Norway : Lofoten Islands & the arctic circle

The year 2019 started with an unusual trip. My girlfriend and I decided to visit the northern part of Norway, the Lofoten islands and the nordic city Tromso. I’d consider it an unusual destination as I don’t like spending my precious holidays in winter-cold countries or cities.

As we already went through the winter curse in our country, which consisted of freezing nights and rainy days, we headed north-bound towards the arctic circle. I expected to take the best out of my recently bought Mavic Air drone and was looking forward to pet some reindeers. This all sounded too fancy, if it wouldn’t have been for the rain.

 

We flew out from Brussels and had a 2-night stop in Bergen, the main city in the south-west of Norway. All I knew about Bergen, were the beautiful colored houses which I knew from google and the mountains surrounding the city center. It all seemed very “nordic” to me, because of the maritime vibe with all the ships, anchors and fishermen, therefor I was looking forward to finally discover Bergen. It turned out that city center wasn’t that attractive at all, and it ended up as a big disappointment. On tripadvisor we tried to find several tourist spots, which would allow us to kill the time. Sadly we couldn’t find any online.

All you can do is get some fishy-food at the local fish market, grab a coffee or two, get on top of the mount “Fløyen” with its fancy funicalar. All this can be done in 4 hours. Besides that I really can’t give you any further tips. Bergen didn’t turn out as I expected it to be. At night, we didn’t find any awesome bars which would allow us to get to know some local folks, it all seemed very dead. I guess paying 10 euros/dollar for one beer or a shot of rum doesn’t sound very inviting. Sadly that’s the average price you gotta pay for booze in Norway.

We were happy to move on towards the Lofoten in the early morning of our 3rd day in Norway.
You can easily reach the city center of Begen from the airport by the local lightrail (one-way ticket costs about 3,5 euro/dollar, or the express busline “flybussen”, which takes about 25 min(the one-way ticket is about 10 euro/us$).

 

Lofoten Islands: Reine, Sakrisoy, Henningsvær.

We landed in Leknes, where one of the 3 airports of the Lofoten is located. It was the smallest airport that I’ve ever landed at. After jumping out of the airplane, we walked through a door, and immediately reached the luggage claim belt within a couple of meters. Right next to the luggage claim where two single booths of the rental car companies. After spending exactly 4 minutes at the desk, we got a descent upgrade for our car: a hybrid VW Golf, with automatic transmission, and spiked wheels.

Prior our trip we booked a lovely wooden cabin in Sakrisøy, also known as “Rorbu” houses. Rorbuer are traditional fisher houses made out of wood and usually painted in red or yellow. It was one of the cheapest “chalets” we could find on booking.com, but it turned out to be exactly what were looking for. The check-in was flawless. The main entrance of the cabin was facing a big snow-covered mountain, right next to the water. A very basic kitchen station allowed us to prepare our dinners and breakfasts. Nearby the Sakrisoy houses was a “Coop” supermarket, and with 50 euro/us$, we could prepare our food for the upcoming 3 days. Expect to pay at least 60 euro/us$ while having dinner at a restaurant. Norway ain’t cheap!

It was the first time I ever stayed in a wooden cabin. I loved brewing my fresh coffee every morning with my portable “Kalita Filter”. The living area and the wooden beds on the upper level of the house were very cosy. The wooden cabin was definitely an important part of our Lofoten experience, as we weren’t spoiled with the best weater. We spent 5 days / 4 nights on the Island. During our stay we only had two days of sunshine. The weather was changing constantly, it was mostly snowstorms, rain and fog. As it was my first trip where I would use my DJI MAVIC AIR drone, the weather didn’t allow us to fly it up, as the winds were way too strong.

It’s really hard to kill the time on the Lofoten during bad weather, as there’s isn’t much to do. Because of the icy roads it takes quite a while to visit other cities. Driving from Reine to Svolvaer would easily take 3 hours. The center of Leknes hasn’t much too offer, except for a couple of coffee houses and an unattractive shopping mall.

There’s one main road that leads across the Island, the E10. There aren’t barely any shortcuts, you won’t get lost on the Lofoten without a GPS, but you will use the same road over and over again to drive around.

During our 4 days, we visited Reine, Leknes, Henningvaer and Svolvaer and we made it to the Unstad arctic surf beach. There are plenty of tiny villages that you will pass by within a couple of minutes. Different fishermen restaurants are spread out all over the Island. Besides having cake & coffee, taking lots and lots and lots of photographs, there’s not much to do in the Lofoten.

The views are breathtaking! The landscape and mountains scenery is very unique, and you won’t be disappointed. Sadly we got also unlucky with the northern lights. We were using the iphone apps “Aurora Alerts” and “Aurora” to get informed about the optimal conditions of the northern lights. Every night around 22:00h (10pm) the green lights were right above our roof. Unluckily because of the clouded sky, we weren’t able to see them. One night we took our car and started driving around for an hour or two. No luck! Even later in Tromso, one of the best locations in Norway to witness the northern beauties in the sky, we were unlucky again.

TROMSO.

Tromso was the last destination on our norway trip. Initially we had planned to make it the most popular city in northern norway to visit e reindeer farm. You can several tours or reindeer sleeding, husky sledding, feeding the reindeers followed by a traditional sami dinner. All of that could have been, if it wasn’t for the rain & fog.

After we landed in the late evening, the first glimpse at the city center was quite suprising. It looked like the center of fairy tale village, lots of inviting shops, packed restaurants and a handful of bars. On the next day we woke up with frustrations, the sky was gray, it was raining, and you could hear the wind through the room-window. We decided to walk across the main Tromso bridge and make it to the “Arctic Cathedral”. The beautiful A-shaped Cathedral was built in 1965, and to me it looked more like an Art-Center or Museum than a church. The shape of the building is actually very unusual for a religious building and it definitely looks like a recent construction. Never thought that the cathedral was over 50 years old.

Obviously with all the bad luck on our side, the church was closed. There were way too many people outside to get a descent photograph. The winds were too strong to fly up the drone. The fog was so dense that we could barely see the other side of the bridge. Bummer!

There wasn’t much to do in Tromso as well. We jumped from shop to the other, and tried too many coffees and cakes in the surrounding coffee-bars. Across our hotel was a lovely vinyl shop called “Backbeat Kaffe og Vinyl”. As the name of shop already reveals… you’ll find an interesting collection of vinyl (rock, indie, metal, soul, local bands) and can buy a fine cup of coffee, while browsing for new music. While in Norway, I had to buy the last album of “Kvelertak”, a gem of nordic rock music!