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Top 10 Best Things to Do in Akureyri, Iceland

Top 10 Best Things to Do in Akureyri, Iceland 

No visit to Iceland is complete without heading north to Akureyri and exploring everything the town and surrounding area has to offer. Situated a 5-hour drive from Reykjavík, you’ll want to pack your visit with activities to make your journey worthwhile. Here are just a few of the best things to do in Akureyri to choose from. 

1. Explore The Adventure Garden

Are you visiting Iceland with your children? They’re sure to be fascinated by the fairytale sculptures on display at The Adventure Garden in Akureyri. This family-friendly activity is a great way to experience Icelandic folklore and get a taste of the country’s literature. 

The Adventure Garden is a private gallery created in a garden next to the home of Hreinn Halldórsson, the man behind these fascinating sculptures. Admission is free and there is lots of fun to be had when discovering the meaning behind each of the pieces. 

The Adventure Garden, a popular thing to do in Akureyri

2. Visit Safnasafnið Museum

Also known as The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum, Safnasafnið houses a collection of exhibitions showcasing artwork from a variety of talented creatives. Though much of what you will see here is outside of the mainstream, and unlike what you may find in other museums in Iceland, everything on show deserves to be celebrated.

The exhibitions change annually and each year the museum collaborates with a local primary or nursery school to stimulate artistic interests in young children. Opening hours are limited to the summer months of May to September. 

 A fishing exhibition at Safnasafnið Museum in Akureyri

3. Admire Akureyri Church

Widely known as the symbol of Akureyri, this Lutheran church is located just above the town centre. Consecrated in 1940 and designed by Gudjon Samuelsson, Akureyri Church features a stained glass window that originated in England, a large pipe organ and a model ship that’s suspended from the ceiling. 

Akureyri Church in Iceland

4. Go Whale Watching

Beaten only by Husavik, Akureyri is one of the most popular places in Iceland to go whale-watching. A boat tour from the floating pier offers the chance to spot humpback whales, minke whales, pilot whales and if you’re lucky, blue whales and orcas! 

The rich sea life in the fjord provides a nutrient-rich diet for the whales who come here to feed. Having said that, it is important to remember that whale sightings are never guaranteed and that the types of whales to look for vary depending on the time of year of your visit.

Whale tail breaching the surface near Akureyri

5. Immerse Yourself In Icelandic Swimming Culture 

There’s no greater authentic Icelandic experience than a soak in a geothermal pool, and Akureyri Thermal Pool has something for everyone. From outdoor pools for lane swimming and relaxing warm hot tubs to a splash pool and water slides, this is a great way to spend a few hours in both the summer and winter seasons

Bathing suits and towels can be hired from the pool and there are digital lockers to safely store your belongings while you enjoy the facilities. 

6. Ski or Mountain Bike at Hlíðarfjall Ski Resort

Located just 5 km from the town, Hlíðarfjall offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and mountain biking in the summer. 


With 7 ski lifts, 26 marked pistes and a ski area with a vertical drop of 455 metres, Hlíðarfjall is a popular location for skiing in Iceland. Equipped with floodlights, shortened daytime hours will not impact your experience as it is also possible to enjoy night skiing here.

Mountain Biking

Hlíðarfjall is also home to a bike park, which is best appreciated during the summer months when there is no snow on the trails. Bikes can be hired from the park and if you feel more comfortable with a professional, bike tours are available.

Ski lifts over the trails at Hlíðarfjall, near Akureyri

7. Stroll Through Akureyri Town

Akureyri isn’t known as the “Capital of the North” without good reason, it is the second largest city outside of the capital and home to a variety of fascinatingly beautiful buildings. The nearby mountains and fjord also make for an impressive view as you stroll the streets of this old trading station. 

8. Chase the Northern Lights

If you’re searching for natural phenomena in Iceland, you’ll be pleased to discover that the flickering Aurora Borealis can frequently be seen dancing above the skies in Akureyri during the height of winter. 

Seeing the Northern Lights is never a certainty, and there are a variety of conditions that need to be in your favour such as clear skies with good visibility and suitable solar activity.

Northern Lights over Akureyri

9. Feel the Power of Goðafoss Waterfall

Just a short drive from Akureyri is the spectacular Goðafoss Waterfall, which translates to the “Waterfall of the Gods”. The water, which comes from the Skjálfandafljót River, falls from an impressive height of 12 metres. You can park on either side of the waterfall and follow the short trails up to the falls. Both sides offer excellent views and you can visit year-round, although care should be taken in winter when the paths can be slippery. 

 Goðafoss Waterfall on a cloudy day

10. Soak in a Beer Bath

There aren’t many places you can relax and unwind in a bath full of beer, but Bjórböðin, around a 30-minute drive from Akureyri, offers exactly that! The beer used in the baths is extremely early on in the fermentation process, meaning there is no alcohol in the baths, but you’ll have the chance to pull a pint from a draught next to your tub should you wish to do so. 

Ready to plan your adventure in Akureyri? You’ll need a reliable car to get you there. Book your hire car today.