Explore Elephant Rock Iceland: Travel Guide & Unforgettable Stays on Heimaey Island

Nestled in the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland’s Elephant Rock stands as a testament to nature’s artistry. This captivating basalt formation on Heimaey Island is so lifelike, it’s often mistaken for a digital creation. But trust me, Elephant Rock is 100% real and even more mesmerizing in person.

How did the Elephant Rock Form?

Elephant Rock is a stunning natural wonder formed through volcanic activity. Though the 1973 eruption of Eldfell Volcano shaped much of the current landscape, the formation of Elephant Rock dates back over 15,000 years. This basalt rock structure is the remnant of a powerful volcanic eruption on Heimaey Island, part of the Westman Islands archipelago.

Volcanic forces played a crucial role in shaping this formation. When magma reached the Earth’s surface and met the cold seawater, it rapidly cooled and solidified, resulting in the rough, elephant-like contours seen today. The high iron content and mineral deposits also contributed to its dark, textured surface.

While local folklore adds magic to Elephant Rock’s story, the geological process involved is fascinating in its own right. Some legends describe the rock as a petrified mythical sea elephant, enhancing its allure. However, the scientific explanation focuses on the interaction between volcanic activity and the island’s natural elements.

Elephant Rock’s location in Heimaey makes it part of one of the most active volcanic regions in Iceland. The Westman Islands are known for their dynamic geological history, with multiple eruptions shaping their landscapes. This activity not only created Elephant Rock but also has an ongoing influence on the island’s topography.

Understanding the formation of Elephant Rock requires appreciating the intense natural processes that shaped it. The interplay between molten lava, oceanic elements, and geological time frames offers a glimpse into the forces that have sculpted one of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks.

Fun Facts about Elephant Rock Iceland

Elephant Rock is unique not just for its shape but also for its fascinating history and quirks. Despite its striking resemblance to an elephant, Iceland has never seen a real elephant. This irony adds a layer of intrigue, as the island never had elephants roaming its landscapes.

Interestingly, there’s another Elephant Rock in Asia, often confused with the one in Iceland. The Asian counterpart looks like an elephant lying down in the water when viewed from above. In contrast, Iceland’s Elephant Rock, seen from above, appears as a mountain rising from the sea, with its elephant likeness mainly discernible from a side view.

The name “elephant” isn’t originally Icelandic. The Vikings learned the word from a Turkish man who’d seen an elephant. Although Icelandic language adopted it, there’s no native term for the creature because they never lived there.

In the geological context, Elephant Rock stems from volcanic activity. Its rough contours, created by magma interacting with seawater, give it the appearance of an elephant’s face. The high iron content in the lava contributes to its dark, rugged surface.

Locals and visitors alike marvel at the rock’s features, often debating its organic appearance. Some local folklore even imagines it as a petrified sea elephant, though scientific explanations remain grounded in volcanic processes. The rock stands as an enduring testament to the dynamic natural forces at play in the Westman Islands.

Where is Elephant Rock located?

Elephant Rock is situated on Heimaey Island, part of the Westman Islands archipelago off Iceland’s south coast. The Westman Islands encompass around 15 islands and reefs formed by volcanic activity. Heimaey, the largest and the only inhabited island, spans approximately 13 square kilometers. Elephant Rock lies in the western part of Heimaey, making it accessible yet intriguing for adventurers. The rock’s precise location can be pinpointed using GPS coordinates: 63.439284, -20.311016.

Positioned about 7.5 kilometers from the mainland, Heimaey offers stunning coastal scenery and unique geological features. Elephant Rock, formed during one of Mount Eldfell’s eruptions in 1973, stands as a testament to the island’s volcanic history. The entire Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, including Heimaey, owes its existence to underwater volcanic eruptions, creating a dramatic and rugged landscape.

Visitors eager to see Elephant Rock won’t find a direct path, adding an element of adventure. Reaching this geological wonder involves navigating Heimaey’s terrain, making it a perfect destination for those who enjoy off-the-beaten-path exploration. The lack of a direct path enhances Elephant Rock’s allure, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in the island’s natural beauty and geological significance.

Heimaey itself is renowned for its large puffin colonies, often called the Puffin Islands. This makes the visit even more exciting for bird watchers. The blend of volcanic landscapes and abundant wildlife ensures that a trip to see Elephant Rock is both an educational and visually captivating experience.

