An American's Guide to Iceland: Grímsey Island Ferry

Sæfari Ferry Early Morning Dalvík Harbor Iceland

I don't know where I got the idea but somewhere I'd read there was a little Island far out in the North Atlanic Ocean that is a part of Iceland. On this Island—Grímsey Island—it was said you could hike along the Arctic Circle. That sounded like a fine idea to me. It turned out to be one of my favorite days in Iceland.

Dalvík Harbor from the Sæfari

Dalvík Harbor from the bow of the Sæfari

The easiest (and cheapest) way to get to Grímsey is by the Sæfari Ferry from Dalvík. The ferry runs all year. It takes 3 hours to get to Grímsey and 3 hours to get back to Dalvík, plus you have about 3½ hours to explore the island, so it makes for a long day. Dalvík is about a 1 hour drive north from Akureyri. All total that is easily a 12 hour day from Akureyri.

Sunrise over Eyjafjörður Iceland

Above, sunrise over the Eyjafjörður, Icelands longest fjord. From Akureyri you follow the fjord north on Route 82 to Dalvík. There is no getting lost out here. There isn't much here except sheep and pasture, mountains and farmhouses. . . and of course the beautiful Eyjafjörður. Its about a 45 minute drive north when Dalvík finally appears in a valley at the edge of the Eyjafjörður.

Note that in winter the ferry stop is only 2 hours on Grímsey which is scarcely enough time to get to the Arctic Circle and back unless you can hire a local to drive you up to the Circle. Yes, there are cars on Grímsey but I couldn't imagine why. There appear to be no more than about 50 houses in the little town.

The ferry only carries 108 passengers so in summer it is recommended to book early.

Cold and damp sailing north away from Iceland

The ride is very cold and damp, make sure to wear your balaclava or bring a face-covering scarf or buff of some sort to avoid wind burn. On my voyage there were about 20 passengers.

It is very informal. You pay via internet and get a boarding pass to print. Then you show the pass to a crew member as you board. Cost in 2018 was ISK 7000 each, or about $70 each round trip. Pretty cheap considering a pint-sized bottle of water will cost you $4 (ISK 400).

Receipt Grímsey Island Ferry from Dalvík Iceland

I had worried about parking in Dalvík. Not to worry. There is virtually nothing in Dalvík so you could pretty much park anywhere you want. There is a kind of lot right across from the ferry mooring and that is where everyone parked.

Dalvík Ferry Parking Iceland

There is plenty of parking in Dalvík directly across the street from Ferry mooring.

Below: Parking behind the ferry, plenty of room.

Dalvík Iceland Parking at Ferry Mooring

Closeup of the parking area for Dalvík Ferry, plenty of room, no parking meters. Safe.

8 cars, <20 passengers on my crossing.

Dalvík Ferry Parking Iceland

The ferry moves promptly from its mooring at 9:00 am and doesn't waste any time, cruising into the fjord. Below, exiting the little harbor by the breakwater and entering the Eyjafjörður.

Dalvík Iceland Breakwater

The seas are undulating and rough and many of the passengers are ill. Not me. I'm riding the waves on the bow of the ship making videos. It kind of feels like riding a roller coaster all the way up to Grímsey. It is a long 3 hours for those that are seasick.

Dalvík Iceland as seen from the Eyjafjörður aboard the Sæfari

Dalvík quickly sinks into the distance as we steam north.

Sæfari Ferry Iceland

One of the first landmarks that you see is sailing north in the Eyjafjörður is the Hrólfssker Lighthouse along the Latraströnd.

Hrólfssker Lighthouse along the Latraströnd Iceland

You can see it for a long time as we approach at what feels like a good speed of maybe 15-20 knots.

Hrólfssker Lighthouse along the Latraströnd Iceland

And then it disappears as we sail quickly north. The day started off foggy and icy, then turned cloudy and cold. The weather changes quickly in Iceland

Hrólfssker Lighthouse along the Latraströnd Iceland

Later, as the ferry leaves the Eyjafjörður and sails into the North Atlantic the majesty of Iceland is revealed behind the boat.

Sailing into North Atlantic from Iceland

Towering peaks to the east and west.


I was continually scanning the seas for whales.

Sailing north from Iceland

On this crossing there were dolphins and many seabirds, but no whales. Like the puffins they had presumably already gone out to sea and headed south for the winter.

Sailing away from Iceland

After 3 hours sailing, finally arriving at Grímsey it doesn't look like much from the sea. Once ashore it proves to be one of the most amazing hikes ever.

Grímsey Island Harbor Iceland

And, on this day the clouds decided to part just as we arrived Grímsey which made it even better. Above, Grímsey Harbor and the beginning of a long hike to the Arctic Circle.