Akureyri, sometimes referred to as the capital of the North, is Iceland’s second largest city after Reykjavik, a five-hour drive away. More like a village, the population is around 20,000 in habitants. Sometimes overlooked by the capital in the south, the small town can definitely hold its own with plenty of things to see and do, as well as being a great base for exploring the scenery of Iceland’s northern region. Here are our 10 reasons why Akureyri should be on your travel list.
Santa Claus’ house
Located a bit outside the main part of town, Jólahúsið, or The Christmas House, is a must-see for all Christmas enthusiasts who like to go above and beyond with their Christmas spirit. Here, you can find every imaginable kind of decoration and it’s open year round in case you are missing the Christmas spirit during the summertime. In the winter, it is visited by the 13 Icelandic Santas, a great event for children and families to become acquainted with Icelandic Christmas traditions.
Skiing in a woodland haven
The unstable skiing conditions surrounding Reykjavík make for a limited amount of days when it is possible to ski at Bláfjöll, Reykjvak’s closest skiing opportunity. However, Hlíðarfjall close to Akureyri, is open up to 180 days a year in a blanket of white. The 700m high slopes make this a dream for any skier or snowboarder.
Akureyri lies next to Eyjafjörður, a long and narrow fjord sandwiched between two incredible mountains. In the fjord, it is most common to see local whales such as humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, harbour porpoises, seals and the rare killer whale. Check out Akureyri Whale Watching Tours.
Bjórböðin, The Beer Spa, is Iceland’s first beer spa. It is located in the North of Iceland in a town called Árskógssandur, which is about 35km from Akureyri on the coast of Eyjafjörður. Here you can enjoy the unique sensation of immersing yourself in a tub filled with a mixture of warm beer, water, yeast and hops at 38 degrees Celsius. The mixture is very beneficial for skin, hair and overall health, according to the website.
Arctic botanical gardens
Lystigarðurinn is Akureyri’s botanical garden where you can listen to birds sing and stroll through a surprising amount of greenery. Entrance is free at this perfect place for a leisurely stroll.
Laufás turf houses
Turf homes are Iceland’s earliest contribution to sustainable architecture. These particular ones located in Akureyri were built in 1865 and are some of the best-preserved examples of the structures that housed Icelanders in settlement times.
The Akureyri Church
This church set high at the top of a staircase in the centre of town is the symbol of Akureyri. Climbing up the steps to the Akureyri Church is a beautiful way to get an overall view of the town, as well as get efficient stair-climbing exercise. The church was consecrated in 1940 and has since been the symbol of this little town.
The Akureyri Museum of Art
The first exhibition space focusing solely on visual arts to open outside of Reykjavík, the Akureyri Art Museum is one of the main cultural centres in the North. Emphasis is on supporting and promoting visual arts in Akureyri and on art appreciation. You can see a variety of both established and emerging artists from Iceland and abroad.
Surrounded by stunning nature, Akureyri is a great place from which to embark on an exploration, especially via horseback. There are many surrounding farmlands which offer horseback tours that sometimes come with dinner and access to hot tubs. Check out Pólar Hestar, for example.
As Akureyri is a more isolated town than Reykjavik, light pollution here is not as severe. Its further location in the North also means longer nights in the wintertime, and longer Northern Lights viewing time as well. Aim for anytime between late August and mid May to get a chance to view this incredible phenomenon.
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