Red and White Sand Beaches Sparkle Above the Arctic Circle
Make your way to Mjelle come Midsummer
Just north of the Northern Norwegian town of Bodø sits a double crescent of magical sandy beaches known as Mjelle. Here you can make an easy hike through beautiful green tree-lined paths to crystal clear turquoise waters and broad swaths of gemstone flickered sand. Yes. You heard me. Gemstones. There is something magical about Mjelle and pictures just truly don’t do it justice. You have to see it to believe it.
Ah Norway. The big brother of the Scandinavian siblings. To me, Norway is like the tall, athletic hulky older brother who braves Arctic temperatures and winters without light while running up mountains with kids on his back to all ski down; he believes that every problem can be solved simply by going outside.
In comparison, sweet tow-headed sister Sweden – she’s got flowers in her hair, shares her land but waves from a canoe as she paddles out to her archipelagos to forage for lingonberries in her cute clogs and colorful clothes.
Denmark is the moody little brother whose lands aren’t as large, but is still happy ’cause – you know, hygge – and he thinks his sibs aren’t quite as cool as he cruises by on a bike wearing skinny pants and fancy white trainers while sipping a locally roasted small batch coffee on the way to the latest craft beer release. (Ok, maybe that’s just the Copenhagen version.)
But Norway, he is rugged. It’s true. Norway is. Whether you think Norwegians are or not. The landscape here surges from the sea in stark sharp peaks and fierce fjords. And so much sea. In fact, Norway has more coastline than most countries in the world. Only 7 countries have more.¹ And 90% of all Norwegians live in places by the sea.² Think Vikings and hearty bearded fisherman. Or just people who eat fish. Lots and lots of fish.
Yep. You guessed it. Seafood is supreme in this coastal country. Now you sea it. Norway is actually the second largest exporter of seafood in the world.³ With their clean, clear waters and a sustainable population of migrating fish species, it is easy to see why. So naturally, the diet here is dominated by food plucked from the cold waters. Especially above the Arctic Circle. And you should try some. Here’s what and here’s why. Continue reading “Oh Dear Cod | Eat This Above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway”→
We recently spent 10 days in Northern Norway at the end of July, just past the peak of summer. If you’ve been reading along you have already figured out that Norway rocks. Really. Truly. Rocks.
Our trip began with a weekend in and around the darling and modern town of Bodø. It was a perfect base to explore the stunning Nordland region before heading out to the more than lovely Lofoten Islands. Around Bodø, there are many beautiful things to explore. Don’t miss the world’s largest maelstrom south of town at Saltstraumen. It’s amazing and if you’re up this way it shouldn’t be missed.
Want to learn a little about the local culture along with your nature? Head north along the water and make your way to the Kjerringøy Peninsula. Can’t quite place where I’m talking about? No worries. Orient yourself below. This is the land of the midnight sun.
Reasons to explore the Kjerringøy Peninsula | CULTURE
See the old KJERRINGØY TRADING POST | gamle handelssted
Start your time up here at the Gamle Handelssted, the Old Trading Post where you can learn of Kjerringøy’s historical significance as the most profitable trading post in Northern Norway. The Gamle Handelssted offers visitors a perfectly curated example of what life would have been like in the 1800’s when cod was king in these waters.
Since before recorded history, the seas in Northern Norway have housed a rich breeding ground for cod, making it a natural staple in the diet for peoples here since before time. This is especially true further west near the Lofoten Islands, where the annual winter cod fishing season is plentiful as the funny looking fish migrate south from the Barents Sea to spawn by the millions.
NORWEGIAN COD CULTURE
As these ancient northern populations settled and civilization emerged, jobs naturally diversified and with it the need to feed a growing non-fishing populace throughout the year, not just during fishing season. This led to the popularity, demand and commercial viability of a dried version of the codfish that could be eaten all year round. This cold air dried and unsalted cod is known as stockfish, or tørrfisk in Norwegian. It is local delicacy still to this day and you should definitely try some!
