Best known as Iceland’s only true piece of the Arctic Circle, the remote island of Grímsey, 40km from the mainland, is a serene little place where birds outnumber people by about 10,000 to one. The island is small (5 sq km) but the welcome is big and the relaxation deep.
Grímsey’s appeal to many lies in what it represents. Tourists flock here to snap up their ‘I visited the Arctic Circle’ certificate and appreciate its windswept setting. Though the Arctic Circle is shown on maps at a fixed 66.5°, it actually moves with the wobble of the Earth's tilt (2.4° every 40,000 years). As of 2017, a 7980kg concrete sphere marks the actual spot on the island, currently about a 45-minute hike north of the airstrip. So, unless you are a runner, the best way to ensure you actually get to the real Arctic Circle is by coming by boat (longer layover) or staying the night.
Scenic coastal cliffs and dramatic basalt formations make a popular home for dozens of species of seabirds, including loads of puffins, plus the kamikaze Arctic tern. We’re particularly fond of the anecdote that the airport runway has to be cleared of the terns a few minutes before aircraft arrive.