How to get to the Elephant Rock?

Elephant Rock on Heimaey Island in the Westman Islands lacks a direct path, making the journey an adventure in itself. To reach the island, take a ferry from Landeyjahöfn, which has regular schedules throughout the year. The ferry ride offers scenic views and generally takes around 40 minutes, weather permitting.

Once on Heimaey Island, rent a car or bike for flexibility, as public transportation options are limited. Heimaey’s size makes it suitable for biking enthusiasts who enjoy scenic rides.

Head towards the island’s western side, where Elephant Rock is located. Local signage and guides offer directions, but some prefer using GPS devices or map applications for accuracy. Keep in mind that the rock’s area is rugged and requires careful navigation on foot for the final stretch.

Approach the rock by hiking a combination of trails and off-road paths. Wear sturdy footwear due to the uneven terrain. Trails vary in difficulty, with some sections requiring moderate climbing skills.

For a close-up experience, visit during low tide. The lower water levels reveal more of the rock’s elephant-like features, enhancing the visual experience. Bird watchers will find the journey rewarding, as Heimaey hosts one of the world’s largest puffin colonies, especially vibrant during the summer months.

Adventurers should bring essentials like water, snacks, and a camera for capturing the stunning landscape. Be mindful of the weather, which can change rapidly, and wear appropriate clothing. Exploring Elephant Rock at your own pace provides both a sense of achievement and a deeper connection to Iceland’s natural beauty.

What to do around the Elephant Rock

Exploring around Elephant Rock offers a range of activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Situated on Heimaey Island, part of the Westman Islands, this area boasts more than just the famous Elephant Rock.


Hiking is a popular activity around Elephant Rock. Trails vary in difficulty, from easy walks to more challenging climbs. One of the best routes takes you along the Heimaey coastline, offering stunning views of the ocean and surrounding volcanic landscape. Always pack essentials like water, snacks, and a camera, and be prepared for Iceland’s unpredictable weather.

Bird Watching

Heimaey Island is a bird watcher’s paradise, especially during the summer. The island hosts large puffin colonies, making it an excellent spot for observing these charming creatures. Bring binoculars for a closer look and visit in the early morning or late evening when birds are most active.

Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking around Elephant Rock provides a unique perspective. Paddle through the waters of the Westman Islands and get up close with the basalt formations. Several local operators offer guided tours, making it an accessible activity for most skill levels.

Exploring Heimaey Town

After visiting Elephant Rock, explore Heimaey town. The town features interesting museums like the Eldheimar Museum, which details the volcanic eruption of 1973. Walk through the streets, enjoy local cuisine, and interact with friendly residents to learn more about the island’s history and culture.

Whale Watching

The waters around the Westman Islands are ideal for whale watching. Various tour operators offer boat trips where you can observe whales, dolphins, and other marine life. The best time for whale watching is from April to October.

Visiting Eldfell Volcano

Another key attraction near Elephant Rock is Eldfell Volcano. Climb to the summit for panoramic views of Heimaey Island and the surrounding sea. The hike up Eldfell is moderate and takes about 2 hours. It’s a rewarding challenge for those interested in Mount Eldfell’s volcanic history.

These activities around Elephant Rock make Heimaey Island a compelling travel destination. From hiking and bird watching to kayaking and exploring local culture, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Where to eat near Elephant Rock

After exploring Elephant Rock’s wonders, finding a good meal nearby is essential. Heimaey Island offers several dining venues that cater to varied tastes. The proximity of restaurants makes it easy to savor local flavors without straying far from the natural attractions.

Slippurinn Restaurant

Slippurinn, located close to the harbor, is a top choice. This venue focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, offering dishes like Icelandic lamb and fish. The chef pays great attention to seasonal produce, making every meal unique.


Gott, situated in the heart of Heimaey Town, offers a relaxed atmosphere with healthy, organic options. It’s family-friendly, featuring dishes like vegan burgers, seafood pasta, and homemade soups. The casual setting is perfect for a mid-day meal after a morning hike.

Einsi Kaldi

Einsi Kaldi provides a fine dining experience and is known for its creative take on traditional Icelandic cuisine. The restaurant specializes in seafood, with options like fresh-caught cod and lobster. The intimate setting makes it ideal for a quiet dinner after a day of adventure.

