There is no place like home. But if you happen to be far from home and in Iceland then there is no place like Sverrir’s home!
Our friend, Sverrir, grew up in Akureyri, Iceland. Akureyri is a bustling town located on the north coast. It’s known for skiing in the winter and is a port for cruise ships during the warmer months. It’s also a great home base for exploring northern Iceland.
Sverrir insisted that we visit his home town—”the center of the universe”—as he calls it. He also was insistent that we stay with his parents. We certainly didn’t want to inconvenience his family but knew that it would provide a unique and authentic experience. Plus, Sverrir reassured us that his Mom, Gudny, was the nicest woman in the world (and we would soon confirm that for ourselves). He did mention to us that his parents speak very little English and that one of his siblings could help with translation. So, Sverrir put us in touch with his brother, Oli, to coordinate our arrival.
Getting to Akureyri
We made the beautiful, scenic drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri in about 5 hours. It would have been more had we followed the misguided advice of our GPS which wanted to take us along the coast the entire way. We started that way but hit some gravel roads as well as construction and decided to turn back and stick to the main road, Highway 1, through the mountains. We imagined how daunting the road might be during the winter, but in the summer, it was nothing but waterfalls, jagged mountains and lush, mountain meadows.
On arrival in Akureyri, we found Sverrir’s home easily and were greeted by Oli who introduced us to his mom, sister, and baby nephew. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming and immediately made us feel at home. Oli took us into town where we met with his wife, Katie, who works for Saga Travel. She gave us some suggestions on things to see and do and then suggested a walking tour that led us to Sverrir’s favorite ice cream shop, Brynja, for the best ice cream in town!
That evening, Sverrir’s dad, Ragnar, came home from work and straight to our room to greet us in Icelandic. We didn’t understand a word, but did understand his enthusiasm and body language to join him in the family room for some pre-dinner snacks. Sverrir’s sister, Hulda, arrived soon after and was gracious enough to play interpreter.
Sverrir’s mom, Gudny, cooked a traditional Icelandic meal for the five of us. It was a fantastic feast consisting of lamb, potatoes, gravy, green beans, salad, coleslaw, and bread. In general, I do not like gravy, and never have. So, when the gravy was passed I immediately passed it along. Ragnar was quick to notice (and point out) that I didn’t take “the best part of the meal”! If it’s the best part, then I definitely needed to try it! So I took a very small spoonful and placed it near the side of my plate. I actually found the gravy to be fantastic and went back for seconds and even thirds with Ragnar’s encouragement!
Following dinner, Gudny introduced us to some local sweet treats including Prince Polo (chocolate wafer cookies), 3, other chocolate treats and ice cream too! The meal and the desserts were fantastic and much more than we could have ever expected. We were grateful…and stuffed!
After dessert, Ragnar helped point out where we should go for the best chance to see the midnight sun. Since it was June 21 (the summer solstice) and we were so close to the Arctic Circle, the time was perfect to see the midnight sun–when the sun starts to sets just below the horizon, and then immediately starts to rise again, never fully disappearing. Armed with his advice (and full bellies) we set off around 10:30 PM to chase the midnight sun–a separate story altogether.
Iceland is a wonderful and magical place on its own, but it’s authentic experiences and interactions with locals that make travel all the more enjoyable. We’re forever grateful to Sverrir and his entire family for making us feel at home throughout our stay and giving us such a memorable experience.
And if you decide to go to Iceland (and you should definitely put it on your list), Sverrir can help you too. He recently started Wonders of Iceland, a boutique travel agency, that specializes in planning trips to Iceland. Look them up if you want to visit Sverrir’s home town or any other part of Iceland.