Iceland – To do in Akureyri

Akureyri unique cabin from Airbnb, Iceland Budget Travel

Akureyri is the second biggest city in Iceland and located in the center of the northern coastline. I am here to make the case for visiting Akureyri in winter and what you can do there. The biggest reason for visiting is that you are driving away from the crowds of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and the southeastern coast. With fewer options to go inland for hiking and camping, but still a large number of tourists, these areas are insanely busy. 

The north, northeast, and eastern sides of Iceland tend to be quieter as they are harder to reach. My friend, who drove the ring road, said her favorite portion was driving through the north and northeastern parts of country. You also have a likelier chance of booking unique accommodations that are still available. Below you can find things to do, but first, here is a mini-vid showcasing some of the beautiful landscapes in the north!


GoogleMaps says it takes 4.5 hours from Reykjavik to Akureyri, but I would plan on closer to 6 hours, once you stop at all the incredible vistas and take in the sites. The drive itself is absolutely stunning it is worthwhile to see a different topography than the south coast. If the weather is holding and you have extra time, you could stop by or make a detour to visit an outdoor swimming pool or hot pot. Check out this website to see where hot pots and swimming pools are located. Here are a few pictures of the drive to and from Akureyri.


Not sure if this is completely legal, but an absolute delight is to find a very safe area to pull over and visit the horses. The Icelandic horses are majestic furry beings that withstand the freezing winds throughout the day. I nearly screamed with joy when we stopped to visit a few Icelandic horses. They are furry and adorable up close as they are far away. Unsure if vegan snacks would be appropriate, we erred on the safe side and did not feed them anything. This is something to do in Akureyri or anywhere in Iceland – the horses are ubiquitous part of the landscape. So precious, my heart exploded!

VISIT Goðafoss

If you do not yet have gorgeous waterfall fatigue, I highly recommend visiting Goðafoss, which is another 45 minute drive out of Akureyri. We hit Goðafoss at sunset, when the sky turned pink and purple. The falls themselves are absolutely stunning, plus while we were there, we only saw about 7 other people. The lack of people was a feat compared to the dozens of people at the sites along the south coast.


Although we didn’t make it to Myvatn, I imagine it would be delightful to warm up after a day of exploring and petting horses. Check out my blog post about lagooning in winter for my thoughts about the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and other hot spring type experiences. 


Take the opportunity of being so far north to get an Airbnb a bit out of town for some quality views of the Northern Lights. Check out my Aurora Huntress post for tips. We saw the Aurora Borealis from a distance, while we stayed near Akureyri. A picture of our unique accommodations (and best host ever!) is at the top of this post.


Still looking for something to do in Akureyri during winter? Why not hit the slopes? I researched and found out that Akureyri is one of the best locations to go skiing in the country! Not necessarily a great location for challenging double or triple black diamond runs. But I think it would be a unique experience to ski without many trees – just imagine how much you could see!! And great snow, of course.


Also a contender for the best-designed event venue is the Hof Cultural and Conference Center. Be sure to check the listings to see if something peaks your interest. It is located right on the water of the bay, its location is as well thought out as its design. The design complements the landscape and feel of Akureyri, just as Harpa complements Reykjavik.


Since you’re going to have a long day outside or have been outside for a while, slow down and enjoy a cup of coffee at a coffee shop in town. We tried to go to the Botanic Garden, but it was not open in winter (still a beautiful building) and instead visited Te & Kaffi right downtown. This was a pleasant surprise of locals – teenage girls studying for class, a family with two little girls drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream, and two older gentlemen reading the newspaper.

What other things did I miss in the north during winter?

Happy travels,


Coffee Shop, Akureyri, Iceland

What are your thoughts?