things to do in Akureyri

Settled in the northern region of Iceland is the nature-filled and culturally rich town of Akureyri, known as the “Capital of the North”.

Located right below the Arctic Circle, you’ll love all there is to do in this Icelandic town, from cultural gems peeking into the local history to a natural wonderland that will enchant your inner wanderer, and of course, all the activities to enjoy the gateway to the north!

Book a day trip to explore the thundering waterfalls, from Dettifoss (one of the strongest waterfalls in Europe!) to Godafoss Waterfall. Plan a hike around the golden-tinged Kerlingarfjöll Highlands, offering wide views of the snow-capped mountains, and even a few geothermal pools.

Culture seekers, visit The Nonni’s House, the childhood home of an Icelandic children’s book author, learn about how the tuberculosis epidemic hit Akureyri at the Haelid Museum/Cafe, and hit the town as you walk through Hafnarstraeti Street, the town’s main street!

From nature to culture, and fun to be had all year round, let’s dive into the list of the best things to do in Akureyri, Iceland!

1 – Visit the native flora at Akureyri Botanical Garden

Akureyri Botanical Garden

View the dozens of plant varieties native to northern Iceland at Akureyri Botanical Garden, a sprawling 3.6-hectare park!

Wander through the gardens housing over 400 native species, from downy birch, tea-leaved willows, shrubs, perennials, and the national flower of Iceland, Mountain Avens. Learn about plants that flourish in the region’s particular climates, and then finalize your visit with a snack at the cafe shop!

The garden is open from June 1st-September 30th!

2 – Witness the magical Northern Lights

Northern Lights, Akureyri

Akureyri is the perfect place to catch the Northern Lights, and lucky for you, there are many ways to secure your encounter with this natural phenomenon!

Book a tour from Akureyri to see the Northern Lights from the perfect watchpoint on a night tour, surrounded by secluded nature as the sky illuminates in colorful lights!

From a Northern Lights Jeep Tour to a classic tour – check out all the ways to experience this unmissable spectacle!

3 – Admire the Art Deco architecture of The Church of Akureyri

The Church of Akureyri

Step inside the Lutheran church of Akureyri “Akureyrarkirkja”, dating back to 1940! Climb its long stairway, and take note of the church’s Art Deco facade, with twin spires and a central clock.

A symbol of the city, the Church of Akureyri is located in the town’s center and is open most between June 2nd and August 28th.

When the church is open, take a look at the grand stained glass windows and the 3,200-pipe organ!

4 – Experience the midnight sun while whale watching

whale watching in Akureyri

Enjoy a mesmerizing experience galavanting through the ocean under the cotton-candy skies as you’re whale watching in Akureyri under the midnight sun!

On a spectacular boat tour through the coast of Akureyri, witness the appearance of large whales and even peek at a few dolphins in Akureyri!

If the waves are calm, your captain will shut down the boat motor to float in serene silence, listening to the sea creatures around you.

Read more: 28 Fun Things to Do in Iceland in Summer

5 – Hike up to spanning town views at Súlur

Súlur, Akureyri

Make it to Súlur, a stunning mountain southwest of the city of Akureyri, famous amongst locals as a popular hiking route to its twin peaks! Of the two peaks, the highest point reaches 1,213 meters (3,979 feet).

Made up of volcanic soil, the hike snaking around the mountain takes between 5-6 hours to complete roundtrip and is fairly easy to get to from the city, on public transport.

6 – See the grass roofs at The Old Farmhouse Laufas

The Old Farmhouse Laufas, Akureyri

Journey back to the 19th century when Icelanders lived in turf houses at The Old Farmhouse Laufas!

The Old Farmhouse Laufas is a small community of houses and a church that is grass-roofed, therefore the name “turf” houses. These homes are spacious and typical Icelandic-styled houses that could house up to 20 people!

Admire the houses, step inside to look at the space inside, and take incredible views of the fjord nearby!

7 – Plan a day trip to Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn, Iceland

Book a Lake Mývatn tour from Akureyri, only a little over an hour away, and bask in the magnificent views of Lake Mývatn, crashing waterfalls, volcanic craters with hardened lava, and even view the divide between Europe and the Americas!

Known as a natural and thermal lake, Lake Mývatn also offers mineral-rich steam baths and mud masks for the ultimate relaxation break in between sightseeing through Akureyri!

Day tours start at $197 USD.

