If I asked you to name a city in Iceland, you would probably say Reykjavik. After that, you’re probably out of gas, and I’m not surprised. I know that the capital of Iceland is the biggest city and probably the most well-known one. But there are many more cities to discover. One of those is Akureyri, the so-called capital of the North. What if you’re making a stopover in Akureyri have just 24 hours to explore? You need to know what you can see and do as well as where to eat and where to sleep. Let’s check out what this beautiful city has to offer.
Akureyri is a city that lies on the coast of the Norðurland Eystra region along the Ring Road in North Iceland. It is the fourth urban center of the country, right after Reykjavík, Hafnarfjörður, and Kópavogur. The three other cities are all along the South Coast of Iceland. With a population of 18,860 inhabitants, Akureyri is located on the west side of the Eyjafjörður fjord. One can see the city right at the base of the fjord, on the banks of the Glerá river. Many mountains surround the town, creating a beautiful, fairytale-like landscape.
Despite being located in the north of Iceland and very close to the Arctic Circle, it has a mild oceanic climate compared to the rest of the country. Maybe that was the reason why the Vikings chose this area to begin a new life here and settle back in the 9th century. Its excellent port conditions created a robust trading sector. Agricultural production started to grow, and with it, the city’s population.
24 hours in Akureyri – What to See and Do
As we mentioned before, Akureyri lies in a privileged area, right at the base of Eyjafjörður fjord. The city itself is worth the visit just because of its location. But I’m sure you’d like to experience a bit more of the area, right? Well, here are some of the most recommended activities to enjoy in Akureyri.
Skiing in Akureyri
Are you looking for some extreme outdoor action? You’ve come to the right place! Tröllaskagi, or “troll peninsula” in Icelandic, is home to one of the best ski resort areas in the country. The peninsula is not right in Akureyri, but it’s just 5 km away. If you are a ski lover or snowboarding enthusiast, then you should head there.
It has vertical descents of around 1,500 meters (5,000 ft), and many peaks and slopes for those who enjoy practicing their downhill skills. The resort is right by the ocean so, besides the fantastic views, the humid condition provides perfect, dusky, shiny snow. If you want to enjoy skiing by the Arctic Ocean, then keep in mind that the season begins in November and runs until the beginning of May.
Whale Watching in Akureyri
For those who prefer to enjoy marine life and fauna from the sea, then good news. You can also do some whale watching in Akureyri. You will not only have the chance of spotting whales but dolphins as well. They come to visit the fjord from May to October.
Several companies offer this tour, and it is usually three hours long. The boats depart from the Akureyri harbor, right in the city’s downtown area!
Geothermal Pools in Akureyri
We can’t write a post about Iceland without mentioning some great geothermal bathing areas. That just wouldn’t be right. Taking a dip in geothermal pools and hot springs is a huge part of Icelandic culture. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy some warm, welcoming geothermal waters in Akureyri.
100km away from Akureyri, you have the Mývatn Nature Baths. They’re sort of like the Blue Lagoon of the North. In my personal opinion, they’re actually way better. It’s less packed. The surroundings are as beautiful as the Blue Lagoon but calmer, emptier and cheaper.
In case you do not want to stray too far or drive away from the capital of the North, that’s fine! You still have plenty of geothermal pools within the city limits. The Akureyri geothermal pool is probably one of the favorite ones for kids and adults as well. There are outdoor pools, a splash pool, an indoor pool, and hot pots as well as a steam bath and sauna. The pools are open all year long, so you can come and mingle with the locals.
Hiking in Akureyri
Around the town, you will find many interesting routes, both close to the river and the fjord.
The reserve area of Krossanesborgir is full of surprises. Located on the north side of town, Krossanesborgir consists of many whimsical basalt rock formations which are more than five million years old. Hikers will discover ponds along the hiking paths and abundant vegetation. If you happen to be a bird lover, then you can do some bird watching here. The area has plenty of different species of birdlife, and up to the 35% of the birds that visit Iceland, nest in this zone.
If you feel like climbing a little bit to enjoy the fresh air and high altitude, then we recommend you to walk up Mt. Súlur. It’s 1,214 meters (3,982 ft) above sea level, so you’ll have a beautiful panoramic view of the city. If you look to the west, you will be able to see one of the most popular ski areas in Iceland.
24 Hours in Akureyri – Where to Eat
Food is undoubtedly one of the most important things in our lives. It’s the same way in Iceland. Here are a couple of restaurants you can enjoy while in Akureyri.
Address: Glerargata 20, Akureyri
This is a favorite place among locals. Greifinn’s food is hearty and yummy, but their prices are lower compared to other restaurants in the city. Here you can have fresh seafood, some good old grilled burgers, and pizza. This is a family friendly restaurant with a playroom for the little ones. We recommend you to make a reservation online, as it is very popular. Wait times can be quite long.
Address: Kaupvangsstraeti 6, Akureyri
This option is an excellent one for those who love Japanese cuisine and fancy some fresh, high-quality seafood. Rub 23 is one of the chicest restaurants in the city. Its decoration is modern and the menu varied. Prices are on the higher end, but the food is so delicious, it’s absolutely worth it.
Address: Hafnarstræti 107b, Akureyri
After binging on some yummy food, it’s time for a coffee. One of the best cafés in Akureyri is Kaffi Ilmur. It’s on Akureyri’s main street and is quite easy to spot as it is a 1900’s Icelandic house. Freshly brewed coffee, pastries, snacks, and light lunches are available for locals and visitors.
24 Hours in Akureyri – Where to Stay
Hotel Kea by Keahotels
I love this accommodation as its location is just perfect for anyone visiting Akureyri. It is by the main church of Akureyri, which you should not miss. The city center and main street are only a few steps away. Everything you need in the capital of the north is at hand and close to this hotel.
Rooms at Hotel Kea are cozy, modern and clean. The service is top notch, and they offer a great breakfast buffet on the ground floor.
In the city center, you have backpacker hostels and B&B guesthouses that offer competitive prices. Just be aware that the services can be a bit more limited compared to a hotel. If you don’t mind, then go ahead and check them out!
24 Hours in Akureyri
Akureyri is a tiny city, but as you can see, it offers many activities and entertainment. Make the most of the town by checking out the options we just mentioned. If you have any recommendation on what to see and do or where to stay and eat in Akureyri, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear suggestions from you guys!