Grímsey Island

Dramatic sea cliffs and birdlife dominate this tiny northern island, which straddles the Arctic Circle. 

The tiny isle of Grímsey is an utterly pure and separate world from the rest of Iceland, 40km (24.5 miles) off the northern coast. As the country’s remotest (inhabited) offshore island, Grímsey grants the traveller the gift of isolation and windswept beauty. On one side, a mighty wall of basalt cliffs stands firm against the open sea – from these great heights the island descends in a slope of green lumpy fields to the opposite shore with its lowly coves and harbour. The island is pleasantly small (5.3km² or two square miles), like a punctuation mark for the whole of Iceland. Besides a handful of resolute islanders and a few million seabirds, there are only rocks, grass, the wind and the sea.

Just being on Grímsey feels like stepping off the edge of the earth. The next stop north is the North Pole and when the sky is clear, locals point south to ‘Iceland’: the jagged line of grey-ish mountains that stretch from Skagafjörður to Melrakkaslétta. Exposed as it is, Grímsey gets hit with the full force of Iceland’s terrific weather in the summer and less-than-terrific weather in the winter.

Puffins Grimsey Island Iceland by Visit Iceland
The island is home to a few million seabirds © Visit Iceland

Things are always a bit blustery, the fog rolls in and out and then the wind picks up. There’s sudden rain, sleet, hail, or snow – huge waves crash on all sides and then, total silence. On those days, Grímsey feels like the most peaceful place on earth. On other days, watching the sky is sheer entertainment. Grímsey is also one of the few spots in Iceland where you can see the entire ‘midnight sun’ above the horizon, and in winter’s months of darkness the Northern Lights streak a bright blue, green and red.