8 – View historic planes at the Icelandic Aviation Museum

Icelandic Aviation Museum, Akureyri

Are you a fan of aviation? Then don’t miss the Icelandic Aviation Museum, tucked inside the Akureyri airport!

Come by and browse dozens of examples of aircraft used throughout Iceland’s history, from warplanes to recreational, passenger, and more! Look at the different photos, videos, and artifacts, admiring the planes inside.

Are you visiting in June? Stick around for the annual air show hosted near the museum! Museum tickets start at 1500 ISK.

9 – Gear up for some epic rafting

rafting in Akureyri

Gear up for an epic journey rafting through some of Akureyri’s choppy rivers and rapid currents! Take on the river’s most iconic rapids, and if you’re feeling brave enough, do some cliff-jumping into the cool waters nearby!

Choose from several rafting experiences, offering everything from family rafting routes suitable for teenagers, to more advanced rafting tours, like grade 4 rafting on the “Beast of the East” waters of the East Glacial River gorge!

10 – Visit an author’s childhood home at The Nonni’s House

The Nonni’s House, Akureyri

Also known as Nonnahús, The Nonni’s House is a museum dedicated to the Icelandic author, Jon Sveinsson, in his childhood home, and one of the oldest houses in Akureyri!

Sveinsson was a children’s book author, most notable for stories involving 2 characters, Nonni and Manni, and their mischievous adventures.

Take a guided tour with staff dressed in traditional wear through the 1850s-style house, and book collection, learning about children’s literary history.

11 – Escape on a day trip to Godafoss Waterfall

Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland

View the sight of the powerful Godafoss Waterfall, located only 45 minutes away from Akureyri!

A 12-meter-high and 30-meter-wide waterfall with so much beauty also holds the fascinating history of the settlement and confrontation of the natives and the Norwegians.

Plan an action-packed day trip to Godafoss Waterfall, along with other incredible sites like the Lake Mývatn baths, and the Grotcaja cave, which was a filming site on Game of Thrones!

Read more: 28 Fun Things to Do in Iceland in Winter

12 – See some modern art at the Akureyri Art Museum

Akureyri Art Museum

Check out the art inside the Akureyri Art Museum, found in the town center, where you can find all sorts of modern and contemporary art from local Icelandic artists, and a few international artists.

Held within two buildings, the Akureyri Art Museum showcases modern art in many ways, from photography, posters, sculpture, arrangements, and more! Guided tours are available every Thursday at 12:30 PM, with each tour focusing on a specific exhibit.

13 – Enjoy animal sightings from a boat tour

boat tour in Akureyri

Cruise through the coast of Akureyri on a beautiful boat tour, and get close to the nature and wildlife around you, from whales to puffins and more.

Choose from a variety of boat tours to explore the different waterways surrounding Akureyri, from hopping on a traditional Oak Sailing Ship to whale spotting and booking a cruise ship to see Lake Mývatn and the Godafoss Waterfall!

Boat tours start at $80 USD.

14 – Be in the middle of everything at Hafnarstraeti Street

Hafnarstraeti Street, Akureyri

Shops, cafes, galleries, and restaurants, fill the lively Hafnarstraeti Street, a famous shopping street located in the middle of the town center, brimming with tons to see and do!

Around Hafnarstraeti Street, find beautiful Icelandic architecture, and locals making their way through the street. Nearby are a few notable streets and sights to see, from walking Art Street where the Akureyri Art Museum is, to The Old Town, and its charming historic homes.

15 – Learn about the “White Plague” at Haelid Museum/Café

Haelid Museum_Café, Akureyri

Step through the unique Haelid Museum/Cafe, a space that was 1 of the only 2 sanatoriums that cared for patients dealing with Tuberculosis from the 1920s to the 1970s.

10 kilometers away from town, the Haelid Museum/Cafe offers a few exhibits that showcase what life was like during this epidemic, the high mortality rates of Tuberculosis throughout Iceland, and much more.

Afterward, enjoy a coffee and homemade pastry at the cafe!

16 – Enjoy a walk through Krossanesborgir

Krossanesborgir, Akureyri

Offering beautiful scenery all around, Krossanesborgir is a 4-kilometer walk paralleling the sea, and offering amazing views of wildlife! From peeking at 27 different exotic birds, to million-year-old rock formations and views of the fjord!

Only 8 minutes away, breathe in the tranquility of the ponds and small lakes, created with the ice cap that once covered the park 10,000 years ago, and the more than 150 different plant varieties!

