Lying 20 miles or so off Iceland’s northern coast, the small island of Grímsey is the only part of the country to straddle the Arctic Circle. Many visitors travel here just to step across the imaginary line, marked by a 10-foot spherical stone monument that is moved annually with the Circle’s ever-shifting edge. Others come to observe the island’s rich birdlife, with more than a million Atlantic puffins, black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills, and other species nesting along its high basalt cliffs. Abundant marine life — including seals and humpback whales — feed in the icy, nutrient-rich waters offshore. Sturlunga, one of the Icelandic sagas, mentions a Viking battle that took place on Grimsey in 1222, and a Catholic church was established here in the 11th century. (A small wooden church, built on the site in 1867, burnt to the ground in 2021.)
Sandvik, the island’s only settlement, is home to fewer than 100 people, mostly fisherfolk who harvest the island’s fertile fishing grounds.