History and Culture

Akureyri Church

The Akureyri church is the symbol of Akureyri. It is a Lutheran church and was designed by the famous architect Gudjon Samuelsson and consecrated in 1940. The central stained-glass window above the altar formed a
part of a set originating from England. The bas-reliefs on the nave balcony are by sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson and the baptismal font is a replica of a work by sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

The church is above the town center.

Attention!
Please note that the church is closed
when funerals or other services are taking place and it is advertised
especially on the church door. For more information check the website akureyrarkirkja.is or send an email at akirkja@akirkja.is.

Akureyri Old Town

The old town of Akureyri brings you back to the beginning of the town. The area is located just a short stroll from town centre, towards the south.

The area is a monument to the town's history and culture. Many of the town oldest houses have been preserved and the original street planning has been maintained. Informative signposts guide visitors about the history of a different era. On this walk, you see the old Theatre, the old Primary School and the Old Hospital built in 1827, the first
two-storied house built in Iceland and the oldest building in Akureyri, Laxdalshús, built in 1795.

The name of Akureyri dates back to the 15th century, but it was not until 1778 that the first dwelling was built on the site. The oldest building that still remains was built in 1795, called Laxdalshús.

The houses and style of architecture are what draws the attention in this area. Around what used to be the main harbour but now home to the local sailing club Nökkvi you find many of the original buildings that kicked off this small harbour town. As time passed and the population grew, the hills behind the town developed as there was only one way to go - up!

Many of the buildings feature coting of corrugated iron. Traditionally this was used as a roofing material and for building farming sheds but in Iceland, it was commonly used as an external covering on walls to protect the woodwork. Another
method of shielding houses that is quite special for Akureyri, as it is rarely found in other places in Iceland, is the use of pressed iron plates, like tiles. These were imported from the US in the 1930s, and many of the oldest houses still wear this type of coating with beautiful colours.

For more information about the old town and the houses see our historical signboards.

https://www.visitakureyri.is/en/see-and-do/culture/skilti-baejarins

Arctic Henge

Set in Raufarhöfn, one of the most remote and northernmost villages in Iceland where the Arctic Circle lies just off the coast, the Arctic Henge (Heimskautsgerðið) is under construction. Similar to its ancient predecessor, Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial, aiming to capture the sunrays, cast shadows in precise locations and capture the light between aligned gateways.

History

Heimskautsgerðið (The Arctic-Henge) has it s roots in the innovators Erlingur Thoroddsen's speculations about the possibility to use endless vistas, where nothing obstructs the horizon, and the midnight sun. The idea to use the dwarf names from the eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) and modernize some aspects of the old world of the Sagas, soon became a part of these speculations. The first version of the idea is from 1998 but in 2004 it was finalized, with allusions to mythology and folklore, designed to interact with the unique natural light. The designer of the project is Haukur Halldórsson.

No one has been able to explain the dwarfs in the Völuspá, apart from Austri (East), Vestri (West), Norðri (North) and Suðri (South), who carry the sky. By connecting the names of the dwarfs to the season, as for example Bjartur (Bright) Blíður (Sweet) and Svásuður (Gengle) to the summer, it is possible to fit the names of the dwarfs to a yearly circle of 72 weeks. The year-circle of the dwarfs becomes a kind of almanac, where each dwarf controls a five day period. All the dwarfs have been given a role and they have all have their own personalities. This means that the dwarfs can be connected to birthdays and people can connect to their personal dwarf.

Around this made up world rises the Heimskautsgerði (Arctic-Henge) on the Melrakkaás (Foxhill) in Raufarhöfn. The Heimskautsgerði is around 50 meters in diameter, with 6 meter high gates that face the main directions. Between the gates is a high wall with a small opening at the top. Inside the circle stands 10 meter high column on four pillars. The column will be topped with cut prism-glass that splits up the sunlight unto the primary colors. The opening between the pillar look towards the main directions, so example the midnight sun can be seen from the south gate through the middle column and the north gate. The play of light and shadow will follow the time of the day. The openings on the wall will let in the sunrays so when the building is completed a sundial can be set up.

Inside the circle are 68 dwarfs who stand around a circular dwarf trail. Inside the trail is the polar star pointer, and does exactly what its name says. There you can also find the throne of the sun that is meant to be a place where the traveler can sit down to have his picture taken. Also a hall of rays, which is a sort of sanctuary between high columns, with one seat, where the guest can empty his mind an renew his energy. An altar of fire and water, reminds us of the power of the elements, where events can be performed, for example weddings, oath-taking and so forth.

