Ultimate Guide to Visiting Akureyri
Heading to Akureyri during your adventure in Iceland? First of all, congratulations! You’ve made a brilliant choice of destination for your travels. Visiting this small city in Northern Iceland will give you a unique glimpse into traditional Icelandic life. It'll also be an amazing opportunity to explore the beautiful surrounding nature.
Let’s discover everything you need to know about Akureyri. We'll include the best things to add to your Akureyri to-do list, when to visit and what weather conditions you can expect, plus our top travel tips!
All About Akureyri, Iceland
Akureyri is a beautiful coastal city in Northern Iceland, surrounded by snowy mountains and located at the base of the Eyjafjördur Fjord. Akureyri is technically a city, although it has a population of under 20,000, so sometimes it’s referred to as a town.
Akureyri is actually the fifth-largest city in Iceland and the largest city outside of Southwestern Iceland. It is where the majority of the population is based. As an important fishing area and port, Akureyri earned the nickname ‘the Capital of North Iceland’.
Akureyri received its municipal charter in the late 18th century and was used as a base for Allied forces during the Second World War. As more Icelanders moved to urban areas in the following years, Akureyri’s population grew. Now, it's home to a thriving fish industry and the University of Akureyri.
Akureyri also has an airport, which is the third-largest airport in Iceland. Akureyri Airport is a hub for both domestic and international flights. It connects the Arctic North with Europe and the US, and even offers scheduled flights to Greenland.
Weather in Akureyri
You might be surprised to learn that Akureyri has a relatively mild climate due to the geography of its location. Although Akureyri is situated in Northern Iceland, temperatures rarely drop below -12°C (9°F) and can reach highs of around 18°C (65°F).
Average year-round temperatures in Akureyri are between -5°C to 14°C (23°F to 56°F). Also, surprisingly for a northerly city in Iceland, the harbor is free of ice! This has been an important factor in Akureyri’s booming fish industry.
Akureyri in Summer
Summers in Akureyri are generally mild. July is usually the warmest month of the year in Akureyri, with highs of 14°C (56°F). It can get cold during summer nights in Akureyri, so we recommend bringing a jacket to keep warm.
Average daily temperatures during summer reach around 11°C (53°F). The summer months, particularly from June to August, see the most hours of sunshine and the least rain. Pretty much perfect for some fun outdoor activities!
Akureyri can get very cold and windy during the winter months, with plenty of snowfall and overcast days. Winter in Iceland is ideal for snow sports like glacier hiking and skiing, but the short days can limit outdoor activities. You just need to plan your time effectively to enjoy your time in this winter wonderland!
Make sure to wrap up warm in Akureyri during winter. Temperatures drop to an average low of -5°C (23°F), which is actually much higher than other areas in Northern Iceland.
Akureyri To-Do List
What would we suggest putting on your to-do list during your time in Akureyri, Iceland? Read on for all the unmissable sights and experiences during your Aureyri vacation, with something to suit every interest!
Whale Watching in Akureyri
One of our favorite activities to enjoy in Akureyri is whale watching. Eyjafjördur Fjord, where Akureyri is located, is home to a diverse range of marine wildlife. That makes Akureyri one of the best places in Iceland to go whale watching. You may also spot some dolphins and porpoises on your whale watching trip in Akureyri!
The most common whales spotted around Akureyri are humpback whales and minke whales. Killer whales, blue whales and orcas have also been spotted occasionally around North Iceland. You may be lucky enough to encounter one such species while whale watching in Akureyri.
There is a whole range of guided whale watching tours in Akureyri you can choose from to enjoy a day at sea among these majestic ocean creatures.
For those colder days, a trip to an Akureyri museum is the perfect activity. Luckily, Akureyri has a whole range of fantastic museums to choose from. Here are some of our favorite Akureyri museums to visit:
- Akureyri Museum. It has two permanent exhibitions that showcase the history of the city and Eyjafjördur Fjord, one of Iceland's longest fjords. It's a great place to learn more about the area. There’s also a gorgeous garden museum you can visit nearby.
