Recommendations from the locals
North Iceland - Energy, Magic, Tranquility
Whatever the time of year, Akureyri is a lively and energetic town, and home to around 20.000 inhabitants. It is by far the most densely populated community outside the Reykjavík area, and is the centre of trade, culture and services for the north of Iceland.
It is a town closely associated with educational institutions and cultural events, all of those having strong traditional roots. Two of the largest fisheries in Iceland are based in Akureyri, and the growth of the tourist industry means that this is playing an ever more important role in the life of the town.
Akureyri is close to many of Iceland's most renowned natural beauty spots and the town itself is a popular stopping place for both long and short stays.
Below is a list of places we would recommend as being well worth a visit while in Akureyri:
- The Akureyri Botanical Garden (with 400 plants indigenous to Iceland and more than 7,500 foreign species)
- the Akureyri Art Museum Listagil Art Centre
- Akureyri swimming pool
- Húni II - a boat built from oak in 1963, which is to be found at Torfunefsbryggja pier
- restaurants which offer dishes prepared from produce originating in the surrounding countryside
- Kjarnaskógur wood the
- old town -museums, a church and historical buildings
- Jaðar golf course - the most northerly 18-hole golf course in the world
- Hrísey island - the pearl of Eyjafjörður
- the Akureyrarvaka festival which is held in August each year and is the culmination of the Summer Festival (Listasumar) which runs from mid -June until the end of August
- beer from the local breweries, Víking and Kaldi
- Brynja ice cream - a favourite with the local people
- Akureyri Church
- Hlíðarfjall ski slopes.
Lake Myvatn is one of the highlights of the north. All major services are provided in the village of Reykjahlid, such as a mini supermarket, bank, post office, health care centre, school and swimming pool. At Lake Myvatn, different types of accommodation are available as well as good restaurants and cafés.
Birdlife by the lake is abundant and a visit to the new Bird Museum is worthwhile. Myvatn Nature Bath is located just east of Reykjahlid village, where travellers can enjoy a relaxing dip in the warm natural water. In the Myvatn region there are many marked hiking routes. The Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in the Myvatn area, you don't want to miss them.
It is a breathtaking sight to drive across the bridge and watch the calm waters of the river suddenly leap and tumble onwards over so many impressive falls - a sight which will leave no one unmoved.
Borgarvirki is a 10-15 metre high ridge of columnar rock. This phenomenon is a volcanic plug, and there is speculation as to whether it was, in ancient times, a district fortress and even, perhaps, a battleground.
From Borgarvirki there is a wide panoramic view over a large part of the region and a viewfinder is in place to help locate some of the important landmarks.
This is truly a unique natural phenomenon, but one which has also seen some improvements by the hand of man in bygone days.
Bárðarbunga, is a stratovolcano located under Vatnajökull, Iceland's most extensive glacier. The second highest mountain in Iceland, 2,009 metres (6,591 ft) above sea level, Bárðarbunga is also part of a volcanic system that is approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) long and 25 kilometres (16 mi) wide.
Raufarhöfn is a fishing village with 250 inhabitants and is also the most northerly community in Iceland. Because of its position, Raufarhöfn has the longest days in Iceland during the summer and the shortest ones in winter.
The Arctic Circle lies just off the coast and in the village an arctic henge is being prepared.
There is a good camping site with excellent facilities, including showers and electric hook-ups for caravans, tent trailers and camper vans. And for the youngest and most energetic members of the family there is a playground, situated close to the elementary school, and a sports centre beside the camping site.
In Raufarhöfn can be found all the basic services, such as a health centre, chemist's shop, food store, a bank, post office, petrol station, garage, hotel, pub, gallery, etc. And from the village it is possible to book a sail to take you north across the Arctic Circle.
There are many other pursuits which may tempt the visitor, for example bird watching, fishing by the harbour or in one of the many lakes and rivers, or going for a walk on Höfði or around the flatlands of Melrakkaslétta.
Langanes is a veritable outdoor paradise teeming with birdlife, great for nature study and hiking as well as some tangible history. A trip to the outlying peninsula is an unforgettable adventure, passing remnants of ancient farms and more recently deserted buildings like Skoruvík. Below Skoruvík cliffs is Stóri Karl rock column, one of Iceland's largest gannet colonies.
Seals are incredibly beautiful and entertaining creatures and they are also said to be quite curious. Seal watching is a wonderful activity for the entire family.
The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) and the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) are the only species to pup around Iceland, 4 other visit the island on a regular basis. Those species are harp seal (Phoca groenlandica), bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus), hooded seal (Cystophora cristata) og ringed seal (Phoca hispida). Walruses have also been found around Iceland but they are very rare.
The Icelandic Seal Center created and runds the multi-national project The Wild North which aims to research the effects of tourism on wildlife in the North Atlantic region and produce a set of guidelines and advice for both tourism operators, the grneral public and local and national goverenment authorities.
In 2011 a trail code of conduct was created for the watching of seals on the Vtansnes peninsula. The code of conduct can be found by clicking here.
Many agencies offer snowmobile-, snowcat- or ATV tours. They are suitable for anyone looking for a little excitement and adventure while on vacation.
Hólar is one of the most famous historical sites in Iceland and was, for many centuries, an Episcopal See. It was also the capital of North Iceland for over 700 years. There has been a church on the site from the 11th century, and the present Hólar Cathedral was consecrated in 1763. It is the oldest stone built church in Iceland.
Hólaskóli School, founded in 1882, was an agricultural school, but there is evidence that some form of school has been present at Hólar right from the time of the first bishopric. Archaeological research has been carried out at Hólar over the past years and more than 40 thousand items found, some of which are now on display in the old schoolhouse.
Grímsey is a green, grassy and particularly agreeable island, probably best known for its proximity to the Arctic Circle, which cuts across the island. Many visitors go there solely to step across that line, south to north.
The island is 5.3 km2 in area, its highest point is 105 metres and the distance from "Iceland" is 41 km.
Life on Grímsey is bright and energetic, and the inhabitants are of a happy disposition, working and playing with equal wholeheartedness. A good swimming pool was opened there in 1989. The inhabitants of the island do their shopping in the village store, Búðin, which is privately owned, and sells a wide variety of goods. There are two guesthouses on the island, one of which is open all year round.
The ferry, Sæfari, sails from Dalvík to Grímsey 3 days a week all year round. There are also regular flights by Air Iceland, 3 times a week during winter and 7 days a week during summer.