Akureyri is the fourth largest town in Iceland, counting slightly more than 17,000 inhabitants. It’s probably safe to say that the town does not even come close to being as well-known as Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. This is a destination that is not regularly presented in hip lifestyle magazines, and Akureyri has never hosted political summits for world leaders.
Such underexposure has its advantages for travellers who want to experience something that does not lie along the highroad, though. Adventure in various forms is never far away from this pristine Icelandic destination. Both the biosphere and the landscape are highly diverse, providing excellent conditions for activities such as trekking, horse riding, fishing, diving and skiing. The excellent off-piste skiing is actually something that this destination is quite famous for.
Surrounded by an impressive mountain landscape, Akureyri is situated at the inside end of the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjörður. That location has resulted in a reputation as Iceland’s prettiest town. Akureyri is also considered the capital of northern Iceland, featuring both a hospital and university.
Despite its northern location, Akereyri’s port remains ice-free year-round thanks to the Gulf Stream. The ocean current results in a milder climate than would have been the case had Jack Frost not been muffled by the warm waters of the Gulf.
That’s an advantage that has played a role throughout history, as Akureyri has developed. The first settlers arrived here in the 10th century. It was not until 1562, however, that someone came up with the idea to officially record the town’s history.
Akureyri port representatives gladly point out that one cruise company considers its port to be the third best in Europe. The sheltered location of the port is likely one of the reasons. Akureyri features three cruise piers, one of which has capacity for ships of up to 655 feet/200 meters in length. Passengers disembark close to the city center.
Akureyri is an up-and-coming cruise destination, where the number of visiting passengers has increased continuously over the past decade.
- Tracing its roots to 1912, the Lystigardur Akureyrar (Akureyri Botanical Garden) is widely known for its beauty. While one of the roles of the garden might be to serve as an eye-catcher, it also plays other, perhaps more profound roles. One of the most important tasks is to provide northern Iceland with trees, shrubs and perennials that are both pleasing to observe and hardy enough to survive on this latitude. The garden contains not only Icelandic plants, but also some 6,600 foreign plants.
- Perhaps with a more limited flora, Akureyri’s golf course is still special in that it is the northernmost 18-hole golf course in the world. Each year, Akureyri Golf Club arranges The Arctic Open Golf Championship.
- Learn about the history of this Icelandic destination and the fjord where it is situated at the Akureyri Museum. The museum garden includes a 19th century church.
- Through pictures and text, the Aviation Museum traces the development of aviation in Iceland right up to the present day. Several aircraft are on display, among them Iceland’s oldest ambulance aircraft.
- For the more art-interested visitor, the Akereyri Art Museum might be something to put on the list of things to do. There are also several art galleries in the town. Examples include Gallery Listfléttan (in the town center), Gallery Svartfugl og Hvitspói, and Mjólkurbúdin Gallery (located in the same building as the Akureyri Art Museum).
- The Summer Art Festival starts at the end of June and continues for ten weeks. Then, at the end of August, it’s time for the grand finale: the Akureyri Town Festival.
- The Nonni House accommodates a museum dedicated to the writer and Jesuit priest Jón Sveinsson. He wrote a dozen popular books for children. Several objects related to his life and works are on display in this house, which is an example of the oldest type of timber house in Iceland.
- Newly opened, the Motorcycle Museum of Iceland focuses on the history of motorcycles on the island.
- Another alternative for anyone with an interest in motor-driven vehicles is to go on a tour with a mountain truck or a superjeep tour in the Icelandic wilderness. There are several companies offering this type of experiences, for example: Nonni Travel, Extreme Icelandic Adventures and Icelandic Outback.
- For a different (and perhaps more silent) perspective on Iceland’s nature, try paragliding around Akureyri. Other alternatives for experiencing the grand nature around the town include hiking, boat excursions, bird watching, cycling, horse riding and more.
- Akureyri also offers possibilities for quality shopping, with both designer brands and local produce on offer. Shops are mainly concentrated in two areas: the city center and at the shopping mall Glerártorg.
- The Jólagardurinnis Akureyri’s Christmas garden, where visitors can say hello to Santa year-round.
A number of shore excursions in and around Akureyri can be on offer. Examples include:
- Tours of the town, by coach or on foot.
- Laufås, one of the most well-known turf houses in Iceland, is now one of the last turf farms in the country. Get a glimpse of what the daily life on Iceland could look like from the 9th century to the 19th century.
- Lake Mývatn can be the destination on some excursions. This lake has an extraordinarily rich fauna of birds.
- Other excursions include the Godafoss waterfall (Waterfall of the Gods), which is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. The Skutustadir craters are unusually regular pseudocraters. At Dimmuborgir lava fields (Dark Castles lava fields), experience a labyrinth of lava structures. The Namaskard Geothermal fields, with their boiling sulphur mud pits, serves as a reminder of the geothermal activity in Iceland.
- Another destination is the small island of Grimsey on the Arctic Circle. The island features an amazing birdlife.
- Tours to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, can also be on offer.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is 240 miles/386 kilometers away. Despite its relatively small size, Akureyri features an international airport with seasonal departures to Copenhagen in Denmark.
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