Grimsey is a remote island north of Iceland. It’s home to fewer than 100 people but over one million seabirds, including famous puffins and dive-bombing Arctic terns. Travelers flock here to cross the Arctic Circle and get their certificate for having just been there. Just 40 km (25 mi) off Iceland’s north coast, Grimsey is a day-trip destination you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Grimsey is the northernmost inhabited point of Iceland and the only part of the country that lies within the Arctic Circle. This small Icelandic island is only 3 miles (5 km) long and 5 sq km (2 sq mi) in total area. You can easily explore the entire island in one day.
The Arctic island is inhabited by hardy Icelanders, mostly fishermen and their families. They all live in the tiny harbor village of Sandvík, the island’s only settlement.
Grimsey’s two biggest attractions are birdwatching and crossing the Arctic Circle. Then, of course, there are the exquisite sunsets and incredible Northern Lights shows.
Even though Grimsey might not be the biggest island around, it offers all necessary services for the modern community. This includes a school, a swimming pool, a supermarket, a harbor, internet, and even an airport.
< hr />
As one of the world’s northernmost locations, the Arctic Circle is certainly not an ordinary travel destination. Below find everything you need to know about Iceland, Grimsey, and the Arctic Circle.
What is the Arctic Circle?
The Arctic Circle is the imaginary line that circles around the top of the planet. This line marks the latitude north of which there is at least one full day of darkness and one full day of light a year.
Technically speaking, the Arctic Circle wraps around the globe at 66°33′ N degrees north of the Equator (the imaginary line that goes around the middle of the Earth).
Everything north of the Arctic Circle is known as the Arctic, the northernmost region of the Earth. The Arctic Circle crosses eight countries: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, the U.S., Canada, Greenland, and Iceland (where it passes through the island of Grimsey).
Is Iceland in the Arctic Circle?
Yes, Iceland is in the Arctic Circle, but only a small part of the country is crossed at the 66°N latitude. This small part is the island of Grimsey. The mainland is located a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle. That said, all of Iceland’s Arctic Circle tours take place in Grimsey, Iceland’s only real piece of Arctic territory.
However, the Arctic Circle is on the move. Due to long-term oscillations in the Earth’s axis, the Arctic Circle moves about 15 m (48 ft) northwards every year.
This means that the Arctic Circle will pass Grimsey by around 2050. There is a 9-ton concrete sphere that marks Arctic Circle’s changing position, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Take an exclusive Grimsey Arctic Circle Tour and create unforgettable memories — all in one day! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to see puffins and other seabirds up close, enjoy romantic landscapes, and chat with locals throughout your trip.
Make a stop at the Arctic Circle Monument, a 9-ton stone sphere which was put up in 2017. This piece of art marks the boundary of the Arctic Circle in Grimsey.
Other exciting things to do on Grimsey Island include:
Visit a small wooden church rich in history and cuteness that dates back to 1867.
Walk along the dazzling and sharp ocean cliffs. The view, feeling, and grandness of it all is something you will keep with you forever.
Take a dip in a swimming pool open after dinner Monday-Wednesday and on Saturdays between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Witness the Northern Lights dance above the Arctic Circle. If you’re visiting Grimsey Island in winter, make sure to check the aurora forecast. When the lights come out they will shine even brighter and dance even more playfully at Grimsey!
Where to Stay at Grimsey?
There are two guesthouses found on the island of Grímsey:
Alternatively, you have the option of camping at Grimsey. The camping ground is situated by the public pool, which serves as the shower and WC for the camping ground. The reception at the pool serves as an information center.
Swimming pool opening hours:
Monday to Wednesday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
On Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where to Eat at Grimsey?
Búðin – the local grocery store where you can pick up all the basics. A perfect stop if you are looking to have a picnic!
Krían – only open in summer but can be opened for pre-booked groups in winter. The restaurant is named after the Arctic tern known as kría in Icelandic.
Despite the remote northern location of Grimsey, the climate here is surprisingly mild because of the warm Gulf Stream waters. The maximum temperature recorded in Grimsey is even higher than in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, which is way farther south.
However, don’t forget that Iceland’s weather is highly unpredictable. You might experience all four seasons in just one day! Make sure to bring warm outdoor clothing and a waterproof jacket. Good clothing is key to fully exploring the island without having to worry about catching a cold.
Grimsey in Summer
In the summertime, Grimsey is known as one of the absolute best places to experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland. Daylight lasts up to 24 hours a day! This means only one thing: you’ll have all the time you need for sightseeing.
The summer is also an excellent time to go birdwatching. The island is home to a fabulous puffin colony, one of the largest in the country.
Grimsey in Winter
Grimsey can be easily visited in winter by ferry or plane. The biggest draw during the season is the Northern Lights. The views of the great aurora are simply fantastic since the island is far away from city lights. The otherworldly pink sunsets are a great bonus too.
Please note that the puffins in Grimsey can only be seen from May to September. So if you want to see them whilst on the island, you should come back during the summer.
Movies Filmed in Grimsey
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 Grimsey. This location plays such a big part in the movie that producers decided to name the film Grimsey!
As of 2020, the Arctic Circle runs 66°33′ N degrees north of the Equator. However, the Arctic Circle is moving northwards at a rate of about 14 m (46 ft) a year. This means that the Arctic Circle might miss Grimsey in a few decades.
The distance between North Pole and Iceland is 5018 km (3118 mi). The North Pole is the northernmost point on Earth and is found in the center of the Arctic Circle. Its latitude is 90° north and all longitudinal lines meet there.
The mainland of Iceland is just a few kilometers below the Arctic Circle. So when traveling in Iceland, you’re almost within the Arctic Circle. However, if you want to cross the Arctic Circle, you’ll need to travel to Grimsey.
The mainland of Iceland is located south of the Arctic Circle. But the island of Grimsey sits north of the Arctic Circle. That said, one can say that Iceland is north and south of the Arctic Circle at the same time.
Puffins nest on islands and coastlines all around Iceland. You can find puffin colonies in North, East, West, and South Iceland. However, some places for spotting these cute seabirds are better than others, Grimsey being one of them.
Here is a handy list of the best places to spot puffins in Iceland:
Grimsey Island and Tjörnes Peninsula in North Iceland
Westman Islands and Dyrhólaey in the South Iceland
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and Látrabjarg Cliffs in West Iceland
Papey Island and Borgarfjörður Eystri in East Iceland
Need to know: If you want to see puffins in Iceland, travel in summer (from May to August). In September, they disappear to spend the winter at sea.
Although this might not be for everyone, Icelanders sometimes eat puffins, usually smoked or boiled in milk sauce. Actually, it’s one of Iceland’s delicacies. Visitors can order puffins in many restaurants all around the country, including Grimsey.