Iceland // The west coast //


Just beyond the exit from the Hvalfjörður tunnel, Route 51 strikes off west from the Ringroad for AKRANES, the west coast’s biggest town with a population of 6500. Fishing and fish processing account for roughly half the town’s income, and there’s a busy, commercial air to the place. Akranes is also renowned for its sporting prowess – the local football team, Íþróttabandalag Akraness (ÍA), are frequent national champions – and its two sports halls, swimming pools and soccer stadium are of a correspondingly high standard. Yet Akranes is hard to like: it’s gritty, entirely without architectural charm and can be a terribly cold spot even in summer, as icy winds straight off the sea howl round street corners sending the hardiest locals scurrying for cover. However, it’s a good base from which to do some decent hikes around the heights of easterly Mount Akrafjall or, when the sun is shining, to explore the long sandy beach, Langisandur, a fifteen-minute walk from the town centre. Once you’ve exhausted the beach and the harbour area, it’s best to press on to the Museum Centre, where you can get to grips with the history of the 1970s Cod Wars and admire some of Iceland’s sporting heroes.

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