More information available at www.arctichenge.com

Getting There

It´s about 130 km from Húsavík, but good roads all the way, so allow 1.5 hrs.
Follow the road 85 northeast out of Húsavík, past Ásbyrgi, taking the 874 road junction east just before Kópasker. Once in Raufarhöfn, you can´t miss the stones, looming impressively on the hill above the town. There is a short track to drive up, or you can walk if you prefer. Here is the route.

Bjarg í Miðfirði

Bjarg in Midfjordur, is the farm that belonged to Asdis, the mother of outlaw Grettir Asmundarson - Grettir the Strong, of Grettis Saga fame. Beneath a rock in the hayfield, Asdis buried Gretti´s head, which was presented to her by his killer. There´s now a monument in her honour on site.

Borgarvirki

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.

Drangey

The rocky island Drangey in the middle of Skagafjordur is a flat topped mass of tuff, rising almost 200 meters out of the ocean. The cliffs serve as nesting sites for around million sea birds and have been used throughout Iceland´s history for egg collection and bird netting.

Grettis Saga recounts that both Grettir and his brother Illugi lived on Drangey, for three years and were slain there. The island can only be ascended at one spot.

Over the summer months, 20.May - 20.August, we offer daily trips to Drangey from Sauðárkrókur at 10:00 am.

There are no scheduled tours during the winter months, but tours can be arranged on request.

First settlers

A statue of Helgi magri (Helgi the lean)
and Þórunn hyrna (Þórunn the horned), the first settlers of the
area, about the year 890, stands on the Hamarkot Rocks on the street
Brekkugata near the police station.

The story tells that the parents of
Helgi handed him over for fostering into the Hebrides, and when they came there
two winters afterwards, he was so starved that they did not know him; they
brought him away with them and called him Helgi the lean. He was brought up in
Ireland, and when he was grown up, he married Þórunn hyrna (Þórunn the horned).
They moved to Iceland with their children and settled the whole of Eyjafjörður.
Helgi magri handed out parts of the settlement, which was very big, to his
children and kin but selected and built his own farm at a site which he
named Kristnes (Christ Cape) some 12 km south of Akureyri, a place where he
dwelt during the remainder of his life. Helgi believed in Christ and therefore
gave this name to his dwelling.


Þórunn hyrna, was the
daughter of Ketill flatnefur. Ketill Björnsson, nicknamed Flatnose (Flatnefur), who
was a chieftain of the Isles of the 9th century. All his children
settled big parts of Iceland, Þórunn hyrna in Eyjafjörður,
Auður djúpúðga, at Hvammur in West-Iceland.
Her brother, Helgi bjóla, settled Kjalarnes and her other brother, Björn
austræni, settled
Snæfellsnes and lived in Bjarnarhöfn.


The statue, which was made by Jónas S. Jakobsson in 1956, is located on top of
Hamarkotsklappir behind the Police station (Lögreglustöðin). About 5-10
min. walk from town center.

Two prominent streets in Akureyri are
named after these settlers - Helgamagrastræti street and Þórunnarstræti street
and the kindergarten Hólmasól is named after Helgi and Þórunn first child
(daughter)
Next to the statue, one can find an old view-dial. On the view-dial is
written 1949 - Ferðafélag Akureyrar, but these view-dials show the names of the
surrounding mountains.

Gasir - Medival Trading place

Gásir is a unique place. In no other place in Iceland is it possible to find so many remainings from a trading post from the Middle Ages. Gásir was the main trading post in northern Iceland during the Middle Ages, and the place is mentioned many times in Old Icelandic Sagas from the 13th and 14th centuries. Archaeological digging in the area during the last six years has shown that it was a trading post up to the 16th century, possibly until trading started in Akureyri.

Each year in July Medieval life at Gásir is reconstructed with help from Icelandic craftsmen who wear medieval clothes and sell handicraft. Various handcrafts are on display; dyeing with plant extracts, wool-work, sewing, sewing leather and weaving.

Hearts of Akureyri

In Akureyri, stopping at a red light is much more pleasant than elsewhere.

The red lights are heart-shaped!

The heart in the traffic lights have caught the attention of those visiting Akureyri and the hearts of the inhabitants.

