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.
A DAY OUT FROM BODØ, NORWAY
We spent three days based in Bodø exploring Northern Norway before our anniversary trip to the Lofoten Islands. And while Lofoten gets lots of credit for offering epic and inspiring awe, the landscape around Bodø is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it’s beyond beautiful. There is magic in these rocks and in this sand. Can you see it? Those are gems and minerals. Tiny. Tiny. Itty bitty particles of garnet and mica for your to tip your toes in. And wait ’til you see the rocks.
30-minute drive from Bodø
If you are staying in town, which I recommend you do, drive north on Norwegian County Road RV834. Watch for signs to take the left turn towards Mjelle. Follow the road to the parking lot and find a space. On sunny days, the lot fills fast, but don’t worry, there is plenty of space for all on the beach. The easiest way to reach Mjelle is by car. For the active, it would be a beautiful 23-kilometer bike ride along the water, but do expect some hills on the way.
PACK IN A PICNIC
From the parking lot it is a 15-20 minute walk depending on how quickly you putter or how many pictures you take. Wha? Just me? About 5 minutes down the path you will find picnic tables and grills free for your use. This isn’t the gem of a beach, but the views here on the water are lovely. Also, there are no tables further on.
NOTE: The only public toilets are here at the start of the path.
EASY 15 MINUTE HIKE TO SPECTACULAR BEACH
Past the picnic areas, you will find the path easy, but maybe not peasy and definitely not paved. Some points may be muddy, so do wear appropriate shoes. We saw people in flip-flops but were happy to have on sturdier footwear. There are some boulders to maneuver, but no real elevation changes. Children will be fine and love scrambling around the rocks, but those with mobility issues may find it a challenge in places.
ANIMALS GRAZING HERE
At the top of the path back at the parking lot, you will pass through a gate. This is an active agriculture area and livestock roams freely on these lands. Bring your dog along? Make sure they are on a leash to protect yourself and the roaming sheep. The breeze carries the tinkling sound of their bells down the hills and adds to the magic of this place. We strain to see them, but they aren’t on this path today.
BACK TO BACK BEACH CRESCENTS
Towards the end of the path, you will spy the first swath of sand to your left. The beach here is less deep, but more protected and the water shallower. This makes it more popular for families who might dare swim in the clear Arctic water on a sunny day. And by “swim” I mean quickly run in, freeze your feet, dunk your head and run back out. The Scandis swear by it. Good for the circulation. Don’t knock it until you try it. We continue down the path on across a meadow to the adjacent purplish sand promenade. On our way over, we discover some of the bell-laden lambs. They ignore us as we circumnavigate them. The bell wearers are big and we aren’t sure how friendly.
NOTE: Average temperatures for July in Bodø sit around 16°C (60°F). We lucked out with sunny, sunny bluebird skies and 22°C (71°F). In Scandinavia, that’s definitely swimsuit weather! Water temperatures in this area are closer to 11-12°C (about 52°F). Now that’s refreshing! (PS – I’ve dipped when it was between 2-3°C in Denmark. 12°C is definitely doable.)
GARNET PARTICLES GIVE A PURPLE HUE TO THE BEACH
Depending on the weather and what has washed away or ashore, the second swath of sandy beach at Mjelle can appear almost purple. Or reddish. According to who you ask. On the day we discovered it, the purple was subtle and depended on perspective. Apparently, this beach makes for a perfect backdrop for midnight “not” sunsets. At midsummer’s solstice on June 21st, the sun does not actually set this far north but affords you one of the slowest dips along the horizon you will ever experience. Hours. And hours. Of the sun never actually setting. Epic. If not exhausting. But I’m sticking with epic.
IT’S A GEOLOGY DISCO ON THE ROCKS AT MJELLE
And while the midday sun we met as we meandered at Mjelle may not have lent the reddish-purple sand its most perfect potential, I do believe the mica laden rocks nearby seriously stole the show. It was a veritable geology disco. And I don’t normally geek out over rocks. But the glitter was real people. Like sparkle fantastic, hard to explain, even more difficult to describe and impossible to capture a-mica-mazingness. That’s a word. Look it up. Here was the real magic for me. The sun made the rocks shine.
PASTORAL SCENE ATOP THE ROCKS
Remember those tinkling bells? On the necks of the grazing sheep? Out here on the rocks and slightly swampy meadows they roam. In packs. Give them their space and let them go where they want. And don’t miss the Arctic wildflowers. I love the fluffy white cottongrass that conjures the coiffures of crazy professors or Truffala trees as they sway in the breeze. (Thank you Dr. Seuss).
MAKE A DAY OF IT NORTH OF BODØ
Not up for swimming and seen enough sparkly rocks? Head back to the main road and continue a bit further up the road to Festvåg. From here you can take the quick ferry over to the Kjerringøy Peninsula for more beaches, great lunch options and a step back in time at the excellent museum there.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Scandic Havet Hotel right on the harbor in Bodø and it was the perfect base for exploring the region. We did not receive compensation for our stay, but I can highly recommend this hotel based on our experience.
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SALTSTRAUMEN MAELSTROM, Bodø NORWAY
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