Northern Norway had always seemed unreachable for me. I was told that Lofoten is the jewel of Norway and that given a chance I should visit. Tall, steep mountains cut into the freezing ocean. Eagles soar over arctic beaches whilst puffins perch on the cliff-side. This is one of the best locations for viewing the Aurora Borealis. The tiny island of Værøy is the ultimate location to experience the Lofoten archipelago at its finest. With a small population and limited access to the island, it was exactly the adventure I was looking for. When a local couple accepted my request to stay with them for a few days, I couldn’t believe that my dream of Northern Norway was going to come true.
A frozen landscape nestled inside the arctic circle, Bodø is a city that seems to function perfectly well given its location. In the city center it is like any other European city; coffee shops, clothes shops, supermarkets — nothing apparently different from the rest of the world. It’s not until you step outside of the city that you appreciate the harshness of the landscape.
I spent a day hiking on the mountains around Bodø, which provide impressive views in every direction. It’s a winter wonderland that seems to dive into the ocean. The biting wind chill really hit me on my first day, for even the tiniest area of exposed skin instantly froze.
I stayed with a local mountain guide called John, who was into the outdoors and hiking. He knew impressive amounts about the local area and clearly had a lot of experience in the mountains. He was a lovely host and really interested in my travels to Værøy, somewhere he also dreams to travel to one day.
It was a beautiful morning in Bodø, and after stocking up with lots of food from the mainland I headed to the ferry terminal. After waiting for a couple of hours with no update on time of departure it was finally announced that the ferry was cancelled. This was pretty devastating, as my dream had been shattered. There weren’t any other boats to Værøy for a week. Although, I was aware of a helicopter to the island that locals use in winter. Luckily there was a seat left on the helicopter that afternoon, so I booked my ride and headed to the airport. Crisis averted.
As the sun was setting over the mountains and the helicopter landed next to the terminal, the sky burned red and I couldn’t hold back the excitement. The flight was peaceful and calming. The ride was only 35 minutes, impressive considering the ferry takes four hours. Upon arrival in Værøy it was blowing a gale and even exiting the helicopter was hazardous.
My hosts were delighted to see that I had made it to the island after the ferry cancellation earlier. Despite the darkness, I could still catch a glimpse of the mountains on the island. Their silhouettes against the night sky were imposing and powerful.
Good Morning Værøy
Excited is an understatement of what it was like to wake up on Værøy. As I started my hike to Håheia the sun started to light up the landscape. I set off with Anna and her dog Laika, an Alaskan Malamute that has become very accustomed to long hikes and lots of snow.
The hike to Håheia isn’t that challenging in summer, but in winter it raises lots of new problems such as deep snow, high avalanche risk and short daylight hours. The weather is forever changing on this island and I was warned that a sunny morning could mean that you are in a blizzard by lunch time.
It felt like alien terrain upon passing a NATO radar outpost, quietly observing the Arctic Ocean. The route to the summit involved going through a tunnel that stretched endlessly into a dark abyss. The tunnel offered shelter from the harsh winds, but was replaced by the echoing of unwieldy footsteps, navigating about the sharp icicles that hung from the ceiling like needles. An unexpected encounter was that of a small wooden boat, perched in the middle of the tunnel. I couldn’t help but feel curious as to the history within its old worn frame, and what lead it to rest there.
As we trekked further off-track the view opened up so that we could see over the South of the island. The sunrise was absolutely stunning, with the tips of the clouds glowing a brilliant orange and pink.
No challenge was too much for Laika, who put us to shame climbing the mountain. She could handle the toughest terrain and even when deep in snow she seemed to power on. What a good pup.
Further up the mountain we could see over towards the uninhabited island of Mosken and then Moskenesøya even further in the distance. It didn’t look real as the sunlight hit the jagged peaks.
Closer to the summit the journey became less taxing and I was thankful that I was experiencing such rare conditions. Realising that my dream of summiting this mountain in winter was quickly approaching, I couldn’t help but feel a warm sense of contentment flood my body.
The view from this mountain was something out of a Nordic legend. Snowcapped sea-cliffs lead down to a pristine sandy beach. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes and still looking back at this view it’s hard to believe it’s real.
Although Laika didn’t summit the mountain due to the dangerous ridge line we had to maneuver, she was also satisfied by the stunning views that surrounded us. With Værøy being so far north, the sun would always be low to the horizon, creating beautiful golden light.
We hiked out to Kvalnesset Lighthouse to reach another stunning view over the west side of the island. The sheer diversity that this island has to offer is incredible. After fighting through snow, we found rock pools lined with red algae. Paths had been made in the snow where otters had traveled earlier in the day.
The south side of the island is difficult to access in winter, but locals have to rely on travelling along its icy roads to stock up on food. The sea was so unnaturally turquoise here.
In flight. A relaxing way to experience Lofoten at sunrise. An unforgettable experience.
Flying over Lofoten at sunrise in a helicopter isn’t something you get to do everyday, so I tried to savour every second of the flight. It’s a perspective that seems almost unnatural. Huge islands look like tiny fragmented chunks of ice lost in the huge ocean.
I had a few hours before my train back to Trondheim and since it was such a beautiful day, there’s nothing better to do than hiking up a mountain. I was not anticipating it to be as windy as it was, but that didn’t stop me from making the most of my last few hours in the arctic wilderness. Perfect golden light hit the fluctuations in the terrain, forming an other-worldly colour palette.
As the wind whipped up the loose snow on the mountain, I was finally becoming accustomed to the conditions. The trick to living in the arctic circle is to overwhelm the numb fingers and toes with incredible views. The sunlight on top of Kesiervaden was heavenly.
These photos were shot around midday, which goes to show the consistently incredible light in winter. Hiking in the high winds was tough, especially across exposed areas. After a week walking on snow and ice, it was an odd experience to find the top of the mountain swept of all its snow. I imagine this is what being on the moon is like.
I took a walk to Nyholms Fort for my final sunset in Norway.
Waves crashed against the little islands scattered around the fort, and a small Widerøe plane flew past en route to the airport. The epic trip had come to an end, but that didn’t stop Norway from providing another beautiful view.
Thanks to Marcus, Anna and John for being incredible hosts on my journey. Without you this trip never could have happened. My week in Northern Norway is something that will stay with me for a very long time.
Thanks for reading,