From Iceland — Laying Over in Akureyri

Laying Over in Akureyri

Published July 25, 2011

Photo by
Julia Staples

With an hour and a half layover in Akureyri before a flight to Reykjavík, Grapevine’s photographer and I were frustrated. Unlike international airports, Akureyri domestic airport doesn’t have countless stores one can mosey in and out of to kill time. Instead, there’s one, tiny café. Right as we were ready to start ranting and complaining to each other about how we had absolutely nothing to do, we realised that another attribute Akureyri Airport doesn’t share with most international airports is its closeness to the main city.

Usually, international airports require a forty minute to one hour drive into the city, while you can be in the heart of Akureyri within five minutes from its domestic airport, and with an hour and a half, you could kill two touristy birds with one stone (leave the puffins alone, though).


Our first stop was Brynja at Aðalstræti 3. Brynja is a little ice cream shop that might not look like much, but it is actually packed with wonder and history. Arguably (the only people who may argue are people from Reykjavík) the best ice cream shop in Iceland, the proprietor tells us that the only known difference between Brynja’s ice cream (known to Icelanders as Brynjuís) and any other shop is that they use milk instead of cream in their recipe. The rest of the recipe is a tightly guarded secret by the family owned shop, known only to the owner and his son-in-law. According to employee Krista B. Kristjánsdóttir, competitors call in regularly to try and get the recipe from the employees (one of which is in fact named Brynja).

While we were there, I got a pretty standard tornado. However, this ice cream shop doesn’t stop at the regular toppings. They extend well into the gummy category, with toppings such as banana gummies, cherry gummies amongst many others. The ice cream served did in fact have a milky quality to it, making it a lot lighter on the stomach than your standard ice cream. Which would prove important, as our next stop was the church of Akureyri, for ‘the Akureyri Challenge.’


The original Akureyri challenge is to start at the bottom of the church steps, run up them as fast as you can while counting every step along the way, and then run back down. But, considering the fact that I had just finished a medium ‘tornado’ (vanilla soft ice cream with three toppings mixed in), when it came time to take this challenge, I was severely worried that I may be tasting some Brynjuís again, with some stomach acid thrown in the mix. Thus, The Ultimate Akureyri Challenge was born.

This challenge isn’t for the faint of heart, or stomach. Before heading to the church to take the challenge, make a stop at Brynja and polish off a medium sized tornado, then get your sprinting shoes on. If you manage to run up and down the steps while keeping your ice cream down, and getting the right number of steps, you’ve successfully completed The Ultimate Akureyri Challenge!

With an hour and a half to kill in Akureyri, we were able to indulge in two of the town’s musts for tourists and Icelanders alike. The ice cream at Brynja at the very least rivals the best ice cream shop of Reykjavík (step up your game, Ísbúð Vesturbæjar), and the Ultimate Akureyri Challenge was an accomplishment, even though there isn’t any reward (except for maybe applause from people at the top of the steps). With another hour or two, it isn’t too farfetched to imagine that one could get to know everyone in the town and possibly run for mayor.

Flight provided by Air Iceland. For more info, see their website.

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