One of the most beautiful experiences in Iceland is crossing the line over the Arctic Circle. Here’s what you need to know about Grimsey.
One of the most beautiful experiences in Iceland is crossing the line over the Arctic Circle. But Iceland isn’t exactly located inside the Arctic Circle, and the North Pole is always moving, which is somehow “pushing” Iceland outside of the Arctic Circle completely. However, as of 2023, there is still a place in Iceland where you can go to cross over and accomplish this bucket list travel experience. And that is Grimsey Island in North Iceland.
In this blog, I’ll give you all the info you need to plan a day trip to Grimsey island in Iceland.
It will come down to the weather you’ll get on your day trip, but I will give you some tips on how to try to find a better day for the trip. In the end, the views were extraordinary, and the trip wasn’t without hiccups, but it was worth it.
If you want to get a feel of the place, you can watch my vlog from Grimsey, Iceland, on my YouTube channel.
How to get to Grimsey island?
Grimsey is connected to the main island of Iceland by a ferry that departs from Dalvik in Northern Iceland. This is a small town just 40 minutes (44 km) North of Akureiry, Iceland’s second-largest city.
Since this is a rather small ferry, it goes slow, and a trip takes 3 hours. It has room for a couple of cars, but you’ll need to book your car place if you decide to go by car. In all honesty, Grimsey is small, and there’s only one small paved road that connects the houses in Sandvik, the town of Grimsey.
The rest are dirt roads, and you’ll need a 4WD to get on them.
You can book the ferry from Samskip. Please check the schedule on this website, as the ferry doesn’t depart daily, and the return from Grimsey changes in winter, when the day is shorter.
In summer, the ferry ran five days a week, and it departed at 9 a.m. from Dalvik and from 5 p.m. from Grimsey.
Grimsey island day trip
I visited Grimsey in June 2023 and read that this is the place to visit if you truly want to witness the midsummer celebrations. However, there was no festival going on, and most of the time, I couldn’t see anyone else around as I was exploring the wild parts of the island.
Most people go to Grimsey island for a day trip, and they book a road trip, as I did. This means that you will board the ferry in the morning, leave at 9 a.m., and reach Grimsey at 12 p.m.
You’ll get five hours on the island, which is enough to walk at least two of the three walking paths. You might be able to do all three of them if you walk fast and don’t stop for photos.
I went to the monument of the Arctic Circle. I stopped for plenty of photos and even lifted the drone for some shots, and it was enough time to see all that the island had to offer.
You can either bring a packed lunch or make a reservation at the local restaurant.
The island has 60 permanent inhabitants, so you can spend a bit admiring the small town. You can even visit the small souvenir shop near the harbour or just stop there for a cafe. Many of the tourists on the boat also stopped for a hotdog, which was sold at the food truck in front of the souvenir shop.
You will soon realise that the place is truly small, and you can reach anywhere on foot. But there were some people who rented some bikes. I had no idea I could do that until I got there. Again, you’ll need to book that in advance.
Make sure to be back at the ferry before 5 pm (or whatever the departure hour is for that day) because they will not wait for you. That was made very clear by the staff on board. I also read online about past incidents when tourists were left on the island. That wouldn’t be a huge issue, but there are not a lot of hotels on Grimsey. And in summer, most of them are booked in advance.
What to do on Grimsey island in Iceland?
The main reason people travel to Grimsey is to cross over the Arctic Circle line in Iceland.
Iceland is one of the eight countries which have territories in the Arctic Circle. Here’s a complete list of the countries in the Arctic Circle: Canada, Greenland (territory of Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the United States.
However, the North Pole isn’t a defined point on the surface of the Earth.
Also, during summer months, especially June and July, Grimsey is home to thousands of puffins.
Tips for visiting Grimsey island
To help you make the most out of your day trip to Grimsey, I have a few tips to take into account when planning your trip:
Book a hotel nearby for the day before and after the trip.
