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Akureyri: Iceland's Northern Charm Beyond the Golden Circle

submitted on 7 December 2023 by

Getting to Know Akureyri

What happens when you toss together a bunch of Vikings, some fish, several volcanoes, and a smattering of geothermal hotspots? You get Iceland, of course! But let's face it, most people only flock to the southern Golden Circle tourist trail, leaving poor Akureyri, Iceland's northern charm, neglected and weeping into its fjord.Fear not, dear northerly town, for your time has come! Let's pull back the icy curtain of mystery and reveal the magnificence of Akureyri, a delightful Nordic city nestled within Eyjafjörður, the longest fjord in Iceland. Boasting a population of 19,000 people, four traffic lights, and countless sheep, this arctic paradise offers a cozy, small-town vibe, and a plethora of outdoor adventures.

Feasting on Fish, Puffins, and Whales (Oh My!)

Upon arrival in Akureyri, you'll soon discover that life revolves around fish. Cod, herring, and capelin swim through locals' dreams and onto their dinner plates, cooked to perfection in a variety of tasty dishes. And if you're feeling adventurous, why not try some smoked puffin or fermented shark, washed down with a shot of Brennivín, Iceland's signature schnapps?Feeling guilty about consuming these adorable creatures? Redeem yourself with a whale-watching tour, where you can witness these gentle giants in their natural habitat, as they frolic and breach amidst the icy waves. Just remember to wear your warmest clothes and clutch a steaming cup of cocoa, as the Arctic winds have a habit of sneaking up and slapping you in the face.

Soaking in Steaming Baths and Exploring Crater Lakes

It's no secret that Iceland is a geothermal hotspot, so it would be a crime not to indulge in some steamy relaxation. Near Akureyri, you'll find the Mývatn Nature Baths, a less crowded alternative to the famous Blue Lagoon. Soak in the milky-blue waters, slather yourself in rejuvenating silica mud, and inhale the invigorating sulfuric vapors (which, I must admit, smell suspiciously like rotten eggs).Once you're feeling suitably relaxed and slightly wrinkled, venture forth to explore the Mývatn area, where you'll find an array of geological marvels. Wander through lava fields, admire steaming fumaroles, and tiptoe around bubbling mud pots. Be sure to visit the Víti crater lake, a stunning aquamarine pool nestled within the Krafla caldera. Just remember not to take a dip, as the water is scalding hot and highly acidic – no one wants to become a human poached egg!

Hiking, Skiing, and Horse Riding on Lava Fields

Akureyri offers countless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, so strap on your hiking boots and prepare to roam through this volcanic wonderland. Explore the nearby Kjarnaskógur forest (yes, Iceland has forests!) or hike to the top of Súlur, a majestic mountain that looms over the town. You'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding fjord and countryside, and perhaps even spot some frolicking reindeer or elusive arctic foxes.During winter, Akureyri transforms into a snowy playground, with the nearby Hlíðarfjall ski resort offering a range of pistes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. And if you're lucky, you may even witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights dancing across the night sky, casting swirling ribbons of green, pink, and purple over the icy landscape.And what better way to explore this rugged terrain than on the back of an Icelandic horse? These small, sturdy steeds are renowned for their unique tölt gait, a smooth, ambling stride that will have you gliding over the lava fields like a Viking on wheels. Just remember to hold on tight and lean back when going downhill, lest you find yourself performing an impromptu somersault over your horse's head.

Embracing Arctic Culture and Nightlife

No visit to Akureyri would be complete without immersing yourself in the local culture. Stroll through the town's charming streets, lined with colorful wooden houses, and visit the Akureyri Art Museum, which showcases contemporary Icelandic art and design.And when night falls, embrace the arctic nightlife by sipping on craft beers in cozy pubs, or dancing the night away in trendy bars and clubs. Just remember that alcohol in Iceland is notoriously expensive, so you may want to stock up on duty-free beverages before your trip, or risk spending your life savings on a single night of revelry.

Parting Thoughts

So there you have it, the wild, wonderful, and slightly weird world of Akureyri, Iceland's northern charm beyond the Golden Circle. This enchanting town offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, adventure, and culture, with a healthy side of fish and sulfuric steam. So venture forth, intrepid traveler, and discover the magic of Akureyri for yourself!
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