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Iceland’s second largest town, Akureyri is considered by many to be the capital of the country’s North. Some 18,000 people live here, so by most European standards it is hardly a city and more of a town, but it has some exciting sightseeing options and beautiful natural surroundings.
Whale-watching is one of the most important tourist activities on this part of the island, as the proximity to Arctic waters means that a lot of different whale species are swimming in the area, from the hunchback to majestic blue whales. Going on a whale-watching trip can take up a pretty large part of the day, since most tours last for around three hours. Most companies also provide extra clothing for their clients, meaning that they can sit back and enjoy the trip without having to worry about the rain or the cold winds.
Arctic Botanical Gardens
These are the world’s northernmost botanical gardens, founded in 1912, and one of Akureyri’s gems. The gardens are known for their extensive plant collection, encompassing almost every known species in Iceland as well as thousands from overseas. Beautiful paths lead visitors around it and provide for wonderful scenery. The gardens are free to visit; a great plan for one of Iceland’s sunnier days.
Godafoss, or ‘the Gods’ waterfall’, is a beautiful natural creation close to Akureyri. Its name derives from an historical episode in which the ruler of the region decided to dump all of the Icelandic pagan statuettes and symbols into the waterfall to symbolize the fact that they were leaving behind that faith and turning to Christianity. The waterfall is easily accessible from a nearby car park, so not much walking is necessary to enjoy the magnificent views.
Northern Lights tour
The Northern Lights are one of the major reasons behind tourism in Iceland, since tourists flock here to observe this natural wonder throughout the winter months, despite the harsh weather conditions. Taking a tour to see them in Akureyri is a great and safe way of trying to see this phenomenon, since Akureyri is very far north and does not have a huge population, the probability of seeing them from here is higher than in other areas around Reykjavik.
This museum is quite small, but it is nevertheless fascinating. It hosts different exhibitions which change relatively often, so visitors never know what to expect, as the work on show can vary from contemporary art to fashion exhibits. The permanent collection has a variety of Icelandic maps, and some objects explaining Akureyri’s history, with English explanations for the most part, so visitors will be able to get some background information on this part of the island.