How to spend a relaxing weekend in Akureyri

Akureyri in Iceland is known as The Capital of the North
Akureyri in Iceland is known as 'The Capital of the North' | © Visit North Iceland

There’s more to Iceland than Reykjavik, but it has been difficult in the past for international travellers to reach the rest of the Nordic island. With flights soon going directly to Akureyri from London, however, why not plan a trip with our guide to making the most of a short break to Northern Iceland?

Iceland remains a favourite destination for many travellers. It was the first place I visited during the infamous Green List era (remember that?) when that was released 12 months ago, and also the first place I travelled to this year when I embarked on Culture Trip’s Escape to the Frozen Wilderness trip. As such I count myself as one of the growing number of people who love visiting the country, but I can’t really say I’ve explored a lot of it. Sure I know Reykjavik and the surrounding areas relatively well by now, but I also know there’s a lot more to see and do. Soon a new air route between London and Akureyri will open up the north of Iceland to visitors and as I found out there’s a lot to experience even if you try and squeeze in a visit over a weekend.

One of the stunning waterfalls Iceland is famous for

Akureyri – The Capital of the North

On yet another visit to Iceland, I had actually taken a day trip to Akureyri and the surrounding areas for a Game of Thrones tour. The film and TV heritage that the country has become synonymous with includes many more productions and it was the recent Netflix hit Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) that was enticing me back this time. Launched at the height of the pandemic and at a time when we were all escaping vicariously through the small screen, the comedy showcased the stunning fishing village of Húsavík. You’ll be pleased to know that this quaint outpost is only a short drive from the centre of Akureyri, so if you’re desperate to get your Jaa Jaa Ding Dong on, this is the guide for you!

When I visited Iceland with a group in early 2022, I had to head back home to London soon after the trip but some of the people I was travelling with extended their stays and explored more of the country. Hiring a car is the most popular way of getting to the north, but you can also take an internal flight. The latter option is fairly expensive but a road trip is a reasonable way of seeing highlights you might otherwise miss. The main problem with this is having to drive back to Reykjavik to get your flight home, but that’s where a return from Akureyri comes in handy. Even better for someone like me, I will be able to go directly to the north – and given that I’ve already done everything I want to do in the capital – I can make the most of a short break here.

Film fans have been flocking to this fishing village after a popular Netflix movie put it on the map

As well as the aforementioned Husavik, another reason to visit Akureyri right now is the newly opened spa located in Vaðlaskógur forest. The Forest Lagoon makes the most of a rare commodity in Iceland, setting itself amongst one of the few patches of naturally-occuring trees in the country. It’s only a 5 minute drive from Akureyri airport and just as close to the centre of town too. This makes it a great option if you have a limited amount of time and a perfect addition to any short itinerary.

The spa’s pools are heated up with all natural geothermal water that is sourced from the mountain behind the Forest lagoon location, Vaðlaheiði. The water was discovered by accident during a tunnel project and has now a greater purpose and a healing power.

The Forest Lagoon is only minutes away from the international airport in Akureyri

Exploring the Diamond Circle

The popular Diamond Circle is a well known driving route taking in Húsavík and Lake Mývatn. It detours from Route 1 – the ring road that emcompasses the entire outer edge of Iceland – and includes Dettifoss waterfall. There are exciting new places to stay and attractions here, as well as existing locations that are unmissable stops on your road trip from Akureyri.

Húsavík was already a well liked destination before Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan rocked up to film their homage to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019. There is now a museum dedicated to both the film and previous Icelandic entrants to the competition, and you’ll be surprised to learn that the event is genuinely a big deal here.

Around the rest of Húsavík you’ll find a quaint fishing village which is a great place to go on a whale hunt. This is something you can do in a number of places in Northern Iceland, but if you want to stay on dry land other attractions not to miss are the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður and Grjotagja Cave – where Jon Snow and wildling Ygritte took a romantic dip in season 3 of Game of Thrones.

The Mývatn Nature Baths are a set of geothermally heated pools and steam baths found in the Lake Mývatn area

The Forest Lagoon is the newest addition to the list of things to do, but it’s not the only bathing spot. Myvatn Nature Baths is like a less busy Blue Lagoon whereas GeoSeas is a bracing pool off the coast in Húsavík. All three offer something a little different and it’s worth researching which is the best option for you. If you’re still not sure, then you might as well go to the beer spa and spend the afternoon in a hot tub filled with, well, beer.

Now that Akureyri is reachable directly for international visitors, you can plan to spend more than a weekend here as there’s certainly more than enough to do here to fill several weekends. Direct flights from the UK with Niceair begin in late 2022, with a regular service now operating between Akureyri, Copenhagen and Tenerife.

By that time, you’ll also be able to spot the Northern Lights too!

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