Plans to Transform Akureyri Botanical Garden in Winter

akureyri botanical garden

Reynir Gretarsson, operator of the Lyst café in the Akureyri botanical garden, stated in conversation with RÚV his intention to transform the area over the winter.

Stating that it’s important that activities in the Akureyri botanical garden aren’t just limited to the summer, he said that all proceeds from summer concerts this year will go towards winter services, among which are an intended “winter light garden.”

Reynir also highlighted snow removal as another key winter service that is currently lacking in the garden, but could help increase accessibility to the area during the winter months. Currently, much of the park is not serviced during winter, with many steps and paths completely iced over.

Halla Björk Reynisdóttir, president of the local town council, stated to RÚV that she welcomes the plans for increased services, but that the idea is still in its early stages.

 

 

Paid Parking Begins at Regional Airports Today

Reykjavík City Airport flugvöllur

Paid parking will begin today, June 25, at the domestic airports operated by Isavia, including Reykjavík, Egilsstaðir, and Akureyri.

Intended for parking lot maintenance

Isavia has stated that the introduction of paid parking at its major domestic airports is intended to cover expansion and renovation to the lots in question. Some are unhappy with the decision to charge for parking, calling it a tax on rural Icelanders, who need to fly to the capital area often to access services there.

Originally, Isavia only intended to provide 15 minutes of free parking at its domestic airports. Now, that time has been extended to 14 hours at the Egilsstaðir and Akureyri airports, to allow rural Icelanders to take day trips to the capital area, without paying for parking.

Protest the introduction of paid parking

Nevertheless, the decision to charge for parking has still proven unpopular with many Icelanders. One disgruntled Icelander protested the new fee by placing a red shirt over the new camera system, temporarily blocking license plates from view.

The man, Einar Ben Þorsteinsson, stated in a video that he posted on his personal social media that he wanted to protest the fee and encourage others to speak out. He also encouraged others to protest peacefully and not engage in any vandalism.

The shirt was removed shortly after the video was recorded.

New pricing schedule

The new pricing schedule is as follows:

At Reykjavik Airport, there are two parking zones – P1 and P2. In P1, the first 15 minutes are free, while in P2, the first 45 minutes are free.
At the Akureyri and Egilsstaðir airports, there is one parking zone. There, the first 14 hours are free. After that, a fee of 1,750 ISK per day is applied. After seven days, the daily fee decreases to 1,350 ISK, and after 14 days, it decreases to 1,200 ISK.
Payment for parking can only be made through the Autopay smart app, the Autopay website, and the Parka app. If none of these payment methods are used, an invoice according to the fee schedule will be sent to the vehicle owner’s online bank account, with an additional service fee of 1,490 ISK, two days after leaving the parking lot.

 

 

 

Phone-Free Pact Introduced in Akureyri Schools

Akureyri, North Iceland

A working group in Akureyri has introduced a new phone-free pact in elementary schools, aiming to improve  students’ concentration and social lives by banning the use of smartphones during school hours starting in August. While teachers are pleased with the changes, student opinions are divided, with some expressing concerns about losing access to schedules and payment methods stored on their phones.

A clear desire for change

In November of last year, a working group on smartphone use in elementary schools in Akureyri, North Iceland, was established. The working group included elected representatives, parent and youth representatives, school staff, and personnel from the education and public health sectors. The group engaged in consultations with parents, students, and staff, as well as reviewing a UNESCO report on technology in schools, among other things.

In an article published in May of this year, Heimir Örn Árnason and Gunnar Már Gunnarsson – members of the working group – stated that the group had detected a clear desire for change:

“In all our conversations with parents and teachers, a clear desire for change emerged. Similarly, in our discussions with students, a strong desire was expressed to make better use of their free time for open communication, both in play and in breaks from study. Students in grades 8-10 understood the potential negative effects of smartphones but emphasised the need to ensure diverse entertainment options in schools to replace the undisputed entertainment value of phones.”

The phone pact takes effect

At the end of May, the group introduced new phone rules – the so-called “phone pact” (Símasáttmáli) – which are set to take effect at the beginning of the next school year this August.

As noted in a press release on Akureyri’s website, the primary goal of the pact is to create “a peaceful working environment in schools, promote better concentration, enhance social interactions, and improve the well-being of students and staff.”

In brief, the rules stipulate that students in elementary schools in Akureyri are not allowed to use phones during school hours, either inside the school or on the school grounds. This also applies to other smart devices that disrupt teaching and concentration. On Fridays, students in grades 8-10 are allowed to use phones during recess in designated areas.

