Akureyri, Iceland

Photo: Hótel Akureyri

Goðafoss, a spectacular waterfall. Grímsey, an island that straddles the Arctic Circle. Hrísey, another island that’s a bird lover’s paradise. Mývatn, the volcanic lake. Viti, a large crater filled with blue water. You’re finally putting your North Iceland wish list together.

It’s taken you way too long to visit Iceland’s northern coast. It’s not like this is your first trip to the Nordic country. Far from it. Over the last decade, you’ve taken advantage of Icelandair’s free stopover program to explore Reykjavík, the south coast, and the western peninsulas. You aren’t sure that you’re ready to circle the entire country on the Ring Road yet. That shouldn’t stop you from continuing to explore Iceland in sections.

Akureyri is an easy home base for this trip. The Capital of the North is the country’s second-largest city. It sits at the end of Eyjafjörður, one of Iceland’s longest fjords, and along the famous 828-mile road. Though 242 miles from Reykjavík, it’s connected by constant flights throughout the day. Plus it’s a well-established hub for all the excursions you’re already planning.

Photo: Hótel Akureyri

You’re getting ahead of yourself, though. You should slow down and get comfortable before your day trips begin. The Vikings first arrived in Akureyri in the 9th century. They found a narrow strip of land, surrounded by mountains, in a picturesque fjord. They didn’t stay. A permanent settlement with wooden houses wasn’t established until 1778. The harbor, which remains ice-free all year thanks to the city’s relatively mild climate, became important for both the Allies during World War II and the fishing industry. Cruise ships now line the waterfront all summer.

But you won’t be joining them on the water. You’ll stay a block inland at a new hotel. Hótel Akureyri isn’t one big building. Its rooms and apartments are spread across four buildings on two different streets. Your selection, Hótel Akureyri Dynheimar, is in a historic cinema and printing factory from the 1920s. It’s been renovated to have a vintage vibe and views of the fjord.

The hotel’s rooms are small but well designed. Your MicroSuite features a turntable, a record collection, and even a guitar. There’s a cozy lounge and a casual bar downstairs. Breakfast includes addictive wild berry jam. Happy hour starts every evening. While Katholska Kirkjan (the Catholic Church), the Akureyri Theatre Company, and the Akureyri Botanical Garden are just a short walk away. You’re ready to conquer the north.

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