For years, I’ve been charmed by Scandinavia. I love the languages, the people always seemed beautiful and last but certainly not least: the scenery is amazing. We’ve been to Norway on our first trip, in the west of the country, but decided to do something different in 2010. Going to the polar circle, a mythical border between warm and ice cold, and even crossing it, seemed like a crazy idea when we first thought of it.
Itinerary: Brussels – Oslo – Trondheim – Bodo – Moskenes – A – Reine – Ramberg – Moskenes – Bodo – Trondheim – Oslo – Brussels
We thought we would need special clothes, buy special camping gear, and who knows what else, but all that turned out to be false. We were also drawn to the concept of the Midnight Sun, which occurs there in the summer: the sun actually never went down when we were there. When we finally googled ‘Lofoten’, we were sold: we’re definitely going there. I spent months setting up the perfect route, planning every little piece of the way to see the most beautiful places of the region in a limited amount of time. We had 13 days of spare time, minus the days we would spend traveling, that left about 10 days of Lofoten-goodness. I’ll skip the boring ‘getting there’-part, since that’s different for every single one of you, but maybe a quick recap: plane (Brussels-Oslo), train (Oslo-Trondheim), more train (Trondheim-Bodo) and boat (Bodo-Moskenes). We spent a lot of time traveling all across Norway by train, a route I can only recommend, even from a train Norway looks amazing.
Day One: We spent most of day one on the ferry to the Lofoten (about 4 hours), but quickly after arriving we decided we couldn’t just hang around in the village of Moskenes, we wanted to hike after a day and a half of sitting in planes, trains and boats. We hiked the small way from Moskenes to A and spent the night there at the camping of the village. The camping is at the edge of a cliff, so a beautiful place to put up our tents and take a shower after the long journey. We spent the rest of the evening planning a hike the day after.
Day Two: We took a hike along the lake Agvatnet, which is the lake of A. The hike was a little disappointing, but mostly because of the weather that stopped us from getting to higher ground and get a decent look on the place. It was also nearly impossible to go around the lake, so we had to trail back to the camping ground. In good weather, I think this hiking route is worth your while, but definitely not one of the highlights of our trip. We hiked back to our tents (Norway is incredibly safe, our tents remained untouched on every camping ground in the region) and washed our muddy pants in a small pond at the camping grounds.
camping spot in Reine
Day Three: On day three, I woke up excited. We planned a bus ride (yes, we didn’t hike, mostly because it’s nearly impossible to get from one village to another without hiking along the busy main road of the island) from A to Reine, one of the most beautiful villages in the region. Once we got there I was pretty sure this was one of the most beautiful villages in the world even (but I only realized it when I saw it from above, more about that later). We arrived in the centre of the village, where we went to the little store for groceries and had a nice picknick on the town square. We asked the locals for good camping spots and everyone was very helpful. We ended up in the single best camping spot I ever had, so I can only advise you to ask the locals every time you’re looking for a place to sleep! Once we arrived there and put up camp, the day was mostly over and we just enjoyed the view from our tents…
Day Four: We planned our hike up the Reinebriggen, a mountain with spectacular view (we already saw when googling the place, couldn’t wait to get there ourselves), but the weather ruined our plans. We ended up spending our day in the tent, reading every page of the magazines we had with us and trying to cook in terrible weather conditions. Our camping spot was on the side of a little island, smack in the middle of a Norwegian Fjord, which is pretty bad when the wind picks up. Nothing exciting to tell you about day four.
Day Five: On the fifth day, we were lucky. We woke up to the brightest sun we could imagine and actually got to spend the morning in our T-shirts outside (a rare occasion above the polar circle). We gathered our things, especially a camera, and started the hike back to the village and to the Reinebriggen mountain. We walked along side the E10, the main road of the Lofoten, passed the road that led to the centre of the village, and just before the tunnel in the direction of Moskenes, we noticed a big, white arrow pointing to a small road running alongside the tunnel. That’s were the trail to the Reinebriggen starts. From there on, you can’t really get lost. The trail just leads all the way up along the backside of the mountain, only to reveal it’s bittersweet goodness when you reach the top. Words can’t even express the beauty of that view, I believe even the pictures we took barely do it justice. It was most definitely one the best experiences in my life so far and I enjoyed every second. After having lunch on the top, we backtrailed on our way down and went back to the centre of the village, to enjoy the sun with the locals.
