Local Guide

Local Guide

Akureyri is 390 km (242 miles) from the capital Reykjavik and 265 km (164 miles) from Egilsstadir the centre of Herad in the east. The town is situated in one of the longest fjords in Iceland Eyjafjordur and is surrounded by high mountains. Akureyri is about 60 km (37 miles) south of the Arctic Circle but summer temperatures can nevertheless reach 25°C (77°F). Winters may however bring heavy snowfall and cold weather. The northerly position of Akureyri has had considerable influence on the community. Trade began here in the 16th century, but it was not until 1760 that merchants took up permanent residence in the town. Akureyri is the largest community outside the capital Reykjavik with around 16.000 inhabitants. Cultural life and entertainment are flourishing at Akureyri. It has a symphony orchestra, theatre, art museums, cafés, restaurants and night-clubs. There is a wide range of shops in town, offering brand name products. The University of Akureyri opened in 1987. The Botanical Garden was established in 1912. (See below). The most northerly golf course in Iceland is located at Akureyri. In June every year there is a competition called „Akureyri-Open“, which attracts many overseas competitor. The tee-off is at midnight and the golf is played under the mid-night sun until the wee hours.

Major Points of Interest

Akureyri lies within an easy reach of a host of interesting places including Laufas, Godafoss, Lake Myvatn, Husavik, Hrisey, and Grimsey, an island bisected the Arctic Circle.

Laufas

Laufas is 30 km (19 miles) from Akureyri on the east side of Eyjafjordur. At Laufas is an interesting old farm building from 1840. This is a gable farm but larger than usual. About 20 -30 people lived there. Here you can see how people lived around the mid 19th century. The artifacts on display are local or have been collected in the district and include utensils that were used by the people. This was a manor farm and church-stead with many natural benefits. Many men of culture have been pastors at Laufas and Pastor Bjorn Halldorsson is probably the most famous one. He is the pastor who had the present farmhouses constructed. Fishing as well as gathering of eiderdown was also done from Laufas. The church is from 1865 with a pulpit from 1698. The first priest mentioned here was Ketill in the year 1047.

Laufas

Godafoss

This beautiful waterfall is 50 km (31 miles) from Akureyri. Drive on road # 1 and through the mountain pass Vikurskard on the east side of Eyjafjordur. On the way to Godafoss you drive first for a short distance through Fnjoskadalur along the salmon river Fnjoska and then turn into the mountain pass Ljosavatnsskard, which is actually a broad valley between Fnjoskadalur in the west and Bardardalur in the east (see map). High mountains are on both sides and gravel hills (moraines) left by the Ice Age glaciers lie across the valley. The lake Ljosavatn is on the east side of the valley. The North American bird the Great Northern Diver (Gavia Immer) is often seen on the lake. There is a pretty picnic area on the lake shore. Here was the farm of the chieftain Thorgeir Thorkelsson who declared in the year 1000 that the Christian religion should be the religion in Iceland. Godafoss is a waterfall in the river Skjalfandafljot close to the farm Fossholl in Bardardalur (see map). The river runs in a ravine for a considerable distance. The Icelandic Sagas tell us that Thorgeir Thorkelsson, the chieftain from Ljosavatn, threw his heathen idols into the falls when he returned home from the Althing. Take a walk down along the river towards Fossholl and observe strange rock formations including cave for sunbathing close to the old bridge.

Godafoss

The Pseudo-Craters at Skutustadir

When you are at Skutustadir at Lake Myvatn 88 km (55 miles) from Akureyri you drive by the two hotels on either side of the road. Make a stop here and take a walk among the pseudo-craters. The craters are formed in steam explosions when molten lava runs over wetland (hydro magmatic action). The water under the lava is super-heated and explodes throwing the lava up into circular craters. Craters of this sort can be found in four locations in Iceland and on the planet Mars - but nowhere else.

