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Akureyri City Breaks

Iceland’s capital of the north

Serenely nestled at the base of Eyjafjörður (the longest fjord in Iceland), less than 100 kilometres away from the Arctic Circle, Akureyri is the primary urban settlement in the north of the country. Although relatively tiny in both population and geographical size, even making Reykjavik look like a vast metropolis in comparison, Akureyri is home to a thriving cultural scene, with a cluster of intriguing museums, quirky art galleries, cosy cafes and a remarkably diverse selection of restaurants.

You needn’t venture far beyond the town itself to discover some of Iceland’s most beguiling landscapes, ranging from hilly pastures and barren swathes of uninhabited tundra to snow-capped mountains and lunar-like geothermal fields blistered with belching mud pots and hissing fumaroles. When you’re not out and about exploring Akureyri’s spectacular natural surroundings, you may be tempted to go for a dip in the town’s geothermally-heated swimming pool, check out the hilltop Lutheran church, or take a wander through the world’s northernmost botanical garden. 

In the height of summer, the sun barely dips below the horizon, bathing Akureyri in 24-hour daylight, so the days can be stretched out as long as you like. In the winter, it’s one of the best places in Iceland to see the Northern Lights and embark on thrilling outdoor adventures in the snow-blanketed wilderness. 

Explore our map of Akureyri

Your Akureyri questions, answered

It takes around three hours and 20 minutes to fly directly from London Gatwick to Akureyri. From there, the hotel is only a five-minute bus or taxi ride from the town centre.
Akureyri itself really isn’t very big – it only takes 20 minutes or so to walk from one end of town to the other, and you can easily cover the main sights in a few hours. However, there’s so much to see and do in the surrounding area that you’ll want at least a long weekend – and quite possibly more – to experience the many natural wonders that the far north of Iceland has to offer. Also, if you’re hoping to see the Northern Lights, the more nights you have, the better the chances of getting lucky with the weather conditions. 
It really depends what kind of activities you’re looking to do. For the Northern Lights, you’ll have a chance any time between late August and early April, but October to March is the prime window due to the longer, darker nights. December through to March is the best time for snow-related activities, while May, June, July and August bring the longest daylight hours and mildest weather – ideal for hiking, cycling and whale watching. 
In general, Akureyri tends to be slightly colder than Reykjavik and other areas in the south of Iceland – in part due to its northerly latitude, and also because it doesn’t receive the same warming effect of the North Atlantic Drift. In the middle of winter, temperatures barely rise much above freezing and can drop below -10 °C – cold, but not a problem as long as you pack sufficiently warm clothes. In the summer, meanwhile, it’s usually around 10-15 °C. 

The Diamond Circle is one of the best ways to cover several of the region’s highlights in one go: Godafoss waterfall, Husavik (the best whale watching destination in Iceland), Ásbyrgi Canyon, Dettifoss waterfall and Lake Myvatn. If you start and finish in Akureyri, it’s just over 300 kilometres in total and can be completed in one day – but you may wish to spend longer at each of the sights, and perhaps spend a night or two along the route. To see traditional Icelandic turf-roofed houses, take a trip to the Laufas Heritage Site, around 25 minutes’ drive away on the opposite side of the fjord.

Heading north from Akureyri, the Tröllaskagi Peninsula contains some of the region’s most majestic scenery and picturesque villages, such as Siglufjordur. From the port of Dalvik, you can take a ferry to Grimsey island – the only part of Iceland that crosses into the Arctic Circle. Enticed by the idea of a beer spa? Nearby Árskógssandur is the place to go. 

Akureyri town centre is very compact and walkable, and there are regular local buses that serve the municipality area. To explore the region further, you’re best off either renting a car or booking a guided excursion, as public transport options are limited in this remote part of the country. 

Hotels in Akureyri