Reasons to Love Summer in The Lofoten Islands | Northern Norway above the Arctic Circle | Oregon Girl Around the World

8 Reasons to Love the Lofoten Islands in the Summer | Arctic Norway

Summer hums above the Arctic Circle

For a while now, my internal compass has been pulling me north. Recently, I answered the call. And I am so happy I did. We just returned from a 10 day trip to Northern Norway. Above the Arctic Circle. I had seen pictures and read stories but truly underestimated the awe I would feel. We loved The Lofoten Islands in summer. I am home now with lungs still full from breathing in nature. My soul is content from so much wonder and awe. Lofoten was beyond lovely at summertime. Let me share with you why.

So Many Reasons You Should See The Lofoten Islands in Summer
1 | THERE ARE MILLIONS OF MOUNTAINS

I will admit, it was mountains I was seeking. That drew me to this place. And I found them. So many. Ok. Maybe not millions. But it feels like there was yet another peak in every direction you looked. Jagged and rocky, they define these islands and set this scene. A backdrop for memories of mountainous goodness.

2 | THE MIDNIGHTS are FULL OF SUN

For one month before and one month after the summer solstice on June 21st, the sun does not set this far north. At all. And while we missed the true midnight sun by a week or so on our visit in late July, it never truly got dark. Even when the sun sets at midnight, it rises again at 2 am. Sunset…. sunrise. Sunset… sunrise. If you have trouble sleeping or a photographer’s fear of missing out, it may mess with your head. But we fell in love with the perpetual twilight that threw lots of light in the sky every night.

3| WHITE SAND BEACHES WILL tempt you

Who knew that the Arctic has some of the best beaches in the world? Here you will find sugar fine sand that sits in wide white crescents. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes. Look for pink clam shells, striped limpets and fragile urchin skeletons. Dare to take a dip. We did and you should. It’s not THAT cold. But maybe we’ve been Scandi conditioned. The water here is so clear and such a brilliant aqua blue that it felt perfect to cool off in after a hike in the hills. We loved the swaths of perfect white sand at Kvalvika, Haukland, Uttakleiv and Ramberg Stranda.

4 | There are hikes in them hills

The Lofoten Islands offers hikes for all abilities and energies. With a good pair of shoes, you should be all good to go. We hiked over hills to white Arctic beaches. We scrambled up rocks to see views over villages. We strolled along cliffs with no ascent needed for stunning. Stay on the trail and pack out what you pack in. This is the Lofoten code of conduct. Protect this beautiful place for all to enjoy.

5 | TRY A KAYAK TO CRUISE

Back down at sea level, take to the water. A kayak is a perfect way to see into the clear water. We loved paddling around Skrova with WildSeas Adventures. Keep watch for Sea Eagles in the sky or little crabs scurrying on the seafloor. It is that clear. Quiet and calm, serene and safe. There is something magical about the sound of paddles dipping and pushing as our boats slid smoothly over the sea.

6 | SO MUCH FRESH SEAFOOD TO TASTE

Fishing has been important to the peoples of the place before written history. Cod is king here and you’ll see stockfish drying on racks all over the islands. Try some as jerky or in a tomato stew like dish called Bacalao. In the southern archipelago, don’t miss Anita’s Sjømat on Sakrisøy for the best fish sandwich or peel and eat shrimp.

 

7 | You can rent a RORBU TO SLEEP IN

Those classic Norwegian fisherman’s cottages, rorbuer have been renovated for your Lofoten respite. Rent them all over the islands in darling seaside villages like Å, Reine, Sakrisøy, Henningsvær, Nusfjord, Ballstad, Kabelvåg and Svolvær – just to name a few. There is something special about sitting out over the water and watching the sun set behind the mountain ahead of you.

8 | Blossoms Blooming, there are WILDFLOWERS TO FIND

For a place that is covered in snow much of the year, I couldn’t stop marveling at the many wildflowers blooming. Fields and forests were blanketed in color. Like icing on the cake on why there’s so much to love about Lofoten in the summer.