Back here on the mainland, the old Kjerringøy Trading post gave fisherman of yore a place to sell their stockfish. In turn, they could then stock up on supplies and amenities to take back to their homes in the islands. Today, you can revisit the post’s heyday from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Roam through fifteen well-kept buildings that sit on this beautiful site. Stroll around the grounds set along a protected bay and take a peek back in time. There are beautiful old fishing boats in the boathouse. A general store offers a glimpse at what historic goods would be on offer as well as modern versions for purchase. Step into the bakery and see the ovens and special rolling pins for making Norwegian crispbreads.
Tour the Main House
For 50 NOK extra, you can take a guided tour of the main house. Check with the museum for timings in English. For Norwegian speakers or the adventurous, try the play-acting tour and learn about the life here as two charming characters take you from room to room. Even without understanding, you can see that he wants to woo the maid of the house and she wants nothing to do with him. Charming even if incomprehensible!
Kjerringøy Gamle Handelssted | Old Trading Post
Summer season 2018: May 19 – September 2nd | Daily 11 – 17
Winter / Spring / Autumn 2018: Open Every Saturday from 11.30 to 15.00
Check website for additional openings in shoulder seasons and holidays.
Adult: 100 NOK – Entrance ticket to the area and surrounding buildings.
Children: 50 NOK
Family (2 adults + 3 kids): 250 NOK
Extra: Ticket tour/entrance to the main house 50 NOK
Play area for kids
Local Art Galleri
Reasons to explore the Kjerringøy Peninsula | TASTES
Chock full of culture now? Need a place to respite? Check out the café at the Old Trading Post and take it outside if the weather is nice. Or trek through the little town to try some local cheese at the Markens Grøde. They offer a lunch buffet, but we opted for some takeaway cheese and a loaf of bread.
Cheese Factory, Bakery and Café
8093 Bodø, Norway
Or follow the road around to the Kjerringøy Bryggehotell right on the water. What a perfect place to enjoy a cold drink and watch as sea eagles swoop over the harbor. Want to stay longer here on the peninsula? Rent a cottage and make Kjerringøy your base.
Reasons to explore the Kjerringøy Peninsula | NATURE
There are several beautiful Arctic Beaches to peruse. Check out the map above for specific locations. We stopped at the one near Fjære, there is a lot across the road. Park and use the wooden stairs to get up over the sheep guard. Walk through the meadow to the sparkly sugar fine sandy beach on this a wide shallow bay. Something about the rocks around here leaves glitter on the beach. It is amazing to behold, especially on a sun shiny day. Look for Arctic urchin skeletons and pretty pink clam shells. Dip your toes in the water. But beware – it is cold.
Looking for an activity that is a little less lazy? There are hiking trails a plenty up peaks and to lakes, pick up a guide on the ferry to find them or ask at the Visitors Center back in Bodø before you head out.
HOW TO GET TO KJERRINGØY
Fly to Bodø, Norway
From abroad, there are several flights daily to Bodø through Oslo. Look at SAS and Norwegian Airlines. It is about a 1.5 hour flight to Bodø.
40 Minute Drive North
From Bodø, drive north on Norwegian County Road RV834. Only 40 minutes along a beautiful winding road that takes you right along the water then up through lush green mountains until you reach the little ferry port of Festvåg.
Take the Torghatten Nord Ferry | Festvåg-Misten
This is the easiest way across to the Kjerringøy peninsula without your own boat. The crossing takes 30 minutes and offers spectacular views of surrounding mountain ranges.
Check the website for up to date departure schedules to and fro the Kjerringøy Peninsula.
Once in Misten, follow the only road along the water to the old trading town of Kjerringøy.
Picture this. Crystal clear aqua blue water gently laps against a crescent swath of white sandy beach. Ahead, down a small trail that wends through the tall grasses, you spy the pitch of a tent. A lavvu teepee tent, to be exact. Several lavvu sit erect in a grassy green meadow, echoing the peaks of mountains in the distance. This idyllic dose of Arctic summer can be found on the small island outpost of Skrova, in the Lofoten Islands. Here is where we’ll be glamping for the weekend. This serene scene will be our base for a summer safari above the Arctic circle with WildSeas Adventures. Three days of exploring fjords, hiking fjells and kayaking cool blue waters. This is Northern Norway, up close and personal.
