browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Europe 4: Nordic Norway, November 27 – December 2, 2015

Posted by on November 28, 2015

Lofoten & Narvik November 27 – December 2, 2015

Lofoten is world-famous for its awesome landscape and scenery: dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched land, wildlife, fishing and Northern Lights. It has been on my list for a long time.

 DSC08278 DSC08702


norwaykaart[1]Lofoten, an archipelago off the western coast of Norway, consists of six major islands (Austvågøy, Gimsøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy, Moskenesøy,Værøy, Røst) and numerous smaller islands. Lofotr was originally the name of the island of Vestvågøy which later became the name of the chain of islands.  The archipelago looks like a closed wall reaching 800-1,000m high when seen from elevated points around Bodø or when arriving from the sea. The highest mountain in Lofoten is Higravstinden (1,161m) in Austvågøy.

Lying north of the Arctic Circle, Lofoten features sub polar oceanic climate.  However, owing to the influence of the Gulf Stream, Værøy and Røst are the most northerly locations in the world where average temperatures are above freezing all year. Inhabited for over 10,000 years, the islands stretching 100 km-long with a land area totalling 1,227 km² and a population of over 25,000, have been the centre of great cod fisheries for a millennium, especially in winter when the cod migrates south from the Barents Sea and gathers in Lofoten to spawn. The sea is rich with life and the world’s largest deep water coral reef, called the Røst Reef is located west of Røst. Lofoten is also teeming with sea birds, including sea eagles, cormorants and puffins.

Lofoten is a popular tourist destination. Hurtingruten, Norway’s famous coastal boat service, stops at Stamsund and Svolvær everyday both by the north-bound and the south-bound routes. Most visitors come in the summer for outdoor activities, mountaineering, rock climbing, cycling, fishing, hiking, surfing etc. More tourists are now coming in winter for Northern Lights, nature, sea bird and orca excursions, and a winter experience in the Arctic Circle.

4-Day Roaming in Lofoten

0166163_Coverage_176714_Lofoten_cov[1]I went to Lofoten for its natural beauty and a winter Arctic experience. Of course, I had hopes for seeing Northern Lights. My original plan was to go to Svolvær, stay one night to drop my suitcase behind before travelling light for a couple of days in one or two traditional fishing villages such as Å, Reine and Henningsvær. I ended up spending two nights in a 3-person rorbu in Åand another two in Best Western Hotel, Svolvær with a day trip to Henningsvær. My brief itinerary is set out below.

Day 1- November 27 Friday: Harstad –  Å: Travel Day

All passengers on Noorderlicht had to disembark before 8 am as the boat would be sailing back to the Netherlands by 9 am. The easiest way to travel around is to rent a car. But I am not comfortable driving alone on icy roads. So I had to rely on public transportation. Luckily Europe has good public transportation services. 

My bus left Harstad after 10 am (240kr) and I arrived in Svolvær by 1:40pm. I then found out that a bus would be leaving for Å at 2 pm and decided to go straight to Å (187kr). A local told me I could find accommodation there. Unfortunately, I was misguided and could not find any place to stay after getting off the bus at 5:30 pm. It was dark, wet and cold. Lillian, the driver though in a rush to go home did not leave me alone: she called a friend with a rorbu and I paid 1,000 kr for two nights. By 6pm, I relaxed in a comfortable rorbu with Wi-Fi by the sea.

Day 2November 28Saturday: Å

I slept soundly till 10 am. The weather was not good today: I had rain, sleet, snow, hail and a few moments of beautiful sun rays shining through the overcast sky. I only spent about five hours outside the rorbu exploring Å, the rocky coast at the tip of Moskenesøyand Tint, the next village.


Village Tint (front) & Å (back)



 DSC08072 DSC08032
 DSC08117 DSC08138

It was getting dark and I decided not to walk to Sørvågen, a bigger village. It rained in the evening and I spent the whole time working on my website.

Day 3- November 29 Sunday: Å –  Svolvær

DSC08222Few buses are running on Sunday. I took the first bus of the day at 11:30 am to Svolvær as I could not find reasonable accommodation at Reine (a room/rorbu costs more than 1,200 kr a night). Instead I paid 810 kr for a nice room with breakfast at Best Western Hotel in Svolvær.

After leaving my suitcase in my room, I went out after 3 pm heading to Svinøya Island. After walking for more than half an hour, I returned to the mainland without finding the gigantic fish drying racks at the end of the road.

I returned to the mainland and crossed another bridge to Lamholmen where Scandic Hotel is located. Afterward, I walked toward the main square and was amazed to find 200-300 hundred locals including many children and their parents walking round the lit-up Christmas tree hand in hand singing Christmas carol. A children/youth band was playing some out-of-tune music. Later, Father Christmas arrived and handed out presents to children who were all wearing a big smile. It’s atmospheric.