 

Suitcases and Sandcastles

World’s Wildest Whirlpools | Saltstraumen Maelstrom, Bodø Norway

Where and why to see the strongest maelstrom in the world

But what exactly IS a maelstrom I can hear you asking? Is it some kind of dark and ominous storm cloud of reckoning? Or something you might see in Lord of the Rings or read of in an epic like The Odyssey? Spoiler alert – it’s in the video below. The word maelstrom actually means crushing current. And Saltstraumen in Nordland Norway has it. Here’s why you need to see it. For yourself.

Saltstraumen Maelstrom

Just 30 kilometers west and then south from the town of Bodø you will find one of the most amazing places in Northern Norway. In anywhere really. Every 6 hours when the tide changes you can play witness to an astonishing display of Mother Nature’s brute forces here at Saltstraumen. This is the world’s strongest maelstrom with 400 million cubic meters of water pushing through a narrow strait that separates the islands of Knaplundsøya and Straumsøya. The strait spans 3 kilometers but is only 150 meters wide at the smallest point. When the tide changes, you can witness impressive surges as the water rushes to move between the massive Skjerstadfjord to the outer Saltfjord.

It is beyond mesmerizing to watch as the water tries to move in or out, depending on the time of day. Beautiful swirling whirlpools are created and water bubbles up in huge powerful pushes. The vortices of these can reach between 10 and 30 meters in diameter and are up to 5 meters deep. This is a dangerous place as speeds on the surface of the water may move at nearly 40 kilometers per hour. To put it simply. It is awesome. Seriously. AWE. SOME. As in full of awe. I’m still full of awe. You have to see it.

WHERE TO SEE SALTSTRAUMEN
#1 UNDER THE BRIDGE | KNAPLUNDSØYA SIDE

From Bodø, travel west on Route 80 and then south on Norwegian County Road 17. There are several viewing points, but start on the Knaplundsøya side (first parking lot on the right coming from Bodø.) Park down underneath the bridge and then follow the path to the strait. Here you can watch the water as it rushes into the narrow passage and the water pushes and churns close to shore. At peak on this side, it not difficult to get a real sense of just how much water is moving through here. If you want, you can carefully climb up into the little lighthouse here to get a better vantage point over the vortices.

#2 FROM TOP OF BRIDGE

Satisfied with the water here, you should really walk back up to the parking lot and head across the bridge. Stay on the right side. The views from the top give you a better idea of the amazing size of these whirlpools. Watch as boats expertly maneuver the calm (ish) water between the swirling and surging sides. You can take a safari in a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) and run right through it. And if you are a high-speed adrenaline junkie, you should do it. But I personally think you get a better sense for the magnitude of Saltstraumen from above. Cost? Free.

#3 STRAUMSØYA SIDE

There are viewpoints on the far side, but we felt the best were closer to the island of Knaplundsøya.

WHERE TO WET YOUR WHISTLE NEAR SALTSTRAUMEN

Marveling at maelstroms can make one hungry. Good news. You can try the local fish at nearby Kjelen Kafé with beautiful views out across the Skjerfjord. Do you fish? This is a perfect place to try to pluck a torsk (cod), kveite (halibut) or sei (coalfish/saithe) from the rushing cold waters. No pole, no problem – rent one here. Or just sit on the deck and order fish for dinner. We tried the sei and the kveite served old school style with potatoes and vegetables. The sei biff (saithe steak) was delicious with sauteed onions. They also have house-made desserts, draft beer and ice cream to help keep everyone happy if fish isn’t your thing.

 

Kjelen Kafé
Ripnesveien 40
8056 Saltstraumen
Opening hours summer season June 26 – August 20 | 10:00 – 22:00
Limited hours other seasons, check website.

LOOK OUT FOR THE LOCALS

Keep your eyes peeled on the way there and the way back and you might spot the elusive locals. MOOSE. Not minutes after seeing the sign, we spied two huge moose in the trees, which just added to the wonder of this beautiful area.

GOOD TO KNOW:
TIDE TABLES

Check the tides before you set out to Saltstraumen, the whirlpools are the widest at high and low tide. You can check here on the Bodø Kommune website and make sure you’ll enjoy the most water.

