The second-largest city in Iceland after Reykjavik, Akureyri (pronounced auk-ur-rey-ri) is situated in the northern part of the country, just 61 miles from the Arctic Circle. Despite that, Akureyri hasa relatively mild climate and is known for its ice-free harbor and its geothermally-heated surface that allows the city’s Botanical Garden to grow year-round. A small, picturesque town, Akureyri’s crime rate is so low that the city only has five police officers. Cruise ships dock on the northern edge of town, but the stroll to the main downtown center, along the inner harbor, takes less than 10 minutes.
What We Love
Icelandic Culture: Just because it’s a small town doesn’t mean that all you’ll find here are tourist shops. In fact, downtown Akureyri has dozens of independent, locally-owned bars and restaurants.
Brennivín: For a real cultural experience (particularly on a cloudy day, of which Akureyri has plenty of), pop into a local bar for a shot of Brennivín, Iceland’s clear, unsweetened schnapps. (It bears a strong resemblance to Scandinavian Aquavit.) Unexported to the rest of the world until 2014, it is known as the “Black Death” for its strong, 80-proof (40% alcohol) potency. Skál!
Best Known For
Akureyri Botanical Gardens: First opened in 1912 and expanded in 1957, the garden is an easy walk from downtown. One of the northernmost botanical gardens in the world, it contain roughly 6600 alien species, and over 400 native Icelandic species. It also offers superb views of the rural countryside.
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Who It's Best For
Adventurous Travelers: Akureyri is a fantastic, off-the-beaten path cruise port of call that’s sure to appeal to travelers looking for an authentic Icelandic experience.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It Will Be Cloudy: Though you can luck out with a beautifully sunny day, Akureyri spends much of its year shrouded in clouds, thanks to its near-Arctic location in the North Atlantic.
Aaron Saunders is a Calgary-based contributor to ShermansCruise.com.