I was in a Christmas mood too and went to a nice restaurant for a Nordic Christmas dinner which is a meat dish with crispy pork, ribs and baked potatoes. I had a dessert and a draft beer. The wholesome dinner cost me less than 300kr. My stomach was full: I need a good meal after living on noodles and sardines for the last two days.

Day 4- November 30 Monday: Svolvær – Henningsvær –  Svolvær

DSC08357Henningsvær has been described as the most beautiful fishing village in Lofoten. Located on several small islands with an area of 0.3 km² with a population of about 500 off the southern coast of Austvågøy and about 30 km fromSvolvær, it is connected to the rest ofVagån via the Henningsvær Bridges.

There are many traditional wooden houses of over 100 years and art galleries. I took the 10:20 bus (47kr) and arrived there at 11am. The weather was superb with an awesome sunrise. I cannot describe the extraordinary beautiful and surreal colours I have seen. It first started with the normal orange golden colours. Later several sunrays in purple pink were appearing on the horizon against a blue sky. The mountains facing the sea were lit up with a purple pink hue. As I was in the bus, I could not capture the lights owing to reflections on the bus windows. By the time I got off the bus, the spectacular sun rays on the horizon had gone.

DSC08236 DSC08266
 DSC08295  DSC08341

DSC08259There are many traditional wooden houses of over 100 years and art galleries. I took the 10:20 bus (47kr) and arrived there at 11am. The weather was superb with an awesome sunrise. I cannot describe the extraordinary beautiful and surreal colours I have seen. It first started with the normal orange golden colours. Later several sunrays in purple pink were appearing on the horizon against a blue sky. The mountains facing the sea were lit up with a purple pink hue. As I was in the bus, I could not capture the lights owing to reflections on the bus windows. By the time I got off the bus, the spectacular sun rays on the horizon had gone.

 DSC08406 DSC08405
 DSC08403  DSC08399

I strolled around looking at the drying racks, traditional houses and had a nice coffee in a candle shop. But the galleries and most shops are closed on Monday as they stay open during the weekend. The scenery along the road between E10 and Henningsvær is beautiful. By 1 pm, I was ready to go but the bus would not leave till 4:25 pm.

 DSC08397 DSC08414
 DSC08436  DSC08459
 DSC08443 DSC08497
 DSC08473  DSC08451

I decided to walk 5 km to the main road (E10) to catch the bus from Leknes toSvolvær around 2:30 pm. In this way, I could enjoy the magnificent scenery. My plan did not work out: my pace was too leisurely and I had made too many photo stops. By the time I reached E10, the bus had gone and I was still 15 km from Svolvær.

What could I do? Sitting in the cold for an hour and a half for the next bus? I decided to walk to the next bus stop or find a cafe. It‘s after 3 pm and was dark. Suddenly a van stopped on the opposite side of the road and a man asked where I was going. He had just finished a painting job in Reine and was on his back to home in Kabelvåg(6 km before Svolvær) when he saw me walking without a reflective coat. He was worried I might be run over soon. He kindly offered me a lift and dropped me back at Best Western Hotel before 3:30 pm. Geir Nilsen is my saviour!

Tonight, the sky was clear with a good chance for Northern Lights. I stayed up till 3 am stepping out of the balcony staring at the sky. I did not see any though the hotel owner said he had seen the lights from his home. Perhaps I had looked at the wrong direction or the light pollution in the town centre was too bad for the lights.

December 1 Tuesday: Svolvær – Narvik

I got up early after a sleepless night in search of the mystical Northern Lights. I took the 9:50 am bus to Narvik (330kr), had the most impressive and beautiful scenic ride.

 DSC08540  DSC08561
 DSC08574  DSC08683
 DSC08600  DSC08693
 DSC08673 DSC08656

I arrived after 2 pm in Narvik, my last stop in Norway (over 250km). and stayed in the Grand Hotel which is close to the train station. The nice receptionist kindly offered me a very good rate of 800kr.


The bridge linking Harstad and Lofoten to the Mainland

The bridge linking Harstad and Lofoten to the Mainland

Located on the shores of the Ofotfjorden, Narvik has a deep all-year ice free port. Modern history of Narvik in the 1870s when the Swedish government began exploring the potential of the iron ore mines in Kiruna. A railroad from Luleå through Kiruna to Narvik in order to transport the iron ore to the two ports for export. Narvik was officially found in 1902 on completion of the Kiruna-Narvik line. LKAB, the Swedish mining corporation, still ships the majority of its ore from Narvik. 