Teachers pleased, students sceptical

Following news that the phone pact had been approved, RÚV visited Naustaskóli in Akureyri to interview teachers and students.

“I am extremely excited to see our teenagers get a little break,” Lovísa Oktavía Eyvindsdóttir, a teacher at Naustaskóli, stated. “I think they are yearning for this without daring to admit it.”

“I believe teenagers are stuck in deep ruts and can’t get out of them,” Lovísa continued, stating her belief that many students were trapped by their addiction to smartphones. “They should be able to come here to take a break and think about something else than the endless distraction from phones.”

As noted by RÚV, opinions among students at Naustaskóli about the proposed phone-free pact is divided; many are somewhat positive, while others are less so.

“This is simply not okay,” Selma Lárey, a 9th-grade student at Naustaskóli, observed. Selma noted that many students relied on their phones to keep track of time and check their schedules. “You never remember which class you’re going to, and then you’re always being scolded for being late, but they’re taking our phones away. We have the schedule on our lock screens.”

In addition to storing useful information, students also keep their bank cards in their phones. “Many kids go to stores for lunch because they don’t like the school food or don’t eat it. Kids are starving,” Ellý Sveinbjörg, a 9th-grade student, stated.

“Should I bring cash?” Selma asked. “Or a card and keep it in my jacket pocket? And you don’t know how much credit you have on your card; I don’t want to walk home to ask my mom.”

VIDEO: Winter Returns to Iceland – Snowstorm in June

Winter has returned to Iceland!

Officially, summer should have already started in Iceland in late April – at least according to the old Icelandic calendar. But since the beginning of the week, a low-pressure front has brought back the Arctic winter in full force – in June.

Yesterday, Art and Alina travelled to Akureyri to witness an unusual summer storm that unexpectedly hit the North and East of Iceland, blanketing the landscapes with snow and ice just as they were eagerly awaiting summer.

You can now watch our report on this unusual weather phenomenon on our YouTube channel!

You can catch our previous video in the series here.

Attractions of North Iceland

Akureyrarkirkja church in the evening.

While North Iceland is a region less visited than the south, it holds many of the greatest attractions of Iceland. It’s a place of stark opposites, with dramatic and barren landscapes, lush farmlands, and charming villages. It’s fantastic for both outdoor activities and cultural exploration and suitable for any kind of trip, be it family, romance, solo travel or something else. To help you get the lay of the land, here is a guide to some of our favourite attractions in North Iceland and how to get to them.

How to get around in North Iceland

Before we dive into the attractions, let’s take a look at the options you have in terms of actually getting to them.

Firstly, there’s public transport. Frankly, it’s not a great option in terms of sightseeing in Iceland, especially outside the capital area. Trips in the countryside are not frequent, and the timing might not always suit your needs. Additionally, unless your goal is to walk and hike a lot, you‘ll miss out on some fabulous places, as public transport is geared towards the day-to-day needs of locals. This means that if you want to use public transport to get to the attractions of North Iceland, it will require some hard-core planning and a lot of time.

The most convenient way to explore North Iceland is by having a rental car or camper. This allows you to go everywhere you want to and at your own pace. If you don’t have time to plan, can’t drive or want to have a fuss-free vacation, you can opt for planned tours. You’ll have to pick and choose in terms of what to see, but you get the added benefit of a tour guide and the ability to just kick back and relax while on the tour. Alternatively, if you don’t have a car but want to see more than what’s available through your average tour, you can book a private tour tailor-made to your taste.

A car driving in the North Icelandic countryside.
Photo: Golli. A car driving in the North Icelandic countryside.

Towns and villages of North Iceland

Akureyri

There are numerous picturesque towns and villages worth visiting in the North. Akureyri, the biggest one, is a place full of life, culture and history. Full to the brim of iconic places that suit practically any occasion and vacation, you can’t go wrong with Akureyri. 

For a day of cultural exploration, visit Akureyrarkirkja church, Hof cultural centre, or the Christmas House. There’s also Græni Hatturinn, a pub that practically every Icelander knows and a place where leading musicians of Iceland have performed for decades. If you like the electrifying atmosphere of live music, don’t miss out on Græni Hatturinn!

The Christmas House in Akureyri.
The Christmas House in Akureyri.

If you want a culinary adventure, start with breakfast at Berlín (​​$$ – $$$), go to Greifinn ($$ – $$$) or Bautinn ($$ – $$$) for lunch, Brynja ice cream shop ($) for a classic Icelandic afternoon delight, and Rub23 ($$$$) or Strikið (​​$$ – $$$) for dinner. All are well known and popular among Icelanders and will have something fo everyone. 