It might be a good idea to book a hotel in Dalvik or nearby for the day before the trip. The ferry departs at 9 a.m. during summer, and it might not be the best idea to drive from further away. I woke up at 3 a.m. that morning to drive for 5 hours from Reykjavik to Dalvik, but I was tired by the time I got to the ferry. I don’t recommend doing this if you can avoid it.
And then you can use the same hotel to stay after your day trip to Grimsey. During summer, the ferry arrives back at 8 p.m., and you’ll feel tired after all that. The last thing you’ll want is to drive for hours to reach a new place.
In an ideal scenario, I’d recommend booking a hotel for two nights, so you don’t have to stress about packing, moving, or finding a place to stay, which would all add up to your tiredness.
In Dalvik, you have a few hotels:
Budget hotel – Hótel Dalvík
Luxury hotel – Höfn
I stayed at The Viking Country Club in Hjalteyri. This is just a 20-minute drive from Dalvik and has the most beautiful views. The host is also very nice, and the place is charming.
Book your ferry tickets in advance
Don’t forget to plan your day and book your tickets at least a few days in advance. According to their website, the best way is to book the tickets online here on the Samskip website.
As of 2023, a one-way ticket is ISK 4,000 (€27.5 / $29.3).
You will receive the digital tickets in your email, and you can simply show them when you board the ferry on the day of your trip. Don’t be late. Aim to get there at least 15 minutes before departure.
Rent a car to reach Dalvik
The ferry leaves from Dalvik, which is a small town only 40 minutes away from Akureyri. The best way to get to Dalvik is by car. However, there is a bus that can get you there, but it arrives at about 8.50 a.m. and gives you very little time to get to the ferry (you can find this info on the website of the ferry).
So the best way is to rent a car either from Keflavik airport when you arrive in Iceland or from Akureyri. I always use RentalCars and had no issues, but choose a company with good reviews. You can also check Northbound, which is an Icelandic company for car rentals.
There is a free parking right next to the ferry. You’ll see it when you get there in the morning, as this is the only ferry getting ready to depart at that hour. Or at least, that was the case when I went.
Have lunch at the Grimsey restaurant
Many choose to have lunch in the small restaurant on Grimsey, which is famous for its puffin dish (yes, apparently, they also eat it). The island is home to many puffin colonies during summer when they come to nest on its cliffs.
They serve other dishes, too, and given that this is the only restaurant on Grimsey, it’s a popular stop. Note that it will get crowded right as you arrive when everyone gets off the ferry, but you can plan your lunch break after you finish with the short hike to the Arctic Circle monument.
Also, if you are less fortunate with the weather, a stop by the restaurant might be a good break from the cold weather outside.
However, during summer, the weather might be good, and you can simply pack a lunch with you and have it outside. This is a good option if you want to save some of your budget because eating at the restaurant will cost just as much as the round trip on the ferry.
How to choose a good weather day to go to Grimsey
Iceland is famous for its grumpy weather, and Grimsey is no exception. We are talking about a tiny island which is in the middle of the ocean, a few hours away by ferry from the main island.
During summer, you might get lucky with the weather (like I was) and enjoy one sunny day on Grimsey.
But you never know, and you should always come prepared (raincoat, boots, winter hat, mittens, scarf, etc.).
This is what I did to try to get a day with better weather – I checked the weather on Vedur.is (the Icelandic weather website) and chose the sunniest day of the week for my day trip. At the time, it looked like there were supposed to be some clouds in the sky but no rain. And it turns out that it was mostly sunny that day. It was cloudy in the morning in Dalvik, but the sky cleared up after lunch.
Weather is very unpredictable in Iceland, but after spending 5 weeks in Iceland during summer, I found that the weather forecasts for the next 2 to 3 days were mostly accurate, but it’s always better to check as your trip approaches. Also, it’s a good idea to check the hourly forecast and also the wind and clouds forecast.
During your trip to Iceland, you’ll learn more about the weather than ever before.