The Pseudo-Craters at Skutustadir

Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir means dark cliffs and is a maze like landscape. Here you will find a vast area of lava formations, tunnels, and small caves. The most spectacular is „the Church“ a large cave resembling a church dome. Stay within the marked trails such as blue for a short walk, or yellow and red for longer trips. There are spots on the longer routes which are ideal for a picnic. Obtain a map at the gate or from the information centre before you start your walk. Dimmuborgir was created about 2000 years ago and in the beginning it was a huge lava lake. Little by little the lava surface started to cool down but the hot floating lava underneath found an exit and rushed out from under the now cooler ceiling. The cold columns stayed behind and the ceiling fell down. In some areas you can see how the „ceiling“ scraped the walls of the towering cliffs when it fell.

Dimmuborgir

Reykjahlid at Lake Myvatn

Reykjahlid at Lake Myvatn is 99 km (61 mile) from Akureyri. The natural beauty of Lake Myvatn and its surroundings has been sculpted by volcanic eruptions through thousands of years. The lake is 36.5 km2 and renowned for its bird life. There are 17 species of ducks on the lake. Every type of breeding duck in Iceland is found on Lake Myvatn and the river Laxa. Among them are two North American ducks that breed nowhere else in Europe namely the Harlequin Duck and Barrow´s Goldeneye. The lake is shallow which makes it easy for the ducks to dive for food. The name Myvatn means lake of the midges (chironomidae). They are of two types and constitute an important part in the food chain. A ball shaped green algae (cladophora segagropila) grows at the bottom of Lake Myvatn. These green algae also exist in Lake Akan on the Hokkaido Island in Japan. In Japan it is called Marimo but the Icelandic name is Vatnamyll. The lake is also rich with trout which the farmers fish in nets and through ice during the winter. On your return to Akureyri drive to Reykjahlid on the north side of the lake and try their dark rye bread baked in hot clay overnight with smoked trout from the lake. Delicious! Observe the tumuli in the lava. Tumulus (pl. tumuli) are mounds or dome-like uplifts on the crust of the lava flow. This lava is from the 1724 eruption and the vegetation has hardly established except for the grey moss. Note how the lava ran on either side of the church but not into it.

Reykjahlid at Lake Myvatn

Namafjall

Namafjall is a high temperature zone with temperatures reaching 200°C or more at 1000 meters down. There are solfatars and fumaroles in Namafjall: The soil in the high temperature zones is infertile and barren because of the geothermal air and acidic environment. A quantity of sulphur is in the area and it was mined from 1279. The sulphur was used for gun powder in Europe. By 1905 it tapered off. By all means stay within the marked paths. Serious accidents have occurred when folks go outside and step into the boiling clay underneath the thin crust. Never stay closer to the boiling clay pits than the splashes that are closest to you.    

Namafjall

Volcano Krafla

Close to Namafjall on the north side is the geothermal power station named after a volcano nearby. An interesting feature up there is the crater Viti (Hell) on the south-west slopes of the volcano Krafla. The crater is about 300 meters in circumference. It was formed in a huge explosion in 1724. The explosion marked the beginning of the so called Myvatn-fires lasting for five years and is the longest known continuous eruption in Iceland. The water in the crater was boiling for a century after the explosion. If you have time make a stop at the power station. They have an interesting film about the volcanic activity in the area including the intermittent eruptions from 1975 until 1984. A total of 21 rifting events occurred during the period. The total rift between the plate boundaries (North American and Eur-Asian) was around 9 meters. This is a facinating show and is available in many languages. The average long term rift between the plates in Iceland is little less than 2 cm per year.

