Akureyri, Iceland

2024, Iceland, International

On this return visit to Iceland the two of us were positively entranced with Akureyri, the capital of the north. With a population of about 19,000 people, it’s big enough to have interesting things to do but small enough that visitors feel welcomed. Our first foray out was on the Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion Nature, Folk, and Flora in which we boarded a bus and headed out across the Icelandic landscape. Our tour guide pointed out one of the manmade features in this incredible natural landscape, the Vaðlaheiðargöng, a mountain tunnel opened in 2018 although we took the more scenic, and in winter, more treacherous mountain road on our way to the spectacular Goðafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods. Since three tour buses arrived almost simultaneously, we definitely did not have the place to ourselves. There was a lot of jockeying for an opportunity for a selfie. But we did find a few places where we could look out and ponder the magnificence of this place where a thousand years ago Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi, a spiritual leader, marked the beginning of the Christian era in Iceland by discarding his Old Gods into this waterfall. Our next stop was the Laufás Turf House in Eyjafjörður. As part of The National Museum of Iceland it’s a particularly large turf house that was part of a wealthy vicarage and productive farm. The oldest part dates to 1840 and was continuously inhabited until 1936. Except for its size it’s typical of the predominant housing in Iceland until about a hundred years ago. As we wandered through the warren of rooms we realized it could be quite comfortable to have such good insulation in such a frigid climate. Along the way our tour guide spoke a bit about the Icelandic sheep and lambs  and about the small Icelandic horses or ponies. It was interesting to learn that Icelandic law prevents the importation of any other horses or the return of any Icelandic horse that leaves the country in order to maintain the purity of the breed.  Our last stop on the tour was the Akureyri Botanic Gardens, Iceland’s first public park founded more than a hundred years ago. Our visit was quite early in the growing season so we enjoyed seeing some of the early spring blooms but many other plants were still in hibernation. We took the opportunity to visit the Lyst Cafe there in the gardens for a cup of tea and to share a delicious unidentified pastry and enjoy a bit of people watching before boarding the bus for the ride back to the ship. Since this was an overnight stay, we had the opportunity to walk off the ship and into town again after dinner. We wandered for a bit then visited the local bookstore where we could sit down and get a bit of cell signal giving us the chance to take care of some personal business. The next day we were out bright and early for a taxi ride just across the bridge to Forest Lagoon, a most delightful geothermal spa. We were there when they opened their doors for the day and luxuriated in the infinity pools filled with natural hot water with views of forest and fjord all around. After a taxi ride back into the town centre we stopped by one of the shops for a bit more Icelandic wool to take with us for future spinning projects before making the easy walk back to the ship. All in all we were impressed with this community in the north of Iceland. Since most people traditionally lived in turf houses until the 20th Century, all the architecture is quite modern. Should we return to Iceland for a visit in the future, we’d likely base our visit in Akureyri. The next day we docked in Reykjavik and we took the opportunity for a return walkabout in the city centre. We popped back into one of the shops we’ve visited three weeks ago. Next we popped in at Salka Valka Eldhús-Kitchen where we delighted in Rum Hot Chocolate, Herring on Sweet Ryebread, and Fish Soup. Most yummy indeed. We wandered a bit more appreciating the public art – sculptures, murals, and landscaping then made our way back to our floating home. Back on board we learned from friends that there’d been a new volcanic eruption on the Grindavík Peninsula since our last visit and that lava flow had to be cleared from the only road in and that although Blue Lagoon was open they were provided with evacuation instructions and warned by the cruise company of the risks of traveling to that area. For us, we were glad we’d not planned a Blue Lagoon visit but had enjoyed Forest Lagoon back in Akureyki! Iceland is lovely, the people are friendly, the landscape is phenomenal, and the landmass is ever growing.

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