The hearts lit up all over town as a consequence of the finance crash in Iceland in year 2008, when there was a need for some positive thinking and to put emphasis on what really matters.

Since then the red hearts in the traffic lights are visible as well as plenty of red hearts made of the flower "forget me not" decorating windows, cars and signs throughout the town.

A perfect place for a selfie with the red traffic light always glowing, is down by the harbor in the city center close to Hof Cultural house.

Use the hashtag #heartsofakureyri

Hólar Cathedral

Hólar Cathedral is the oldest stone church in Iceland, constructed in 1763. The church is built with red sandstone from the mountain Hólabyrða. A number of historically important items are on display at the church.

The church tower is 27m long and stands beside the church. It was constructed on the 400-year anniversary of the death of the last Catholic Bishop of Iceland, Jón Arason.

Hraun í Öxnadal
Residence for writers, poets and scholars of nature studies. An exhibition of the live and works of Jónas Hallgrímsson, one of Iceland's most beloved poets.
Möðrudalur

At an altitude of 469 m, Möðrudalur farm lies higher than any other Icelandic farm. The remarkable, tiny church was built by the farmer himself, Jón Stefánsson, in 1949. The tourist services here operate year-round. Various trails have been marked through the area, which prides itself on wide panoramas and amazing silence. The majestic Mount Herðubreið, looming in the near distance, has long been referred to as the Queen of Icelandic Mountains, but its image was further cultivated in the last century by a self-made painter from Möðrudalur farm, Stefán Jónsson (Stórval).

Skalar in Langanes peninsula

What remains of the village of Skálar are remnants of a life that used to be: a thriving community whose livelihood depended on the sea. Changing conditions in the fishing industry and transportation, the explosions of maritime mines, and other factor led to the abandonment of the settlement in the 1950s. Interwined with the village´s history are the factors that made Skálar an appealing place to live, its role in World War II, changes in transportation, the lives of individual families, and much more.

Some of the ruins have been marked with a number and name.

The Herring Era Museum

The Herring Era Museum is Iceland's largest maritime and industrial museum, where visitors have the opportunity to get to know the herring fishery and processing industry that underpinned Iceland's economy for much of the twentieth century.

Three very different museum buildings provide visitors with an insight into the magnificent and captivating herring industry. The Róaldsbrakki is a Norwegian herring station dating back to 1907. Most of this building is as it was in the past, when herring girls lived in the building throughout the summer. Grána is an example of a small herring factory of the 1930s and visitors can see the workings of the reduction industry, which has long been seen as Iceland's first major industry. The Boathouse seeks to recreate a portion of a herring port, with the fleet alongside one evening in 1950 and allows visitors to mull over what it must have been like to walk the quaysides around the middle of the last century.
More information: www.sild.is/en

Opening hours:
May and September: 13 - 17
June, July, August: 10 - 18
Winter: By arrangement

Siglufjörður is only and hour drive from Akureyri!

The Seal center

The Icelandic Seal Centre is housed in the historically interesting and attractive premises of VSP in Hvammstangi. Here you will find informative exhibitions on the seal and its habits, seal hunting and the utilisation of seal-related products, besides stories and folklore surrounding that fascinating creature.

The centre also plays the role of a tourist information bureau, providing visitors with details on the most interesting places in Húnaþing, and also where to find relaxation and leisure facilities. Souvenirs and hand crafted goods from the area are also on sale here.

The Þingeyjarsýsla District Museum

Byggðasafn S-Þing (The South Þingeyjarsýsla District Museum) is housed within the Safnahúsið at Húsavík and is to be found on the middle floor of the building. This exhibition is called "100 years of Life and Nature in Þingeyjarsýsla" and attempts to shed light on the interaction of man and nature. It is, therefore partly a natural history exhibition.
Opening times:
Summer: 1 June-31 August, daily 10:00-18:00.
Winter: 1 September-31 May, weekdays 10:00-16:00.

Þingeyrakirkja church

Þingeyrar was, in past times, one of the most famous estates in Húnaþing and also the site of a church. Now, the Þingeyrakirkja church commands one of the widest and most beautiful panoramic views in the county. It is said that no estate was as big as or endowed with such elegant buildings as Þingeyrar, which is probably not surprising as it was home to chieftains and the elite for many centuries. Þingeyrakirkja church was built of stone and consecrated in 1877. Þingeyrar was also the site of the Iceland's first monastery, founded in 1133.