Have you not yet been on a summer holiday in Northern Norway? Or would you like to go back? If so, then it is smart to start planning now — so you have the best pick of activities and accommodation.
Northern Norway is too large and diverse for you to be able to “see everything” in one summer holiday. However, if you choose to use Wideroe’s unique Explore Norway ticket you can get to see a lot!
But where will you start and what should you choose? The trick is to ask those who have local knowledge. That is why we have asked four tourism managers from Northern Norway for their tips for the very best summer adventures in the kingdom of the midnight sun.
The vega archipelago world heritage site
We start in the south of the region, in Vega, which has been on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004. Hilde Wika from the Vega tourist office shares her best tips:
The Helgeland coast with its many islands and beautiful scenery can be experienced on foot, by bike, boat or car. Island hopping along the coast is an idea, and starting from Brønnøysund or Sandnessjøen you have an archipelago of over 12,000 islands within easy reach.
Over half of these islands are located in Vega Municipality, and in recent years the archipelago has experienced a doubling in the number of visiting tourists. Nevertheless, it is not a matter of mass tourism – in Vega things are on such a small scale that you get close to everyday life. You should also make sure you book your accommodation and activities in plenty of time
– The most special thing we can offer is probably a visit to the “down village” of Lånan. There are five bird keeping families that keep eiders as livestock – something that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world, explains Hilde Wika. The boat visits the “down village” twice a week, with space for a maximum of 48 people. You have to be early as it gets booked up very quickly
Vega Havhotell is well known for its hospitable hosts and good food from local suppliers. If you are unable to book one of the 25 rooms in the hotel, there are other accommodation options such as apartments, fishermen’s cabins and camping. In good weather you can wild camp in a tent, which is what many people do, says Wika. The right to roam applies in Vega like it does in the rest of Norway.
Kayak and whale safari in Vesterålen
In the far north of Nordland County lies Vesterålen, the perfect starting point for those seeking an active holiday with exciting adventures on land and water. You can find over 150 marked hiking trails overlooking both the fjords and the open see on the outer side of Vesterålen – these are graded at all levels from green to black.
If you prefer being on the water, then Vesterålen is a paradise for sea kayaking. You can hire a kayak and all the equipment you need from various places including Vesterålen Padle og klatresenter and Huset på Yttersiden. Irrespective of whether you are a beginner or have done it before, you can have an amazing outdoor experience in a kayak.
– If you dream of getting to see a whale up close, you should join a whale safari. Either in a small RIB or a larger boat with a guide. Several companies offer whale watching safaris from Andenes, from where it is a short distance out to the whale watching areas. A close encounter with whales is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life!
If you prefer cultural and tranquil experiences, you should visit the abandoned fishing village of Nyksund. This is the closest thing Vesterålen has to Oslo’s Grünerløkka with several places to stay overnight, eateries and not to mention many artists and photographers, who have given new life to the former ghost village.
From Nyksund you can follow the Dronningruta (Queen’s Route), named after Queen Sonja in 1994, which is a 15 kilometre hiking trail over the mountain to Stø.
Join the Polar Bear Club
There are lots of possibilities for tours in Hammerfest – the city which for 200 years has been regarded as the northernmost city in the world. The inhabitants of Hammerfest still claim this title although its neighbour Honningsvåg has now also been given town status.
– One great trip, for example, is to walk up to the summit of the town mountain Salen, where the reindeer herders Mikkel and Solveig run the Mikkelgammen Sami camp. There you can learn about Sami culture, hear joiking and eat delicious Sami cuisine, recommends Katja Grosse, General Manager of the Hammerfest Tourist Office.
Back in the town centre, you can visit the Polar Bear Society. If you join, you get the world-famous polar bear pin badge as proof that you have been in Hammerfest – which is undeniably the northernmost city with over 10,000 inhabitants. At the time of writing the society has over 263,000 members!
A short ferry ride from the town of Hammerfest is the Seiland National Park with alpine coastal scenery, fjords and Scandinavia’s northernmost glaciers. Norwegians, Sami and Kvens once lived in each fjord where they fished and kept domestic animals. Today, there are no permanent settlements in the national park, but in many places you can see the remains of homesteads at the edge of the water.
At the end of the Second World War, Hammerfest like the rest of Finnmark and Nord-Troms, became the victim of the “scorched earth tactic”. The Germans, who realised that they had lost the war, burned down and destroyed most of the houses to prevent the Soviet Union from being able to take advantage of the resources when they arrived. The Museum of Reconstruction for Finnmark and Nord-Troms is a monument to the will of humans to overcome the destruction of war and create a new future.
The kingdom of the king crab
When we talk about Honningsvåg, we are unable to not mention a visit to the North Cape – one of the absolute biggest tourist attractions in Norway. If you come by plane to Honningsvåg, you can hire a car and drive yourself out to the North Cape plateau or you can book a guided excursion.
– There are many places with fantastic scenery, but what is special here is that it is a very bare landscape almost without trees. When you fly into Honningsvåg in clear weather, it is almost as if you cannot believe what you are seeing. The landscape is really that special, says Hege Jernsletten, who is the marketing manager for Visit North Cape.
The North Cape is also in the kingdom of the king crab. It is strongly recommended that you join a king crab safari, where you take part in catching the king crabs – and then afterwards get to taste them.
Hege also recommends a visit to Norway’s largest sea bird colony on Gjesværstappan, which is home to a million puffins. Birdsafari Gjesvær has three regular departures per day during the high season.
– I always have to go there at least once every summer, she says.
Top photo: Visit Vesterålen – In the middle of the night. The Queen’s Route, a hiking trail from Nyksund.