A Perfect Day in Hrísey
Travel back in time on the Pearl of Eyjafjörður
Hrísey, Iceland’s second largest island, is in the middle of Eyjafjörður. With 200 inhabitants, it is part of the municipality of Akureyri and always referred to as the Pearl of Eyjafjörður.
Visiting Hrísey is pure fun and makes an inspiring day trip for groups or individuals. The village is really cute and clean, as all the houses are very old, though beautifully renovated and painted in bright colours. Travellers cannot take their cars to the island, so it is peaceful. There are a few cars on the island but most transportation is by tractor. The number of tractors give the island a special flavour and it is common to see a tractor parked outside a home instead of a car. As a matter of fact, there is nowhere else in Iceland with as many tractors per capita as on Hrísey. The island is easy to reach as there are trips every two hours from the morning until 9 pm, all year round by the Sævar ferry from Ársskógssandur Village, 35 km from Akureyri. It only takes 15 minutes to sail there. It is possible to take in many of the key spots—and more—in the two hours between the ferry trips, making it an interesting visit for tour groups. From the pier, there is a fun trip with the tractor taxi—a hay cart towed by an elderly, sedate tractor. The driver serves as a guide, telling his passengers tales and history during the forty minute trip around the island. You still have ample time to enjoy a meal at the Brekka restaurant, Kaffi Hrísey or Júllabúð and pick up some handmade souvenirs from the Perlan souvenir shop or take a stroll.
Staying longer enables you to thoroughly enjoy the island, swim in the beautiful new geothermal pool, go fishing and have a good sleep during the arctic nights, either in one of the guesthouses: Jónatanhús, Mínukot (www.visithrisey.is) or Brekka (www.brekkahrisey.is), or at the island’s camp site. There are numerous pleasant hiking trails and other types of tours are available by land or sea.
The Tourist office, located in the Museum of Shark-Jörundur is open daily during the summertime.
All bookings for accommodation, activities and tours can be made there all year around, on the website or by phone at the number below.
Museums of Life at Sea and Home
There are two interesting museums on the island. In the oldest house, built by a legendary figure called Shark-Jörundur, visitors can learn about the history of the island as well as shark fishing in Iceland. Shark fishing was not for the faint of heart in earlier times, only those of exceptional strength and endurance could survive in the arctic cold and tumultuous seas.
Holt, the Memorial Museum of Alda Halldórsdóttir, shows a typical working-class home from 1900 onwards, a story of the old world meeting the new, with furnishings, gadgets, handicraft embroidery and photographs of old times.
A Birdwatching Paradise
The island is known for its bird life, as about 40 bird species nest there, the most abundant being the ptarmigan. One reason there is an unusually large concentration of birds is that all hunting of birds and gathering of eggs is banned on the island and there are no predators such as foxes, minks, mice or rats. Therefore a number of the birds are so unafraid of man that you can come up very close to them.