For the outdoorsy people and families with children, Kjarnaskógur forest, with its many amenities, is bound to give you a delightful day. Walk or bike around the forest, play in one or all of the three playgrounds, bring something to barbeque, or have a game of volleyball or disc golf. Note that you have to bring your own ball and discs. You can end the day at the Akureyri swimming pool, home to the famous ‘toilet bowl’ waterslide. 

Siglufjörður

Siglufjörður, with its colourful houses, flourishing cultural life and striking natural beauty, is a popular stop with tourists and Icelanders alike. It’s a historic town with a rich connection to Iceland’s fishing industry and is known as the centre of the herring adventure, which took place in the early 20th century. You can visit the immensely popular Herring Era Museum while you’re there, which will take you through five different exhibitions and give you an in-depth look into the herring industry in Iceland. A museum about herring might not sound particularly grand, but visitors tend to be pleasantly surprised by it, even those not interested in fishing. With a hands-on approach to a large part of the exhibitions, the museum is also well-received by families. 

The hot tub of Sigló Hotel and the Herring Era Museum houses on a snowy winter day.
Photo: Golli. The hot tub of Sigló Hotel and the Herring Era Museum houses on a snowy winter day.

For a piece of the multicultural Icelandic food environment, book a table at Hótel Siglunes in Siglufjörður, where there is a renowned Moroccan restaurant. Several Tripadvisor reviewers have named it the best dining experience they had in Iceland, with the tajines getting particularly many mentions. 

Húsavík

Húsavík, often called The Whale Capital of Iceland, is known for its peaceful atmosphere and charming buildings. It’s also where the first house in Iceland was built and the setting of the Netflix film Eurovision. 

Being the Whale Capital, Húsavík is the place to go if you’re interested in whale watching. The nickname stems from the fact that over the summer months, spotting whales in the Húsavík area is so common that many tour operators have been able to report a 100% sighting rate. Additionally, they offer a range of different twists to the journeys. Experience a taste of the past on a wooden sailboat, do some marine research with a marine biologist, or opt for a two-in-one that includes sailing around Puffin island to observe puffins in their natural habitat. For the eco-conscious, there’s even a carbon-neutral whale-watching option.

For those wanting a more laid-back day, you can track down a relaxing atmosphere in the Geosea sea baths. In 2019, they were named one of Time magazine’s 100 “World’s Greatest Places”. The baths have geothermally heated salt water, a spectacular view of Skjálfandaflói Bay and a pool bar where you can fetch beverages to enjoy while you’re in the water. 

 

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Alternatively, if you’re there with children or are on a budget, you might prefer the local swimming pool. It doesn’t have the great views or spa-like feel of Geosea, but it is considerably cheaper, offers two hot tubs and a children’s pool, and has two water slides that are open during the summer.

Natural attractions

If you’re going to Iceland to experience the country’s wonderful natural attractions, there’s a whole treasure trove of them in the North.

Hvítserkur

Starting our list in the northwest, Hvítserkur is a peculiar-looking 15 m [49 ft] rock sticking up from Húnaflói Bay. The name translates into ‘white shirt’, presumably because of the bird droppings covering the rock. With its distinct look, which reminds some of a sea monster or dragon, Hvítserkur is particularly popular with landscape photographers.

Grímsey

Grímsey Island is the northernmost lived-in place in Iceland. With a population of 55, it’s one of Iceland’s smallest inhabited communities. It’s a fantastic place to spot some puffins and have a romantic evening watching the sunset or northern lights, and it’s the only place in Iceland where you can step into the Arctic Circle. Explore the island on foot or order a ride with the sightseeing train. 

A puffin resting on a grassy cliff.
Photo: Golli. A puffin resting on a grassy cliff.

Goðafoss and Dettifoss

Goðafoss waterfall, or Waterfall of the Gods, is part of the fourth largest river in Iceland and a spectacular place to visit. Not only is it a beautiful sight, but it’s also deeply connected to Iceland’s religious history. In the year 1000, Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, one of the country’s law speakers, decided that Christianity should replace the Old Norse religion as Iceland’s official religion. Following this decision, he threw his Old Norse religious idols into the waterfall.

There’s also Dettifoss waterfall, thought to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. If you place your palm on the surrounding rocks, you can feel them vibrate with the immense power of the waterfall. Both waterfalls are easily accessible by well-kept trails and require only about 10 minutes walking from the parking lot. 

