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Grimsey Island

The Island at the Arctic Circle, North Iceland

Grimsey is a remote island North of Iceland, with under 100 inhabitants but over one million seabirds, including the popular Puffin. Grímsey has an area of 5.3 square kilometers (2.0 sq mi) and is a little over 40 kilometers (24,8 mi) from the main island of Iceland. At this time the island sits on the Arctic Circle, inviting anyone who visits to the most exquisite sunsets and incredible Northern Lights shows! 

Grimsey Island

Photo by Brian Gratwicke

The island of Grímsey is the Northernmost point of Iceland, located right at the Arctic Circle, which literally cuts through the island. It is home to only about 100 humans but its seabirds can be counted to a million. The island is inhabited by brave Icelanders, most of them fishermen and their families who spend their simple lives at this fascinating isle. They all live in a village called Sandvík by the harbor, closest to the fishing banks that keep them afloat. The island itself is only about 5 square kilometers and can easily be explored on a day trip when the weather allows.

The endless surrounding Atlantic ocean can the quite ruthless, with waves often reaching up to 15 meters (49 ft) and when the polar ice slides in from the north or Greenland going around the island on boats can get tricky.

In the summertime, Grimsey is known to be one of the absolute best places to experience the midnight sun with even more hours and days of plain daylight than the main island of Iceland. The daylight is 24 hours for days! The summer is also an excellent time to go bird watching, especially since the island is a fabulous puffin colony, one of the biggest ones in Iceland.

But even though Grimsey might not be big in size, or population, the island offers all of the services needed in modern Icelandic community, a school, a swimming pool, a supermarket, an airport, an internet connection, and a great harbor.

  • Grimsey is actually a part of Akureyri’s municipality
  • A first church built at Grimsey was from the 11th century
  • The island is somewhat of a safe haven for the seabirds as not minks or foxes live there
  • Grímsey is the perfect place to see the Northern Lights!
  • About million seabirds live at Grimsey
  • Due to long-term oscillations in the Earth’s axis, the Arctic Circle moves about 15 meters (49 ft) Northwards every year. This will result in the Arctic Circle not laying under Grímsey by the mid 21st century
  • Grímsey’s highest point is about 105 meters (344,48 ft)
  • Grímsey is first mentioned in writing around the year 1000 but in 1222 is the first recording of people actually living in the island

Grimsey Old Photo

GPS POINTS N66° 32′ 22.096″ W18° 1′ 17.278″

Grimsey is located 41 km off the North coast of Iceland and it crosses the Arctic Circle.

There are two different ways of going about visiting Grimsey. You can take the ferry, Sæfari, which sales from the northern village of Dalvík three days a week all year round or you can catch a flight with Air Iceland from Akureyri. This flight is flown three times a week in winter and every day during summer.

Sailing to Grimsey from Dalvik

  1. Go Puffin Watching! From May to September the island is an excellent bird watching location, especially for those interested in seeing the Puffin in its natural habitat.
  2. Visit the small wooden church, rich in history and cuteness!
  3. Make a stop at the Arctic Circle Monument, an eight-tonne stone sphere which was put up in 2017 after an earlier monument no longer stood at the Arctic Circle.
  4. Walk along the dazzling and sharp ocean cliffs the view, the feeling, the grandness of it all is something you will keep with you forever.
  5. Take a dip in the swimming pool, open after dinner Monday-Wednesday and between 2 pm and 4 pm on Saturdays.
  6. Witness the Northern Lights dance above the Arctic Circle, if you are planning to visit Grímsey in winter, make sure to check the Northern Lights forecast. When the lights come out they will shine even brighter and dance even more playfully at Grimsey!

pair of puffins in Iceland

There are two different guesthouses found at the island of Grímsey:

  • Guesthouse Gullsól
  • Guesthouse Básar

But you also have the option of camping at the island. The camping ground at Grímsey is situated by the public pool which serves as the shower and WC for the camping ground. The reception at the pool also serves as an information center for the campground.
The Swimming Pool is open:
Monday to Wednesday from 8 pm to 9:30 pm.
And again on Saturdays from 2 pm to 4 pm.

  • Búðin – the local grocery store, where you can pick up all the basics. A perfect stop if you are looking to do a picnic!
  • Krían – only open in Summer, but can be opened for pre-booked groups in winter.

Grímsey is located way North of Iceland, and one might expect the latitude to control the weather in a cold direction but much to most surprise the climate is generally quite mild. This is caused by the North Atlantic Current which brings the Gulf stream of Mexico with its warm waters. The maximum temperature to be recorded at Grimsey is even higher than the capital’s which is located way in the South!

aurora borealis in Iceland

Still, if you are visiting in winter, dress for the North and in summer you will want to bring waterproof clothing in order to be able to fully explore the island without having to worry about the weather.

Grimsey can easily be visited in winter, with the ferry and flights going multiple times a week and is well worth the visit. The Aurora Borealis are simply fantastic seen from Grímsey and the pink sunsets are otherworldly!

The island is also not as cold tempered as many might think as the Mexican Gulfstream helps milden the atmosphere. Still, you need to dress warmly as one would traveling anywhere in Iceland in winter, keep wool closest and wear sturdy boots.

Note, the puffins are only in Grímsey May to September so if you are looking to see them whilst in Grímsey you might need to come back in summer.

Grimsey (2018) A Spanish short film about a man who follows his ex-boyfriend to Iceland after a breakup and ends up finding himself in Grímsey. This located plays such a big part in the movie they even ended up calling the film Grímsey!