Sustainable Tourism north of the Arctic Circle starts in Svolvær, Norway
There will be a full day of exploring this part of Lofoten before we even step foot on the sand I speak of here in Skrova. Let’s began back in Svolvær, the bustling hub and center of activity for the Lofoten Islands. This is the largest town we’d seen since exploring around Lofoten this week. In the town center, we find the welcome tent for WildSeas Adventures, where we meet our group and get outfitted for today’s journey. Some serious Arctic fashion is about to happen.
We chose WildSeas for their work dedicated to protecting marine mammals, not always an easy task in Northern Norway, where you’ll still find whale on the menu. Owner Stephanie J. Milne is a marine mammal specialist and creator of the Cetacea Project. She has worked with and studied these beautiful creatures all over the world. Much of her work has focused on the environmental impacts of humans and industry on marine mammal behavior and she now advocates how to best protect these magnificent beasts. After meeting her husband Fred Erik Torhus, a mariner and Norwegian – moving to Norway to work with whales was the most natural progression.
WildSeas itself is a young company and better known in their winter base further north at Tromsø where Orca whales swim freely under the Northern Lights. There, they run whale watching tours, advocacy and community education about whale conservation. But we’re here in summer and lucky for us WildSeas has moved south to Lofoten and set up camp this season. A glamping camp that you need to see to believe.
Eco-tourism lets people experience nature in a transformative way. By encouraging people to connect with nature, we support local communities while increasing environmental awareness and protection. By involving our guests in our research, we hope they feel more invested in the future health of our planet.”
– Stephanie J. Milne, Owner WildSeas, Founder The Cetacea Project
DAY 1 | ALL ABOARD THE BLACKFISH
CRUISING TO TROLLFJORD FROM SVOLVÆr, NORWAY
When we begin the day under bright sunny skies and above average temps, it is difficult to see the need for the full Arctic survival suit we are given at the start of our summer safari. But climb into them we do. Puffed and fluffed in these stunning fashion forward neon onesie suits, we make the short five-minute walk from the WildSeas welcome tent to a nearby pier. Soon we find the WildSeas boat “Blackfish.” If that name sounds familiar, it is for good reason. Named after the viral and impactful documentary about the controversial state of Orca whales in captivity, Stephanie chose it on purpose. It is an apt name, now that you know the driving philosophy behind WildSeas.
Carefully, we make our way down the metal gangway and are personally welcomed on board by the WildSeas power team, Stephanie and Fred Erik themselves. Situated, oriented and now ready, our captain Fred Erik steers us out of the Svolvær harbor, stable and steady. We are headed to the Trollfjord today, a small but stunning rocky inlet north of Svolvær. Only 100 meters wide at the opening, the channel here opens into a verdant 2-kilometer long Norwegian fjord where waterfalls roll down from the peaks above. As we slow down to take in the scenery, Stephanie shares a brief history of a raging turf war in this harbor back when the commercialization interests of the fishing industry were pushing out smaller local fisherman. It’s hard to picture all that brutal drama on this beautiful, calm and sparkling day.
WAFFLES AND COFFEE STOP AT RISVÆr BRYGGER
Turning away from Trollfjord, we keep our eyes peeled for Sea Eagles perched on sea cliffs. Flocks of guillemots scuttle in a flurry across the water. A brief appearance of a dorsal fin in the distance elicits gasps from the group and a frenzy of pointing. We turn and wait hoping for another glimpse of the dolphins. They’ve moved far off and are still moving further, so we continue our course. Forget the dolphins, we’re heading for waffles. That oh-so Norwegian of afternoon treats. Not just for breakfast anymore. Actually they never really were ever for breakfast up here in Scandiland.
Out here on the water, it’s hard to guess where we’ll be sampling the sweets. Soon we can see Risvær. But a blip of a spot on the map; it is truly not much more than a collection of summer houses along an inlet of this little islet. There is no market or shops, but they do have a pub and that’s where we’re headed, Stephanie informs us.