- The Old Farmhouse Laufas Turf Houses. These beautiful grass-roofed houses and 19th century church offer a glimpse into what early Icelandic life was like. Set among lush greenery, these turf houses make an amazing photography location.
- Iceland Aviation Museum. Discover interesting facts about aviation history in Iceland from 1919 to the present day at this hangar in Akureyri airport. You can even step on board several of the aircrafts to experience them for yourself!
- Nonni’s House. Built around 1850, this small wooden house is one of the oldest houses in Iceland. You can walk around this quaint Icelandic dwelling to learn about what life was like in Akureyri back in this time period.
- The Industry Museum. It displays machinery and products from the town's former thriving industries, such as fish storage barrels, toys, and shoes. It showcases how the town was self-sufficient for food, clothing, and construction during the 1960s and 70s.
- Akureyri Art Museum. Founded in 1993, Akureyri Art Museum is home to a diverse range of art, from both Icelandic and international artists. Here, you can view a variety of interesting illustrations, photographs, installations and performance art pieces.
Must-See Places and Things in Akureyri
What else do we suggest adding to your Akureyri to-do list? These are some more places and things you’ve got to experience during your Akureyri adventure!
- Kjarnaskogur Forest. Located just outside the city bounds, Kjarnaskogur is one of the largest forests in Iceland. Believe it or not, there are more than 1.5 million trees in Kjarnaskogur Forest! In Kjarnaskogur, you’ll find trails for hiking and biking, outdoor sports areas. Mainly for volleyball and gym exercise activities. There are also barbecue areas and even three playgrounds to keep the kids busy.
- Arctic Botanical Gardens. One of the world’s most northerly botanical gardens! The Arctic Botanical Gardens in Akureyri is only 50 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. Here, you can see the amazing trees and shrubs that thrive in the harsh Icelandic climate.
- Akureyri Church. The Church of Akureyri is a striking Lutheran church located in the city center. It was completed in 1940 and designed by architect Gudjon Samuelsson. It features an organ with over 3000 pipes and a central stained-glass window from England, making it one of the city's most distinctive landmarks.
- Mount Sulur. This two-peaked mountain located to the southwest of Akureyri is the perfect place to go for a hike. Towering over 1200 meters above the city, these mountain peaks are composed of volcanic rock called rhyolite. It offers amazing panoramic views over the city and fjord.
- Akureyri Port. Consider adding a visit to Akureyri Port to your itinerary in Akureyri. There you can admire a range of interesting boats and join one of the many shore excursions that depart from there.
- Northern Lights. If you’re visiting Akureyri in winter, you’ll have a great chance of spotting the dazzling light show that is the Northern Lights. Akureyri is a brilliant place to spot the Northern Lights due to its location in Northern Iceland. Heading a little out of the city away from the light pollution can improve your chances of viewing this amazing natural spectacle.
- Midnight Sun. A beautiful summer phenomenon you can enjoy in Akureyri is the Midnight Sun. It is when the sun doesn’t set until around midnight, due to the city’s northerly location and extra long daylight hours.
Food in Akureyri
Here, we give you all the insider knowledge about the best restaurants and cafés you’ll find in Akureyri. Take a look through our list of fantastic eateries. From top-notch restaurants to traditional bakeries, and even a family-run restaurant based on an island in the fjord!
- Bakaríid vid Brúna. Fancy an Icelandic cake or pastry? This traditional bakery serves a whole range of sweet treats, plus soups and sandwiches, perfect for a light lunch.
- Bautinn Restaurant. Located in the center of Akureyri in one of the city’s oldest buildings, which was built in 1902. Bautinn serves delicious meals, from meat dishes to vegan options.
- Blackbox Pizza. Craving a pizza? We recommend checking out the tasty sourdough pizzas on offer at Blackbox Pizza. You can choose from a variety of toppings, plus gluten-free and keto options.
- Eyja Wine Bar & Bistro. At Eyja, you can sample a wide range of delicious wines and cocktails, along with small dishes, snacks and sweets.
