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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
84 thoughts on “World’s Wildest Whirlpools | Saltstraumen Maelstrom, Bodø Norway”
Those videos are INSANE! I’d love to go on a ride on a rigid inflatable through those whirlpools, I bet it’s an incredible thrill!
They go pretty fast through there – I’m sure it is thrilling!
This makes my palms sweat just watching it. Unreal! Thank you so much for sharing!
Haha! I was a little nervous at the top of the bridge, but it was just so cool!
Wow!! Great videos! Truly incredible what Mother Nature has to offer!
Thank you Esther! It was definitely awe inspiring!
I’d definitely stay on the bridge! The videos look awesome. We have something similar here in BC (Skookumchuck Narrows), but not nearly so wild.
I LOVE Chinook names! How
fun is it to say Skookumchuck? I love BC – the narrows there sound beautiful too! Cheers from Copenhagen!
This looks amazing. Have never seen a whirlpool before and Norway would be a great place to see it and at the same time discover other places! Goren’s photos are amazing and really inspires us to go!
Northern Norway is so beautiful – I would highly recommend!
Wow, your videos are so cool and what a nifty guide. Norway is SO on my list, thanks for this!
As it should be! Besides being gorgeous, the people are so very very friendly in Northern Norway!
why have I never heard of this?! such an awesome world we live in! I would love to visit here – I literally watched the videos 5 times haha
You’ve heard of it now! I hadn’t either before researching what to see and do up north, but I’m so happy I found it! Cheers!
Wow this is so cool! Norway has such amazing nature that I would love to see more of! These whirlpool’s are definitely now on the list!
If you catch them at the right times – it is so worth it! And Bodø is a super cute town, so there’s more to explore than just the whirlpools! Cheers, Erin
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Wow Erin, this is truly amazing!!! I played the second video three times, so mesmerizing. xx
Haha! I know! I stood there watching it for awhile! Even my fear of heights was suspended up there on the top of the bridge looking down because it was just sooo beautiful! Cheers Nano! Thanks for the comment!
isn’t it dangerous for ships?
It definitely can be – they have to time their crossings and carefully maneuver through the channel. I’m certain that I wouldn’t want to be driving the boat!
This looks absolutely amazing. Is it a bit scary watching the water move that fast, so close to you? #FarawayFiles
Not scary, but definitely made you wary not to get to close!
This is so cool! I’d love to ride the RIB through it, but i think i’d be holding on for dear life #farawayfiles
I know I would! We took a wild ride up in Lofoten over very rough sea with what felt like huge swells to me and I was definitely white knuckling it! Cheers and thanks for joining #FarawayFiles, Erin
Wow, nature is so powerful. Imagine if the power generated here could be harnassed. #FarawayFiles
Annette – did you know that in Norway 95% of all energy produced is from hydroelectricity! You wouldn’t want to dam up this beauty, but they are definitely harnessing it elsewhere! Cheers and thanks for reading!
Didn’t know that – very impressive stat.
Several companys in Norway have tried to figure out a way to get clean energy from tidal currents and Saltstraumen is often mentioned as a place where this could be very useful. By using under water turbines, they obviously are able to produce electricity, and a lot of it, but for some reason none of the companys have found any economically sound models for going large scale. The extremely low cost of electricity from other sources (hydropower) might be one of the reasons. When it comes to Saltstraumen I also imagine people would be extremely sceptical with regards to how it would effect marine life, which has extremely good living conditions there.
Yes – this has been an important fishing ground for thousands of years I read!
Bloody hell that’s amazing! I love this part of the world. I did an RIB safari over the Moskenstraumen near Reine but it wasn’t half as wild as this one! Fabulous post, love the video.
Did you love Lofoten? I was just in awe at every turn in Northern Norway!
Absolutely adored every bit of it
The photos are beautiful. I’ve never heard of this but would love to ride through it on a raft as well as see it from above. Great opportunity to eat some delicious fish at the same time. #FarawayFiles
I think I ate seafood every single day in Norway – for breakfast, lunch and dinner!! ? ❤️??
And so you should! Can you imagine going to Norway and not liking seafood? I’d be in foodie heaven.
I have never heard of this place, but the videos are mesmerizing. will need to add this to my families must see list. #farawayfiles
All of Northern Norway is stunning and rare and special – but this was just so cool! Cheers from Scandiland! Erin
This is so cool! I’ve never seen or heard of this before! Love learning about new places! Pinned! #FarawayFiles
Norway rocks. Plain and simple. Cheers!
What a wild natural phenomenon! So cool that you got to watch it from above, I’m not sure I’d want to take the boat ride through it. #FarawayFiles
Haha! Me either to be honest – while fast and fun – I think you might miss some of the beautiful formations in the water?!
This is so cool and so mesmerizing! I could watch it for hours! I honestly have never heard about this before but I have been dying to go to Norway and this just adds to my list of things to see there!