Risvær Brygger is buzzing today with the warm weather and blue skies. Boats full of happy people line the docks with more on the deck. Blackfish parked, we happily shed our suits. Quickly, we have warm waffles and coffee or cocoa to enjoy at the tables outside. Try it the Norwegian way with brunost – that nutty, caramelly, melty brown cheese that I’ve only ever known in Norway. Can’t imagine cheese on your waffle? Don’t worry, you can enjoy the house made strawberry preserves and tangy crème fraîche instead. But don’t look for maple syrup. This isn’t your mama’s Sunday brunch. I probably tested all three toppings just to make sure. When in Norway, you know.
DINNER AT DEN SORTE GRYTE | AN ORGANIC GOAT FARM
Back on the boat and zipped once again into our suits and feeling fetching, we sit back and soak in the landscape, tummies sated from our sweet snack stop. We’ve got a little bit to relax and enjoy the seemingly infinite layers of mountains that shoot up from the shore. Before too long, we turn into a harbor to discover our next stop. This is Den Sorte Gryte. The Black Pot. And for good reason. That big black pot makes darn good cheese. Goat Cheese.
Den Sorte Gryte is a goat farm extraordinaire. The same passion that Stephanie shares about whales, our host Jorunn feels about her goats. She is at once a goat farmer, cheese maker, head chef, hostess, entertainer, singer, museum curator and story teller. You can’t help but adore her. While we watch the goats come in from their day of grazing to start the milking, Jorunn tells us about life on the farm here at Den Sorte Gryte. We are treated to stories and lessons in how brunost should really taste while we sip house made summer berry saft, a popular Scandinavian juice drink. Cold and delicious, not too sweet.
Dinner is a fabulous spread of freshly caught Norwegian kveite (halibut), kjebab (a spiced meat mixture), potatoes, vegetables and salads and sauces. After the meal, with the sun still shining brightly, we take our desserts outside on the terrace overlooking the farm and on out to the water. Jorunn instructs us to choose one of the cups and saucers out of her collection for some coffee or tea to enjoy with the cheesecake and brunost from her goats. I happily select a fancy gilt number just because I can. Once finished, we get a quick tour through the farm museum that she’s set up in her bright red barn. I have a sense she could sit and tell stories about all the items in the collection for hours, but unfortunately, we have tides and time working against us and must go. We say quickly say takk! Thank you! And head back to the boat.
LANDING AT SKROVA AND WELCOME TO THE GLAMPGROUND
The late light dances on the water, throwing sublime sparkles like a welcome mat as we finally reach our glampground. Remember that crescent swath of white sandy beach? We’re here. Blackfish is carefully maneuvered right onto the sand and we take our bags and step out onto the beach from the front of the vessel. Waving goodbye to our captain and the other day trippers, we head up to the camp, where we meet Frida – our host for the night.
LET US INSIDE OUR LOVELY LAVVU TENTS
Stephanie and Frida lead us to our tents and unzip each teepee to reveal our special accommodations for the weekend. These are modern lavvu tents modeled after the indigenous Sami design and they are huge. Inside, a comfortable queen sized bed for two. Charming details like lanterns and pillows and candles enhance the glamp. There is a main tent where we’ll breakfast and get set for each day. But my favorite part of the camp is the private beach reachable beyond the tents.
MIDNIGHT SUNSETS FROM YOUR PRIVATE ARCTIC BEACH
This little slice of awesomesauce is not as large as the stretch we arrived on, this beach is quiet. And the perfect place to wade in the shallow water, warmed up with the long midnight sun. We take off our shoes and walk towards the sunset, only now just setting, literally at midnight. The peaks turn pinks and peaches and then purples, but the light never really leaves. Find a spot and watch the display, at least one of the nights. It was slow and epic and ever so worthy of soaking all in.
DAY 2 | EXPLORING THE ISLAND OF SKROVA
KAYAKING in AQUA ARCTIC WATER
We wake for breakfast in the main tent, a simple Scandinavian array of yogurt with muesli or cereals, bread with leverpostej, cheese and jam or nutella. Wash it down with coffee and tea and juices. We’re now ready for our adventures around Skrova today.
