Last year my husband and I decided that a visit to Iceland was in order and we found a cruise that stopped in Reykjavik for two days and Akureyri for one day. Knowing little about Akureyri, we were excited to see this new and mysterious place. Located in northern Iceland and set at the base of the Eyjafjörður Fjord, Akureyri is located in a region that is both picturesque and rugged. Although billed as a city, we found it to be more of a walk-able town with expensive offerings and high prices attached to food and drinks.
We arrived on a September day that had the perfect temperature for walking. Our ship docked at 10am and we had until 8pm to wander the town or venture further afield.
Prior to our departure, we researched what we wanted to see and do at this port stop. We had discussed taking a tour of the nearby hot springs but in the end we decided that we would simply get off the ship and walk around. I had made a list of things I wanted to see and aside from the first place on the list, all were within striking distance from the dock.
First up was the Christmas House, Jolahusid. As we both enjoy Christmas, we have purchased Christmas decorations from all over the world and a place in Iceland, dedicated to Christmas, seemed like a perfect place to start our sightseeing. We decided that we would take a taxi to the shop. After disembarking, we located the nearest (and only), taxi and asked how much it would cost to go to the Christmas House. The taxi driver informed us that it would cost us $200USD to take his taxi to the Christmas House and back. Having looked up the distance before we set sail, I knew that our destination was about 12 kilometers away (about 7 1/2 miles), from the port. His quoted price seemed incredibly steep to us so we suspected that the taxi driver might be trying to take advantage of ship’s passengers by inflating his rates. We took a pass on taking that taxi and continued walking towards the center of Akureyri.
Getting nothing on my ride sharing app, we continued walking and by accident found the place that actually housed the local taxi business. We entered and enquired about the rates to the Christmas House. Much to our surprise, we were given a similar price and told that taxis were “expensive” in Akureyri. We were told that price would mean we would have the taxi for an hour and if we went over an hour, the rate doubled. No Christmas decoration was worth that to us so we continued on our way. We believe that the Christmas House might want to put on a shuttle bus when the cruise ships arrived in order to get the customers out to their premises.
Having opted out of the rather expensive taxi ride, and unwilling to walk the 24km there and back, we chose to trek along to the main street so we could at least tour the Akureyri Church which was next up on my list. Located in the center of the town and up a hill, you can access the front door by climbing a large number of steps. I had read about the stained-glass windows (which are reported to portray scenes from Icelandic history), so I was determined to go up the stairs and see the inside of the church. Upon arrival at the top, I found the church was locked and not accessible. Ah, another item to strike off my places to visit list. I was zero for two on the day.
The view from the front of the church is lovely. We could see the ship in the fjord so we had our photo taken and spent some time admiring the scenic lookout. Next up on the list was the Akureyri Art Museum but we soon found that it too was closed. So far the top three items on my list were all non-starters but I had high hopes for the Botanical Garden. I felt that it would offer some interesting information on growing hardy plants since it is located so close to the Arctic Circle (about 50 kilometres). Following a short tour of the garden, we headed to Nonni's house and the Akureyri Museum. Nonni was a Jesuit priest from Akureyri who talked and wrote about his life as a boy in Akureyri and Eyjafjörður. Those stories were later published around the world. Unfortunately for us, Nonni's house was closed.
Next up was the Akureyri museum which is easily toured within a short period of time but offers some excellent information on Iceland and its history. For those looking for a deal, you can obtain a 24 hour museum pass that is good for all four Akureyri museums.
For the remainder of our time there, we contented ourselves with walking around the town, visiting shops and chatting with people we met. Prices were high and the souvenir pickings were slim. The only thing I saw that was free was a "Brain Wash" (see photo).
As a port stop Akureyri was disappointing and we eventually gave up and walked back to the ship. The people who live and work in Akureyri were great and they, in my opinion, are what made this port stop interesting. If we visit again, we will arrange to rent a vehicle and drive outside the city to take in the natural wonders.
For any information on this or other port stops, please feel free to contact me. A special thank you to Monty Malloy for allowing me to use some of his photos. He and his wife Annette are excellent travelling companions and they are the ones who tried the Icelandic hot dogs.