Norway is huge and amazing. Soo much to see – but this was one of my favorites!!
Wow! You would not get me on a boat any where near that. Amazing, this I have to see. #FarawayFiles
Hahaha! No? It definitely looked pretty intense – I was glad I was safely on shore!
Wow! What a unique experience for a country that I have read a lot about. You have really put together such a helpful blog with a lot of insight. I really like the map feature and all of the educational information you provided. It was such an interesting piece of Norway I had no idea even existed so I’ll make sure to keep it at the top of my list. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Morgan! Cheers from Denmark!
Looks awesome! I have to admit Norway is one place I really want to visit. #farawayfiled
And you really should! It’s so beautiful!
Woah, I was a little scared watching that boat in the water, wondering if it was going to be swept away. What a beautiful show of Mother Nature and the way our world works! #FarawayFiles
I really was crossing my fingers for safe passage every time a boat went towards the channel! Crazy!
This is seriously so cool! I’m in awe of your entire trip. I think it will take you a long time to come down from this one… #farawayfiles
Me too Hilary, me too!
Wait! I almost forgot to mention… I couldn’t believe boats were sailing right through that! Reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean!
I am now struck with awe too! What an astonishing spectacle.
Great advice on how to see it properly. Imagine going on a RIB boat – I did that once on the Thames and that was enough excitement for me. This is insane!
I know right? The RIB boats actually came through after peak – it was the fishing boats that were freaking me out!
Yes – when we first got there I was contemplating the boat ride – but glad we saw it the way we did!
Mesmerising and spectacular! But I think I’d feel travel sick if I looked at it for too long – and as for taking a boat ride through it, er no! #farawayfiles
I have a fairly profound fear of heights and thought I wouldn’t be able to watch it from atop the bridge looking over, but it is so interesting to watch as the patterns in the water swirl and change – almost lacy – that I didn’t feel nervous at all up there – it was just so cool!
This is just nuts! Wow. I can’t believe boats cross through this area. It’s terrifying and awesome and brilliant and heart-stopping all in one! Great to be able to see the videos. I think the aerial view from the bridge would be a good place to watch. And then hopefully spot a moose!
Ok – you’re a diver – someone responded on twitter that they did a drift dive through the channel! THAT is insane!!!
I’ve been wanting to read this since I saw your Instagram post. What a cool phenomenon! I laughed at the moose sightings – it reminded me of Newfoundland. I was there for a little over a week and saw 13!!
THIRTEEN! Wow! So fun! These were the only two we saw – but we kept looking!!
This place is BEAUTIFUL! I’d be scared out of my wits though! It’s my dream to visit the Nordic countries but it’s so far from me! Definitely one day.
It’s my dream to visit Trinidad and Tobago! I hope you get to see Scandinavia – it is really very special. And Norway is different from Denmark is different from Sweden – they all have unique and amazing qualities – I can highly recommend! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin
This is impressive! I do not think I want to ride the boat in the middle of this. I am a scared cat. I do not walk on the nearby pier when the waves are high (they have wiped out people). Imagine me in the middle of this! I do not thing so! #farawayfiles
That’s pretty cool to see – I love natural wonders like this! 😀 #FarawayFiles
It was epic – for sure!
All I can say is wow – this would be amazing to see!
It was very cool and I can still imagine the swirling water – such a dramatic site!
Wow, I have never seen anything like this! I would be amazed at people wanting to go on that safari rigid inflatable boat to cruise right through that maelstrom! The second video – the sound that you hear on the clip – is it traffic or the maelstrom?? #FarawayFiles
Great photo of Saltstraumen! I probably saw it as a kid (on family road trips), but not as an adult – want to 🙂
What a cool place for family road trips growing up Bea! It’s soooo beautiful up there! Cheers, Erin
We drove all over the country. Didn’t appreciate it much as a kid 🙂
Wow! I am definitely currently in the wrong part of Norway (south-west, near Haugesund, the rainy part). No maelstroms here, unless you count those in the sky… Very jealous! I love natural phenomena like this, and I like the look of the café too (but, oh boy, is Norway expensive…). Takk! #FarawayFiles
I just love these natural wonders, they’re so intriguing. And this one is particularly beautiful! I love all the pictures of the raging water. How cool to experience in person! (From above, for free 🙂 )
Yes – things that are free is always good in Norway – it can be very expensive! Cheers, Erin
WOW! Just a little scary.
To be in that maelstrom – yes! To watch it – no – soooo amazingly beautiful to watch the lacy patterns swirl in the water! I loved it!
Those pictures from on top of the bridge are incredible! What a reminder of the strength and power of mother nature! So beautiful but also quite scary! #farawayfiles
Those are my favorite too – I love the way the water swirls in these slow powerful lacy patterns! Cheers!
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