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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Akureyri town in north Iceland

Updated: May 13

Akureyri town center
Akureyri has a charming town center

Akureyri is in the northern region and the largest town in Iceland outside Reykjavík and the Capital City area. The estimated population in January 2022 is fast approaching 20 thousand inhabitants. Akureyri is also one of the few places around the coastline that formed a cluster of houses as early as the 17th century, and it eventually developed into a town. If you travel the Ring Road, you will drive through Akureyri, and it is a must to stop in this beautiful town at least for a day and night. The location is close to some of the most spectacular natural wonders in Iceland: Jökulsárgljúfur, Dettifoss Waterfall, Goðafoss Waterfall, Dimmuborgir’s spectacular lava field, and Námaskarð’s geothermal hot springs, to name a few. In a historical sense, you could say that the town is a product of the Danish-Icelandic trade monopoly and came into existence as a cluster of houses or hamlet when merchants from Denmark got exclusive permission to trade in the Eyjafjörður fjord region. Trading began in the first decade of the 17th century.

Akureyri is on the North East on the Map of Iceland
Akureyri is on the North East on the Map of Iceland

Trading, merchants, and agriculture

Hof Cultural Center Akureyri
Hof Cultural Center in Akureyri

Since the 17th century, trading and merchants have been the center of the town’s economy and development. It is also in the heart of one of Iceland’s most fertile agricultural regions; thus, it is an excellent place to trade from early on. Trading developed both from entrepreneurs and the Coop Society, labeled KEA, and for years, Akureyri was one of the main strongholds and heart of the Coop Society in Iceland. Since many of the merchant trading in Akureyri throughout the 18th and 19th century came from Denmark, Akureyri became a Danish town in the minds of Icelanders. At that time, Iceland was part of the Danish crown, so there is little wonder that Danish influence was visible in houses and culture and still is. As a result, Akureyri is still labeled in Iceland as a kind of Danish town in a very positive way.

Fish and fish processing are significant economic contributors

Old houses in Akureyri
Old houses in Akureyri

Although Akureyri has an extensive operation in the fish industry today and is home to one of the strongest and largest fishing companies in Iceland, Samherji, fishing didn’t start until the 20th century. Even though Akureyri has had excellent natural conditions for a harbor and excellent fishing grounds in the fjord throughout the centuries, of all the towns and villages in Iceland outside Reykjavík, Akureyri is one of the most fascinating for many other reasons. Firstly, it is an old town with houses and buildings from various times in attractive neighborhoods. Secondly, many of the most beautiful homes built in Iceland in the first half of the 20th century are in Akureyri. Thirdly, it is a town where the preservation of the environment and respect for history ranks high. Akureyri is a delightful town to visit and a wonderful town to live in. Strolling the city center and taking a few hours to walk around the city center neighborhoods is highly recommended.

Akureyri is simply a great town

Skiing slopes in Akureyri
The best skiing slopes in Iceland you will find in Akureyri

I love to visit Akureyri in summer and winter and have done so regularly for at least four decades. I go there at least twice every year: in summer to enjoy the beautiful town and the climate in the winter, to ski, as Akureyri has the best skiing slopes in Iceland. Akureyri has one of the best climates of any town in Iceland. Like most of the towns and villages in our country, education has always been a priority. The first-grade school was built in 1847. For decades, the town has offered primary, secondary, and high school education. Today, Akureyri also has a university with interesting faculties. There are also many kindergartens in Akureyri and good care for the elderly, so they care for their youngest and oldest. There is also a hospital and good health care in Akureyri. The town is considered to be a pleasant place to live in and offers overall good service for the residents. There are many interesting museums in Akureyri that are worth visiting, and one is the Botanical Garden, where you can learn about all the flowers and trees available in Iceland. Akureyri has a good variety of restaurants and cafés, a good selection of accommodations, and a great camping site within walking distance from the town. It is a town that highly appreciates culture and art and is one of the more exciting places in Iceland to visit in winter for a glimpse of the northern lights


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