On to our second week, where we headed a little further south towards the Lofoten islands. The archipelago is hugely popular with tourists, even more so since being used as the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen, and it truly is a stunning destination.
We chose not to stay on the islands for a few reasons, mainly because it would have taken us such a long time to drive down to the ‘best’ parts (and then back to the airport in Tromsø); they are disproportionately expensive – even for Norway; and they are packed with other tourists. Instead we stayed near Tjeldsundbrua and just took a day trip down to the first island, Austvågøya.
I had thought that we might regret not staying on the Lofoton islands themselves as they are widely regarded as being well worth seeing, but in reality there was so much to do and see close by that we didn’t regret our decision at all.
The weather was both better and worse than our first week – we had a couple of beautiful, clear days where the temperature rose to a tropical 17-18 ºC, but we also had several days of non-stop rain and low cloud cover which totally obscured the mountains.
The rain did stop us doing some of the longer walks that we had planned, but we still managed to get out and about.
Thankfully, the good days really were good, and we made the most of them. I’m a huge fan of wild swimming and I was determined to take a dip in the Arctic Ocean. When we came across this beach, I couldn’t resist…Okay, so I won’t pretend the water was in any way warm (‘refreshing’ would be putting it mildly), but I think this wins the award for my most scenic swim so far, hands down.While I was off splashing around, Sam got a good look at some of the native plants growing along the coast.
Something that I wasn’t expecting to be particularly impressed by was the Norwegian flora, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! The more eagle-eyed observers of Part I might have noticed the abundance of cow parsley in my photos, but anybody visiting this part of the world couldn’t help but to spot flowers in every direction – at road verges, by the coast, on the mountains, and in the marshes. They were wonderful.Sadly, the fauna wasn’t quite so impressive – after watching porpoises in the fjord on our very first night in Norway we had high hopes, but we peaked a bit too soon and saw practically no other wildlife (mammals at least) for the next two weeks. The bird-life put on a slightly better show, and we were treated to an eagle gliding above us for quite a while, as well as many, many songbirds.
Some of the wildlife wasn’t quite so welcome, and although we’d been warned about mosquitoes and midges, we were mostly bothered by larger housefly-type-flies. Yeuch.
All of the above pictures (flies included) were taken within an hour’s drive from our apartment. We did make one trip down to Lofoten, and it was stunning, but in all honesty, it was just too busy for us.
We headed over to the Svolvær area, thinking that in such a touristy spot we’d have lots of signposted walks to choose from, but either we were looking in the wrong places or there really aren’t many of them around. We finally found one simply heading ‘To the mountain’ which we thought could be promising, but it ended up being one of the weirdest walks I’ve ever done. For starters, the path was tough, and dangerously narrow. For the first piece of ascent we weren’t walking, but scrambling, with both of us having to use our hands constantly to pull ourselves up. Despite this being really strenuous going, there were hundreds of people on the path, varying from those in serious hiking/climbing gear to those in jeans and trainers. Hmm.
We realised later on that we were on the route to the both the Devil’s Gate, or Djevelporten, and Svolværgeita, two of the most photographed spots on the islands – that would explain it then!As neither of us has a wonderful track record with vertigo, and neither of us fancied queuing for half an hour to pose on Djevelporten, we decided to call it a day and head back down. The scenery was impressive, but no more so really than some of the views we’d seen over the past two weeks, and I didn’t feel that it warranted so many more people visiting. I’m not complaining too much though, as it leaves more wilderness for us to explore in other places!
There were many things that I loved about our holiday, and I have never been anywhere before that boasts such amazing scenery in every direction. We both feel that we barely scratched the surface when it comes to discovering Northern Norway, and although I don’t think we’ll be returning next year (I would really like some warm sunshine next summer!), we will definitely be returning.