17 – Horse ride through Icelandic landscapes

horse riding in Akureyri

View more of Akureyri’s stunning nature on a horse riding experience, trekking through rugged terrains, and catching more views of Akureyri’s hidden paths!

Book a horse riding adventure discovering nature sights like Skagafjörður, the region surrounding the picturesque fjord. With views of the mountains, nature, and fjord, you’re in for a lovely time!

Some tours provide hot drinks and snacks, while other horse-riding experiences are more suitable for the whole family!

18 – Spend a few days at the Diamond Circle

Diamond Circle, Iceland

Plan for an epic day trip to the Diamond Circle, known as a 250-kilometer trail that goes in a circle, and passes through some of the most beautiful natural sights, from waterfalls to mountains, whale watching, and more!

Offering beautiful views all year round, the best way to venture the Diamond Circle is to do it with a Diamond Circle tour, with all the necessary equipment and guidance to make for a smooth journey.

19 – Hit the slopes at Hlíðarfjall

Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri

Just a 13-minute drive from Akureyri is the Hlíðarfjall, a popular ski resort with ample types of slopes for people of all skill levels!

Divided by colors, green and blue colored slopes are designated for beginners and red is for those with a bit more skiing experience. The park has 26 ski runs total, 23 alpine slopes, and the longest route is around 2.5 kilometers.

Helmets are provided for free with your entry!

20 – Stare into the North Icelandic mountains on a kayaking tour

kayaking in Akureyri

Picture the beautiful mountains in the distance as you glide through the waters on a kayaking trip on the Svartá River.

Enjoy views of local animals like horses in the wild, and impressive nature views, all in a 2-hour kayaking experience. When you book a kayaking tour from Akureyri, you’ll receive all the proper equipment as well as transportation! As a midday break, enjoy some swimming or hot tub time!

21 – Do some forest bathing at Kjarnaskógur

Kjarnaskógur, Akureyri

Spend a day out in nature at Kjarnaskógur, an 800-hectare nature area with over 15 million trees, and a great amount of outdoor activities geared towards the whole family.

From playgrounds to volleyball courts, mountain bike trails, plenty of walking trails, and plenty of seasonal activities to do in the winter equally, Kjarnaskógur is the perfect place to stretch your legs out in nature, and even enjoy a quaint picnic!

22 – Get a dose of folk art at Safnasafnið

Safnasafnið, Akureyri
credit to Safnasafnið

Stop by the tall man statue outside of Safnasafnið, a creative museum located 12 minutes from Akureyri.

A large and bright house, with an equally large garden right outside, Safnasafnið is a unique museum with a focus on folk art created by lesser-known, part-time artists who purely create art for the love and enjoyment of it.

From sculptures to drawings and paintings, come learn about the artists behind the pieces and their inspiration.

23 – Go zip lining across a river canyon

zip lining in Akureyri

Get a bird’s eye view of the natural wonders around Akureyri on an adventurous zip line experience!

Explore the views crossing over the river canyon of Glerárgil, and a few other natural parks, as you embark on 5 different zip lines on this 1-2 hour long experience outdoors.

With your zip line access, accessories like a helmet and your guide are included in the price, which starts at $92 USD.

24 – Speed into the Motorcycle Museum of Iceland

Motorcycle Museum of Iceland, Akureyri

Browse through the history of Icelandic motorcycles at the Motorcycle Museum of Iceland! Explore the last 100 years, seeing different objects that are part of the local motorcycle history.

Opened in 2011 after the tragic death of one of Iceland’s greatest motorcyclists, Heiðar Þ. Jónsson in 2007 via a motorcycle accident, the museum was opened in his honor, with a few bikes from his personal collection.

The museum is open all year round.

25 – Explore the surrounding nature on a hiking tour

hiking in Akureyri

Book an incredible hiking tour through the Troll Peninsula in Siglufjörður, or through the Vatnajökull National Park, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, taking in the scene of mountains and the sparkling sea, and other trails nearby that not even the locals know about!

From hiking tours to husky-led tours, be guided by an experienced hiker, unlocking your sense of adventure in every step of the way.

26 – Take a swim in a sea bath

sea baths in Akureyri

Enjoy the mineral-rich seawater inside the GeoSea Sea Baths, with views of the breathtaking mountains in the horizons, bay, and the beginning of the Arctic Circle!

