Akureyri Travel Guide
Outside Iceland’s southwest, where you’ll find Reykjavik, this country is mostly empty. Along the Golden Route, settlements are often small villages or hamlets. Of course, the Icelandic hinterland does have service towns.
In the north, Akureyri is that place. However, this town stands out to be more than a place to buy groceries or gasoline. Its location has made it a draw among Icelanders looking for a life outside the Reykjavik bubble.
With gorgeous scenery and plentiful museums, Akureyri will prove to be more than just a pit stop.
Come check out our Akureyri travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Akureyri, Iceland.
Akureyri has plenty of attractions the savvy traveller is sure to enjoy. However, if you’re passing through on a tour of the Golden Route, at least make time for Godafoss Waterfall. Looking at the numbers, it doesn’t stick out, as it stands 12 metres high by 30 metres wide.
Once you get up close, though, you’ll understand what the fuss is all about. The thundering aquamarine water stands out starkly from the bleak landscape that surrounds it. The mist provides a million prisms, giving rise to spectacular rainbows. It’s this beauty that lead to its feature in acclaimed TV series Game of Thrones.
What’s behind the name of Godafoss Waterfall? Legend has it that a pair of rocky crags resembled idols of a Norse God. “Goda” means pagan god and “foss” means waterfall, hence the moniker. When you are done scoping out the sights, pop into the gift shop for souvenirs and snacks.
As a country that exists within the Arctic Circle, it isn’t surprising Icelanders have led expeditions into the North. When in Akureyri, stop by the Nordurslod Museum to learn about these missions. This modern institution is the brainchild of Arngrímur B. Jóhannsson, a local collector.
Within, you’ll get to see numerous interesting artifacts. Of them, charts of the Arctic that date back as far as 400 years stand out as one of the highlights. However, the most exciting part of the museum is the life and times of local Arctic explorers.
Hafsteinn Hólm Þorsteinsson, Vilhjálmur Stefánsson, Vigfús Sigurðsson, and Wegener and Kock are all featured. All give you insight into the Arctic, Inuit life, and the difficulty of traversing this frozen land. Keep an idea out for taxidermied animals, or stuffed corpses of actual species that live in the Arctic.
Like everything in Iceland, the admission fee is on the steep side. For what you get, though, it is well worth the expense. On the way out, check out the gift shop, as its items will remind you of your time here.
Despite the cold climate present year-round, can you believe that Akureyri residents used to live in turf houses? As recently as the mid-20th century, people lived in abodes similar to those portrayed at the Laufás Museum.
In actuality, the ones in this popular outdoor museum are indicative of dwellings inhabited by the rich. With a smartly maintained, white-painted exterior, these buildings make for an excellent backdrop for Instagram-addicted travellers.
Continue inside, where you’ll find early 20th-century period furniture. Up until 1936, a local Lutheran Reverend made this vicarage his home. He didn’t have to walk far to deliver services – a small, cute wooden church lies directly behind this complex.
It’s disappointing this attraction doesn’t offer a guided tour, especially considering that the caretakers charge an admission fee. However, it comes well-equipped with multi-language signage, making a self-catering tour an engaging learning experience.
The church behind the Laufás Museum isn’t the only religious attraction in Akureyri. Akureyrarkirkja, the town’s current Lutheran church, it is a modernist landmark you won’t want to miss. Apart from its striking exterior, highlights include a 3,200 pipe organ, a unique crucifix, and a ship suspended from the ceiling.
Parishioners included the last design feature to pay tribute to those lost at sea. Every Sunday, the faithful pray before it, asking safety for loved ones working out on the ocean.
Want to learn more about the town of Akureyri? Swing by the Akureyri Museum. Within this small but intriguing attraction, you’ll find exhibitions that profile town life in centuries past. Highlights include the trader’s store and the burial mound exhibit. In the latter, you’ll find items ranging from boats to medieval tools.
Before the Golden Route opened up land transport, it was tough to reach settlements beyond Reykjavik. To deliver goods, mail, and so forth, flights became a necessity. To learn about the history of flying in this country, check out the Aviation Museum of Iceland.
In this hangar, you’ll have the opportunity to get up close with more than a few of these beauties. The Auster V, a craft used by the British for military surveillance in WWII, is one such model. Despite its initial purpose, it nonetheless became Iceland’s first air ambulance aircraft.
Green thumbs will want to explore Akureyri Botanical Garden. Despite the area’s subarctic climate, botanists here have found a way to adapt cold temperate plants. Of course, you’ll find plenty of alpine and subarctic plants as well. In all, you’ll find more than 7,000 species here.