Day Six: We got up early to pack up our camp and leave for Bunes Beach. To get there, we had to take a small boat ride from the city centre (we saw what time it left the day before) to Vindstad. We found out too late Vindstad actually means ‘Wind City’, and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. At Bunes Beach, after a small walk from Vindstad, the weather was great, we found a beautiful spot of green grass on the beach where we could put our tents, but they quickly collapsed under the strong winds. We were pretty sure they weren’t going to stay up all night so quickly decided to pack up and leave for Fredvang, the next village on the route. We spent most of the day in Bunes Beach, since Vindstad itself is pretty dead (it has a school and a few houses, that’s it) and quickly took the last ferry back to Reine. This is almost the only way in or out the village, so be careful planning this! However, I must add, when we put up tent at the camping grounds of Fredvang, the tent collapsed as well and the storm that night was terrible. That camping ground was located on a (far less beautiful) beach as well, so it actually wouldn’t have made any difference if we would have stayed at Bunes Beach… So, whatever happens: stay there. And I should also mention that there’s no bus that goes up to Fredvang, you have to hike quite a distance to get there.
Day Seven: On day 7, we kind of took a break. Someone of our group was celebrating her birthday that day, and months before we left, we booked a ‘rorbu’, one of the typical fishing cabins in the Lofoten. We walked around Fredvang before finally telling her we wouldn’t be sleeping in a tent and wouldn’t be eating pasta that night. Just a small warning: there’s nothing in Fredvang. Not even a store to buy a bottle of water. When we were there, there was a pizza place though, with a very decent service! Pizza was delivered to our cabin, but no way to buy beer around Fredvang. However, the kind people of the cabin where we were staying, the family Lydersen, baked us a loaf of bread to survive our hike the next day.
Day Eight: We saw pictures of a beautiful place called Kvalvika on the internet (Google it, it looks amazing), a small beach between cliffs pretty close to Fredvang. We decided to take the hike, even though the weather was terrible. There was a very strong wind and rain that day, but we managed to reach the beach anyway. It had a very mysterious vibe in this weather, but it has to be even more amazing in good weather. After we got back from Kvalvika, the kind hosts of the Lydersen cabins drove us to Ramberg, the largest village we stayed in during our stay, where we found a pretty large convenience store (a cheap one too!) and a good camp ground right at the beach.
Day Nine: We weren’t sure about what to do on the ninth day, so we visited the local Tourist Office. We ended up sticking for hours there, just hanging out with the very kind couple running the office. They advised us to climb the small mountain ‘Nubben’, for a spectacular view. Since it was only 200m high, our expectations were rather low, especially since we already climbed Reinebriggen. We were amazed by the view once we got up there, absolutely worth the 20 minutes of climbing! Also met another nice family, who made the climb with 2 little girls (I’d guess them 5 years old). They said they were going to swim in the ocean later that day. Tough as we are, we decided to do the same. No recommendations there, the water was pretty close to freezing and we looked rather silly compared to the people walking around with hats and scarfs…
Day Ten: On our final day before starting our journey home, we decided to rent some bikes from the Ramberg Tourist Office. We took the scenic route passing some fjords to Nusfjord, a village that was protected as national heritage, to see how the locals lived there many years ago. The biking route is amazing, you take the most beautiful roads, pass the most scenic fjords and mountains and eventually end up at the other side of the island: Nusfjord. However, we were rather disappointed when we found out Nusfjord had become a paid attraction for tourists. We understand the money is needed to keep the village in good shape, but we were more interested in the nature than the culture: we didn’t even enter the village. A nice hike to higher ground gave us a pretty good view of the village too, we had lunch and decided to head back to Ramberg. On our last evening in Ramberg, on the west side of the island, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. This was the perfect opportunity to sit on the beach and just enjoy the sun going down, barely touching the surface ocean and then going back up again. We went to sleep at 1 AM, in the bright light of the rising sun…
Day Eleven: On the day we resumed our way home, we were rather lazy (and a bit depressed we were leaving already) and stayed most of the day around the camping grounds and the beach of Ramberg. In the late afternoon we took the bus back to Moskenes, where we slept at the local camping ground, only 100 meters away from the harbor where we could board the ferry to Bodo. The boat left pretty early in the morning, so we were in pole position to leave.
Day Twelve & Thirtheen: Our way home was much less exciting than our stay at the Lofoten. The only special thing that happened during the trip was a 3-hour delay of the train (it broke down halfway, but I can only congratulate the NSB for the way they handled it: we got free food, were well-informed, …). In general: we were pretty sad to return home…
We loved our stay at the Lofoten, the nature is amazing and the people are incredibly kind. I would even consider returning there in the future, just to see those amazing views again. So, a quick summary of tips to go there:
- Take the train from Oslo to Bodo, it’s the best (and probably longest) train ride of your life.
- Don’t forget a sleeping mask, the sun stays up 24 hours a day in the summer above the polar circle.
- Besides, take ear plugs too, a storm at night can get pretty loud and violent.
- If the weather is bad the day you want to climb Reinebriggen, reschedule everything, it’s the highlight of your trip!
- If you camp in Reine, this is the best place for your tent: 67.943197,13.091583
- Kvalvika and Bunes beach are very much alike, but both worth a visit.
- Nubben, in Ramberg, is a very underestimated mountain, one of the highlights of our trip!
- The camping ground at Moskenes is perfect for a quick getaway by ferry.