900 Grillhús

For something quick yet satisfying, 900 Grillhús is a reliable option. Known for its burgers, pizzas, and fish and chips, it serves classic comfort food. Located centrally in Heimaey, it’s convenient for grabbing a bite before heading back to explore.

Kaffi Kró

Kaffi Kró is a cozy café perfect for breakfast or a light lunch. They offer everything from pastries to sandwiches with excellent coffee. Its central location in Heimaey makes it a quick stop to refuel.

Finding a place to eat near Elephant Rock is easy with these options. Not only do they provide delicious meals, but they also enhance the overall experience of visitng Heimaey Island.

Where to stay around Elephant Rock

Renting a Campervan

A campervan in Iceland offers a flexible, exciting way to stay close to nature. The Westman Islands, including Heimaey, welcome campervans. Imagine waking up to a view of Elephant Rock. The Vestmannaeyjar Camp Site provides convenient and affordable options. Campervans offer freedom to explore at your own pace.

Comfort and Convenience

Select accommodations that ensure both comfort and convenience. Staying close to attractions saves travel time and enhances your experience. Various hotels and guesthouses on Heimaey offer excellent amenities. Check proximity to Elephant Rock and other nearby attractions.

Utilizing Online Booking Platforms

Online platforms streamline the process of finding accommodations. These platforms help compare prices, check availability, and read reviews from other travelers. Booking online ensures that you secure a place that meets your needs and preferences.

Budget-Friendly Options

For budget-conscious travelers, options like hostels and budget hotels are available. These provide necessary amenities without breaking the bank. Staying at budget accommodations lets you allocate more resources to the myriad activities around Elephant Rock.

Splurge-Worthy Stays

For those seeking luxury, Heimaey boasts several upscale hotels. These locations offer premium services and breathtaking views of the ocean and Elephant Rock. Indulging in a higher-end stay accentuates the overall travel experience.

Accommodations near Elephant Rock cater to various preferences and budgets, ensuring an unforgettable visit to this unique Icelandic landmark.

Camping in Westman Islands

Camping on the Westman Islands provides an immersive experience close to nature. The Vestmannaeyjar Camp Site, located on Heimaey Island, offers convenient and affordable camping options for those looking to stay near Elephant Rock. This campsite is well-equipped with essential amenities, making it a comfortable base for exploration.

Glamping Options

For a more luxurious outdoor experience, glamping in Westman Islands is an excellent choice. You can find well-furnished tents that offer the charm of camping with added comfort. These setups often include cozy beds, private bathrooms, and even small kitchenettes.

Campervan Rentals

Renting a campervan allows for flexible and convenient travel around the Westman Islands. Campervan-friendly sites provide necessary facilities, enabling you to wake up to stunning views of Elephant Rock. This option combines transportation and accommodation in one, enhancing the overall adventure.

Essential Facilities

Most camping and glamping sites in the Westman Islands offer:

  • Restrooms: Clean and regularly maintained
  • Showers: Hot water available
  • Wi-Fi Access: For staying connected
  • Cooking Facilities: Communal kitchens or barbeque areas
  • Book in Advance: Especially during peak seasons, it’s advisable to reserve your spot early.
  • Check Weather Conditions: Icelandic weather can be unpredictable. Always come prepared with appropriate gear.
  • Respect Nature: Follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles to help preserve the natural beauty.

Enjoy the serene beauty of the Westman Islands while staying close to the breathtaking Elephant Rock. Whether you choose traditional camping, glamping, or renting a campervan, the experience promises unforgettable memories.

Interesting places near the Elephant Rock

While Elephant Rock is a stunning highlight of Heimaey Island it’s just one of many fascinating spots to explore. The island’s volcanic landscapes offer endless opportunities for adventure. The Eldfell volcano hike provides breathtaking views and a chance to witness the power of nature firsthand.

Don’t miss the Sæheimar Aquarium where you can learn about local marine life and even meet rescued puffins. For history enthusiasts the Eldheimar Museum offers a poignant look at the 1973 volcanic eruption that reshaped the island.

There are also beautiful coastal walks like the one to Stórhöfði, known for its incredible birdwatching opportunities. With so much to see and do near Elephant Rock, your visit to Heimaey Island promises to be both enriching and unforgettable.

author avatar
Erik Rivera