Owing to the strategic importance of iron and the port in the early years of WWII, Narvik became a focal point in the Norwegian campaign.  In April 1940, Germany launched its invasion of Norway and ten German destroyers were sent to Narvik sinking two Norwegian warship. During the ensuing Battle of Narvik, the British navy arrived and destroyed the German destroyers and other German ships in the area. Finally the Allied forces under Norwegian leadership captured Narvik on May 28, 1940, the first Allied infantry victory in WWII.

The road was icy. I went to the train station to get a train ticket (66SEK) before taking a leisure stroll in the city centre. All of a sudden, I fell again without hurting myself. That night, I slept without closing the curtain hoping the Northern Lights would wake me up. The sky was cloudy and there was no trace of the lights.

December 2 Wednesday: Narvik, Norway – Abisko Östra, Sweden



Narvik Old Church




My train to Abisko, Sweden

My train to Abisko, Sweden

After having an excellent breakfast, I had a 2-hour walk before going to the train station. I went to the oldest church in Narvik and a view point nearby. But I did not have time for the War Museum and the Cemetery, both would be of interest owing to the Battle on Narvik in 1940. My train departed at 12:40 pm.


7-day Sailing in Senja

This’s the first time I joined a boat trip in winter with short day light time. The highlight of this trip is the amazing whale watching in Ersenfjorden in both poor and fine weather. I have never seen over a hundred whales feeding in a fjord- a whale theme park!

After this trip, I realise how day light can affect the mood and the activity time. We tried to take a short walk (1 to 2 hours) through a village or town almost every day. This was done more for exercise than for sight-seeing. As it was dark from around 2 pm to 9 am, I probably have spent less than 30 hours in total on deck. This includes the time for whale watching, gazing at the surreal and beautiful colours of the sun and the moon, watching out for Northern Lights and looking at the landscape, seascape and scenery. Had we had luck with the Northern Lights with splendid display, the long hours of darkness would not have been a problem.

Anyway, I do not get bored easily and try to appreciate whatever comes along. I had a pleasant time on board Noorderlicht thanks to Captain Gert, Geron, Jan and above Menthe, our super chef. I have put on weight after eating everything he laid on the table (though I am never keen about the breakfast). The boat though small is comfortable and cozy. It’s a nice surprise to meet Rob again: we met this February onboard Ortelius during the Antarctic Odyssey. I have made 15 new friends on the boat: they are all nice and considerate. Otherwise, a confined life on a tiny boat for seven days could be unbearable!

Memories of Lofoten

I find Lofoten exceptionally beautiful as it has everything I love: inspiring landscape, seascape and scenery with rugged mountains and pointed peaks, fishing culture and picturesque fishing villages, thriving art communities, wildlife and outdoor activities. My brief 4-day stay in Lofoten is filled with sweet memories though I have seen very little of the islands. I have a wonderful experience and shall return one day.

  • Scenic route. I have travelled through the islands on E10 all the way to Å: it is the most scenic route I have ever taken in my life. Photos taken from the moving bus have hardly captured the unearthly beauty of the islands.
  • Spectacular scenery. I have sped through the main islands and only visited Svolvær and three villages. Buteach island or place has its own unique character and settingwhich always has a mountain as a backdrop and a waterfront. For example, Svolværgeita Mountain and Festvågtind stand majestically behind Svolvær andHenningsvær respectively.
  • Solitude. I spent two wonderful silent nights in a rorbu in Å where I saw only three persons in 40 hours. The village is empty but not lifeless: there are lights on every door; the houses are colourfully painted to break the monotony and above all the surrounding sea and snow make the place look pure and peaceful.
  • Polar Lights and Colours. Despite the short duration with sunlight during the winter months, I find the lights in the Arctic region soft, fascinating and surreal. Reflections from snow alsolight up the place even without lights.  The dark hours can be atmospheric and cool!
  • Northern Lights.Though I have not seen much Northern Lights during the entire stay in Norwayon owing to the poor weather, I can imagine Lofoten given its dramatic backdrop with rugged and snow-clad mountains, lakes, bays and villages. must be one of the most beautiful spots for viewing Northern Lights. I shall definitely return for Northern Lights viewing in Lofoten one day.
  • People. Scandivanians with their Viking traits are tough, intelligent and cool. They are individualistic and independent and appear aloof. But they are well-educated and caring people: I am moved by the kindness of Lillian who found me a place to stay in Å and Geir who might have saved my life by giving me a lift. I appreciate the special price given to me by the rorbu owner in Å and the receptionist at Gand Hotel in Narvik: I really enjoy their hospitality and thoughtfulness. I have also met a young couple from the UK in Henningsvær who later drove me to see the drying racks in Svinøya Island.  


Comments are closed.