Lofoten Islands: my road trip to the North Cape (Norway)

Who I am
Pau Monfort
@paumonfort
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

I don't know how old it was that I didn't go to one country of northern Europe, probably from the time of Interrail, or from prehistoric times! As you have probably understood, in fact, I am more from hot countries, from the south of the world in general, even if the extremes have always fascinated me. The Lofoten islands e North Cape they had been on my travel wishlist for some time and I have to admit that the whole trip turned out to be way above expectations. The Lofoten were certainly the most beautiful part of the landscape, but also the rest of the far north of Norway, Harstad, Tromso and Alta, I liked it very much… not to mention the magnificent road that leads to the North Cape. But do you know what was the thing that upset me the most? The famous midnight Sun! I had never seen or experienced it before and it is something truly unique: the day stretches endlessly and gives an incredible energy! But let's go in order ..



When to go to the Lofoten islands: the midnight sun and the northern lights

Beyond what you might think, thanks to the Gulf Stream, the coastal areas of Norway enjoy relatively mild conditions for much of the year (it rarely drops below -5 °). The hinterland, on the other hand, is characterized by a continental climate with very cold winters and hot summers.

The Lofoten Islands can be visited all year round. In summer it is possible to observe the midnight Sun and in winter the equally fascinating phenomenon ofaurora boreal.

Midnight Sun it means that the sun stays above the horizon at midnight, for the rest of the night, and all day. Think that in the North Cape the sun does not set for 1800 hours! This means having days and weeks of light .. it is difficult to explain for those who have not tried it. Depending on the latitude, you can perceive a kind of darkening with golden and warm tones on the sea, or in shades of red. It's a really weird feeling, personally it gave me incredible energy and I could have stayed awake for days; I felt a little tired in the evening but seeing all that light kept me awake and active. Traveling in the period of the midnight sun certainly has the advantage that it allows you to see many more things during the day, without forgetting that you can always drive with the light (which is no small thing for me ..). With the necessary variations with respect to latitude, the midnight sun occurs in the 6 months between the 2 equinoxes, therefore between 21 March and 21 September.



If you want to see the famous one instead northern Lights il optimal period is approximately from 21 September to 21 March (the first often occur as early as mid-August). During this period it gets dark from early afternoon until late morning and this is the time when this phenomenon is most frequent. From mid-April, the Northern Lights lose vigor in favor of clear summer nights. To get a forecast to help you find the best time and place in Norway to see the Northern Lights you can download l’app NorwayLights per iPhone, Android o Windows.

Health insurance is recommended

Being in Europe, as Spanish citizens we have the right to health care, but there are specific conditions and ceilings. My advice is to still take a classic medical-luggage insurance that can cover you during the trip, even for Covid-19. I am very happy with many insurance companies, a site that compares the policies of different companies and proposes the most convenient policy for that particular trip. To do this you will have to enter the data relating to your trip and they will send you an email with the best proposal that you can then buy directly online (!!!). All travel insurances also cover medical assistance in the event of a coronavirus infection, including testing if necessary. There is also coverage for the extension of the stay in the hotel due to the quarantine. Likewise, the trip cancellation guarantee includes coverage for illness or death of the traveler or a family member due to COVID-19.

How to get to the Lofoten islands

The best way to reach the Lofoten islands is fly up Bodø. From Spain there are no direct flights so you will necessarily have to do stopover in Oslo. From Bodø it is worthwhile rent a car at the airport e take a car ferry that arrives in Moskenes (a small port almost at the end of the E10 road which crosses all Lofoten) or on the islets of Rost and Vaeroy. The itinerary is variable, but most of the year there is at least one ferry a day to Moskenes (in summer there are 2 or 3). The itinerary lasts 4h and the sea is generally rough so bring sea sickness pills if you suffer from it. If you travel in high season (especially July but also August) you should book your parking space in advance on this site (where they ask you to indicate the license plate, just write Avis or Hertz).



How to move from Lofoten to the North Cape

The best way to get around is to rent a car; in this way you will have the maximum freedom in travel and you can explore every single corner of the far north of Norway. I usually use the Rentalcars website and I book the rental well in advance to save money. There road E10 which crosses all the Lofoten islands and connects them, to the north, to the mainland, offering a scenic route of rare beauty. The road hops from island to island thanks to a series of bridges, causeways and tunnels; this highway passes through or close to all major towns and villages but detour as soon as you can to discover the true essence of the Lofoten Islands. The E10 is accessible all year round, even in the middle of winter, because it is always kept clean from snow and ice, just as it is the E6, the main road that goes up to the North Cape passing through Alta.

