20 Sep Flatlanders In Iceland – Day 5 – A Day In Akureyri Watching Whales
Welcome to the day 5 travel details for our recent nine-day trip to Iceland. We’re hopeful that this series of posts will assist you in the creation of your own unique Icelandic travel itinerary. This is the seventh article in our Iceland travel guide series, detailing the route we chose for our fifth day, the activities we enjoyed, the lodging we selected, and a some of the food we sampled along the way.
Below are the links to the individual articles in the series.
Flatlanders Guide To Iceland Blog Post Index
- The Family Guide To Planning A Trip To Iceland
- Our Iceland Itinerary As A Starting Point For Your Trip
- Day 1 – Reykjavik and the Golden Circle
- Day 2 – Hella to Höfn – Holy Cow!!
- Day 3 – Hofn to Neskaupstadur – Scenic cliff drives along Eastern Iceland
- Day 4 – Neskaupstadur to Akureryi via Husavik – Hikes, Hot Pots, and Harbors
- Day 5 – A day in Akureyri watching whales
- Day 6 – Akureyri to Stykkishólmur – Gravel roads, remote waterfalls, and an amazing hamburger
- Day 7 – Stykkishólmur to Reykjavik – Seal Beach, A stop in Bifrost, and exploring Reykjavik
- Day 8 – A day in Reykjavik exploring the food, culture, and shopping
- Day 9 – Spend the morning in Reykjavik and then head home to Kansas City
- Packing and Preparing For Your Iceland Trip
NOTE: To “watch” the visual story of our trip, you can review all 100 photos in our Iceland 2019 Instagram highlight. The story progresses in the order of the nine-day itinerary as listed above.
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The Day 5 Route – Exploring Akureyri And A Boat Ride Into The Eylafjordur Fjord
The day five itinerary was pretty straight forward. Get up, drink and eat, catch a boat out into the fjord and check out some whales. We knew the whale watching tour would be 3-4 hours, so afterward the plan was to enjoy the Akureyri shopping district and grab some dinner.
As you can see from the image below, the key element (in gold) is the boat ride out into the fjord to check out the marine wildlife.
The planned stops for day five looked like this:
- Breakfast in the downtown shopping district
- Finding a good whale watching tour that aligned with our schedule
- Shopping a bit while we wait for the tour
- Spending 3-4 hours out on the water enjoying a nice cruise and looking for whales
- More shopping in Akureryi
- Dinner downtown and then relaxation back at our apartment
Basically, this was a lounge-around, check-out-the-scenery kind of day.
TIP: If you are going to go on a whale watching tour, be aware that there are never any guarantees that you will see whales. Just plan your tour as a great time to see Iceland from a different perspective and observe some of Iceland’s amazing birds. If you get to see whales, count it as a bonus.
Otherwise, just enjoy the boat ride and have fun.
Day 5, Stop # 1 – Breakfast In The Akureyri Shopping District
Breakfast in Akureyri was outstanding.
Deb and I walked down into the shopping district and found this wonderful little coffee shop and cafe nestled on the top of the hill called Kaffi Ilmur. Seriously, people…if you are in Akureyri stop by for breakfast.
Honestly, we stopped by again later that day because Deb and I wanted to take a desert home for the evening.
The staff was extremely friendly, the breakfast portions were large, the coffee was hot and strong, and the food was just outstanding. Everything we love in a cafe!
NOTE: Again…Icelandic people are serious about their baked goods. At Kaffi Ilmur, you won’t be disappointed if you try their take on Hjonabandssaela, also known as “marital bliss”. It’s not the pie version of the treat, it’s more like a bar version. So, think of it as like a rhubarb bar.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of rhubarb in pies, but their take on marital bliss was….well…blissful 🙂
Day 5, Stop # 2 – Akureyri Harbor To Choose A Whale Watching Tour.
As I mentioned in a previous post, our daughter is a marine biology major. One thing she wanted to do was take a whale watching tour. Deb and I have been on a tour in Boston previously where we got to see a pod of whales up-close, so we were excited to go again, as well.
After breakfast, we wandered down to the harbor and stopped into the Elding Whale Watching tour office. After a chat with the staff, who were very helpful, we settled on an 11:30am cruise. There were a few factors that went into that decision:
1) If the tour went the full 4 hours, we would be back around 3:30, still plenty of time to get some shopping in around the shopping district.
2) The boat that was going out on the 11:30 tour was a bit smaller than the later 3:30pm tour so we thought it might be less crowded.
