Akureyri Cruise Port
Port of Akureyri: An Overview
The second-largest city in Iceland (yet still small, with fewer than 18,000 residents), Akureyri has become a regular stop for cruise ships visiting the island on a Norwegian fjords cruise, as well as those on transatlantic repositionings.
Located on Iceland's longest fjord, Eyjafjordur, Akureyri has been settled since Vikings arrived in the 9th century and has long been dominant in fishing, thanks to an ice-free port. Although cruise ships only visit during the summer, the town has a healthy winter tourism scene, with several ski resorts close by. Thus, you'll find many outdoor clothing stores, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars, in the city's downtown.
A call in Akureyri provides cruisers with a cute town to explore and makes a perfect gateway to northern Iceland's geothermal phenomena. Lake Myvatn, home to bubbling hotpots, thermal baths, craters and lava formations, is less than two hours away. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider a flightseeing trip over this geothermal wonderland; if an eruption is going on, you might even see lava spurting into the air (as tourists did in fall 2014, when a fissure developed in nearby Holuhraun).
Akureyri is also a good place to hire an independent tour operator for outdoor pursuits, such as whale watching, horseback riding, hiking and Jeep adventures. Or you can rent a car and explore the country's Ring Road. Make sure you wear layers and bring a raincoat; Iceland's weather is notoriously fickle even though Akureyri generally has warmer temperatures than other parts of the island.
The dock area has a visitor's center with a souvenir shop, free Wi-Fi and restrooms. The terminal is an easy, 10-minute walk from downtown Akureyri, and buses, taxis and tours are able to pick up passengers right outside the dock.
Church of Akureyi: Perched on a hill overlooking the harbor, the Church of Akureyri (official name: Akureyrarkirkja) is an Art Deco stunner of a building. Designed by Icelandic state architect Gudjon Samuelsson (who also built Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik), the Lutheran church has a 3,200-pipe organ and a ship suspended from the ceiling that hearkens to the Nordic tradition of asking protection for loved ones at sea. (Free admission; open daily, hours vary)
Godafoss: Iceland is a waterfall-lover's dream, and one of its most historically significant, Godafoss, is only about a half hour from Akureyri. Shaped in a classical horseshoe spanning nearly 100 feet, the falls are 39 feet high and can be viewed from lava rocks nearby. The name, translated as Waterfall of the Gods, comes from the year 1000, when Iceland converted from paganism to Christianity. Legend has it that the lawspeaker (the Vikings' elected leader of Parliament) at the time, a pagan priest named Thorgeir Thorkelsson, threw his idols into the waterfall after he made the decision to convert.
Lake Myvatn: The outdoor activities around Lake Myvatn, about 60 miles from Akureyri, could easily fill a day. Highlights include the sulfur-smelling mud pots at Hverir, easy walking trails through craggy lava formations at the folkloric troll haven Dimmuborgir, a hike up the Hverfjall crater for the hardy, or a visit to steaming lava near Krafla caldera, a volcano that has erupted 29 times in recorded history. Finish your visit with a soak at the Myvatn Nature Baths, geothermal springs with a soaking lagoon and several steam rooms. (Open 9 a.m. to midnight June 1 to August 31 and noon to 10 p.m. September 1 to May 31; $30 per person, June 1 to August 31; $26 per person in the offseason; swimsuits, towels and bathrobes can be rented; massage services available with advance reservation)
Game of Thrones Tours: The desolate landscape around Lake Myvatn has drawn filmmakers over the years; recent flicks include the Russell Crowe movie "Noah" and the Tom Cruise action picture "Oblivion." But it's the critically acclaimed and immensely popular HBO series "Game of Thrones" that draws tourists. Lake Myvatn and its environs serve as the stand-in for the wintery "beyond the wall" scenes in Season 2. Naturally, tour operators have taken advantage of this, and you'll find daylong Game of Thrones tours leaving from Akureyri. Your ticket usually includes roundtrip transportation to the remote locations by a super Jeep (jacked up to traverse rough terrain) and often a stop at the Myvatn Nature Baths.
Whale-watching: The North Atlantic is a haven for a multitude of whale species, and seeking out bottlenose, humpback or minke whales is a popular excursion. You can either take a tour directly from Akureyri or drive yourself to Husavik, considered the "whale watching capital of Europe" (about 90 minutes away). If you go, save time for the excellent Husavik Whale Museum. (Open 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily June to August and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May and September)
Horseback Riding: As you traverse the countryside, you'll see Icelandic horses, notably smaller than most breeds, grazing by the side of the road. But don't mistake their size for a lack of power. In addition to the regular gaits all horses know, Icelandic horses are born with their own speedy version known as the toit, making a horseback riding expedition a must for equine-lovers. Numerous operators run excursions in the Akureyri area; Skjaldarvik, a few miles north of town, has 90-minute rides daily at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (with free access to a hot tub after your excursion).
Flightseeing: If you have the budget, Akureyri is a good base for flightseeing over some of Iceland's most unusual terrain. In fall 2014, companies such as Iceland Travel, Saga Tours and Nonni Travel were offering flights over the raging Holuhraun lava field from the Bardabunga volcano. Even if that cools down, you'll be able to see dramatic landscape such as the Askja caldera, Lake Myvatn and Vatnajokull, the monster glacier that makes up 10 percent of the island. Another option is a flight to Grimsey Island, which is Iceland's only point north of the Arctic Circle. You can view puffins and icebergs, and you'll receive a certificate proving northern exposure.
