Dive into culture, eat great food, and even go skiing in Iceland’s second city.

North Iceland
The botanic gardens in Akureyri
The main street in Akureyri
The botanic gardens in Akureyri
The main street in Akureyri
The botanic gardens in Akureyri
Best time to visit
All year
Paid in town center
Charging station

Your guide to Akureyri, Iceland: the gateway to the north

Iceland is often said to have just one city, but if there’s any place that can challenge that claim, it’s Akureyri. Billed by locals as the capital of North Iceland, it delivers historic charm, captivating culture, and exciting food experiences.

It doesn’t hurt either that the surrounding area is one of the most beautiful regions of Iceland. Thanks to its sheltered location deep in a fjord, Akureyri gets mild weather all year round. In summer the hillsides are lush, whereas in winter they’re blanketed in powdery snow.

Akureyri town center is packed with traditional wooden buildings from the early 20th century. Walk the main street of Hafnarstræti, which runs to Ráðhústorg square, and you’ll stumble upon a cluster of restaurants, cafés, and shops.

Next to the harbor you’ll find Hof Cultural and Conference Center, Akureyri’s answer to the famous Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík. A short walk from here is the Oddeyri district, which is dotted with more historic buildings.

Activity-wise, for starters there is Akureyri Botanical Garden, just south of the town center. Opened in 1912, the garden was the first public park in Iceland and is home to hundreds of species of plants. It’s a must-visit in summer and has a beautiful café.

In winter, the ski resort just outside town is popular with locals. Although not on a par with Alpine skiing, it’s a great place to get your fix.

Other attractions near Akureyri

The harbor in the fishing village of Húsavík


Get up close to gentle giants on a boat tour from Iceland’s whale watching capital.

75 km (47 mi)

Lake Mývatn in its autumn colors

Lake Mývatn

Explore otherworldly lava formations and get close to wildlife near this lush lake.

79 km (49 mi)

The Dimmuborgir lava formations in North Iceland


Step into a labyrinth of otherworldly lava formations near the shores of Lake Mývatn.

82 km (51 mi)

The Dettifoss waterfall in autumn


Feel the force of the second most powerful waterfall in Europe.

151 km (94 mi)


FAQs about Akureyri

Akureyri is located at the inland end of the Eyjafjörður fjord in the heart of North Iceland. It’s the largest town in the region by far.

Iceland’s Ring Road, or Route 1, passes directly through Akureyri. The charming villages of Dalvík and Siglufjörður are less than 1 hour’s drive away. Lake Mývatn is easy to get to as well, being around 1 hour’s drive from Akureyri.

The town of Akureyri sits about 100 km (60 mi) below the Arctic Circle. Despite this, it has some of the best weather in Iceland.

The only part of Iceland to cross the Arctic Circle is the tiny inhabited island of Grímsey, which falls under the municipality of Akureyri. Grímsey is accessible by plane and ferry from North Iceland.

The story goes that the Viking Helgi magri first settled the area in the 9th century. But it wouldn’t be until the 18th century that Akureyri would grow into a permanently settled town. Akureyri was the main trading post in the region at this time.

In World War II, the town was used as an air base by Norwegian British No. 330 Squadron. They flew from the town to protect air traffic flying over the North Atlantic.

More recently, Akureyri has earned a reputation as a creative and artistic hub in Iceland. It has its own university, along with a smattering of galleries and museums.

Absolutely! Akureyri radiates an undeniable appeal and is one of the few places in Iceland outside Reykjavík with an urban feel.

There’s plenty of culture to experience here, as well as stunning nature. Just wandering the streets of the town, you’ll steal glimpses of the Eyjafjörður fjord between the buildings. The scene is equally dramatic in summer and winter.

Keep reading for ideas on what you can get up to in Iceland’s second city.

There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Akureyri and the surrounding area. Visit Akureyri and you could:

  • Head up to the local ski resort in winter and hit the slopes
  • Wander around the leafy botanical gardens in summer
  • Go on a whale watching tour out of Akureyri harbor
  • Enjoy hot pots and water slides at the local swimming pool
  • Dive into the local art scene at Akureyri Art Museum
  • Sample fresh seafood and produce at local restaurants
  • Relax and unwind surrounded by trees in the Forest Lagoon
  • Get into the festive mood at Jólahúsið (the Christmas House), open all year
  • Visit the Einstök brewery and enjoy a beer tasting
  • Admire the architecture of the awe-inspiring Art Deco church

As well as having its own unique draw, Akureyri is a great base for exploring North Iceland. On a day trip from the town you could:

  • See the otherworldly geology of the Lake Mývatn area
  • Head up to Húsavík, Iceland’s whale watching capital
  • Marvel at Dettifoss, the second most powerful waterfall in Europe
  • Get up close to hot springs and mud pots at Námaskarð
  • Bathe in the bright blue waters of Mývatn Nature Baths

By road, Akureyri is just shy of 390 km (240 mi) from Reykjavík. If you drive straight through, the journey takes around 4–5 hours.

You might want to build in some stops though so you can make the most of the natural attractions along the route.

For many people, the best way to get to Akureyri from Reykjavík is by car. That way, you can stop at attractions like waterfalls and hot springs along the way. Check out these self-drive trips for inspiration.

Bus links are also available. On a guided group tour, your bus transfer from Reykjavík is included. If you’re making your own way, you can take the Strætó bus from the Mjódd terminal in Reykjavík.

There are also direct flights from Reykjavík Domestic Airport to Akureyri. The flight time is around 45 minutes. In the summer, there are also connections to international airports directly from Akureyri.