Unlike all other places in Iceland apart from the Reykjavik area, the town of Akureyri deep in Eyjafjordur fjord in the North of the country could remotely be described as a place where you can spend time without taking in all the sights in a few hours or so.
Being the largest place outside of the Southwest corner of Iceland means you´ll find here good services, a variety of decent or good restaurants, a theater worth mentioning and even shops worth entering. Akureyri also has the best ski-area in the country and a pretty decent golf-course.
If you are a real traveler and not just the weekend-hopping kind you are bound to visit Akureyri whether you like it or not. The reason is that the Ring Road around Iceland goes through this place and this being the only real town of any serious size outside Reykjavik means it makes for a good base for a day or two on a longer trip on your own.
Fun-wise Akureyri is decent. Located on a rather picturesque hill deep into Eyjafjordur fjord which itself is very pretty. The town is especially nice to view coming from the East when you´ll have fantastic views over the whole place from the road itself. No wonder that right there many of Iceland´s more wealthy individuals have built fabulous second residences one of which the Scientology guru Tom Cruise stayed in while filming one of his films in Iceland.
The landmark here is the town church, Akureyrarkirkja, rising beautifully high above what is essentially the center of town. This iconic church is among the most photographed things in the whole of the country with good reason. Often the church is open for visitations and all are free to attend mass on Sundays. Of special note is the fact that the most of the beautiful church windows are in fact from the cathedral of Coventry in England and moved here before World War II to save from damage. But then somebody forgot to return them.
Right by the church you´ll find the town´s swimming arena which is absolute must to visit when in town. Partly old and party new this place is ideal to enjoy warm weather in Akureyri.
But the real beating heart of Akureyri is found below the fabulous church where you´ll come across a pedestrian street which incidentally is called Pedestrian street. There you´ll find coffeeplaces, various shops, restaurants and hotels and while it may be rather empty at times this place fills up with people when the sun is out in force.
Admittedly, there is some work to do before this center becomes enticing for visitors. Parts of town here are rather rundown but after visiting tens of villages where the town center is non-existent or horrible this is actually rather nice.
Not too far away closer to the sea you´ll find the local cultural center called Hof. This is a brand new place and popular at that although a wee but expensive for a nation in the financial drain. At Hof you´ll find exhibitions and concerts are held here regularly and here also is the local tourism office. Check out their schedule here.
Parts of the center of town here are pretty old by Icelandic standards. Particularly you´ll find beautiful old buildings on Eyrinni, the waterfront in the local language, as it is called but refers to the Southern part of the center. Here are great examples of very fine old buildings greatly cared for. One of which is the birthplace of the author Jon Sveinsson, known as Nonni. This guy sold tons of his works in the beginning of the last century and is still loved by many for his children´s stories. The house is small and cramped but excellent example of the 19th century building style in Iceland. Admission is 500 ISK.
Also around here you´ll find the local theater which is the only professional theater outside of the capital. Varied shows are staged here all winter and sometimes in summertime as well. You may not know the language but if you are so inclined you should make a stop. See their schedule here.
Close to here is the local botanical garden. We don´t mean to be rude but a botanical garden an hour South of the Arctic Circle is never going to be a massive attraction. However, team Total Iceland can truly recommend a walkthru if you happen to be here in the dead of summer in June or July. There may not be hundreds of exotic species but the management has made the garden very inviting indeed.
Another thing worth checking out if staying in Akureyri to unwind and relax is to head over to Pollurinn. This is the smooth part of the ocean creating a kind of lagoon near Eyrin. Here there are small boats for rent and you can even grab a fishing rod and try your luck. Not Las Vegas excitement but well worth for a chill or two.
Two museums in Akureyri should be visited if time is ample and the mood is great. One is the Icelandic Industrial Museum which sounds like a biggie but is actually a small museum that gives you instant recognition of how far Iceland has actually gone in a very short time-span. The other museum of note is the local art museum. Akureyri Art Museum or Center for Visual Arts at Kaupvangsstraeti street is progressive as hell and for many the most exciting art museum in the country.
Should you find yourself here in wintertime with snow on the ground head to Hliðarfjall mountain for quality skiing or snowboarding. Impossible to miss as it sits right above the town itself. Again, this is not a resort in the Alps but by standards here this is as good as its gets for skiing. On the webpage you can see live if there is ample snow or not. A day pass will set you back about 3000 ISK.
On the other hand, if you are more the golfer type you are also in luck. Akureyri boasts a pretty good golf course and perhaps a fantastic one in light of how far North on the globe this little place is. Jadarvollur golf course is the venue for Iceland´s best know international golf tournament; the Arctic Open held in June.
Akureyri also has a genuine airport. Although small it is one of three international airports in the whole of the country. No need for a map here as it is just one building and both taxis and rental cars available at most times to take to you and from. Trip to the town takes only five minutes.
However, you might want to visit the airport just for fun if you have time to spare. Because in a hanger right by the airport you´ll find one of Iceland´s best museums, the Icelandic Aviation Museum. This place does not look like much but the curators have done a fantastic job and here you´ll see amazing number of flying objects and planes with history. Team Total Iceland highly recommends this place. Do not be afraid to ask questions as staff is more than keen to assist and more often than not you´ll get lots of historic info you had no idea about.
Last but not least for nature lovers are two wooded areas close to town. You might shrug but bear in mind Iceland is mostly void of forests and when you have little you tend to love it much more. That is the case for locals at least and should you want to immerse yourself in some woods try either Kjarnaskog forest, about 3 kilometres from Akureyri, or Vaglaskogur forest, about 40 minutes away. More here.
For accommodation here you have lots to choose from. Eight hotels are found here along with numerous guesthouses and hostels. In nearby farms you can also find a spare bed if need be.
Same goes for your palate. Akureyri has restaurants to please the most hardened traveler. Three restaurants especially have good reviews and team Total Iceland can concur. These are Karolina restaurant on Hafnarstraeti, Greifinn restaurant at Glerargotu street and Strikid restaurant at Skipagata road.
DE FACTO: Akureyri is the capital of North of Iceland and the only genuinely big town on the whole island apart from the capital area
GETTING HERE: Easy! Just follow the Ring Road and you get here
OUR HUMBLE OPINION: Sure, take a load off and spend a day or two. The fjord is very beautiful and Akureyri is a nice base to wander around the North of the country. Keep in mind to book early since Akureyri is also a popular place for locals to spend time.