Grímsey is the northernmost settlement in Iceland, situated 41 km (26 mi) north of the mainland. It’s on the Arctic Circle, 66° north, the only inhabited part of Iceland that’s actually above the Arctic Circle! An outdoor artwork celebrating the Arctic Circle stands proudly on the island, marking the exact spot where it cuts across the island. It’s called Orbis et Globus and consists of a three-metre (ten-foot) concrete sphere, which is meant to be moved along with the movements of the Arctic Circle.
Despite being so far north, Grímsey’s summers are generally mild, and the island has rich vegetation. People have been living there for at least eight centuries, and today, it has around sixty residents. Up to sixty species of birds and one of the biggest puffin colonies in Iceland make Grímsey well worth the visit. The comical-looking puffin, with its multicoloured beak and jaunty walk, is a welcome sight when it arrives in the spring and the impossibly populated bird cliffs in summer are a stunning sight. Puffins are a symbol of summer on the island since they only stay on land from mid-April to early August. If you’re interested in hiking around the island, sailing or even snorkelling with puffins, check out the selection of Grímsey tours available.
The historic Grímsey church was recently lost in a tragic fire, but the island’s residents raised funds and a new church is now rising on the island. Grímsey lighthouse is another notable building, constructed in 1937. For history buffs, a new exhibition on American librarian and scholar Daniel Willard Fiske has opened at Grímsey Airport. The exhibition is focused on Fiske’s visit to Grímsey and his gift of chess sets to every home on the island, along with a monetary donation to the community, in the 1870s. A monument to Fiske was built to commemorate his gift.
On the eastern side of the island, is the dramatic coastline where the islanders climb down the sheer rock cliffs with a rope, at great personal risk, to collect seabird eggs for their families in early spring. The island also has some beautiful basalt column formations.
Grímsey Island is small, but it still has options for accommodation for curious travellers who want to spend more time exploring the island. The most popular time of year to visit is around the summer solstice when the Arctic sun stays in the sky all night long. There’s a shop on the island where you can get all your necessities, as well as a restaurant if you don’t feel like cooking on your own. To get to Grímsey, you can take the ferry from the village of Dalvík (a 40-minute drive from Akureyri) or take a flight from Akureyri. For scheduled flights, consult www.grimsey.is. Sightseeing flights and tours are also available, with a stop on the island to cross the Arctic Circle before heading back to Akureyri. For more information on activities, services, and transportation, go to www.grimsey.is
Last updated on 8 May 2023.