Motorcycle Museum of Iceland: If the rain is too much for you, Akureyri offers a host of museums and attractions, most within walking distance of the port. If you spend your weekends riding the road, you'll appreciate the Motorcycle Museum of Iceland, which dives into the history of hogs on the island, in a building that was especially designed to house the bikes (Krokeyri 2; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily June 1 to August 31)
Botanical Garden: The Botanical Garden is the northernmost park of its kind in the world, with 430 native plants and 6,600 other species (Eyrarlandsholt; open8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from June 1 to September 30)
On Foot: Akureyri is extremely walkable. The town center is less than 10 minutes from the cruise port.
By Taxi: Taxis, located on the street across from the cruise terminal parking lot, are available for two- to six-hour private tours. Prices are displayed on a street placard and include gratuity; Iceland is not a tipping culture.
By Car: The Lake Myvatn area has many sites you can visit on your own if you have a car. Europcar has a rental office within the cruise terminal, and familiar brands such as Dollar, Thrifty, Budget and Avis are a short walk away (as well as the Icelandic company Icelandcar). Reservations are recommended in the prime summer months (June, July and August).
Prepare yourself for sticker shock if you eat off the ship. Iceland's food is notoriously expensive. Seafood and lamb are staples in this agricultural land surrounded by sea, and the soups made from these ingredients make a particularly satisfying (and warming) lunch, especially when served with hunks of delicious brown bread. If you're an adventurous eater, you'll want to seek out hakari, fermented (rotten) shark that's often served with brennivin, a clear spirit. If the ammonia taste and smell of the shark don't make you gag, the strong licorice flavor of the drink will.
Alaska Mini Mart: For a quick snack, the Alaska Mini Mart has smoothies and interesting paninis (chicken, mango and peanut sauce), as well as sodas and convenience store staples, at wallet-friendly prices. (Radhustorg 3; open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily)
Simstooin Cafe: This spot is located on Hafnarstaeti, Akureyri's main pedestrian shopping street. With a fish of the day and a raw food of the day, it's a good choice for those with food allergies. Plus, it has free Wi-Fi. (Hafnarstraeti 102; open 9a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily)
Blaa Kannan: Also on Hafnarstaeti, cozy Blaa Kannan offers delicious pastries and coffee, as well as fresh-baked bread and hearty soups for lunch. (Hafnarstaeti 96; open 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily)
Rub 23: Across the street from the church, Rub 23 has a trendy mix of seafood and sushi (including minke whale, a somewhat controversial dish). The restaurant is tops on TripAdvisor and features an intriguing "sushi pizza" made with Arctic char. (Kaupvangsstraeti 6; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays)
Strikid: If you're looking for a restaurant with a view, Strikid offers heartier meals than the cafes on Hafnarstaeti. Icelandic specialties include langoustines, pan-fried cod, slow-cooked lamb shank and -- occasionally -- fermented shark. (Skipagata 14; open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily)
Where You're Docked
Akureyri's cruise terminal is sheltered within Iceland's longest fjord, Eyjafjordur. The dock can handle up to three ships at a time.
Watch Out For
It's not called Iceland for nothing; bring lots of layers, as well as a hat and scarf, because the wind can make the air feel much chillier than the temperature reads.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Currency is the Icelandic krona; prices are given in ISK (if you're from the U.S., you'll find them startlingly high, particularly for food). For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. Several banks, including Landsbankinn (1 Strandgotu) and Islandbanki (14 Skipagotu), have ATMs. Almost all shops and restaurants take credit cards.
Icelandic is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. But don't worry: Everyone in the tourist trade speaks English.
Icelandic woolen goods are top rate (as they should be, given the extreme winds that can chill to the bone even in summer). Find the sweater of your dreams at The Viking (104 Hafnarstraeti) or at the upscale Icelandic clothing chain Geysir (98 Hafnarstraeti). Expect to pay several hundred dollars for a good quality sweater, although sales are common when cruise ships are in port. For purchases totaling more than 4,000 Icelandic kronas, you can also reclaim 15 percent in tax from representatives at the pier if it's your last stop in Iceland (or at the airport); make sure you keep your receipts.
Akureyri: Celebrity EclipsekirbymuxloePretty little port. Just walked around the little shops. Not a lot to do but worth the stop. ... Read more
Akureyri: Celebrity EclipseGeeAeeA basic port with shops. Quite a few souvenir shops. It seemed like the only people walking around were from the ship. ... Read more
Akureyri: Caribbean PrincessLcas04The excursions were very expensive and the weather was very cold... not an attractive prospect. ... Read more
Akureyri: RotterdamsworksjrWatch for whales when coming in and leaving. ... Read more
Akureyri: Caribbean PrincessTipperaryQuiet town to wander around and get fell of the place. ... Read more
Akureyri: Serenade of the SeasmrsmacadamWe walked around but would have enjoyed the port much better if we had known that the CITY BUSES ARE FREE!!!! When we found out we took one twice. If we're there again, we'll study the different lines to see where all they go. The one we took made a ... Read more
Akureyri: Caribbean PrincessWoobstr112GSelf walking photo tour. ... Read more
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