Dettifoss waterfall.
Photo: Páll Kjartansson. Dettifoss waterfall.

Mývatn

Mývatn Lake and its surrounding area, situated midway between the two waterfalls, offer a range of attractions. Besides the lake and its many small islands, there is, for example, Krafla caldera, Grjótagjá underground lava cave, and Námaskarð geothermal area. For those travelling with children, a walk through Dimmuborgir lava field, also known as the Black Fortress due to its resemblance to a medieval castle, is a fun activity that provides an otherworldly experience full of fairy tales and folklore. This is particularly fun at Christmas time when the Icelandic Yulelads, who reside in Dimmuborgir, awaken. With a vibrant birdlife, Mývatn is also ideal for birdwatching, and if you’re in need of rejuvenation, Mývatn Nature Baths are right around the corner with its naturally warm and mineral-rich milky blue water. 

Dimmuborgir on a summer evening.
Photo: Morgunblaðið/Golli. Dimmuborgir on a summer evening.

Jökulsárgljúfur

Jökulsárgljúfur, a protected national park since 1973, is a paradise for hikers. With countless options of trails to follow, you could spend days exploring the area. Within the park is Ásbyrgi, a curiously shaped glacier valley. Like most places in Iceland, it has an alternative explanation for its existence. This one is tied to Old Norse Mythology, stating that the horseshoe-shaped canyon was formed by Sleipnir, Óðin‘s eight-legged horse. If you don’t have the ability or desire to walk around the area, you can drop by Gljúfrastofa Visitor Centre, where there’s an exhibition about Jökulsárgljúfur. 

Culture

Grettislaug

As most Icelanders, northerners love a hot bath. It’s deeply ingrained in our culture and has been for a long time. Among the many swimming pools and lagoons located across the north, there’s one in particular that bears witness to this: Grettislaug.

Although it’s been rebuilt at least once, its history goes all the way back to the Icelandic Sagas. Written in the medieval times and set in the 11th century, Grettis Saga tells the story of Grettir the Strong, an outlaw who spent his last years on Drangey island just off the coast of Grettislaug. In the story, he bathes in a pool in the same area where Grettislaug is located, hence the name.

The Arctic Henge

Then there’s the Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn, which might be of special interest to artists and art enthusiasts. It’s the largest outdoor artwork in Iceland—a fusion of Icelandic culture, literary history, and science that offers a unique experience of the sun and the expansive area surrounding Raufarhöfn. 

Museums

If you want to explore Icelandic history and culture in depth or need something to do on a rainy day, there are a myriad of niche museums to choose from. You could, for example, step into the Museum of Prophecies for a taste of fortune telling and palm reading. Although a bit off the beaten path, visitors love it, with one Tripadvisor reviewer naming it her “favourite thing in Iceland”. You could also visit the Icelandic Aviation Museum, a very family-friendly option that allows visitors to enter some of the planes and interact with them. Then there’s a blast from the past at Grenjaðarstaður Turf House, a traditional Icelandic house built in the late 19th century, and The Great White Plague Center, where you can discover the livelihood of those who battled tuberculosis in the 20th century. Make sure to look up the opening times of the museums, as some of them are closed or open by appointment only during winter. 

Inside the Icelandic Aviation Museum.
Photo: Golli. Inside the Icelandic Aviation Museum.

Composer Atli Örvarsson Receives BAFTA Award

Composer Atli Örvarsson

Composer Atli Örvarsson was granted a BAFTA award Sunday night for his music for the television programme Silo. This was Atli’s first BAFTA nomination, RÚV reports.

A “dream job”

The show stars Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, known for her roles in the Dune and Mission:Impossible franchises of films. Silo is streaming on AppleTV+.

In his acceptance speech, Atli called his work on the project a “dream job”. He thanked director Morten Tyldum, who approached him for the collaboration. Atli added that Tyldum had realised that the project needed someone who had grown up with the dark and claustrophobic winters of Northwest Iceland.

From Iceland to Hollywood

Atli worked on the project in London and recorded it in the U.K. and in Akureyri in the north of Iceland. Atli lives and works in Akureyri. He was a member of pop band Sálin hans Jóns míns before moving into the film and television industry. He’s composed and orchestrated music for films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Angels & Demons and the Superman instalment Man of Steel.

Other nominees in the category of “Best Original Music Fiction” were Adiescar Chase for Heartstopper, Blair Mowat for Nolly and Natalie Holt for Loki.