3) The tour was NOT an express tour. If you like to go fast, get wet, and get cold…the express option might be a choice for you. It wasn’t our cup of tea.
4) We were all excited to get going.
It was already around 9:30, so we just browsed around the shopping district, ducked into all the various shops, and grabbed a quick bite to take on the boat.
TIP: Depending on the tour you take, there may not be food on the boat. It’s a good idea to grab a sandwich from a local cafe or a treat from the local bakery to take with you on the boat. That way, you don’t have to go four hours without something to snack on.
Day 5, Stop # 3 – The Eylafjordur Fjord
The trip out to the mouth of the fjord was beautiful and we were truly blessed to get 70 degree F weather and a sunny day for our tour. Summer in Iceland is pretty mild, so a clear, sunny day with warm temps was great for the boat ride.
To add to our fortune, our tour guides were able to find a pod of whales for us. We had actually gone about 2 and a half hours out into the fjord and hadn’t spotted any whales, so the guides were letting us down gently that we were going to have to turn around and head in.
I walked up to the bow of the ship just to take some photos of arctic terns as we were turning around and….BAM…there was a pod of whales. I was lucky to be just in the right position to catch some of their activity.
TIP: Iceland has some amazing aquatic animals, other than just whales. If you keep your eyes open, you might see some harbor porpoises. They’re tough to see because they don’t tend to hang out around boats and they were hunted pretty heavily in Iceland at one point. But keep an eye out, you might get lucky.
Also, pay close attention to the beautiful birds. Fun fact, the Arctic Tern has the longest migration path of any animal on the planet. Some of these energetic birds fly 25,000 miles each year one-way to get to their breeding grounds. Pretty impressive, eh? Don’t forget to snap some photos of the birds on your whale watching tour.
Unfortunately, none of them ever fluked for us, but were were glad to see them and be able to grab some photos.
Here are some of the photos of the whales we saw.
TIP: If you take your expensive DSLR camera on a whale watching tour, hold on to it. Depending on the weather and the seas, the going may get rough and you don’t want your camera dropping on the deck or…even worse…overboard.
Also remember that you’re out in the ocean so spraying water is a thing. Be prepared to cover your camera and keep the salt water off it.
Day 5, Stop # 4 – Back On Dry Land For Shopping In Downtown Akureyri
Once we had successfully completed our whale watching tour, it was time to relax in the shopping district of Akureyri. We hung out and grabbed some coffee, shopped in the local stores, then grabbed a burger for dinner.
If I haven’t mentioned it already, Icelandic people are also serious about their burgers. There are no cheap McDonald’s hamburgers in Iceland. They are all thick, juicy burgers with all kinds of different condiments.
There’s a ton to do and see in Akureyri, so here are some of our favorite pics from around the shopping district.
TIP: Be aware that most shops in Iceland close around 6pm. They don’t stay open until 9pm or 10pm like shops do in the United States, so be prepared and get your shopping done earlier in the day. Many restaurants and pubs stay open later, so you should be able to grab food after 6pm, but shopping often shuts down, depending on the town or city you are located in.
Day 5, Stop #5 – Back To The Apartment For Laundry And Relaxation
After a long few days in the car, we were glad to spend a day letting our boat captain do the driving. We ended the day back at the apartment to finish up our laundry and get ready to head back out on the road for day 6.
Reflections On Day 5 Of Our Nine-Day Icelandic Trip
So, that’s the summary of day five of our amazing nine-day family trip to Iceland. With regards to day 5 of the trip, the things we saw, and the accommodations we chose, here are what Deb and I think:
From Deb – Whale watching was amazing. Even if we hadn’t gotten to see the whales, it would have been a wonderful day on the ocean. The only thing I think we all regret is not putting on sunscreen. Being on the water for 5 hours on a sunny day got us all a little rosy around the cheeks. Next time, we’ll remember. Also, Akureyri is easily one of my favorite cities on this trip. While it’s the second largest city on Iceland, it doesn’t feel like a bustling metropolis. It feels…cozy.
From Sean – I am SO glad we got to see whales! I think it was a highlight of the trip and I’m so appreciative that our boat captain stayed out just a little longer and went a little farther so we could see them. I agree with Deb about Akureyri. We will definitely be coming back and visiting again.
There you have it…day 5 of our nine-day itinerary in Iceland. We hope this helps you in the planning of your trip and gives you some ideas as to what to explore.
See you on the road!