Many travelers studying a map of Iceland notice an obscure speck, 41km (25 miles) north of the mainland and bisected by the Arctic Circle, and feel strangely compelled to go there. Grímsey is indeed a worthwhile and exotic destination, with 95 hardy inhabitants, basalt cliffs reaching 105m (344 ft.) tall, and abundant birdlife.
Many visitors come in late June to see the midnight sun "bounce" off the horizon, but this involves a tradeoff. June and early July is also when Arctic terns most aggressively defend their nests, sometimes drawing blood from the scalps of unwitting tourists.
Until 1931, the only way to get to Grímsey was on a mail boat that came twice a year. Today, Air Iceland (tel. 570-3030; www.airiceland.is) flies from Akureyri daily at 7:30pm (5pm Saturdays) and returns to Akureyri at 9:15pm. The flight is 25 minutes and costs around 6,800kr ($109/£54) one-way; a connection to or from Reykjavík is around 11,200kr ($179/£90) one-way. From June 10 to August 20, Air Iceland offers an evening tour -- round-trip airfare with a 1-hour guided walk, but no dinner -- for 14,400kr ($230/£115) from Akureyri or 30,000kr ($480/£240) from Reykjavík (clearly a much better deal from Akureyri). Mýflug Air (www.myflug.is; tel. 464-4400; 15,000kr/$240/£120) does the same tour for 15,000kr ($240/£120), but leaves from Mývatn in a smaller plane that does aerial sightseeing along the way.
From May 15 through August, the Sæfari ferry (tel. 853-2211; www.landflutningar.is; round-trip from Dalvík 4,820kr/$77/£39 adults; 2,419kr/$39/£19 seniors and children 12-15; free for children 11 and under) sails from Dalvík to Grímsey on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. A bus leaves Akureyri at 7:50am and connects with the ferry, which leaves at 9am and arrives at 12:30pm. The return trip is at 4:30pm, reaching Dalvík at 7:30pm, where another bus bound for Akureyri awaits. From September through mid-May, the ferry departs for Grímsey at the same times, but heads right back to Dalvík after unloading.
One-way tickets for Air Iceland flights and the ferry are half-price, so it makes sense to mix and match. Taking the ferry there and the flight back, for instance, gives you over 8 hours on Grímsey.
Consult Akureyri's tourist information office, or either guesthouse listed here.
Exploring Grímsey Island
Grímsey is flat-topped and only 5.3 sq. km (3 1/3 sq. mile), with the highest cliffs on the east side, and walks are a straightforward matter. The island is home to over 60 bird species. The most popular are puffins, which can be observed from May to mid-August.
For the right price, someone is always willing to take you sea angling, bird hunting, or, in May or June, egg-collecting; contact either guesthouse listed below.
Gallery Sól, Sólberg (tel. 467-3190), a gallery and souvenir shop, opens up to greet arriving and departing visitors from the ferry or plane. The community center has a library endowed by Willard Fiske (1831-1904), a wealthy American who never set foot in Grímsey but was touched by how much the locals were dedicated to chess.
Where to Stay & Dine
Most of Grímsey's houses are in the village of Saltvík, which has a small market.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.