Japanese Ski Jumper Targets World Record in Akureyri

Hlíðarfjall ski resort in North Iceland

The Japanese ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi may have set a new ski jumping world record in Akureyri yesterday with a 256-metre jump. Kobayashi attempted a 300-metre jump this morning, although it remains uncertain whether he was successful.

Attempted a 300-metre jump this morning

The Japanese ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi arrived at Hlíðarfjall mountain in Akureyri, North Iceland, yesterday morning where he made several attempts from a giant ski jump constructed at the top of the mountain. The ski area was closed during this period.

According to RÚV, Kobayashi jumped 256 metres in his final attempt yesterday, surpassing the current world record in ski jumping, which stands at 253.5 metres (although the record has not been officially confirmed). As noted by RÚV’s sources, eyewitnesses at Hlíðarfjall reportedly witnessed celebrations among the jumper’s assistants, convinced that he had broken the record.

This morning, the Japanese ski jumper attempted a 300-metre jump. According to Vísir, Kobayashi and his Red Bull team arrived at Hlíðarfjall before 7 AM. By around 11 AM, the project appeared to have concluded, as part of the equipment had been dismantled. It remains uncertain whether the 300-metre jump was successful.

As noted by RÚV, the preparations for the event have been ongoing for a year, involving Icelandic contractors in collaboration with the energy drink manufacturer Red Bull: “Red Bull Japan has made an agreement with the municipality of Akureyri for the construction of the ski jump in Hlíðarfjall and filming. A replica of the ski jump in Vikersund, Norway, where ski jumping world records have been set, was constructed,” RÚV notes.

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Suspected Murder in Akureyri

Akureyri

A man is being detained by police following the death of his wife in their rental apartment in an Akureyri building. The man is in his 60s and will be held for a week on suspicion of murder, Vísir reports.

Domestic violence suspected

The woman was around 50 years old and the couple had just moved into the apartment this winter along with their son in his 20s. Neighbours described having heard shouting from the apartment at times, but did not notice anything Sunday night or Monday morning when the woman passed away. Police arrived at the scene Monday morning after 4 AM.

Police are investigating whether the incident was a case of domestic violence that resulted in the woman’s death, sources said.

No official information

However, local police have not given any official information about the case, not even about the age of the people involved or their relationships. The investigation is at a sensitive stage, police said, and Reykjavík Metropolitan Police technical staff have been flown north to Akureyri to assist in the crime scene investigation.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

University of Akureyri to Offer Courses for Non-native Icelandic Speakers

Akureyri Iceland

The University of Akureyri recently announced on its website that it will offer four new courses of study suited for students with native languages other than Icelandic.

Beginning in the fall semester of 2024, students at the University of Akureyri will be able to study Media Studies, Modern Studies, Social Sciences, and Preschool Education at the University.

The new courses are offered in collaboration with University of Iceland.

Read more: Icelandic Language Strengthened in “Landmark” Initiative

According to the University of Akureyri, the new courses are designed for students with basic skills in the Icelandic language in order to make accessible study programmes predominantly taught in Icelandic.

The new courses will be taught in both English and Icelandic. The courses will each last 4 years, and will comprise 240 ECTS credits.

The courses will all be taught as distance-learning courses online, with language classes taught online in real-time.

There will additionally be in-person sessions built into the courses, with students meeting once a semester in Akureyri. Students in the Preschool and Primary Education programme will meet more than the other courses, 2-3 times a semester in Akureyri.

Applications for the programmes are open from March 2 to June 5.

Read more about education and the Icelandic language.

Akureyri Library Nominated for Green Library Award

The Akureyri Municipal Library (Amtsbókasafnið á Akureyri) is amongst the libraries that have been nominated for this year’s IFLA Green Library Award.

The library is on the long list for Best Green Library Project for an intriguing project that is actually not related to books at all.

The “Freedge”

The project in question, “Frískápur” (a portmanteau of “frí”, as in “free, and “ískápur”, as in “refrigerator”), which is called “Freedge” in English, is an ongoing project just outside the library building with the aim of reducing food waste.

Individuals, businesses and organisations with extra food that they might otherwise throw away are encouraged to bring it to and put it in these fridges instead. Anyone is then welcome to pick up this food for themselves.

More than books to lend

Incidentally, books are not the only things you can check out from this library, either.

Speaking to RÚV, library project manager Hrönn Soffíu Björgvinsdóttir pointed out that one can also borrow cake forms, dishware, tools and board games. They even have a sewing machine, which guests are free to use on the premises.