North Iceland - 5 Recommendations From a Local
I recently travelled around North Iceland – an area I know pretty well since it’s where I grew up. Many things have changed in the last few years with more tourists visiting the country and I really like what has been done in many of the small towns and villages. This time, I went to the capital of the north, Akureyri, the stunning area of Lake Myvatn, the small fishing towns Siglufjörður and Hauganes and last but not least, my hometown Húsavík.
As a tourist, you can easily spend a few weeks exploring the nature and culture of the area without getting bored, but since most people don’t have that long, I really want to share a few must-not-miss places with you for your trip!
1. Myvatn Nature baths
I really like to bathe publicly, which may sound strange if you haven’t been to Iceland where you can find a geothermal swimming pool in every little town. When I’m up in the north and want to relax, I try to visit the Myvatn nature baths which must be one of the cosiest places in Iceland to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Whether you get to see the midnight sun or the northern lights, there are few ways better than this one to end your day.
The baths are also very popular with locals and it’s the place to be to socialize with the neighbours and discuss current events. You might get to hear interesting stories and get to know some of the friendly locals in the Myvatn area.
2. Húsavík harbour
Most people think their hometown is the nicest, no matter how uninteresting they are to others. However, I sincerely believe that the development of my hometown, from being mainly a fishing town to being a mix of the traditional fishing industry and tourism built on whale watching in Skjálfandi bay, has been successful, which is why it’s number two on my list. While you are there, I would recommend that you go on a whale watching tour since it’s very likely that you will actually see a whale (I have seen many), in addition to sailing on Skjálfandi bay surrounded by beautiful scenery. Chances are that you might also see a puffin AND you always get hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun.
Most importantly, remember to take the time to take a walk around the harbour, sit down and take a deep breath of the fresh sea air.
3. Ektafiskur in Hauganes
I really enjoyed visiting Ektafiskur in Hauganes where Elvar Reykjalín welcomes guests and proudly tells stories in a sort of stand-up on how his business of producing salted cod has developed through generations. You also get to see their facilities and how the process works from the time when the fish is fresh to when it’s ready to be shipped to buyers. Take the chance to become a member of The Rotten Shark Club of Hauganes, but to join you have to taste the famous Icelandic fermented shark! Delicious …
I decided to have a taste for the first time in a long time and well... let’s just say that it was enough for this decade, but you have to try it at least once!
They also offer whale watching tours where you can try sea angling and cook the fish you catch after the tour or take it with you, filleted and packed by them Ektafiskur.
4. The Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður
When you find yourself in the northernmost town of Iceland, situated in a narrow fjord beneath towering mountains and with a population of around 1200 people, it can be hard to imagine that this town was one of the largest in Iceland in the early 20th century, during the so-called herring era. While I was there I learned that people who worked in Siglufjörður during the herring era compared the atmosphere there to when they went to London later in life.
I had not visited The Herring Era Museum before and I must admit that I was surprised by how the history and the collectables are presented in a fresh, interesting way and I really enjoyed learning about the herring era. By walking around the museum, which is located in five different buildings, you get the feeling of how the atmosphere must have been when thousands of people spent day and night working at the harbour during the herring adventure.
5. Hlíðarfjall Ski Resort
I actually did not go skiing on this last trip up north, but I can’t make a list of recommendations of what to do there without mentioning that I absolutely love going skiing in Hlíðarfjall mountain by Akureyri. It takes about 15 minutes to drive up there from the city centre and the slopes are great and the views even better.
So, if you’re in Akureyri from approximately December to April, I would recommend staying there for an extra day or two and going skiing. They also have ski and snowboard rental where you can get the equipment you need.