The Pearl of the North
Akureyri is a town located deep in the magnificent Eyjafjordur fiord in North Iceland. With a population of about 18 thousand, it is Iceland's second largest urban area (behind the Greater Reykjavik area). So as you see, there aren't that many big cities in Iceland. Which is why a trip there is ideal for those seeking a relaxing getaway. If you enjoy unspoiled nature and beautiful scenery, Iceland is definitely a place to consider, and if you want a mixture of nature and city comfort (you might for example prefer a hotel room to a tent), Akureyri is ideal. Admittedly, Akureyri is where I was born and raised, maybe that makes me biased. But then I challenge you to go and judge for yourselves! If you're not completely satisfied I'll personally refund your whole trip. Just kidding. I couldn't afford that. But I would be very surprised if you didn't like the visit. Akureyri is often nicknamed the Capital of North Iceland, but I would like to call it the Pearl of the North.
1. Visit Akureyri
How to get there
First things first. You will of course need to know how to get to Akureyri. Once you've landed in Iceland's main airport in Keflavik (maybe flying Icelandair), you'll want to start by going to the capital Reykjavik, about 40 minute drive. You could rent a car at the airport or take the Flybus to get there. From Reykjavik you have a few options of transport to Akureyri. You can fly with Flugfelag Islands (http://www.airiceland.is/) from Reykjavik Airport, that's a 40 minute flight. You can go for the cheaper option of taking the Intercity bus (which takes a lot longer, see bsi.is for further information) or maybe you want to use a car rental service. You should be aware that the roads in Iceland are not like the fancy highways with multiple lanes found in more populated countries, but at least the road from Reykjavik to Akureyri is paved (maximum speed allowed is 90km/h). It's about 5-6 hours drive, depending on how many stops you want to make.
Have you visited Akureyri
A good travel companion.
Good travel companions often come in pairs.
Akureyri on Google Maps
So. Now you’ve made it all the way to Akureyri. Welcome, and I sincerely wish you a pleasant stay. There are at least five hotels (not bad for a town this size!) plus a myriad of guesthouses and apartments to choose from. There are also camping sites if you prefer. I’ll leave it up to you to choose where you want to stay, but I will say that you can’t go wrong with Hotel KEA, which is located right in the center, and has been serving guests since the birth of the Icelandic Republic in 1944. For a detailed list of accommodation options, see: http://www.visitakureyri.is/en/accommodation
Top Ten Things to do in Akureyri
Now that you've found a place to stay, here are a few suggestions of what to do and see.
1. Look at where you are!
Simply take in the beauty of the surroundings. The long Eyjafjordur and the mountains all around have a majestic beauty that I find difficult to put into words.
I call it "the Pearl of the North" - Marion23
2. Take a stroll in the center
The main street is called Hafnarstraeti ("Harbor Street"), but known by the locals as "Gngugatan" ("The Pedestrian Street"). Shops, cafs, restaurants and more. The shopping mall "Glerartorg" is within walking distance. Just ask the locals for directions and tips, they're quite friendly.
Welcome to Akureyri
May you have a pleasant stay!
3. Check out the Akureyri Church
Whether you're a churchgoer or not, this is undeniably a brilliant piece of architecture, and the symbol of Akureyri (sort of an Eiffel tower in that sense). Check it out, inside and out.
4. See The Old Town
Walking south from the main street, you come to the oldest part, with wooden buildings from the 19th century (plus the oldest building in Akureyri, called Laxdalshus, built in 1795). Have an ice-cream at Brynjus, the best ice-cream in Iceland (that's what many, including myself think). If you're into museums, there are four of them in the Old Town, including The Nonni House (featured in the picture) and Akureyri Museum (http://www.akmus.is).
5. The Botanical Garden
Known locally as "Lystigardurinn", 5-10 minute walk from the center, this is well worth visiting. With a wide variety of flowers and plants, trees and fountains, this is a nice place to relax. Go for a picnic in summer!
Iceland on Amazon
My favourite place.
6. The Swimming Pool
Considered not just by locals, but by Icelanders in general to be one of the best swimming pools in the country, this is an excellent place to unwind. Works fine in winter too!
7. Kjarnaskogur Woods
About five minutes drive south of Akureyri is this brilliant recreational area, where the locals go to relax and have fun. There are playgrounds, picnic areas, barbeque facilities and trails for walking, hiking and jogging (in winter it's perfect for cross country skiing).
8. Go Golfing
Akureyri has an 18-hole golf course where the "Arctic Open" is held in June every year. If you want to play golf in the midnight sun, this is the place. Check out http://www.arcticopen.is/
9. Go Hiking to Mount Slur
This majestic cone shaped mountain is just south-west of Akureyri and is about 1213 meters high. How long it takes to climb depends of course on what shape you’re in, but I would say about 5-6 hours (I climbed it twice in the 90s, but don’t remember exactly how long it took us).
10. Go skiing in Mount Hlidarfjall
Needless to say, you won’t be doing this in summer, but if you’re there between December and April, it’s highly recommended. One of the best skiing areas in Iceland, and only ten minute drive from Akureyri.