At the beginning of our Euro travels in August 2014, Emmett and I spent a truly magical few days just above the Arctic Circle in Norway. We weren't there for long but during our week there we were absolutely blown away by the natural beauty we encountered.
After flying out of Iceland, Emmett and I took a flight to Oslo, Norway and then got on a smaller flight heading North to the town of Bodø, just above the Arctic Circle. From there, we made a quick trip to the spectacular Lofoten archipelago and then went back to Bodø where we spent a few days couchsurfing with a very generous couple who showed us some breathtaking local scenery.
We departed the ferry in Moskenes as dusk was rapidly approaching and remembered that we had nowhere to stay. I recalled reading an accommodation guide of the area that mentioned a hostel in the town of Å (pronounced "oh-ah"), south of Moskenes. But at that point we were a very long walk away from Å. Ultimately, we caught a ride with an older Italian couple and they dropped us off just down from YHA Å. We stayed in a tidy little Scandinavian cabin with only one other couple as housemates.
Our cabinmates in Å were a very kind duo from inland Norway who soon found out Emmett and I were looking to hike the next day. They offered to take us with them on a hike they'd planned. They said that in the morning they were going to take a ferry from the town of Reine up Bunesfjord to do a hike called "Helvetestinden" aka "Hell's Gate." They showed us a Norwegian book on hikes in Lofoten and pointed out the pictures of Helevetestinden and it looked incredible. We heartily agreed to go with them - probably one of the best decisions we've ever made.
Overall, Helvetestinden afforded us views of some of the most literally awesome and jaw-dropping scenery we've ever seen. I think it's probably one of the top 5 moments of my life. If you're interested in hiking the mountain yourself, the guy who blogs at 68 North has a really comprehensive guide.
Noway is a quite expensive country, so unfortunately we left the archipelago the next day. We'd love to go back some time if we can take and freedom camp the islands. There is so much more to see. Even if we don't go back, the short time we had there was unforgettable.
Back in Bodø (pronounced a lot like "Buddha"), we had an equally if not more unforgettable time while staying with couchsurfing hosts in the city. On our first night our hosts took us to an art & architecture festival called SALT that was held at an island called Sandhornøya just outside of the city.
After the surprise and delight of unexpectedly seeing the Aurora Borealis, Emmett and I joked about packing up and going home to the U.S. Could our trip get any better than the last few days we'd had? Actually, yes. It somehow did. I'm so glad we kept going because our next two days couchsurfing in Bodø were phenomenal. Our hosts took us mushroom foraging in some local woods. I cannot say where exactly they were because it's a highly guarded secret! But it was wonderful to be able to learn the competitive art of mushroom hunting.
On our very last day in Bodø, our hosts took us to a lovely little beach outside of town called Mjelle. We had a beach bonfire with homemade cardamom hot cocoa and took a dip in the Norwegian Sea. The latter is known as a viking "right of passage."
I don't know if I can say anything else about our time in Arctic Norway... I do want to reiterate that it was one of the best weeks of my life. I'll never forget just how every day and every experience was more beautiful and exciting than anything else I've ever done. I think about returning but almost don't want to just because our first trip was too perfect. I think we must have thanked our couchsurfing hosts a thousand times. They even fed us incredible home-cooked meals every day while we stayed with them... How spoiled we were.