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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Norway by Rail

Start Your Norway in a Nutshell Tour by Train from Oslo

Summer break is almost here and maybe Norway is on your list. If you haven’t taken the overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo – that is an experience in and of itself. Spend time in the elegant and accessible city, but don’t limit your Norwegian trip to Oslo. Norway really shines outside the capital. Ride along as I revisit our train trip from Oslo to fjord country… this is Norway by rail.


Wending along in the eighth of ten cars, feeling the pull and sway along the tracks. Remarkably insulated from the bracing sound of metal wheels upon steel rails. Suprisingly infrequent is the clickety-clacking one most associates with this mode of travel. I love riding the train.

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By Bus to Bergen – Onsdag Wanderlust – Volume V

It’s Wednesday peeps. That’s Onsdag in Danish. And while my morning excursion to join the morgen sing along with the Copenhagen Opera Festival potentially exposed my gross lack of appropriate Danish pronunciation – and may have quickly led to lip synching – I do know what Onsdag means. It means – it’s the middle of the week. And this week in Copenhagen – the weather is abysmal. Seriously. Rain. Not rain. RAIN. More Rain. Oh – blue skies! Let’s do something! RAIN. I need an escape. How about you? Travel with me, virtually. Here and now.

Today I will take you on the last leg of our recent Norway in a Nutshell tour at the end of June. My story began back in Oslo and wound us through Norway by track and through fjord. (Missed those posts? Check them here and here.) Continuing on this Wednesday, let’s leave the gorgeous Nærøyfjord as we disembark our vessel at tiny Gudvangen. Shrouded in rain, (oh you thought I was going to take you somewhere sunny? Just wait…the weather does turn) we hurriedly make our way past the gift shop full of trolls and viking horned caps and Norsk flags and fur trimmed hats and expensive, if charming, Dale of Norway sweaters. Let the other tourists nab their souvenirs – we’ve got a bus to catch. There is no one ushering us along either. No. You have to locate that ride yourself. Ensure with the driver that you are in fact on the correct bus that will carry you on to Voss. Ja takk, in fact we are. Continue reading “By Bus to Bergen – Onsdag Wanderlust – Volume V”

Norway by Boat

Explore the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord from Flåm

Float with me as we continue our Norway in a Nutshell tour through the gorgeous Norwegian Fjords. More than one scenic train ride stemming from Oslo yesterday brought us to charming Flåm for a relaxing overnight once the tourist hoards had vacated. Bellies sated from the full Nordic buffet at the Fretheim Hotel this morning, we check out and head to the harbor to start the boated portion of our pre-planned Norwegian package.

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Norway by Rail

Wending along in the eighth of ten cars, feeling the pull and sway along the tracks. Remarkably insulated from the bracing sound of metal wheels upon steel rails. Infrequent is the clickety clacking one most associates with this mode of travel. I love riding the train.

Save for the engineer’s voice announcing the next stop in Norwegian or the shape and color of the farm houses flying their Norsk flags dotting the countryside – it could be Oregon. Instead of Douglas Fir trees, Norwegian Spruce cover the hillsides. Wait – what? HILLSIDES?!? Ahhhh…. topography. Feels like home. It’s what I’m used to. It is beautiful. Snow still tops some of those distant green hills. Not so in Oregon this year. My mother visiting from my from worries for her yard and town and state with the lack of snowcap and exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.

Not a problem in Norway. (Not really in Denmark either.) In stark comparison, a wetter than normal winter and spring have proffered a beautiful, verdant and lush landscape ripe with wildflowers and light green leafy growth. The overcast skies we woke to on our third morning in Oslo didn’t make it past Hønefoss as we travel north and westerly towards Norway’s famous FJORD country. Today’s eventual destination is the little town of Flåm at the base of the Aurlandsfjord. All aboard the first leg or our Norway in a Nutshell tour. We are underway on a gorgeous rail ride through the Norwegian countryside beginning from Oslo’s Central Station.

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