Just off the coast of Reykjavik, you’ll find a hidden gem that not many travelers to Iceland are not aware of. Viðey Island is home to historical monuments, works of contemporary art, and around 30 species of birds. And if you have the Reykjavik City Card, the ferry to Viðey Island from Reykjavik is free of charge. There’s plenty to see and do just off of Reykjavik’s shores, so why not spend the day exploring here?
The Imagine Peace Tower: One of Viðey Island’s Star Attractions
The thing that Viðey Island is probably most well-known for is the Imagine Peace Tower. This beaming tower of light was conceived in honor of John Lennon by his widow, artist Yoko Ono. It brings the message of peace around the world, which was a cause that both John and Yoko held near and dear to their hearts. From their famous Bed-Ins for Peace during the Vietnam War, peace has always been an important cause to the couple.
Unveiled in 2007, the shining beam is lit up at different times of year, both on regular days and during John and Yoko’s birthdays. It shoots up toward the heavens and disappears into the sky. Those who are far away can also send their wishes for peace via email and social media.
Richard Serra’s Milestones: Another Modern Work of Art
Another striking work of art on Viðey Island is the Milestones exhibition by artist Richard Serra. Even though it was originally part of the Reykjavik Art Festival’s 1990 edition, the work still stands. It consists of nine pairs of basalt pillars. Each one frames important landmarks and destinations. It has a little bit of a “Stonehenge with an Icelandic twist” feel to it.
Viðey Island’s Puffins
In addition to all of the geological beauty that Iceland is so known for, we are also known for plentiful birdlife. The Viðey Island puffins and those in other parts of the country come to our shores every summer. Whether you’re a fan of bird-watching or just a nature lover in general, the approximately 30 bird species on the island will keep you busy.
There are hiking trails all around the island, although certain ones are closed during nesting season in order to protect the natural habitat of our precious birds. The extensive network of trails can be explored either on foot or by bike. In addition to hiking and biking, you can also enjoy spectacular views of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula outlined in the distance. You also get to enjoy views of Reykjavik that you don’t have when staying in the city itself.
Historical Sites on Viðey Island
Not only is the island known for art and nature, there are also some sites with historical significance to Iceland. As we all know, Iceland was settled pre-10th century by Vikings from Norway, Sweden, and the rest of Scandinavia. Soon after they put down roots on the Nordic island, they begin to expand outward. Viðey Island had inhabitants living on it not long after. Powerful chieftain Snorri Sturluson and Þorvaldur Gissurarson founded a monastery here in 1225 AD. It grew and grew until at one point it became the richest Monastery in Iceland’s history.
The royal Bessastaðir estate later owned the island for almost 200 years. Viðey House (Viðeyjarstofa) was opened in 1755. It had been commissioned by Skúli Magnússon, one of Iceland’s most powerful men. This home served as his official residence. This architectural a significant building has a historical display in the basement and a restaurant where you can eat lunch. I highly suggest stopping by here and making a full day out of your trip to Viðey Island.
How to Arrive and Viðey Island Ferry Times
Ferry rides leave frequently from Skarfabakki pier and Ægisgarður harbor every day during the summer. This lasts from approximately May 15th to September 30th. The first ferry going to Viðey starts at 10:15 a.m. and the last one returning leaves at 6:30 pm.
During the wintertime, the schedule is dramatically reduced. Winter service only runs on Saturdays and Sundays and there are fewer ferries per day as well. If you’re planning to go to the island during the winter, it will have to be a quick visit. The first ferry leaves at 1:15 p.m. and the last one returns at 4:30 p.m.
Viðey Island: Get Off The Beaten Path
A trip to the island is the perfect excursion if you happen to catch yourself with some free time on a sunny day. Viðey is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Reykjavik, and it’s very easy to get to on the ferry. Do yourself a favor and come discover this off the beaten path destination in Iceland. Not many people know it exists and even fewer make the trek here, so why not go where not many have gone before? You won’t regret it.