If you’re looking for the best things to do in Akureyri, Iceland, I’ve got so many fantastic ideas for your trip. Akureyri is Iceland’s unofficial capital city of the north. With a population of 18,000, it’s Iceland’s second most populated town outside of the Reykjavik area.
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While many visitors use Akureyri as a base to explore other nearby regions, like Myvatn and Husavik, we spent a couple of days in the region for some downtime. Our visit to Akureyri was right in the middle of our two week road trip of Iceland. It’s a great place to wander and explore at your own pace.
Even though Iceland’s spectacular natural beauty is the best reason to visit the country, it’s great to balance this with exploring the towns and cities. With our Akureyri travel guide, you’ll discover:
- Where to stay near Akureyri (including our awesome personal recommendation!)
- The best things to do in Akureyri
- What to do near Akureyri and the surrounding region
- The best restaurants and places to get food in Akureyri
Where to Stay in Akureyri
One of our favorite accommodations ever is Ytri Vik Cottages, 20 minutes outside of Akureyri. We stayed here for two nights and absolutely loved it. You’ll enjoy views of the Eyjafjörðu fjord from your own private hot tub at a luxurious cottage.
Every log cabin at Ytri Vik Cottages has a veranda, a kitchen, a private geothermal hot tub, and outdoor barbecue facilities. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Book your stay at Ytri Vik Cottages.
Looking for More Akureyri Hotels?
If you’d rather stay in the city itself or you’re looking to compare other properties, I highly recommend using the handy map below. You’ll see all hotels in Akureyri and the surrounding areas, as well as vacation rentals. Zoom out of the map to see more accommodations and hotels near Akureyri like ours.
How to Get to Akureyri
Getting from Reykjavik to Akureyri is easy. You can reach Akureyri by car, bus, or plane. There are daily flights to Akureyri from Reykjavik several times a day. Traveling by car on a road trip to Akureyri is my preferred mode of transportation. You’ll access Akureyri quite easily from the Ring Road (Route 1, the main road of Iceland).
I suggest renting a car in Iceland to drive around the country at your own pace. You’ll have the most freedom and can go anywhere you like. You can compare car rental rates for an Iceland road trip to get the best deal. There are lots of things to do in North Iceland, and you’ll absolutely need to visit Akureyri!
Parking in Akureyri (By Parking Disc)
Akureyri parking is a bit of a quirky system, but really easy once you’re in the know. Once you arrive, park your car at one of the several parking lots near the downtown core. Parking in Akureyri is free. But, the town has a quirky parking system. In order to park your car in one of the lots, you must pick up a parking disc.
The parking discs are available at every local shop or bank. We picked one up at a store next to the parking lot. The parking lots have a two hour time limit. You set the clock to two hours from the present time. Of course, if you go beyond your allotted time and get caught, you could get a parking ticket.
We stayed longer than two hours, so we returned to the car and adjusted the clock. Just to be on the safe side, we moved the car to a new parking space (not sure if that was necessary, but doesn’t hurt to be safe!).
Best Things to Do in Akureyri: Explore Downtown Akureyri
Akureyri is very walkable, and you should be able to explore the whole place in a day (or an afternoon, depending on what you do). We walked around and admired the colorful buildings, the street art, and the statues. There’s a pair of iconic troll statues in the middle of town that you won’t be able to miss.
Stop for a coffee at a local cafe or enjoy your beverage outside on a bench. Watch locals and tourists alike roam about. The city isn’t huge by any means, so you can easily walk around town and down by the harbor in an afternoon.
See Akureyrakirkja (Akureyri Church)
You can’t miss Akureyrakirkja, the Akureyri church, even if you simply admire it from the outside. It is a Lutheran church built in 1940 by famous architect, Gudjon Samuelsson. The church is at the top of a hill with several sets of stairs leading up to it, and it’s an iconic symbol of the town.
You might be able to go inside the church, though it is closed when services or funerals are taking place. There will be a notice on the door in those cases. In the summer months, the Akureyri church is open daily from 10:00-16:00.
Shop on Hafnarstræti (Main Shopping Street)
If you’re looking to do some shopping in Iceland outside of Reykjavik, Akureyri is the place to be. The main shopping street is called Hafnarstraeti. There are lots of small boutique shops selling local specialties.
We browsed shops selling clothing, books, local music, art, accessories, and housewares. I got the cutest espresso mug with an owl on it. We bought some souvenirs for friends and family back home.
Art in Akureyri
Akureyri is home to many artists that help make the city such a vibrant place to visit. Justin and I immediately noticed the troll statues on the main shopping street, as well as a large mural across a building nearby. We saw video game inspired pixel art made out of post-it notes in the windows of another building. Whether it’s street art or public art, you’ll find lots of it in Akureyri.
You can also visit Akureyri’s “Art Street”, formally known as Kaupvangsstræti. The Art Street is home to the Akureyri Art Museum, the Akureyri School of Visual Arts, the multipurpose exhibition space called Deiglan, artist’s studios, small galleries, and guest studios for international artists.
Go Whale Watching in Akureyri
While Justin and I chose to go whale watching in Husavik, there are also lots of opportunities to go whale watching in Akureyri. You’ll board a boat from the harbor in Akureyri to cruise on the Eyjafjord, Iceland’s longest fjord.
You’ll be provided with everything you need for the whale watching excursion, including thermal and waterproof clothing. There’s plenty of seating, both indoors and outdoors on the boat, or you can watch from the side of the boat. A professional guide will help you spot and identify the whales.
If you aren’t able to make it up to Husavik for a whale watching tour, be sure to book one in Akureyri. I’m certain that you’ll see whales on the Eyjafjord. After all, our accommodation (Ytri Vik) was on this fjord and we saw whales one morning from our cottage! Book your whale watching tour here.