A sea bath is a pool filled with local seawater that’s been heated by local volcanic activity. Enjoy the healing water properties from the inside out, just be sure to bring your towel, swimsuit, and bathrobe!

The sea baths are in Husavik, 1 hour away from Akureyri.

27 – Hear the crashing water sounds at Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss Waterfall, Iceland

Visit the second most powerful waterfall in Europe at Dettifoss Waterfall, located in Vatnajökull National Park.

Measuring in at 40 meters in height and 100 meters wide into Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, the Dettifoss Waterfall is an incredible natural sight with crashing waters from one of the largest glaciers in Europe.

Prep for an exciting day trip to Dettifoss Waterfall, with stops to wander around some other amazing waterfalls nearby.

28 – Take the scenic road on a Jeep tour

jeep tour in Akureyri

Hop on a Jeep tour and explore the rugged landscapes near Akureyri, from the Kerlingarfjöll Highlands to the Dettifoss Waterfall, Lake Mývatn, and even the Northern Lights!

Go off-roading through the northern mountains, and even get a pit stop at the geothermal baths in the nearby Hveravellir hot springs! Tours come with hotel-pick up and drop-off, and groups are kept to small numbers.

Jeep tours start at $191 USD.

29 – Peer at the antique toys at the Toy Museum

Toy Museum, Akureyri

Also known as Friðbjarnarhús, the Akureyri Toy Museum is the place to take a look at a collection of 20th-century toys, from old doll houses to traditional toys, puppets, gameboards, and more!

Housed within one of the oldest horses in Akureyri, the Toy Museum has a few tricycles and old-fashioned toy cars that children used to play with, sitting outside of the museum.

The Toy Museum is a 30-minute walk from town.

30 – Challenge yourself hiking through the Kerlingarfjöll Highlands

Kerlingarfjöll Highlands, Iceland

Hike around the ancient volcanic formations at the Kerlingarfjöll Highlands, a beautiful landscape of snowcapped mountains covering golden-hued mountains and slopes.

Plan for a day trip to this epic and lesser-known destination, and trek through its many routes, lasting anywhere from a few days to 5-6 and 2-3 hour hiking routes.

On similar tours, you’ll hop on a fun 4×4 and cruise through the nearby Hveravellir geothermal area, and even take a swim break!

31 – Swim no matter the weather at the Akureyri Swimming Pool

Akureyri Swimming Pool

No matter what time of the year you’re visiting Akureyri, swimming is always a possibility!

Thanks to the plenty of geothermal pools and volcanic activity, places like the Akureyri Swimming Pool are open year-round, offering heated pool amenities for everyone!

From jacuzzis to cold and steam baths, and small pools, the award-winning pools are not only a tourist attraction but also one of the best things to do in Akureyri, from tourists to locals!

32 – Hit the white slopes on a skiing adventure

ski in Akureyri

For something close to town, visit Mt Hlíðarfjall ski center, with an elevation of 500 meters to 1,000 meters above sea level.

Buy a day pass to ski at Cross Country Skiing in Mt. Hlíðarfjall, and enjoy the 5 trails designed for all sorts of skiing experiences!

Go all out at Cross Country Skiing in Kjarnaskógur woods, with impeccable skiing trails, color-coded based on difficulty level!

33 – Enrich yourself with local history at the Akureyri Museum

Akureyri Museum

Go back to 19th-century Akureyri at the Akureyri Museum, and find exhibits shedding light on the town’s history, and its local culture!

Learn about the cultural influence of the bay, peek at what daily life was like back then, and check out the music history of Akureyri, learning what makes Akureyri a musical town!

Analyze town maps from 1547, and walk through the Christmas exhibition to see the local holiday traditions and roots!

34 – Book a day trip to Askja Caldera

Askja Caldera, Iceland

Make your way to the amazing Askja Caldera, known for its historic eruptions, and otherworldly terrain!

Book an extensive day trip, and wander through other gorgeous northern Icelandic scenery, from Lake Mývatn and seeing the Hrossaborg crater, to making a stop through parts of Iceland that make it feel like you’ve just been transported to the moon!

Day tours include hotel pick-up and drop-off, the guide, and transport throughout the experience.

35 – Visit the small Akureyri Museum Church

Akureyri Museum Church

Built in 1846 is the tiny Akureyri Museum Church, situated next to the Akureyri Museum and Nonni’s House in the historic town center.

Inside the small church, find pieces of church antiquity from a 17th-century chandelier to a 17th-century altarpiece.

