Akureyri: Iceland’s northern capital

We are on our way from Lake Mývatn to Akureyri. Just out of Lake Mývatn we stop to view Goðafoss, waterfall of the gods, and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.

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Goðafoss

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After visiting so many small towns, it feels kind of strange to drive into Iceland’s ‘Northern capital’ Akureyri; the town of around 20,000 people feels massive in comparison. Akureyri at once feels fun and welcoming. A wide variety of cafes and restaurants line the streets among art galleries and gift shops. We take a stroll through the main shopping strip, Hafnarstræti. In  Te & Kaffi, a cafe-cum-bookstore, I purchased a book on Icelandic magical symbols, we then headed to another cafe for coffee and donuts, then visited a gift shop run by an older Icelandic lady who knits traditional woolen jumpers, beanies and the like for sale. I purchase a beautiful grey woolen jumper in the traditional style and achieve the status of ‘peak tourist’.

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Exploring Akureyri
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Creamy mochas at Te & Kaffi
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The best jumper I have ever bought

In the afternoon we drive 15 minutes north of town to Skjaldarvík Guesthouse and join another couple for a 2-hour horse ride. I’ve been enamoured with Icelandic horses since I first saw a picture of them: these beautiful short, stocky creatures with shaggy hair and manes. Our guide picked us each a horse based on the horse’s personality and our abilities as riders (me a beginner, Pete with more experience) and we ambled off down the road. My horse, Kleina, was described as lazy and I needed to give her a bit of a nudge every now and then to keep up with the group. When we shifted to a faster pace, she got moving quite quickly and I had to ask for advice on not slipping off the horse. When we returned back to the farm, we took pictures with our horses and were invited out the back to where the other horses could enter the stables. Around 10 horses rushed up to us expecting food, but all I could give were pats and exclamations of, ‘Oh my god, they’re all so lovely!’ After tearing myself away from the horses we headed back to town.

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For dinner we made our way to a small cafe, then hit Götubarinn bar, famous for its wide selection of beers. I had what would become my new favourite: Einstök white with a slice of orange. We also tried the infamous Icelandic schnapps, Brennivín. We were at the bar very early by Icelandic standards (around 9pm). Icelanders don’t start their nights until much later, so it was only just starting to fill up when we left.

The following day, we made our way to the Hlíðarfjall ski fields, about 15 minutes outside of town. We signed up for snowboarding lessons and collected out rental gear. Our instructor is a very sweet man with dental braces (whose name I have forgotten, sadly). He patiently coached us in the basics of snowboarding on the children’s ski slope. In hindsight, we should have chosen something easier to learn (i.e. skiing) for a one-day trip to the snow, as snowboarding was definitely more difficult to learn than it looks. We fell over regularly and struggled with making turns. Our lesson lasted an hour and a half. We stayed a bit longer, took a snack break, then headed back to the children’s slope for another hour or so. It was a great day on the mountain, it only snowed a little, and we didn’t get too cold until later in the day. By about 3pm we were beat, and definitely bruised, so we returned our rental gear and headed back to the hotel.

That evening we went to Bautinn Restaurant for dinner, where Pete tried an Icelandic fish dish. I had a soup and salad deal, something which I came across often in Iceland, but the soup was obviously of the canned variety, so not the best meal of my life. We rested in the hotel room for a bit before rugging up to seek out the northern lights. We had incredible conditions and saw a stunning aurora display – more on that in a future post.

– Lauren.

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