BUSSES TO SALTSTRAUMEN

Nordlandbuss line 200 takes you from Bodø Airport or Bodø Center to Saltstraumen. It takes between 30-40 minutes. Having a car allows you to time the tides, but can be expensive to rent in Norway. On a beautiful day in summer, there is no problem hiking and exploring the area around Salten in order to wait out water at peak.

SPECIAL THANKS

A huge tusen takk to Norwegian photographer Gøren Kristensen who shared insider tips with me before our trip. Check out his gorgeous feed on Instagram and tell him Oregon Girl said to say hej!

Oregon Girl Around the World

A Scandinavian Winter Playlist to Create Your Own Hygge

Winter isn’t coming. It’s here. In Scandinavia at least. Today in Copenhagen, it is cold and dark and damp. To me this is the worst. I’d rather have snow. But the Danes have an answer to combat these shortening days and less than desirable weather. It’s called hygge. You know it. You do. I have talked about it before. More than candles and cookies and cool Danish design, hygge is about creating a space that your community can well, commune in. It’s about moments. A feeling. For me, music helps creating that feeling. Every year I create an alternative Christmas playlist. I love the classics and a carol sung by a choir or two, but music evolves and how I listen to it equally evolves. I like seeing where winter music can take me. And since I now live in Scandinavia – it makes sense that my musical tastes have been swayed by the locals. Let me sway you. Or rather – feel the sway of this beautiful music. I have created a playlist to help UP your Scandinavian winter hygge. I hope you enjoy.

Scandinavian Winter Hygge Playlist

Tokka | Agnes Obel | Copenhagen, DK & Berlin, DE

Agnes Obel is a classically trained pianist and her music for me is an updated and modern version of George Winston’s December. I know – super dating myself there. But to be honest, I have not played George Winston since my sorority sisterhood nights in college. Don’t ask. It’s cringy, but sentimental at the same time. Not Agnes’ music though. Pure and gorgeous. Put this on your Scandi winter mixtape, bust out some candles. Light them all. Enjoy. With someone preferably. Now you’ve got hygge.

WHEN YOU TOLD ME IT WAS CHRISTMAS | BODEBrIXEN | Aarhus, DK

Something about this duo from Aarhus conjures the hours and hours and hours I used to listen to my Jesus & Mary Chain cassette on loop. In case you were wondering… YES. Yes it was a yellow Sony Sports Walkman. I’ve already dated myself. See above. Don’t judge. I love this song.

Dear Santa | Mr Little Jeans | Grimstad, NO & Compton, CA

Mr Little Jeans, which might be my new favorite band name ever, is the lovechild of Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, who now calls LA home. Kicky, swingy and beautifully sung – try not to move to this one. I can feel the Norway AND the California is this fun holiday song.

Det’Cember | Sys Bjerre | Vanlose, DK

Listening to Sys Bjerre sing about julefrokosts and brunkager in Danish is amusing and fun. The way she interjects English into the song is much like riding on the train with Danes. All of a sudden you are like, “HEY! I understood what they said!” Oh. Because that was English. Yep. I do understand though (a little too well) her sharing that her underwear don’t fit anymore from enjoying too many marcipan treats. Hahaha!

It’s Christmas | Cody | Copenhagen, DK

CODY – which stands for Come On Die Young are based right here in Copenhagen. Known for their own brand of Nordic gloom, this year’s julesang, Christmas song, is all about the angst that coming home for Christmas can bring. Reminiscent of Blitzen Trapper’s Christmas is Coming Soon! and Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal, I love CODY’s vibe and will probably be shouting their refrain all season – “It’s Christmas!” Check out the video to for a traditional Danish Christmas dinner too!

Be mine | Alice boman | Malmö, SE

I do love a beautiful Swedish voice and local Alice hits us with hers. You know Malmö is like a suburb of Copenhagen right? (Shhh.. don’t tell the Swedes that!) Lilting and lovely, Be Mine will definitely notch up the hygge this winter. Snuggle in, but be ready to tap your toes.

Winter song | Caesars | STockholm, SE

Do you remember this Apple iPod ad?

