Arctic Norway

At the beginning of our Euro travels in August 2014, Emmett and I spent a truly magical four days just above the Arctic Circle in Norway. We weren't there for long but we were absolutely blown away by the natural beauty that we encountered. In this post, you'll find a summary of our trip intertwined with some photos that I hope will inspire you to visit Arctic Norway yourself. 


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.

 On the ferry from Bodø to Moskenes in the Lofoten archipelago. As the boat approached, the clouds parted and we got a small glimpse of the mountainous isles of Lofoten.

On the ferry from Bodø to Moskenes in the Lofoten archipelago. As the boat approached, the clouds parted and we got a small glimpse of the mountainous isles of Lofoten.

 The picturesque little town of Moskenes, as seen from the ferry.

The picturesque little town of Moskenes, as seen from the ferry.

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 hostel digs in  Å. Classic Scandinavian red rectangular cabin.

Our hostel digs in Å. Classic Scandinavian red rectangular cabin.

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.

 The town of Reine in Lofoten.

The town of Reine in Lofoten.

 Stunning turquoise Bunesfjord.

Stunning turquoise Bunesfjord.

 Most of the tourists on our ferry opted to go to Bunes Beach which did look absolutely beautiful. The hike ended up taking us about four hours which left just enough time to get back to the ferry before it left, so we didn't get a chance to actually visit the beach.

Most of the tourists on our ferry opted to go to Bunes Beach which did look absolutely beautiful. The hike ended up taking us about four hours which left just enough time to get back to the ferry before it left, so we didn't get a chance to actually visit the beach.

 Early on in the Helvetsetind hike, there's a scree field to scramble across.

Early on in the Helvetsetind hike, there's a scree field to scramble across.

 The teeny tiny village of Vinsdtad at the end of Bunesfjord can be seen to the right of Emmett in this picture. It was mostly made up of a few residences and sheep. Actually, when we began our hike to Helvetestind we thought it may have been merely a sheep trail. The route was a barely discernible path in the grass that steeply ascended the mountainside.

The teeny tiny village of Vinsdtad at the end of Bunesfjord can be seen to the right of Emmett in this picture. It was mostly made up of a few residences and sheep. Actually, when we began our hike to Helvetestind we thought it may have been merely a sheep trail. The route was a barely discernible path in the grass that steeply ascended the mountainside.

 At the top of the ridge, the path got  very  narrow. But look at that incredible scenery!

At the top of the ridge, the path got very narrow. But look at that incredible scenery!

 Bunes Beach as seen from the bottom of the rockface on Helvetestinden.

Bunes Beach as seen from the bottom of the rockface on Helvetestinden.

 The top of Helvetestind. Time was ticking before the ferry left and we didn't have much technical skill or gear to scale this beast. We stopped our hike where the tiny guy is located in this picture.

The top of Helvetestind. Time was ticking before the ferry left and we didn't have much technical skill or gear to scale this beast. We stopped our hike where the tiny guy is located in this picture.

 Neighboring Kjerkfjord as seen from Helvetestinden.

Neighboring Kjerkfjord as seen from Helvetestinden.

 The steepest mountain I've ever climbed. Being from ultra-flat Florida, I've only really started hiking in the last six years or so... 

The steepest mountain I've ever climbed. Being from ultra-flat Florida, I've only really started hiking in the last six years or so... 

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.

 A traditional sod roof on a fjord-side building near Reine. You can also see some cod-drying racks behind it, a common sight in the area.

A traditional sod roof on a fjord-side building near Reine. You can also see some cod-drying racks behind it, a common sight in the area.

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.

 Sandhornøya mountain, with the SALT siida concert hall visible below it.

Sandhornøya mountain, with the SALT siida concert hall visible below it.

 Being late August, it was no longer the season of the midnight sun in Norway but we were still able to watch the sun set for  hours  before it finally dropped below the horizon around 11 PM - when I took this photo of Emmett.

Being late August, it was no longer the season of the midnight sun in Norway but we were still able to watch the sun set for hours before it finally dropped below the horizon around 11 PM - when I took this photo of Emmett.

 As we left SALT, we noticed some movement in the sky... THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!!! We were flabbergasted and excited; neither Emmett nor I nor fellow couchsurfer Sujata nor our hosts had expected to see them in August. But the conditions were oh so right for an aurora. We pulled the car over on two separate occasions to all just stand in awe underneath the shifting, swirling sky. I'm not the greatest at night sky photography unfortunately; this was the best shot I got.

As we left SALT, we noticed some movement in the sky... THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!!! We were flabbergasted and excited; neither Emmett nor I nor fellow couchsurfer Sujata nor our hosts had expected to see them in August. But the conditions were oh so right for an aurora. We pulled the car over on two separate occasions to all just stand in awe underneath the shifting, swirling sky. I'm not the greatest at night sky photography unfortunately; this was the best shot I got.

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 mushroom foraging expedition, we found more than just mushrooms. We also picked lingonberries and little blueberries like the ones pictured as we walked along in the woods.

On our mushroom foraging expedition, we found more than just mushrooms. We also picked lingonberries and little blueberries like the ones pictured as we walked along in the woods.

 We struck gold! Most of the mushrooms our crew found were the ever-delicious and famous chanterelles. I found a cluster about ten myself and couldn't have been more excited.

We struck gold! Most of the mushrooms our crew found were the ever-delicious and famous chanterelles. I found a cluster about ten myself and couldn't have been more excited.

 Another incredible arctic sunset to end our foraging day, this time seen from the hills above Bodø,.

Another incredible arctic sunset to end our foraging day, this time seen from the hills above Bodø,.

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."

 The weird and wonderful rocks of Mjelle beach.

The weird and wonderful rocks of Mjelle beach.

 Standing in the frigid Norwegian Sea at Mjelle like true vikings.

Standing in the frigid Norwegian Sea at Mjelle like true vikings.

 What a perfect way to end our last night in Bodø: another sighting of the aurora borealis. (!!) Seeing it twice made us feel almost greedy but so,  so  fortunate. This photo was taken by our talented fellow couchsurfer  Sujata Chitlangia.

What a perfect way to end our last night in Bodø: another sighting of the aurora borealis. (!!) Seeing it twice made us feel almost greedy but so, so fortunate. This photo was taken by our talented fellow couchsurfer Sujata Chitlangia.

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.


A Week In Arctic Norway: the Lofoten Islands, Northern Lights, and more!
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