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Akureyri bustling with life - Akureyri bustles with life the year round. The town’s 16,000 residents make it the most populous town by far outside the capital city area. Akureyri is an entrepreneuri- al and service centre for all of North Iceland. Two of Iceland’s largest fisheries companies operate there, and the tourism industry is always growing in import- ance. Akureyri is a stone’s throw from many of Iceland’s natural treasures, and the town is a popular place for shorter or longer stops. An estimated 180,000 tourists visit the town each year.
Culture & the arts
The town’s museums are an inexhaustible so- urce of lore, beauty and entertainment. Artists’ Alley is one of the Akureyri’s most colourful neig- hbourhoods; its exhibitions have won deserved attention. The Folk Museum boasts remarkable exhibits, providing an entertaining perspective on the settled area’s development from the arrival of the first settlers to the present. The Town of Akureyri has fostered some of Iceland’s most beloved writers, such as Davíd Stefánsson, Matthías Jochumsson and Jón Sveinsson (Nonni). Commemorative museums and an information centre are operated in the town: Davídshús, Sigurhædir and Nonnahús. Among other things, Matthías Jochumsson wrote the poem providing the verses of the Iceland’s National Anthem, and Jón Sveinsson is one of Iceland’s most famous authors abroad. Other museums are worth mentioning, such as the Flight Museum and Museum of Industry, and two of the town’s most outstanding institutions, the Akureyri Theatre , the only professional theatre outside the capital city area, and the North Iceland Symphony, should not be forgotten.
Summer Art Fest
Each year there is a programme of culture and art called Summer Art Fest , which runs from mid-June to the end of August. This provides a colla- borative platform for those organising cultural events in Akureyri during the summer. The Fest opens the way for those wanting to stage cultural events in the town at this time, and the arts society Gilfélagid and the board of Summer Art Fest organise various events. The high point of Summer Art Fest is the Akureyri Arts Vigil held at the end of August. There, all the stops are pulled out and people enjoy fun and culture till the wee hours.
The centre of cultural life in Akur- eyri is on Kaup- vangsstræti, which curves through Grófargil in the middle of Akureyri. This street’s nickname is Artists’ Alley. These include the Akureyri Art Museum, the Ak- ureyri School of Visual Arts, and North Iceland artists’ studios, smaller galleries, restaurants, the multipurpose Deiglan and Ketilhús and guest studios for artists coming from all over.
Getting to & Leaving Akureyri
All communications to the town are easy, whether by air or land. Air Iceland has scheduled flights many times a day from Reykjavik, and Nordurleid buses run on the 380-kilometre route between Akureyri and Reykjavik.
Relaxation & Entertainment
Nature and outdoor recreation - There is contiguous open area around Akureyri where the biosphere and landscape are extremely diverse, and vegetation in many places is especially lush. In this regard, the Ós- hólmur area of the Eyjafjarðará River south of the town, Krossanesborgir north of the Glerárthorp area and Kjarna- skógur Wood, which is part of a forested, recreational area planned to surround the Town of Akureyri. Walking paths lie throughout Kjarnaskógur, and there is playground equip- ment, resting spots and barbecue facilities. Glerá River flows through Glerárdalur Valley, and its landscape is varied. Those desiring longer, guided hikes can turn to the Akur- eyri Touring Club, which offers numerous, organised hikes during the summer and cross-country skiing during the wint- er. Also, horses can be rented for a special way to ex- perience the area’s nature. One of Akur- eyri’s gems, it was founded by women in 1911, and it conta- ins nearly every plant found in Iceland as well as about 4,000 foreign plants.
Swimming and golf - The Akureyri Swimming Pool is one of the most popular pools in the country; every year about 300,000 people go there. The pool area has a 25-m competition swimming pool along with four geothermal hot pots, a Turkish bath, wa- terslides, a children’s pool as well as an indoor and outdoor pool. Next to the pool is a family garden with popular playground equipment. In the Glerá School Sports Centre there is also a good indoor pool. Akureyri has the northernmost, 18-hole golf course in the world, called Jadarvöllur.
Winter Sports Centre of Iceland - Eyjafjördur Fjord is one of the best places in Iceland for cross-country and downhill skiing. The Town of Akureyri and the Icelandic government began collaborating on the oper- ation of the Winter Sports Centre of Iceland in 1995. Akur- eyri’s ski slopes, which are on Mt. Hlídarfell, 5 km above the town, are in many ways unique. There are also magnificent ice-skating facilities.
Interesting tours - Very popular, guided tours leave from Akureyri year-round to the Lake Mývatn area as well as Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon and Dettifoss Falls. There are many beautiful and fascinating sites near the town, and letting others see to the driving while you listen to knowledgeable guides enhances the tours. There are many interesting spots near Akureyri. Below, a few are mentioned:
Eyjafjördur Fjord - The entire fjord offers many opportunities for relaxation and fun. Interesting museums can be found throughout the fjord, including the Svalbardsströnd Museum, and a short way from Akureyri in Eyjafjardarsveit are Smámunasafnid (Museum of Small Things) and Santa Claus House. Whether you want to go horseback riding, sailing, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, jeeping or sightseeing by plane, Eyjafjördur has it all.
Hrísey Island (20 km) - You drive from Akureyri through Arnarneshreppur Parish. In the farthest part of the parish is Fagriskógur Farm, the birthplace of the poet Davíd Stefansson. A ferry runs from Ár-skógssandur to Hrísey. There are beautiful hiking paths around the island, and it teems with a diversity of birds.
