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Akureyri, Iceland

Wednesday, June 7, 2023 - 11:00am by Lolo
21 miles and 0.5 hours from our last stop


Birthday lunch timeBirthday lunch timeI doubt I was going to be able to compete with Paul’s birthday bash yesterday, but I’d give it a try.

We weren’t quite sure yet we would end up this evening, but we did know that we were going to take another detour off the Ring Road up the highly scenic Trollaskagi Peninsula, with its beautiful mountains, fjords, and fishing villages.

I had my sights on one place in particular - Siglufjordur, considered to be one of the nicest fishing villages in Iceland.

But first we would pass through Akureyri “Iceland’s second largest city” and the “Capital of the North,” where I planned to have my birthday lunch.

Kaffi IlmurKaffi IlmurActually, even before that we would literally pass through the Vadlaheidi Tunnel, a 7.5 km (4.7 miles) long tunnel that bypasses the precipitous Vikurskard Mountain Passage and brings you safely into Akureyri from the east.

There is a toll for driving through this tunnel, which can only be paid online. If you pay within 3 hours the price is 1, 500 IS K (about $11), but if you procrastinate and pay later than that it is 2.500 ISK ($19). We paid right away.

Now, back to Akureyri. While Akureyri, population 19,000, truly is Iceland’s second largest city, there is a big gap with Reykjavik, which has 140,000 residents.

Troll of HafnarstraetiTroll of HafnarstraetiAnywhere else in the world it would be considered a town, but in Iceland it was a city.

In many ways it had all the benefits of a city - great restaurants, cozy coffee shops, a colorful nightlife scene, beautiful street art, and local festivals - but without the downsides of traffic, crime, etc.

In doing so, it has become one of the “must see” destinations in Iceland, especially for those traveling around the Ring Road.

After poring through reviews, I chose to celebrate my birthday at Kaffi Ilmur, a small cafe and restaurant in one of Akureyri’s oldest houses.

Built in 1911, originally as a saddler’s shop, it later became a goldsmith’s, overlooking the fjord before the land was extended and more shops were built.

In 2011, one hundred years after it was built, the original saddler’s granddaughter (one of the Ingmars) opened it as a cafe.

Doing some shoppingDoing some shoppingIn May 2022, the café was sold to new owners, but they have kept the decor and traditions the same.

It was very quaint and cozy (just the way I like it), with the original walls and furniture, and a collection of photos of the original inhabitants of the house on one of the walls upstairs.

We could almost imagine that we were back in the 1900s eating in the Ingmar’s home.

The owner must have overheard that it was my birthday and after we finished our lunch, she brought out two delicious chocolate cupcakes, one topped with quite an exciting candle

Souvenir successSouvenir successWarmth and hospitality lives on in the Ingmar’s dining room.

After lunch we strolled along Hafnarstraeti, the main drag through this lovely town - excuse me, “city” - lined with cafes, restaurants, galleries, street art, shops, and even a troll.

Trolls are a very important part of Iceland’s culture and folklore. They live in rocky mountains and caves (if they haven't been transformed into sea stacks). They like the taste of flesh and are known to lure unsuspecting humans into their caves with spells, magic potions or simply by taking them captive. He certainly had captivated me. I was ready to go back to his cave.

Every trip we try to buy a souvenir that is somewhat meaningful. Living in Northern California, I didn’t want or need one of those Icelandic sweaters, or a silly puffin hat (although Herb did look quite cute in one), so I chose a cute little sheep and the book Independent People about sheep farmers in early 1900s Iceland instead. They both now live on my bookshelf.

Akureyri location map in "high definition"

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