Then you already know the Swedish group Caesars. Winter Song is from 2005, but it still holds a rich and full sound that is perfect for creating that Scandi hygge – and I find it means more for me now living here – “… running down the icy streets, trying to catch the last sun beam.” I know it will hold a space on my indie Christmas list for a long time.

Dreams today | EFTERKLANG | Copenhagen, DK & BERLIN, DE

In Danish, Efterklang means echo or reverberation. Try to listen to this song and not feel it. Viscerally. I also love their song Modern Drift where the piano and drums push the music, pulling you along in slow and steady rhythm full of a sorrowful sweetness. Creative and evolving, Efterklang is Danish design put to sound.

Suppegjok | Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas | Oslo, NO

No Scandi mixtape would be complete without some indielectric syntho pop. I love this one – a collab between long-time Norwegian friends and music producers Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Thomas Moen Hermansen. When grey days call for hygge socks and warm drinks, add this to your mix.

WATER FLOW | Klyne | EINDHOVEN, NL

Ok, ok. So Klyne is not officially Scandinavian. But I have been asked if I speak Dutch after living here in Denmark. (I know, I was just as embarrassed as you!) Because of this, I offer you the tongue-in-cheek inclusion of this Dutch band Klyne. Once you listen – you’ll understand why. Warm energy, delicious beats and yummy vocals. Insta-hygge. The Dutch may call it “gezelligheid,” but it is similar in sentiment.

New Year’s Eve | First Aid Kit | StockhOLM, SE

If you don’t know Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit – stop everything and look them up. Now. The soundtrack to my life across borders here in Denmark includes lots of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderbergs’ gorgeous harmonies and elegant lyrics. I adore My Silver Lining and Wolf. New Year’s Eve is no different. Written in 2012 – it seems especially pertinent for 2016.

Well it’s a new year, with it comes more than new fears.
Met a young man who was in tears, he asked me,
“What induces us to stay here?”
I said, “I don’t know much and I’m not lying,
But I think you just have to keep on trying.”

And I know I am naive, but if anything
That’s what’s going to save me
That’s what’s going to save me

Took a stroll around the neighborhood where the trees are swaying.
People passed in cars with their windows down, with a pop song playing.
A man walked by, walking back and forth the street with a drunken smile to go along.
He stopped to look at me and say, “Child, don’t fear doing things wrong.”

Yet I am still afraid but if anything
That’s what’s going to save me
That’s what’s going to save me

Now I have a lot to learn and I’m starting tonight,
Got to stop looking at things like they’re black and they’re white.
Got to write more songs of a little more, treat my friends better.
Got to stop worrying about everything to the letter.
And sometimes when it’s too hard to get up,
It just might be a little call apart.

But I find it hard to believe, but if anything
That’s what’s going to save me
That’s what’s going to save me

Tell me, tell me
Oh, what’s going to save me?

-First Aid Kit, New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve | Mø | Ubberud, DK & Copenhagen, DK

You may know Mø from her hit Final Song, she is crazy popular here. (And it is not pronounced Mo – see here for the artist pronouncing it herself. Try taking the oo’s in pool and add it’s closer to that.) This year, she has her own version of a New Year’s song – take a listen – her unique voice offers an honest message.

Thanks Erin – but what if I don’t want to click on every song by itself and make my own playlist. NO WORRIES. I already did that. You knew that right? I work in Spotify because I think it is awesomesauce and we got the no-ads version with our Danish phone contracts and when you connect with with Sonos you can play it all over your entire house. WHAT? I know. That was not a plug and I get no kinds of kick-back for saying any of that. But I LOVE it.

I don’t have Spotify though. It ok. Spotify offers a free version. Just after a few songs, you may have to listen to an ad. You can create playlists, share songs and connect with friends. Check it out.

Here’s my list – includes songs shared in this post along with other classic Danish juletunes. Did I miss one of your favorites? Or have another indie Scandi band favorite you need to share – PLEASE – I always am looking for new music. Cheers from Copenhagen and happy listening. Get your hygge on. Erin

Know someone who might enjoy these tunes? Share it!

Suitcases and Sandcastles