Vaglaskógur Wood (34 km) - Vaglaskógur Wood lies in Fnjóskadalur Valley east of Vadlaheid; it is the second biggest, natural wood in Iceland. The path into the wood lies through Víkurskard, but in the summer the old highway over Vadlaheidi Fell is open. There is a beautiful view from there over Akureyri and Eyjafjördur Fjord.
Grímsey Island - You can reach Grímsey Island by boat or airplane. The Arctic Circle runs through the island, and the birds are extremely diverse. Various species of seabirds nest there in the cliffs, and there are a lot of Arctic terns.
Godafoss Falls (40 km) - Godafoss Falls, which are very high, are one of the most beautiful falls in Iceland. Not far above the falls Skjálfanda- fljót River divides in two around the isle of Hrútey. The blanket of lava along Godafoss, Bárdardalshraun, flowed from Trolladyngja crater north of Vatnajökull Glacier. The lava is ancient, more than 7000 years old. It flowed more than 100 km from its source. The name Godafoss comes from when Thorgeir Ljós- vetningagodi, who was charged with deciding whether Icelanders would remain heathen or adopt Christianity, threw the columns symbolising the heathen religion into the falls, thereby rejecting it.
Mývatnssveit (90 km) - Mývatnssveit is on the edge of an active volcanic belt, and volcanic activity has been high in the region. Lake Mý- vatn is world-famous for its birds, and the countryside has innumerable paths offering many sights. Worth mentioning are Grjótagjá, Dimmuborgir, Hverfjall, Vindbelgjarfjall, Höfdi and Skútustadagígar. On the way from Akureyri to Mývatnssveit, there are many interesting sites. People frequently stop at Godafoss, mentioned previously, which is just off the highway at Foss- hól Farm in Bárdardalur.
Akureyri - the town on the fjord: No clear historical reference is made to Akureyri until 1562. The town’s name is ancient, related to the cultivation of fields (akur), but its growth was initially closely tied to trading and the export of agricultural products. In 1787 a trade monopoly for Iceland was abolished, and Akureyri was one of six trading towns in the country getting market town rights on the occasion. Danes or merchants related to Danes generally handled the trade since Iceland was under the Dan- ish crown. During their long stay, Danes contributed many things to the people of Akureyri, such as potato gardens, for- estry, architecture and culture. The original “Akureyri” is a small gravel bank below Búdargil formed from the deposits of a brook flowing through the gulley. The market town’s first settled area was built there, and the town’s oldest house, Laxdalshús at Hafnarstræti 11, is right there. The house was built in 1795. Oddeyri, the second-oldest part of the town, was an ancient meeting place and assembly site. Oddeyri is mentioned in Víga-Glúm’s Saga and Ljósvetninga Saga.
Jón Arason, the last Catholic Bishop of Iceland, and his sons were convicted of treason there, and their property was confiscated by the King in 1551. The operations of the Gránu- félag Company were in Oddeyri. Founded in 1872, Gránufé- lag conducted Icelanders’ first commerce from Akureyri. For a long time Akureyri’s northern boundary was the Glerá River, and the settlement there, called Glerá Village, was outside the town. However, it was incorporated into the Town of Akureyri in 1995 and its name changed to the Glerá District.
Extensive cultivation - The people of Akureyri were ahead of other Icelanders in cultivation of both trees and plants. Having beautiful gardens next to their houses became an early ambition of the town- speople. This is usually attributed to the influence of the Dan- ish merchants, and the potato gardens created by the Dan- ish merchant Lever at the start of the 19th century are still used today. The Botanical Garden, one of the town’s jewels, was opened in 1912.
Akureyri Church is one of the town’s symbols; it stands on a prominent site, on the edge of a hill above midtown. It was consecrated in 1940. There are many fine things in the church, and everyone notices its stained glass windows. The central picture of each window shows events from the life of Christ. Part of one window comes from the cathedral in Coventry, England. It was removed from the cathedral in 1943 to save it from air attacks during the Second World War and moved to Akureyri.
Akureyri Drama Society - The Akureyri Drama Society was established in 1917 and has been run as a professional company since 1973. The company's permanent locale is the well known "Samkomuhús" (community centre) which was built in 1906 and has always played an important part in the town's social activities. Each winter season 4-5 plays are performed which attract a large number of enthusiastic theatre-goers both from the town itself and from other parts of the country, thus playing a large part in the cultural life of Akureyri.
The ski slopes of Hlíðarfjall are a paradise for skiers; and if you are staying in Akureyri they are right on your doorstep. The ski lodge stands at a height of 506 meters above sea level and can provide sleeping accommodation in twin rooms for 22 persons, besides having a communal sleeping area which can take 70 persons.
The Winter Sports Centre is located at Hlíðarfjall Ski Centre and was established in Akureyri with the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Education, The Akureyri Municipal Council, The Sports and Olympic Society of Iceland and the Akureyri Sports Association.
The North Iceland Symphony Orchestra works in close cooperation with Akureyri Music School and teachers from this school together with those from schools in the surrounding areas form the kernel of the orchestra. Music students in higher grades are also given the opportunity to take part in performances. This means that students are given as varied an orchestral training as it is possible to give within any one music school. The resident conductor is Guðmundur Óli Gunnarsson and the managing director is Þórarinn Stefánsson.