Norway, the country of the fiords and of the Aurora Borealis.
The Lofoten Islands, the archipelago of the above mentioned plus the paradise of photographers. We wanted to make sure they had earned their fame on fare grounds or it was just a concoction of the online.
We had been planning to visit the northern countries for a long time, until one day when we made our decision and bought the tickets.
We chose March because night and day are equal and we could see the view during the day and the aurora at night. Another alternative would be September – October.
We had time on out hands and we also wanted to get by with as little money as possible, so we didn’t choose a direct flight, but one with two stopovers – one in London and one in Oslo. I remember that on our way back, we stayed for 10 hours in Oslo (luckily it was night and we slept at the “prayer spot” in the airport) and then for another 10 hours in London.
As for accommodation, things got a bit complicated, it was rather expensive and we had to stay in the same place for a longer period of time in order to get a little discount. It didn’t suit our travelling style at all, so we starting to think of alternatives. It was March, bitterly cold and snowy, so a tent was out of the question, not to mention that we had purchased a ticket that allowed us only hand luggage.
What we needed was a car – as public transport was unreliable, rather infrequent and did not covered the more isolated spots. To us what really mattered were those isolated spots and not the places targeted by most tourists.
Hitchhiking wasn’t a good idea, our thumbs would have frozen, that’s for sure! In other warmer countries where we had travelled before, hitchhiking proved to be really interesting, in each car there was a different life story.
It was Vlad who came up with the idea. Let’s rent an estate car and sleep in it. At the worst opportunity, if it gets too cold, we can leave the heat on all night and we still get it cheaper. Great, we found something at a reasonable price (that is to us still overpriced, but cheap for Norway) and we also found the solution to include our sleeping bags in our hand luggage, because they took much space in our backpacks – we simply carried them as small handbags, they were exactly the acceptable size.
There was also a plan B, to be able to have a shower now and then, we had talked with some locals on couchsurfing (a site for free accommodation with welcoming people) to stay with them.
Apart from that, there were also public baths with heating and hot water (but no showers) scattered around the islands.
Once we got there, they gave us an automatic car. Neither of us had ever driven such a car and the manual was written only in northern languages unknown to us – but google saved us!
It snowed almost uninterruptedly in the first 3 days. When the sun came out for 2-3 minutes, I simply dashed out to take photos.
No trace of the Aurora Borealis!
We had only 4 days left and I couldn’t see any yellow-greenish, blue or any other colour, except for grey and black in the sky.
We looked up all the weather sites, the direction of marine currents, clouds, rain, satellite images, solar explosions and everything connected to the weather. To be able to see the aurora, we needed good combination between solar explosions and a clear sky. The phenomenon is due to the collision between gas molecules in the atmosphere and charged electromagnetic particles coming from the sun.
In the meantime, we visited the sites which are worth seeing.
The little town of Reine with the well known Reinebringen peak (448m). We had in mind to do some mountain climbing, but the weather made it impossible.
Hamnøy is a fishing village, situated near Reine in a very photogenic landscape.
These 2 locations were crammed with photographers, but also with accommodation facilities. Still, there were other places, too…even more interesting.
Another fishing village is Nusfjord, it is quite isolated from the rest, but the view is spectacular and you can go hiking in the mountains in fine weather.
Å is the last village in the Moskenes island, in the southern part of the Lofoten islands. The road ends there but not the island. You can probably walk further, but I can’t say for sure.
Haukland beach on the Vestvågøy island is a must. You can go for a walk between Haukland and the Uttakleiv beach, you simply go around the mountain situated between the two beaches.
It didn’t work on the 4th day either, on the 5th we manage to see something to out relief, but only after we moved 300km to the north. Our constant research had born fruit!
We saw the Aurora Borealis for the first time in a place that was absolutely “untouristic”. Unfortunately the southern area, where above mentioned locations are situated, lies at the mercy of currents which bring dark clouds and snowy weather.
It was near the Nyksund village in the Langøya island that we saw it for the first time.
What is amazing is that this village had been deserted for a period of time, but now foreigners have started to buy and renovate houses, there is even accommodation for those who want to spend the night in the area.
On that night, we drove along the north – east side of the island around the villages Stø and Klo. Not only the aurora was fascinating, but also the sunrise.
We spent the last 2 nights on the Himnøya island, more precisely near the town of Offersøy, where we had found a couchsurfer who had offered to host us.
It was an excellent choice, not only was it deserted and very picturesque, but we also saw a once-in-a-lifetime aurora on one of those nights.
And not only that, but as a gift, we saw our first half-domesticated reindeer.
There are just a few examples, what does the trick is to go as far away as possible from the main roads and explore. They are all paved, they raise no problems except for the nights with heavy snow falls, when they don’t manage to clear them soon enough.
What is peculiar is that they don’t use anything on the roads, just the snow ploughs. All vehicles, without exception, are equipped with tires with nails.
Another useful piece if information is that there aren’t many stores and gas stations. Only in the bigger town which look rather like our villages. Everything is closed on Sundays.
We tried to keep a very tied budget, we did not eat in restaurants, we bought from local shops and cooked whenever we could.
Till next time,
Photo credit: Ionescu Vlad