Akureyri is considered one of the most important Icelandic cities and is located at the end of the Eyjafjörður fjord (Iceland’s longest fjord). With almost 17,000 inhabitants, the city is only 50 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle and is a popular destination for numerous cruisers. The trip through the picturesque fjord with the numerous high mountains is already an impressive experience. Numerous small fishing villages are located around the water. In this post you will find many tips and ideas on how to discover and explore Akureyri on your own.
If you want to learn more about Akureyri, you can also read Akureyri – Iceland’s northern city.
Must see in Akureyri
In this list you will find all the important sights of Akureyri and the surrounding area with the distance from the Akureyri Conference Center (in the immediate vicinity of the port).
- Botanical Garden: 1.8 km
- Akureyrarkirkja Church: 1.1 km
- Myvatn Lake: 80 km
- Godafoss Waterfall: 35 kilometers
Exploring from downtown Akureyri
The botanical garden is one of Akureyri’s special features. The 3-hectare garden is quite far north and is home to both native and foreign plant species. The botanical garden in Akureyri offers all plants that grow in nature in Iceland and also offers some relaxation with numerous benches and fountains. Especially in summer, the flowers there bloom in numerous different colors – a miracle of nature in these latitudes.
Other sights include the Akureyrarkirkja Church on a small hill, which is the symbol of the city. A few steps lead to the large entrance of the church, from which you have a great view of the city center and the harbor. Inside there are numerous beautiful stained windows. In addition to the magnificent rosette from Great Britain and the ship, which is supposed to protect the fishermen and residents, there is also an unusual pulpit and numerous reliefs.
There are also the well-known shopping streets (Hafnarstræti), numerous museums, small restaurants, green spaces and many other sights. If you want to make a bargain, you can buy cheaper in this city than in the capital Reykjavik. Woolen goods and ceramics made from lava are particularly popular.
Excursions around Akureyri
Waterfalls around Akureyri
One of the most popular excursions around Akureyri is the Godafoss Waterfall (Waterfall of the Gods). The attraction is 12 meters high and around 30 meters wide and the water comes from the Skjálfandafljót river. The waterfall is considered one of the most beautiful in Iceland.
The Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall captivates visitors with its strange mystical setting in an area of basalt columns.
The Dettifoss Waterfall is one of the most water-rich in all of Europe with a flow rate of around 500 cubic meters per second. The height is about 45 meters and the width extends to 100 meters. The waterfall is considered one of the most powerful in all of Europe.
Eyjafjörður fjord is also great for exploring and whale watching. The tours usually last 3 to 5 hours and feature humpback and minke whales as well as the occasional dolphin.
Lake Mývatn and surroundings
Slightly further away from the city of the north is Lake Mývatn, also known as Lake Mosquitoes. Within an hour’s drive you can reach the landscape with the fantastic lava formations and the rich wildlife – especially with the many species of birds. Unfortunately, the mosquito lake lives up to its name, so that numerous swarms of mosquitoes cavort around the lake and sometimes become a nuisance. The lake is also rich in fresh Icelandic fish.
Around the lake there are other sights waiting for tourists. The lava fields of Dimmuborgir (dark castles) have bizarre formations and are reminiscent of castle ruins. Various hiking trails lead through the numerous fields, which according to legend are also said to be the home of the thirteen Icelandic Santa Clauses. Others claim that Dimmuborgir is home to trolls and elves. The field is 4 square kilometers in size and features several solidified black lava columns.
Near the lava fields is also the large Hverfjall crater with a diameter of almost a kilometer and a depth of up to 150 meters. A gigantic steam explosion created this crater thousands of years ago and it is considered extremely unique in the world for its creation. The crater rim can be explored.
Also there are the Solfatars of Hverarönd, which lie beneath the volcanic ridge of Námafjall. Solfatars are spots in the soil where water vapor, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur, and other minerals escape from the soil. These are violently boiling mud pots that characterize the environment. The intense smell of sulfur is also far in the air.
On the southern shore of Lake Mývatn lies the village of Skútustaðir with the many pseudo craters Skútustaðagígar. The small volcanic craters were created by steam explosions a few thousand years ago and have nothing to do with a conventional volcanic crater – apart from the shape. Some hiking trails lead through the small craters and offer the opportunity for spectacular landscape shots.
On the east side are the Myvatn Nature Baths, also known as the Blue Lagoon of the North. This lagoon is a great way to enjoy Iceland’s warm springs. A 5000 square meter pool with extremely mineral water and temperatures of up to 40 degrees invite visitors to linger.
Also on the east side is the Grjótagjá Cave, a mystical cave with a lake inside. The cave lies directly in the fault zone between the continental plates of Europe and America, where Grjótagjá means something like rock plate. The cave is located directly at the parking lot and is easy to reach. Even if bathing was possible in the past, the water has now become much too warm. The cave is best known for the scene from Games of Thrones.
Museum courtyard in Laufas
The Museum Farm Laufas is located 30 kilometers north of Akureyri on the fjord. The objects consist of a church (the first church in Iceland) and a few turf farms. These houses are made of turf, grass and stone and only the front side is made of wood, windows and doors. The interior has been largely preserved, so that Iceland’s cultural heritage from the past can be explored here. The farm came about through the Christianization of Iceland.
Islands near Akureyri
The bird island of Hrisey is located directly in the Eyjafjörður fjord and about 30 kilometers north of Akureyri. Up to 40 species can be spotted on the island. Hrisey Island is approximately 7.5 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide and is permanently inhabited by a small number of residents. The crossing to the island is by ferry.