Akureyri is known as the capital of North Iceland. With a population of less than 20,000 it’s small enough to be charming, big enough to have a respectable food and nightlife scene and pristine enough to be drop-dead beautiful.
With only four days to explore Iceland, we decided to base ourselves in one location. The south is easier to get to from the airport while the northern region is a bit of a drive (four to seven hours, depending on conditions).
Not ones to take the easy route–or to pass up a cabin with a private hot tub–we chose to head north to Akureyri. In addition to the Airbnb, the incredible and diverse sites in nearby Myvatn helped sway our decision.
In addition to spending time in Myvatn, which I highly recommend, there’s plenty to see and do in Akureyri. There are a few art galleries and museums, quality restaurants, pubs with local beers to try, a community pool (Iceland is known for it’s pool culture), nature trails and whale watching–we did not do all of the above, plus scenery that will take your breath away. Here’s how we filled our limited time.
Our cabin slept six comfortably and featured a fireplace, kitchen and wrap-around deck with a private hot tub.
Even better, it sat on several acres of land with views that looked as if they were painted by Bob Ross. So many happy trees.
It felt remote with beautiful mountains as the backdrop. Stars dotted the night sky thanks to the absence of light pollution. But the center of town was only about 10 minutes away by car.
We filled the hot tub one evening, sipped our Icelandic Birkir and unexpectedly saw the northern lights. Here’s a link to our Airbnb.
Since our cabin was smack dab in the middle of a painting, we decided to go for a scenic walk to have lunch at a nearby cow shed. On the way we passed Icelandic horses and took in our incredible surroundings. The road was so empty that we walked down the middle of it the entire way without a problem.
Put this family-owned cow shed on your list of must-stops while in Akureyri. It’s just outside of the city and features views of the Eyjafjörður Fjord. We walked here from our cabin and that added to the charm. The dining area is small and I got the impression that locals account for most foot traffic.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch of burgers cooked by the owner. He chatted with us after our meal and gave us desert. He also suggested that we go for a scenic drive. Our instructions were to “turn left” upon exiting, go straight and follow the road (it looped around). Visit their website.
Scenic Eyjafjörður Fjord Drive
The recommendation from the owner of Kaffi Kú did not disappoint. We walked back to our cabin after lunch to retrieve our rental SUV and hit the road.
We didn’t make it far before we pulled over on the side of the road to take pictures. I highly encourage you to go for a drive if you’re in Akureyri.
Here are your instructions: Go to Kaffi Kú, turn left and head straight.
It’s Christmas year round at the Christmas Garden. Need I say more? We stopped in and loved seeing the festive decorations. I went home with Christmas ornaments for my family–little tokens from my trip.
If you go to Akureyri, eat here. You have to. You must.
The decor is eclectic and elegant while still feeling casual enough to wear jeans. The first floor is the dining area while the upper level features a lounge and art gallery.
The chef came out to our table and chatted with us during both of our dining experiences. Yes, we enjoyed it so much that we had two dinners there.
We visited in October, which is low season in Iceland, so we didn’t need a reservation. We were told that in the summer the wait can get long so call ahead during high season.
On the second day we made the hour and a half drive to Myvatn to see the sites. Going to Myvatn feels like traveling to another planet, minus the rocket ship. If you’re in Akureyri, I wouldn’t miss your opportunity to check it out.
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