Sorry Akranes, I’m going to start this post with being brutally honest: You are not the pretties town in Iceland. That’s OK though, I’m not the pretties girl in the village either. Akranes has got a pretty bad reputation for some reason, not for anything in particular though, and people in Iceland tend to not be that excited about it. It has certainly not made any top ten places in the world you must visit lists but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
Against popular opinion I’ve always found Akranes kind of cute. Sure it’s got some big and ugly industrial buildings (I actually have a strange fascination with those since we don’t have too many of them here in Iceland) but it has also got some tiny and wonderfully crooked corrugated houses, delicious bakeries found in what from the outside looks like a garage and a general small town feel only 50 kilometers away from downtown Reykjavík.
Finding beauty in the mundane, hidden treasures where you least expect them, has always been my thing so I managed to keep an open mind about my visit to Akranes. The result? I got pleasantly surprised .
The lighthouse in Breiðin
Akranes Lighthouse has recently been opened to the public and you can go up to the top and enjoy the views. On a good day you can see all the way over the bay to Reykjavík but it also offers some great sights of the town and surrounding areas. The lighthouse is open between 10:00 and 12:00 on weekdays and it’s taken care of by a local amateur photographer who’s really enthusiastic about this project and it doesn’t take much persuasion to get him to tell you a little about it.
Once you get inside you will find a art exhibition on the first two floors and then photogrpahy exhibition on the remaining floors until you reach the top. My favorite part was a series done by kindergarten children who got some cameras to capture the world with their eyes. They’ve got a really interesting perspective on things
What is in common with the lighthouses I’ve visted is that they have amazing accoustics and Akranes lighthosue is no different. The caretaker, who’s name is Hilmar by the way, has plans to host some concerts there in the future which I personally think would be amazing. Even if you do nothing else you should drive the extra kilometers on the ring road heading north through Akranes for a visit to this lighthouse. If you’re into lighthouses that is. I know Hilmar also sometimes openes it by appointment so if you can’t make it between 10:00 and 12:00 not all hope is lost.
Langisandur beach is a long stretch of sand down by the sea (duh) but Langisandur literally means Long sand. The town has put up some showers there and changing rooms in case you want to dip into the sea and if you are afraid to do it alone the local sea bathing association offers guests to join them for a swim. Just ask at the tourist information office for more on that.
When I was there I got the whole beach to myself for a while. It was gorgeous. It was cloudy but bright and the sand got a yellowish luster over it so I couldn’t really make out where the beach ended and sky started. Later a little family came there for a photography session and I would kill to see those images because the conditions were amazing. I could have sat there the whole day and then some.
During sunny days Langisandur beach is much more lively and has a more beach like feel to it so if you what to see and be seen that’s an option too.
I met a nice lady at the tourist information who told me that 1/3 (or was it 2/3) of all the people that visit her ask about hiking Akrafjall. It’s Akranes’s town mountain, kind of like the Esja is for Reykjavík, and apparently it’s a brilliant hike with even more amazing views. Unfortunately I’ve never been up their so I can’t vouch for that but 1/3 (or was it 2/3) of Akranes visitors can’t be wrong. I’ll put on my bucket list along with all the other mountains that I will one day climb.
Since I didn’t actually climb Akrafjall here are couple of photos I took at a place the local kids call their secret beach. You should try to find it, it’s kind of neat (I can’t tell you where it is because then it won’t be their secret anymore).
Practical things you should know about visiting Akranes
If you need a place to stay in Akranes you should check out Akranes hostel but that’s where I stayed when I was there. It’s nice, clean and the owner is really helpful. You should also visit the nice lady at the tourist information office not only because she’s nice but also because she really loves her town and wants you to enjoy everything it has to offer. Finally, if you are hungry you can try Gamla Kaupfélagið or Galito but I’ve eaten at both places and it was pretty good. The lunch special in Galito is 1400 ISK for a the dish of the day and a soup.
For 700 ISK (or two tickets) you can take the public bus to Akranes. If you have any kind of bus pass that will pass as one ticket so you’ll only have to pay 350 ISK extra.