- Greifinn Restaurant. You’ll find something for everyone at this family-friendly restaurant that serves everything from tex-mex to steaks and pasta.
- Holtsel. Looking for some locally made ice cream? Holtsel is the place for you! Located on a dairy farm in the Icelandic countryside, you can enjoy delicious homemade ice cream and visit the farm animals at Holtsel.
- Kaffi Ilmur. Breakfast, brunch buffets and delicious lunches abound at Kaffi Ilmur. Located in one of Akureyri’s oldest houses, this café is most renowned for its traditional Icelandic cakes. They are baked onsite in the upstairs bakery.
- Krian. Enjoy the catch of the day with a stunning view of the ocean at this harbor side restaurant.
- Lemon. For a healthy bite to eat, we recommend checking out Lemon, where you can enjoy a selection of sandwiches, fresh juices and fruit smoothies.
- Pylsuvagninn Hot Dog Stand. Try an Akureyri food classic at this traditional hot dog stand, serving high-quality local food. We recommend sampling the Akureyri-style hot dog with red cabbage, or the Icelandic sheep meat soup if it’s a chilly day!
- Strikid. This high-end restaurant is located on the fifth floor in front of the fjord. It offers an amazing view of the water and surrounding mountains and serves a variety of top-quality food.
- Verbudin – Eat dinner on Hrisey Island, located in the Eyjafjördur Fjor. At this family-run restaurant, you'll get a range of Icelandic and international cuisine. All you need to do is take the ferry to the island to eat dinner in style!
Ready to hit the town and experience a fun night out in Akureyri? There are many interesting spots to try in Akureyri for a memorable night, from local pubs to places with live music. . Here are some of our favorites:
- Centrum Kitchen and Bar – Fancy experiencing a delicious dinner and fancy drinks at a fantastic location in downtown Akureyri? Centrum Kitchen and Bar is where you can do just that!
- Gotubarin – This piano bar located in the heart of Akureyri serves local beers and top-end liquors. The interior is designed from old preserved items that tell the story of Akureyi’s history through the years.
- Græni Hatturinn / The Green Hat – In the mood for some live music? Check out the listings at The Green Hat: one of the most popular concert venues in Iceland. Offering a wide selection of music to suit all tastes, many Icelandic and international artists have played here over the years.
- Olstofa Akureyrar – With a wide selection of local and imported craft beers from all over the world. This friendly bar also shows football and sports on the upper floor.
- R5 Bar – Enjoy a selection of local Icelandic beers at the cozy R5 Bar, located near Akureyri Town Hall Square. With craft beers, appetizers and lively music, R5 Bar promises a good night out.
Where to Stay in Akureyri
Akureyri has a whole host of accommodation options, including a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments and hostels. Some of our top recommendations for places to stay in Akureyri for all budgets are:
- Akureyri Backpackers – This family-run hostel in the center of Akureyri is perfect for an affordable place to stay in the city that’s still close to all the action. There’s also a bar and restaurant on site, providing a convenient place to stop and enjoy some drinks and snacks whenever you like.
- Hotel Edda – Another city center hotel, Hotel Edda offers single, double and triple guest rooms with wash basins in some rooms. You also have an on-site restaurant and bar at your disposal. Located next to the Botanical Gardens, you can reach all the main Akureyri attractions on foot from this hotel.
- Hotel Kea – This 4-star hotel boasts an amazing location, with views of Akureyri Church right next door. Whether you want a single room or a luxury suite, you can find a room to suit you here, as well as a bistro, bar and gym.
- Hotel Natur – Get up close to nature at Hotel Natur, which is located around 15 minutes from Akureyri by car. Here, you’ll find ping pong tables, a sauna and a hot tub for guests.
- Hrimland Cottages – Enjoy a spectacular view over the city and fjord at the beautiful, mountainside Hrimland Cottages, located between the center of Akureyri and a ski resort. These luxury cottages are equipped with all the necessary modern conveniences, plus a private hot tub.
- Lava Apartments – Find a range of rooms and apartments in the heart of Akureyri at the newly renovated Lava Apartments.
