman Islands or Vestmannaeyjar. The islands are a visitor attraction in their own right, but Elephant Rock is the main draw. The basalt rock structure is completely natural, but remarkably, largely resembles that of an elephant! The rock looks identical to an elephant drinking from the water, with some of its trunk submerged in the seawater. Even the texture of the rock adds to the wrinkled appearance of elephant skin! Fans have also spotted the resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft's cosmic entity, Cthulhu, a sea monster with the face of an octopus, of American pulp magazine Weird Tales.
There is a picture that went viral on the internet a while ago about Elephant Rock. Elephant Rock, Iceland, is the close-up elephant face, but the aerial picture is from Asia.
Where is Elephant Rock?
The giant Elephant Rock lies 7.5 kilometers off the south coast of Iceland, near to Heimaey in the Westman Islands. The Westman Islands are a collection of 15 islands and reefs formed by volcanic eruptions and activity underground, under the sea. With a total area of around 13 square kilometers, Heimaey is the largest of these islands, the only populated island that people live on. Elephant Rock is located at the western part of Heimaey.
The approximate GPS coordinates are: 63.439284, -20.311016
How Was Elephant Rock Formed?
Elephant Rock is believed to have been created during one of Mount Eldfell's many eruptions, as the entire Vestmannaeyjar archipelago is volcanic - which makes it an excellent travel destination mainly for geology enthusiasts!
How to See Elephant Rock
Elephant Rock is best viewed from the sea! RIB boat tours and ferries run 5-6 times a day from Landeyjahöfn, on the mainland, four nautical miles from the rock, and offers the closest views of the rock. Alternatively, from Heimaey, Elephant Rock can be seen from the golf course, at the edge of Halldórsskora’s sea cliffs. To get there you follow the signs to either the campsite, golf course or sports area.
Elephant Rock from Mainland Iceland
To get to Elephant Rock from Reykjavik, you will need to drive along the South Coast for around 2 hours, around 140 kilometers, following Route One to the ferry port at Landeyjahöfn. From Vik, Landeyjahöfn is roughly 1 hour away, around a 75km drive. From here you can simply take a boat tour out around the islands!
Attractions near Elephant Rock
- The vast majority on the small island of Heimaey is open to visitors! Nevertheless, because of the remote, island nature, to get around you will need an off-road, 4 wheel drive vehicle to get almost anywhere out of the main town.
- Skansinn Church is located next to the harbor on Heimaey Island, as a duplicate of the first ever original wooden Viking church in Iceland. The church was donated by the Government of Norway in 2000 to mark a thousand years of Christianity in Iceland. The church is located next to the harbor.
- Stórhöfði is a rocky headland on the southern edge of Heimaey, unofficially the windiest place in Europe! The peninsula has a modest weather station and some bird colonies and is a peaceful and relaxing area for some tranquility.
- Heimaey is at a natural advantage point to see the aurora borealis lights. On cold dark nights, the Northern Lights are seen clearly above the island.
- During the summer months, tourists also come to the island to see the wildlife. You may see thousands or even millions of puffins on the cliffs! Whilst orcas, dolphins, and other whales roam in the waters around the islands. Keiko, the orca who starred in the popular 1990s film franchise Free Willy, was released in the waters around Heimaey for a short time.
- Hiking Eldfell Volcano is a popular summertime pastime. As the summit is just over 600 feet above sea level, the mountain is suitable for even to amateur hikers to climb. The island has well-marked paths, and you can see the lava field that covered houses in a drastic 1973 volcanic eruption. Remarkably, the residents were able to escape!
Overnight Stays in the Westman Islands
- Hotel Vestmannaeyjar
- Guesthouse Hamar
- Hotel Eyjar
- Guesthouse Sólbakki
- Guesthouse Árný