Lonely Planet has crowned Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland, as the top destination in Europe to visit this summer. The travel publisher says it put its Europe-based editors to work on what they saw to be the top destination this summer. Akureyri and the nature highlights surrounding the North Iceland area topped the list.
Akureyri has a population of just 18,000 people but it is the heart of North Iceland and lures travelers with its local food and culture. Akureyri is a great base for exploring the local area, including Lake Mývatn where Game of Thrones ‘beyond the wall’ takes place, Goðafoss, the ‘waterfalls of the gods’ and the fishing village of Siglufjörður.
Arnheiður Jóhannsdóttir, managing director of Visit North Iceland, is thrilled with the accolades.
“We are proud to hear that Lonely Planet has seen the potential in North Iceland and Akureyri which is an area that has been growing in popularity during the past few years. We have many of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions, such as Lake Mývatn, Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, and in Grímsey island you can cross the Arctic Circle. The area is very versatile and has been attracting visitors during summer and also in wintertime when the magical northern lights dance in the sky and you can enjoy watching seals, whales, birds, ski in nature, take on exciting jeep tours or simply enjoy the icy landscape.”
Here’s a sampling of sightseeing highlights in Akureyri:
The Akureyri church, a Lutheran church, was designed by architect Gudjon Samuelsson and consecrated in 1940. High on a hill in town, it’s a can’t-miss and must-see icon of Akureyri culture.
Old town showcases the history of early Akureyri. See the old theatre, the old Primary School , and the Old Hospital built in 1827, the first two-storied house raised in Iceland and the oldest building in Akureyri, the Laxdalshús, built in 1795. The area also has several museums.
The Akureyri Botanical Garden is popular with the local population and visitors. A wide variety of both Icelandic and foreign flora is to be found there and new species are always being added to the collection.
Gásir, about 12 miles north of Akureyri on the shore of Eyjafjörður, is a unique place. It was a trading post in the Middle Ages and is mentioned many times in Old Icelandic Sagas from the 13th and 14th centuries. Archaeological digging in the area during the last six years has shown that it was a trading post up to the 16th century, possibly until trading started in Akureyri.