Akureyri Botanical Garden
The Akureyri Botanical Garden is a public park that first opened in 1912, and the gardens opened in 1957. Only 50km from the Arctic Circle, it has many unique varieties of plants and flowers that can grow in these colder climates.
While many plants were not expected to survive this far north, the Eyjafjord creates a microclimate that helps the plants to survive and prosper. There are 430 native Icelandic species of plants and 6600 foreign plants that grow there. The Akureyri Botanic Garden is open from the beginning of June until the end of September. Otherwise, you can always go for a stroll through the park.
Hike at Kjarnaskógur Forest
Did you know that Akureyri has a forest and hiking trails? You can walk to the Kjarnaskogur Forest right from town (it forms a loop trail that’s about 12km in length). There’s also a campsite in the forest, as well as a small lake.
Kjarnaskógur is a wonderful outdoor recreation space for locals and tourists alike. There are over 210 species of trees and flowers in the forest. At the upper side of the forest, you can enjoy spectacular scenery of the Eyjafjörður fjord and Akureyri itself.
Things to Do Near Akureyri
Many visitors will use Akureyri as a home base to explore other nearby regions of North Iceland. We visited Husavik as a day trip between Myvatn and Akureyri. Myvatn typically takes at least a day to fully explore, if not more. But, if you’re pressed for time, you could visit as a day trip from Akureyri.
Goðafoss translates to mean “waterfall of the gods” and it’s located on the river Skjálfandafljót in North Iceland. The waterfall is 39 feet tall (12 meters) and 98 feet wide (30 meters). It’s one of the most brilliant waterfalls in Iceland.
The Godafoss waterfall is only about a 30 minute drive from Akureyri, so it’s really easy to add it onto your plans for the day. I suggest taking a whale watching tour in Husavik and visiting Godafoss on the way there (or on the way back to Akureyri). If you don’t have a car, I recommend taking this tour to Godafoss from Akureyri.
Husavik is only an hour away from Akureyri, so it’s easy to make a day trip there. Iceland is one of the top 10 places in the world to go whale watching, so it’s an absolute must for wildlife and animal lovers. We highly recommend that you go whale watching in Husavik.
There’s also a really interesting whale museum in Husavik that gives you a bit of a background and history to the whales that live in the waters surrounding the town. While the town isn’t very big, it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
Lake Myvatn Region
There are so many awesome things to do in the Lake Myvatn region. You can check out the geothermal sites like Namavjall Hverir, see the Dimmuborgir Lava Field, relax at the Myvatn Nature Baths, and visit Krafla’s Viti Crater. I suggest taking a couple of days to visit Lake Myvatn, and you might even want to stay there because it’s an hour or more from Akureyri.
If you find yourself with a limited amount of time, you can see Myvatn in a day trip. Or you can drive there for a couple of days in a row since it isn’t too far away. Don’t have a car? Here’s a great Myvatn tour you can book from Akureyri.
Vegan Food in Akureyri
Akureyri has lots of food that caters to vegans and vegetarians, and you will find lots of plant-based options in town. Here are a few options for vegan food in Akureyri.
Ordakaffi is a 100% vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Akureyri. They have an extensive lunch buffet, a “dish of the day”, sandwiches on freshly baked artisan bread, and coffee. You can check out their daily specials on their Instagram, which appears to be updated very regularly.
Akureyri Backpackers is a great budget choice if you’re looking for a hostel right in Akureyri. It’s also got a really vegan-friendly restaurant attached to it. You can pop into Akureyri Backpackers for a meal whether or not you’re staying at the hostel. There’s a vegan oatmeal for breakfast, a Thai vegan burger for lunch/dinner, and fries if you’d like a side dish. Book your stay at Akureyri Backpackers or stop by for a meal.
Silva (An Accommodation, No Longer a Restaurant)
When we visited Akureyri, we dined at Silva, an awesome vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the countryside. It was once thought to be the northernmost vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant! Unfortunately, the restaurant is no longer operating. But, Silva Holiday Home continues to be an awesome accommodation where you can spend the night.
If you’re looking to stay somewhere just outside of Akureyri, you can consider Silva. You can enjoy a delicious vegan breakfast during your stay at the property. Also, the owners offer packed lunches for those who stay overnight. Perhaps you’ll have the chance to sample some of their delicious food after all!
When we dined at Silva, we were able to choose from burritos, wraps, vegetable dishes, salads, a nut loaf, soup, hummus and dip, and raw food. There was also a big selection of vegan desserts. Book your stay at Silva Holiday Home.
Akureyri Hot Dog Stand
Vegan hotdogs in Akureyri? Yes, please! Stop by the Akureyri Hot Dog Stand for vegetarian and vegan options. They claim to have the best hotdogs in northern Iceland, and you can choose from a variety of toppings. Sometimes the convenient grab and go options can be the best ones!
Grocery Shopping in Akureyri
If you’re looking for groceries, there’s a little mall in town called Glerártorg. It’s a short drive from the downtown core of Akureyri. There are a few shops in the mall: a kids toy store (formerly a Toys R Us and now under a new name), 66 North, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and others.
I highly recommend that you check out the small organic food store inside the mall. They have unique vegan food items, like vegan Nutella and chocolate bars. I guess those aren’t the “healthiest” choices inside a health food store, but I’m always happy to try yummy vegan food!
The grocery store, Netto, also has all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal. The Netto grocery store in Iceland has so many vegan alternatives, like Violife cheese and plant-based milk.
I hope you found this Akureyri travel guide to be helpful for your upcoming trip plans. It’s a great northern city, and there are lots of fun things to do in Akureyri. Planning a trip to Iceland? Check out all of our Iceland blog posts to help you plan your trip!