Pay close attention to speed limits because it is full of checkpoints and checks! Also check the car parks well, especially in Tromsø, because they are often paid and if you don't pay the coupon you get a fine in no time.

How much is spent in Norway

We come immediately to the sore point: Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world! Of all the countries I've visited, it sure is. To get an indicative idea of ​​the prices, calculate that renting a car (a 4 × 4 jeep) costs about 120-130 euros per day, petrol costs more or less like us, eat at the restaurant (appetizer / first course) costs at least 20, a meal at Mc Donald's around 10 euros, a beer costs 10 euros, the various activities (entrance to the North Cape) for example) around 30 euros, a double room in a mid-range hotel costs around 100 euros and a bed in a dormitory in the hostel about 30 euros. Let's say that it is a trip that certainly requires a high budget. You can cut costs by shopping at the supermarket, but alas a little more than this.



The itinerary from the Lofoten islands to the North Cape (about 1200 km in total)

  1. Oslo
  2. Flight to Bodø and ferry to Moskenes
  3. From Moskenes to Svolvaer (125 km)
  4. From Svolavaer to Harstad (168 km)
  5. From Harstad to Tromsø (300 km)
  6. Da Tromsø to Alta (300 km)
  7. From Alta to Olderfiord and North Cape (237 km)
  8. Flight from Alta to Oslo
  9. Flight to spain

What to see between the Lofoten islands and the North Cape in Norway

Lofoten Islands

Le Lofoten islands represent the true essence of Northern Norway, with seabird colonies to the south and fjords beaches to the north. These small islands, one attached to the other, are littered with small villages that seem straight out of a fairy tale, made of red and yellow houses overlooking the sea. The Lofoten archipelago was the main one fishing center Norwegian winter, because at the beginning of the year the encounter of the Gulf Stream with the icy waters of the ocean attracts cod from the Barens Sea. The season lasts only from February to April, but fishing remains the most important activity in Lofoten (drying, packaging, etc. takes place in the rest of the year).

The section of E10 from Å I Lofoten goes up to Svolvær is one of the most beautiful of the whole trip and you will stop to take 800 photos. In fact, it is in this stretch that the most beautiful views and villages open up. Among the villages not to be missed there are certainly Å In Lofoten, Reine, Sakrisoy, Hamnoy, Skagsanden, Nusfjord and Storvatnet. If you have one more day available and you are fit, you can do it trekking di Reinebringen (it is very long and very demanding, it takes almost a full day) and you will enjoy incredible views (many classic photos of Lofoten are taken from the summit). A must stop is also the magnificent one Rørvikstranda beach; the sand is very white and the sea is clear blue… you will almost feel like you are in the Caribbean (if it weren't for the water temperature!).

If you love museums and legends about Vikings, you can also stop by Lofotr Viking Museum where you can dress up and there are costumed masks that explain typical aspects of Viking life.

Svolvær and the eagles tour

Svolvær is the largest town in Lofoten and here you will find a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants, supermarkets, etc. It is not a pretty town in itself, but from here you can take the raft excursion to go to the Trollfjord (a famous and deep fjord) and for see sea eagles up close. The tour is quite nice (90 euros): aboard a large inflatable boat they take you to visit the Trollfjord, with a small explanation of the people who live there, and make several stops to see the sea eagles really up close (they are used to to fly near the dinghy to catch the fish that the captain throws). The landscape is certainly very beautiful and the boat ride is fun. Find all the info on the eagles tour on the Lofoten Explorer website.

Harstad

Harstad it is a hail town and, it can be said, almost lively (everything is calibrated on Norway eh!). A few kilometers outside the center is there Trondenes peninsula which is nice, with a medieval wooden church, the Trondenes Church and the so-called Adolfo's cannon (Adolfkannonen), a massive piece of artillery located atop the hill.

Polar Zoo

On the way to Tromso, you can break the journey by stopping here. The  Polar Zoo it is a park / reserve where it is possible to see different animals that are, yes, in captivity, but in very large enclosures. It is a huge park where it is possible to see, among others, wolves, bears, moose and lynxes close. In summer every day at 13.00 there is a free guided tour, absolutely recommended (from 20 June to 31 August, in other periods it is only Saturday and Sunday) where they will guide you among the various recent ones talking about these magnificent animals. Entrance to the Polar Park costs 25 euros per person.