The church is relatively small and traditionally opens for a few special occasions including Christmas and Easter. Spend time inside the church, offering local life insight and worshipping practices.

36 – Bop your head to some live music at Graeni Hatturinn

Graeni Hatturinn, Akureyri

Graeni Hatturinn is one of the most famous music venues in Akureyri, and the country, and hosts numerous musical acts year-round, from folk musicians to indie music, tribute concerts, and classic rock!

Given that Akureyri is known as a musical town, attending a live concert where the majority of the musicians are local, is a great way to get into the local music scene, located in the heart of town!

37 – Devour Icelandic dishes at the best restaurants

best restaurants in Akureyi

Get a view of Akureyri at Kaffi Ilmur, a cafe/restaurant built inside one of the town’s oldest houses for a delicious brunch buffet!

Tuck into the cozy vibes at Café Bláa Kannan, offering freshly baked bread every morning for breakfast, and a delicious sandwich, and soup of the day by afternoon.

For a sweet ending, check out the historic and popular Brynja Ice Cream, offering delicious homemade ice cream, and milkshakes, with vegan options!

38 – Recharge at a beer spa

spas in Akureyri

After so much adventuring through Akureyri’s magnificent terrain, take a moment to yourself at the beer spa.

From your hot tub, try different microbrews, and snack on local bites, while enjoying Icelandic views in the distance! Check out a beer spa experience, with a tour guide included to show you around the important landmarks along the way.

The all-inclusive spa experience lasts 7 hours!

Shore excursions in Akureyri

To make the most of your travels, make sure to check out shore excursions in Akureyri!

Explore beyond the town of Akureyri, and venture into the north, to see unbelievable natural landscapes, from craters, waterfalls, the continental rift between Europe and the Americas, lava fields, and even a volcano!

Ground transportation, and guided tours, are provided in these day-long excursions!

Where to stay in Akureyri?

Located an 8-minute drive from the town center is the lovely Hotel Halond, offering spacious, and stylish rooms with all the amenities for a comfortable stay. Enjoy self-check-in with a code lock system to access your room, hot tubs with views of the snow-capped mountains around, and a lush garden on the property.

Stay in the center of town at Centrum Hotel, with everything from shops, restaurants, museums, and other local attractions only a few minutes away on foot from the hotel. Enjoy the hotel’s modern style, and the hotel’s on-site restaurant and sleek bar. This hotel’s rooms are highly rated for their comfortable beds and rooms.

Traveling with a bigger group? Check out Lava Apartments & Rooms, only a few minutes walk from the town center! Enjoy the freedom of self-check-in, a spacious kitchen, a comfortable bed, and a clean and spacious apartment, all inside the bright and airy feel of the space.

Where to go next?

Head even more north to Húsavík, one of the oldest settlements in Iceland, where you can spot more than 10 different types of whales!

In Reykjavik, visit the amazing Blue Lagoon, and snorkel between two continents! Head over to our list of the best things to do in Reykjavik to see what’s going down in Icenland’s capital city!

Selfoss is known as the largest town in south Iceland! Try a traditional Icelandic hot dog and afterward, walk along the south coast with sights of lagoons, volcanoes, and glaciers!

Check out the fun things to do in Vik. Trek the black sand beaches, visit the amazing Dyrholaey Arch and view nearby lighthouses and mountains. Then, glacier spot at Thorsmork.

See a little bit of everything in Skaftafell, including Iceland’s tallest mountain, the largest glacier, impressive nature, and towering waterfalls!

Read our list of the best things to do in Iceland, and pick out what calls out to you personally!

Final thoughts

It’s no surprise that Akureyri is another Icelandic town worth exploring for many reasons.

From uncovering the Godafoss Waterfall and Lake Mývatn to catching a glimpse of local history at The Old Farmhouse Laufas, and hiking through otherworldly places like Askja Caldera!

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Akureyri!

Happy travels!

Maritza Chavez is a travel writer from the U.S., passionate about travel and culture. Her curiosity for traveling began after her first few trips to Mexico to visit family, and then studying abroad in Greece during college. After living in Spain as an English teacher, and more traveling, she decided to start her blog, Travel Notes and Things, to help fellow Latinas travel to their dream destinations while touching on other topics including reverse culture shock and transformative travel. Further expanding her horizons, Maritza frequently travels the globe to pen down exquisite articles for the TourScanner blog, bringing her unique perspective and insights to a wider audience.