Akureyri is a must-visit for anyone road tripping through Iceland. From the hot springs at Myvatn Nature Baths to the Icelandic cuisine and coffee shops, here are 7 things you must do on your Akureyri visit.
While most travelers flock to Iceland’s Golden Circle or main city, Reykjavik, one of the best places Iceland experiences requires a road trip up north to the quiet town of Akureyri. We enjoyed our time everywhere in Iceland—it’s basically impossible to have a bad time in this one-of-a-kind country—but Akureyri was by far our favorite place. We visited in early April; there were almost no crowds and the weather wasn’t half bad! (As in, we were almost too hot in our heavy winter coats…almost.)
If you’re planning a trip to Akureyri, Iceland, here are the seven things you must add to your list.
Visit the Akureyrarkirkja
Yes, I realize that’s a mouthful, but the Akureyrarkirkja (church) stands tall on a hill above the city. In addition to admiring the traditional Icelandic architecture, a visit to Akureyrarkirkja will give you some of the best views of the city and beyond. I actually walked up here from our Airbnb while Frank was still sleeping, and had the place (and those views!) almost entirely to myself.
Walk the Akureyri Waterfront
As I continued my jaunt around Akureyri (while Frank was still sleeping…sorry, Frank!) I decided to explore the city’s waterfront. This scenic stroll offers views out over the neighboring mountains, which are particularly great for skiing if you have the time or skills. Sadly we lacked the former (and perhaps me the latter), so I just took it in on foot from the waterfront walkway.
Eat at Bautinn
This traditional Icelandic restaurant serves a variety of hearty dishes. I went for the salmon and salad, which I realize is far from exciting or “exotic,” but they seasoned it to perfection and sent me back to the Airbnb happy with an uber-full belly. Bautinn is right along one of Akureyri’s main streets, Hafnarstræti, which makes it not only delicious but convenient.
Get Coffee at Blaa Kannan
Most bars and pubs closed early during our weekday Akureyri visit, leaving us with coffee and pastries as our “late-night” option. Blaa Kannan, which stays open until 11:30 p.m., had a fun, casual vibe with locals and backpackers alike. Did we get wild or crazy? No, but sometimes it’s nice to just chill out and relax surrounded by like-minded travelers and friendly locals.
Eat Breakfast at Kaffi Ilmur
Speaking of coffee, don’t miss our favorite little coffee shop (with troll houses and all!), Kaffi Ilmur. This hilltop shop serves farm-to-table dishes with tasty coffee and a variety of pastries. We stopped by the cozy little Kaffi Ilmur on our way out of town, and wished we’d found it days earlier because it was right next to our apartment. (Did I mention they have troll houses outside? Ah, I just love it.)
Day Trip to Dimmuborgir and Myvatn
Myvatn is one of Iceland’s most magical hidden gems; it’s absolutely worth a day trip on your visit to Akureyri. We started by exploring the Dimmuborgir lava fields, taking in the otherworldly rock formations and caves that served as a Game of Thrones backdrop in season three (it was the wildlings camp, and given the wildlings are my favorite, I felt right at home). There are multiple hiking paths through Dimmuborgir; our trek took about 45 minutes.
Once we finished, we drove over to Myvatn Nature Baths, a set of geothermally heated pools that put the Blue Lagoon to shame. From the steam rising over the turquoise water to the waterfalls and mountain views, it’s hard to take a bad photo in the Myvatn Nature Baths, particularly if you visit at sunset. Entrance is about $40.
Watch the Sunset over Akureyri
To capture one of the most beautiful Akureyri views, head across the water on Route 1 and drive up to an Akureyri vantage point. We stayed up at this little roadside pullout to stargaze and hunt for the Northern Lights. While the lights never showed, the pastel sunset really put on a show. (I think our vantage point was along this road.)
A visit to Akureyri is well worth the time spent road tripping. Sure, it’s five hours driving from Reykjavik, but trust me, the roads are anything but boring.
If you’re navigating Iceland on the road, check out my list of Iceland road trip essentials!