Akureyri is the 2nd biggest burg in Iceland. It’s only 37 miles from the Arctic Circle, yet its average winter temperature is 32º Fahrenheit. This probably has something to do with elevation and placement. It sits beautifully at the top of Iceland’s longest fjord with snow-covered mountains as background. In a couple of ways, it’s like a miniature San Francisco, rising abruptly from the fjord.
A place of only 18,000 people, Akureyri is often called a city. It is very city-like with almost everything a city-dweller might need, including the 5-year-old Hof Cultural Centre, a performing arts venue second-to-none, and a gourmet restaurant, Rub 23 that’s as fine as any in the world. Icelandic Times, a magazine, says it best, ” Akureyri…provides all the features and services expected of a big city in a very compact form.”
Akureyri would satisfy any active tourist. It has an 18 hole golf course, is near the best skiing in Iceland, has great hiking trails, a free public bus system, community geothermal pools, and its close to Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland, maybe even the world. Eleven species visit the area, mostly from June to August, including the giant blue whale, the largest animal on earth.
Akureyri has 20+ restaurants. We ate Arctic Char with 6 served sauces at Rub 23 (the really red building in the photo above) and free-range lamb that would definitely be in the running for a meat-eater’s-best-ever-meal at Bautinn, which serves only Icelandic food. Our Bautinn table was close to a window where I watched people flood into the Hamburger Factory, a self-described gourmet chain, across the street.
Akureyri is pronounced Ah coo ray dee. Akur is the Icelandic word for field and eyri means sandbank. It has many attractions and museums, 3 of which we found especially enticing, like the world’s northernmost botanical garden. The University of Akureyri, which came to town in 1987, has nothing for tourists and wasn’t 1 of the 3. I learned a lot about this town’s quirky history at its city museum, where Ruth spent most of her time in the temporary Are You Ready, Madam President? display that will return to Reykjavik soon.