Akureyri is a city located in the north of Iceland. It’s considered to be the second most important city in the country in terms of the number of inhabitants. There are around 20,000 Icelanders living here. Akureyri is a lovely town which you can visit at any time of year. This is the perfect opportunity to explore the North of Iceland as it has plenty to see and do both in town and nearby.
This region has a large number of fantastic natural attractions to visit. From breathtaking waterfalls such as Dettifoss and Goðafoss to the Ásbyrgi glacial canyon near Húsavík. Also, not too far away from downtown, you will find Krossanesborgir, typically known as a birdwatcher’s paradise. Simply walk across this ancient forest to experience this region’s wildlife and flora. Feel free to pack some snacks and drinks to enjoy a cozy afternoon picnic in the outdoors.
Akureyri is just about a five-and-a-half hour drive or 45-minute flight from the capital Reykjavik. I am sure that you will enjoy the views if you are renting a car to get here. Prepare to experience picture-perfect landscapes in wintertime and warm sunny days in summer. There’s a lot to do in Akureyri, so whether you are into culture, nature or sports, the small city has something for everybody.
Akureyri will surely captivate you with its old buildings and numerous shops around town. Remember to buy some traditional souvenirs like the traditional Lopapeysa (Icelandic wool sweater). You will find a few gift shops in the town center to hunt for that special token of your trip. Also, you will find many bookstores just a few walks away that are quite interesting to visit. Some bookstores trade your old titles so you can try reading something new while in Iceland.
There are of course great restaurants and bars in Akureyri. These establishments are well-known for their delicious local creations, made from trout, lamb, and other seafood. Make sure you try the smoked salmon and the rye wholewheat, both are absolutely delicious everywhere you go in town. But let’s do not forget about coffee, there are so many cafés in town. There are even times when breakfast turn’s into brunch! This global eating trend has been recently adopted by the locals. You could combine a cold beer or sparkling wine along with a fresh sandwich, pastry or more. Some people also add a warming soup with croutons if they are felling a bit chilly.
What to See and Do in Akureyri
Here are some of my top picks for Iceland’s capital of the north.
Hlíðarfjall (Ski center)
Are you into winter sports? I hope you are! Akureyri holds the record for having the strongest, snowiest winters. This is the key to creating perfect snow, just like a winter wonderland. The Akureyri mountains welcome tourists from all over the world with the best slopes. Make sure you hop on the chairlift to see the stunning mountains all around. This is definitely the place for the skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts.
Akureyri Botanical Garden
Another beautiful spot to visit in the city. It is located in the southern side of Akureyri, just a few minutes away from downtown. The garden holds about 450 different species, both native and foreign. This is an excellent choice if you’d like to unwind a bit and just enjoy a peaceful walk. You can visit this garden from early June until late September.
Pools and bathing culture are a very important part of Icelandic traditions. While in Akureyri, you may also wish to unwind in the different geothermally-heated pools this city has to offer. There are also outdoor pools with water slides if you are traveling with children. Note that you may find water with different temperatures, from 25 ºC to 43 ºC (77 ºF to 109 ºF) so make sure to test it out as to not get overheated. Thermal pools offer saunas, hot pots and all the amenities needed to have a great, relaxing time. The pools are also open all year round so you can visit them anytime.
There are a few cultural activities you can do in the city. Visiting the local museum to learn more about the history of the town is one example. You can spend the day discovering the lives of the locals through an extended collection of old photographs. Here, you can also discover some antiques and unique pieces from the middle ages and Viking times. This building is located fairly close to downtown, only about a 10-15 minute walk.
Horse Riding Tours
This is a very unique activity that you can do while visiting Akureyri. It’s about a 10-15 minute drive from downtown. The housing rental agency Hestaleigan Kátur offers tours all year round. Whether your visit is in summer or winter, you can experience the beautiful mountain scenery. Picturing yourself riding along the pristine Eyjafjord river while sitting atop a friendly Icelandic horse.
Brynja Ice Cream Shop
This a very traditional ice cream parlor, I may say it is one of the oldest in town. There are plenty of flavors and toppings to choose from. My favorite one is the vanilla chocolate dip cone. It’s so simple yet so delicious! Families have enjoyed its particular ice cream flavors for generations so you must visit it while in Akureyri. You will notice a big red painting with an ice cream cone in the corner/parking lot.
This Lutheran church is the very symbol of Akureyri built in 1940 by Gudjon Samuelsson. You can see it from almost anywhere in the city as its located at the top of a hill. There is a staircase leading up to the church that is really worth climbing as the views are incredible. Once you go inside the church, you will notice a huge pipe organ used for the ceremonies as part of old Nordic traditions.
24 Hours in Akureyri
Akureyri is a place like no other, so you will agree with me that this is without a doubt a very captivating small city, which could easily be explored in a day. If you are heading to the region or are planning to visit another town, this is definitely a must see. There is a lot to see and do in Akureyri as you have already heard and read today. Nature in this zone is fascinating and also a bit mysterious, just like its history and buildings. I am sure you will have a wonderful stay during your 24 hours in Akureyri.