Is a call to Akureyri listed on your Iceland cruise itinerary? If so, start smiling right now – because you are SO going to love this port call!
But don’t just take my word for it, because in case you didn’t already know, Akureyri took the number one spot on Lonely Planet’s best places in Europe 2015.
If there was ever a morning to order an early breakfast in your stateroom – this is it.
That way, alongside enjoying a leisurely breakfast on your veranda, you can also take in the views and breathe in the wonderful fresh Icelandic sea air as you cruise into port along the lovely Eyjarfjörður fjord.
Not only are the shore excursion options amazing from this port (I’ll be talking about those in another post), but it is located just a short walk from the centre of town.
Not everything is on the flat though, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a bit of an up-hill walk to reach some of the attractions, such as the Church and the Botanical Gardens.
There are actually 112 steps to reach the Church. Don’t believe me? Then count them as you walk and keep the FitBit happy in the process. The truly gorgeous Botanical Gardens are located relatively close by and being just 100km from the Arctic Circle, are the most northerly Botanical Gardens in the world.
More information on the gardens to be found here – but please keep in mind that Iceland has bit of a seasonal delay with the rest of Europe so whilst your spring/summer flowers might be in full bloom in May, the chances are that they won’t be in Iceland.
That said, come June/July the gardens are a riot of colour and nothing short of spectacular.
Personally, I really like Akureyri. There is a lot to see and do here – and the best bit is that you don’t have to go too far to see and do it.
Take your pick of 12 museums (yes…12!) – check out the link here for a handy walking map that includes walking distances, opening times and websites.
A visit to the town’s fantastic open air swimming pool comes highly recommended. The facility features two 25 metre outdoor pools, pummelling water jets, water slides, a splash pool, an indoor pool, four hot tubs, a steam bath, sauna and an extensive area for sunbathing.
All of the pools are heated by natural geothermal water with temperatures that range from a pleasant 27°C to a hair raising 42°C in the hottest of the hot tubs – so please go carefully!
The swimming pool has great reviews on Tripadvisor here and is a great way to meet the locals.
Most ships dock alongside at Oddeyrarbryggja – an exceptionally well placed pier with easy walking access into the nearby town. The (flat) walking path takes you right along the waterfront and has conveniently placed benches to sit, take a rest and admire the views over the surrounding fjord. Look out for eider ducks and other sea birds along the way and you may even be lucky enough to spot the odd curious seal or whale. Yes, really….
The town itself is lively and compact. Check out Bláa Kannan café located on
Hafnarstræti. The café gets a good review on Tripadvisor here but I must admit I was a little confused about opening times – some sources of information say 08:30 whilst others say 10:00. The moral of the story being to check in advance in order to avoid disappointment.
The Church, which is the symbol of Akureyri, sits guard overlooking the town – and as mentioned, it is a bit of an uphill walk. Again, Trip Advisor gives it a good rating here and a visit comes highly recommended. Of particular interest are the stained glass windows and look out for the ship suspended from the ceiling.
This is an age old Icelandic tradition and is intended to protect loved ones at sea.
In these days of smartphones and social media – the main downtown area will give you photo opportunities galore. Look out for Iceland’s most famous ‘Christmas Couple’, Grýla and Leppaluði who can be found towering over the humanoids on Hafnarstræti (the main street in town) practically begging for a selfie. Also keep an eye open for the bright red letter box nearby where you can post letters to the Icelandic Santa all year ’round. Rest assured postcards can be purchased at any of the souvenir stores close by.
More on Grýlu, Leppaluði and the 13 Yulelads in a later blog post – but if you can’t wait and are heading to Akureyri soon, then a visit to the Christmas House, located just 10 minutes from Akureyri by taxi, is a must and will fill in the gaps in the meantime. A charming Christmas focussed store decorated with candy canes and faux frosting – guaranteed to please all except perhaps the most Scrooge hearted. ‘Bah humbug’ indeed…
And yes, they have those in plentiful supply too!
More posts on Akureyri to follow in the weeks to come, so please call by again soon.