- Pearl of the North Apartments – These fancy apartments are perfect for a luxurious stay close to both the water and the center of Akureyri city.
Day or Weekend Trips From Akureyri
If you’re based in Akureyri during your time in Iceland and want to experience some day trips or even a weekend somewhere else in the country, this list of top locations will give you some inspiration.
Akureyri to Husavik Day Trip
Only an hour away from Akureyri by car, Husavik is a brilliant place to enjoy a day trip during your time in Iceland. The drive from Akureyri to Husavik is partly along the main Ring Road in Iceland, Route 1, and partly along Route 85, which takes you further north to the town of Husavik. You can also take a bus from Husavik to Akureyri.
This beautiful town on the north coast of Iceland is full of picturesque colorful houses and is famous for its wooden church, dating back to 1907.
Godafoss Waterfall and Lake Myvatn Day Trip From Akureyri
Enjoy an amazing day trip exploring some of Iceland’s most impressive geological features by taking Route 1 to the east of Akureyri. First, you’ll encounter the magnificent Godafoss Waterfall, only about half an hour drive from the city.
A further 30-minute drive will take you to the beautiful volcanic Lake Myvatn. In this area, you can find mineral-rich lagoons to bathe in among spectacular volcanic fields.
Grimsey Island From Akureyri
For the keen adventurers out there, a day trip to Grimsey Island could be just what you’re looking for. This scenic island is Iceland’s only territory located within the Arctic Circle and is the perfect spot for puffin watching. You might also see some horses here, too!
At just over five square kilometers, this tiny island is home to around 100 fishermen and their families. It takes around three hours to reach Grimsey Island from the mainland by boat, which leaves from Dalvik, a village around half an hour drive from Akureyri.
Reykjavík Weekend Trip From Akureyri
Akureyri is located just under five hours drive from Reykjavík, so, if you wanted to take a trip to the capital, we’d recommend staying over at least one night.
In Reykjavík, you can do everything from exploring fascinating museums and galleries, to enjoying a sample of traditional Icelandic cuisine down by the beautiful harbor. You can also head to explore the quaint boutiques and cafés along the famous Laugavegur shopping street.
Top Tips for Your Akureyri Vacation
Book in advance
– Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular location for tourists, meaning places often book up in advance. If you want to sample a particular restaurant or attraction we’ve mentioned in this complete Akureyri guide, we recommend booking beforehand. Accommodation and rental vehicles are also best reserved ahead of time
. We can help you out with our range of affordable cars to rent in Iceland
Plan your trips beforehand – Especially important if you plan to visit Akureyri in winter, you’ll need to plan out your trips to coincide with the shorter daylight hours. It’s a good idea to make a rough itinerary, so you know you’ll have time to fit in all your must-do activities. You can always move these around slightly from day to day, depending on how you feel and how the weather is.
Check road and weather conditions before any day trips
– We do recommend checking the daily weather and road conditions in Iceland
before setting out on any day trips from Akureyri, as there can be occasional road closures across the country due to harsh weather. This is particularly true in the winter season, so it’s best to know your route is clear before you take to the roads.
Pack for every season – As Icelandic weather is famously unpredictable, it’s wise to pack a range of clothes for every season! You’ll definitely need a jacket and jumpers for Akureyri and you may wish to bring some t-shirts if you’re visiting in summer. Extra layers are always helpful, and a waterproof coat and shoes will serve you well.
Practice your Icelandic! – Why not use your trip to Akureyri as an opportunity to learn and practice a few basic Icelandic phrases? While English is widely spoken across Iceland, you’ll tend to hear more Icelandic in smaller cities and villages outside of the capital, Reykjavík, including Akureyri.
Ready, Set, Go – Akureyri is Calling!
Inspired to explore the gorgeous Icelandic city of Akureyri for yourself? We don’t blame you! Have fun creating your own perfect Akureyri itinerary, drawing from our top recommendations in this guide.
All that’s left to do is find your flights and pack your bags! Get your dream Iceland vacation started by renting your car in Iceland
and setting off on Route 1 towards beautiful Akureyri. Let’s go!