Volcano Krafla

Husavik

Husavik is 54 km (33 miles) from Reykjahlid at Myvatn. The name Husavik is probably the oldest place name in Iceland. The explorer Gardar Svavarsson sailed around the country and discovered that it was an island. He built a house for the winter in a small cove and named the place Husavik. Hus means house. Vik means a small bay or a cove. This pretty village is well known as a base for whale watching in Iceland. The whale museum offers thorough information about whales and whaling through the centuries. Fishing and fish processing is the main industry. The church is very interesting and was consecrated in 1907. At that time it could seat the entire population. It has served as a symbol for Husavik. The architect was Rognvaldur Olafsson who used the same design for three other, but smaller churches in Iceland. A fish factory tour can be arranged by the Whale Centre (Information centre) to view fish processing and learn about the Icelandic quota system for fisheries management. The village is close to the Arctic Circle and enjoys 24 hours of daylight during the summer. The midnight sun often gives the sky a romantic glow. In the winter when the nights are long the night sky is frequently decorated with the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and stars. The road from Husavik back to Akureyri is 91 km (56 miles).

Husavik

Other Activities

Visit the Church

The first church at Akureyri was built in 1862. A new church was constructed in 1941 and the old one was taken down but later an old country church was moved to the location where it stands now close to the Nonni house. There are 112 steps up to the twin tower church and well worth the walk. The lead glass windows tell the story of Christianity in Iceland. The two windows above the altar are from the cathedral in Coventry in England. The baptismal was made by Bertel Thorvaldssen an Icelander who grew up in Denmark and lived there. There is a ship hanging from the ceiling which is a Danish custom. Only two churches in Iceland are decorated in this manner. The other one is at Eyrarbakki in the South.

Visit the Church

The Art Galleries in Listagil

The Art Galleries in Listagil is in Kaupvangsstraeti, but in everyday language it is called Listagil (Art abyss). There you will find the Art Museum, School of visual Art, and handicraft and design workshops. Café Karolina is a recommended coffee shop.

The Art Galleries in Listagil

Nonni House

The Nonni House, believed to have been built in 1849 now belongs to the Zonta Club at Akureyri. It serves as a museum dedicated to Jon Sveinsson (1857-1944) whose nickname was Nonni. He became a writer and a Jesuit priest. Several objects relating to Nonni are on display for example his pictures and numerous books in many languages

Nonni House

Diversions off the Beaten Track

Hrisey

Hrisey is an 8 sq.km island in Eyjafjordur east of the village Dalvik. The ferry Saevar sails from the small village of Arskogssandur 35 km (22 miles) north of Akureyri on a frequent schedule all day long and into the evening. The trip takes 15 minutes. On the southern part is a small village with 200 people but the northern part is privately owned and a restricted area. Neither fox nor mink live on the island and all egg collection and game hunting is forbidden. This is therefore a haven for birds and birdwatchers. The ptarmigan is easy to spot particularly in the autumn. There are 35 breeding species in Hrisey. Here is the largest breeding colony of Arctic tern in Europe. There are three interesting walking trails on Hrisey. The one marked in green on the map is 2.3 km (1.5 miles), the yellow one 4.5 km (2.8 miles), and the red one 5 km (3.1 mile). There are signs along the way providing information about the surrpoundings. Try at least one trail.

Hrisey

Grimsey

Grimsey is 53 sq. km and is 41 km (25 miles) off shore. The population is about 100. Fishing and fish processing is the main industry. The Arctic Circle runs across the island. Grimsey has an airport and is a popular tourist destination during the summer. You can book flights from Akureyri airport or take the ferry. The ferry sails daily from Dalvik to Grimsey. Dalvik is a small village 44 km (27 miles) north of Akureyri on the west side of Eyjafjordur. Bird life is abundant in Grimsey and over 60 species have been observed. The birds and the eggs are utilized as food. The locals in Grimsey are known for their clever chess games. A wealthy American Willard Fiske (1831-1904) donated many chess sets to the islanders and a good library about chess playing (1200 books) and 12.000 US dollars. A Willard Fiske day is celebrated in Grimsey every year.

 

Grimsey

Evening Walk

The Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden is popular with the locals and visitors. A wide variety of both Icelandic and foreign flora (over 4000 species) are on display. The garden is an excellent choice for those wishing to take a break from the stress of daily life because not only will you find an abundance of flowers but also a peaceful park for reading or a picnic. The park was established in 1912 by a few women at Akureyri and they tended the garden until the town took it over in 1953.

The Botanical Garden