Down on the main beach, we find a collection of colorful kayaks and Frida ready to help us get set. We practice our paddling from the safety of shore and Frida gives us tips to make the most of pushing while using our core. Within half an hour, we are ready to try it and pull our boats down to the water, get in and we’re off. Any nervousness I may have been harboring evaporates under Frida’s watchful eye. Once we’ve launched we feel stable and settle and in for the tour.
The water here is clear. So clear. You can see seaweed and wee fish and all sizes of jellies. I spy an odd crab as it scuttles along the seafloor. Frida shows us which seaweed is safe to eat and picks us a pod that is ready and ripe. It tastes of the sea, salty and green, then bitter and tart. I imagine the taste hasn’t changed in thousands of years.
We slip along the surface mesmerized by the views. How different everything looks from this vantage so close to the water. After a few hours, we stop and take our lunch on the beach. Some swim, some soak up the sun and I seek out the perfect pink shells that litter the shore. Sated and rested, we return to our vessels and resume circumnavigation of little Skrova. We see some sea eagles soar up the sides of the hills, but it is the water here that I’ve become smitten with, colors I can’t quite seem to capture on film. Liquid greens and aqua blues that I will want to remember. We spin through the town harbor while Frida shares a bit about the island, its history and charm.
DINNER AT LOCAL PUB
We finish day two with some downtime back at camp. Then an easy hike over hills to Skrova’s main town. Here showers are available if you want them. You may think being clean is synonymous with glamping, but I was honestly looking forward to not showering for three days. Judge me if you will. Others took advantage while we waited for pizza. There are adult beverages available at this cute pub on the water, so bring along your pocket change or an arm and a leg. Drinks are heavily taxed in Norway and can be quite expensive. We splurge on a few cold beers and enjoy the late sun, assessing how sore backs and shoulders will be from our paddling today. (Not so bad as it turned out!)
DAY 3 | DAY HIKE AND RETURN TO SVOLVÆR
BE READY FOR RAIN AND DON’T LET IT DAMPEN THE DISCOVERY
Overnight clouds roll in, open up and gently drop, drop, plop, plunk and lull us to sleep. I find the steady rhythm of rain on the tent easier to dream in than the slight wind from the night before. Come morning, candles in the main tent are a warm welcome on this damp awakening. Jonas, our Danish host, greets us with breakfast and the plan for the day. Put on your layers as we’ll be hiking over hills.
It isn’t THAT cold and we’re up for the adventure. But the damp will seep in if your outerwear isn’t right. Dressed and ready, Jonas starts our day off with a quick safety briefing and his best hiking practices. I may have broken every suggestion he offered, but then you wouldn’t have the video I offer below. My hiking shoes were awesome and I hope yours are too. But listen to Jonas. He knows what he is talking about. And he will help you if you don’t.
Yes, it rained. A lot. The last day. And while I wouldn’t necessarily choose to scale mountains and explore Arctic ridges under wet skies or over damp mossy trails, I’m happy I did. Even in the rain, it was still truly beautiful. Something moody and misty and still magical. We found Arctic orchids and heather and lichens and moss in a palette so different from our days before. I loved the dichotomy.
We made it over the mountain and back to Skrova where we lunched in a tunnel full of photography and art. As it turns out Skrova has a thriving community of photographers and artists and it is fun to see the history of this town through the lenses of yore. We don’t last long in the lingering damp and are grateful for a ride back to the camp. Packed up and ready we say farewell to our glampground. Our ride back to Svolvær is truly over some wild seas this time and the adventure lives up to its name. What a truly wild weekend it has been.
BOOK YOUR TOUR:
Find Stephanie, Fred Erik, Frida and Jonas and book your tour here:
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.
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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 offer 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.
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.
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.
WHAT TO PACK:
Weather in Northern Norway can be unpredictable – I was happy to have waterproof pants, sturdy trail shoes and my red raincoat while we were there. I can recommend all of these products for your trip north.