Tromsø

Tromsø is the "capital" of Northern Norway, it is called the "Paris of the North" for its universities, but don't expect anything special. In the end it is a town of 72000 inhabitants, more alive than the rest of the places you have seen before arriving there. Surely here you can find a wide choice of restaurants, bars and accommodation. Among the things that could be interesting (but that I have not been able to see in the end) there is Polaria, a modern complex overlooking the port that deals with all topics related to the Arctic, the Polar Museum (Polo Museum) which includes a beautiful exhibition on the Svalbard islands with finds dating back to a base camp of Russian whalers of the '700, and, finally, the funicolare mountain lifts from the top of which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city both during the day and in the evening.

Alta

Alta is the last town that can be defined as such before reaching the North Cape. The town itself is nothing special (it looks like an American city with checkerboard streets and houses all the same), but it is in a beautiful location and the landscapes that you can see both to reach it from Tromsø, and later when you go to North Cape, they are truly magnificent. Alta is also famous for beautiful and unique prehistoric rock carvings which can be seen following a 3km circular route which is located a few kilometers outside the city and constitutes the Alta Museum. If you want to Alta it is also possible to do an outing with kayaks (all the info at this link).

North Cape (Norway)

The road from Alta to the North Cape, the very famous northernmost point in Europe, is wonderful and super scenic !! The last 100 km run along the sea and open onto breathtaking views. As you get closer to the North Cape, the wind increases more and more until you reach the end of this barren promontory that ends with the entrance to the Nordkapp tourist complex (admission costs 30 euros per person, a theft!). Once inside, after the parking lots, there is an internal part with two bars, a restaurant and a souvenir shop (there you can send postcards with the stamp done on purpose or have a certificate of attendance done in the northernmost point of Europe , but it is not possible to have your passport stamped). Downstairs there are some random things including: miniatures of historical scenes concerning the north cape, a trashy Christian chapel, a Thai art museum and a kind of light show where they explain the solar cycles. In an intermediate floor there is a cinema where, every hour, there is a 15-minute video about Norway. It's super-touristy stuff ... bordering on trash. After passing the internal part, there is then the external one with the famous iron ball, the cliff and a hallucinating wind! Regardless of everything, the atmosphere is incredibly suggestive, especially if you are lucky enough (like myself) to see the midnight Sun! If you go there in the summer, my advice is in fact to go there around 22-22: 30 and wait there for midnight Drive on that magnificent road for 2 hours to go back to Olderfiord with the incredible light of dawn (actually a light almost from noon) is one of the best memories of the whole trip for me!

Where to sleep in Oslo, the Lofoten Islands and the North Cape

  • Thon Hostel Astoria (Oslo): Thon is a Norwegian chain of fairly basic but nice and clean hotels. This in particular is very convenient because it is located 3 'walk from the station and in the center. The breakfast is super rich and very good.
  • Lofoten Rorbuhotell (SørvĂĄgen - Moskenes) : the rorbuer are the typical houses of the fishermen of Lofoten and it is in these houses (perfectly restored) that you sleep. Needless to say, they are magnificent !! These in particular are entirely made of wood, super-equipped and comfortable and overlook the water… a dream!
  • Fast Hotel Svolvaer (Svolvær): a basic hotel, where to access you have to use the codes that they send you by email. It's basic but everything is there, including breakfast (they leave it in a bag hanging on the door the night before). Convenient because a few steps from the center.
  • Brygga Guesthouse (Harstad) : a small guesthouse run by an extremely kind Turkish gentleman. Most of the rooms are single, but they also have a few doubles. Basic rooms but super-abundant and good breakfast.
  • Enter Viking Hotel (Tromsø): small hotel in the city center, with nice and clean rooms. Pay attention to the parking lot because in Tromsø they are all paid and if you go beyond, even for a few minutes, with the parking coupon you will get a fine!
  • Holmen Husky Lodge (High) : this place is magnificent! There are several "huts" with a window that opens onto nature (see photo below) immersed in a wood. The bathrooms are outside and, at least in the summer, which is not at all problematic. As the name suggests, here they have many huskies that they use, in winter, for snow sleds. The common areas are also magnificent.
  • Olderfjord Tourist Center (Russenes): a tourist hotel in one of the last towns before arriving at the North Cape. Basic and essential but warm, clean and comfortable… nothing to say!

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