The Iceland Ring Road Trip Part 11: Akureyri

WE SPEND THE REST OF THE DAY IN AKUREYRI, Iceland’s second city and an important fishing center and port. However, in the last few years, as more and more tourists visit the country, tourism has become one ofthe fastest growing sectors of the economy. Today, Akureyri serves as a hub in northern Iceland, where visitors can join tours for whale watching, horse riding, and other activities.

Located at the end of the Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord, Akureyri is surrounded by mountains.
The city has been an important port and fishing center.
Dubbed as Iceland’s “second city,” Akureyri has a vibrant cultural scene.

While some of the group sign up for a whale-watching tour, others simply do a tour of the city, which has a couple of sights to keep one occupied. This, coupled with the number of activities you can sign up for and its proximity to places like the Mývatn region, makes Akureyri a good base for a couple of days.

The Akureyrarkirkja, which looks over Akureyri from the top of a hill, was designed by Gudjón Samúelsson, the same architect who designed the Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik.
With 6600 species of foreign plants, it’s hard to believe that the Akureyri Botanical Gardens is the northernmost botanical garden in the world, located just a few kilometers from the Arctic Circle.
The cylindrical Hof Cultural and Conference Center is a venue for music and other performing arts.

In the meantime, Yanyan and I, along with three of our companions, duck into a Chinese restaurant, where we’re the only customers, and a lone man seems to take on the role of waiter, cook, and cashier. We order some rice meals that cost about USD 20, which the man scribbles in his notepad before rushing upstairs and disappearing for a couple of minutes. He later emerges juggling five plates with servings large enough to more than satisfy us.

Locals take pleasure in one of Akureyri’s panoramic viewpoints.
The Sundlaug Akureyrar is a public swimming pool that is popular with locals.
Davíðshús is the former house of poet Davíð Stefánsson, which has been converted into a museum.

Later in the afternoon, I explore the city center on my own with a map and guidebook in hand, since the rest of the group decide to either rest or do groceries first. I head to the Akureyrarkirkja on top of a hill before walking further to the Botanical Gardens further west. The latter is a charming place to get lost in and watch locals do different activities. The garden also contains different species of plants both from Iceland and other parts of the world.

I return to our hostel just before sunset, then take a nap before having dinner to cap off the day.

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