This picture was taken aboard a Hurtigruten ship. It shows the entry into the Raftsund from the north while there is bad weather approaching from southwest.
Especially for the winter I recommend that you take a Hurtigruten ship with your car from Tromsø or Finnsnes on Senja and enjoy the journey along the Vesterålen and Lofoten. Ports to disembark in Lofoten are Svolvær or Stamsund.
This is another picture taken aboard a Hurtigruten ship in early March.
Now, I do not have any more tips except to try it yourself!
This picture of the frozen water takes us back to Lofoten, more specifically to the road to Nusfjord along Lake Storvatnet.
This road has another great motive in store for the photographers among you. Less than a kilometer after the E10 junction and a slight right turn, the road is leading you straight into an imsurmountable rock face. This could be the place where you take the best picture of your trip, if there is an explosion of colors in the sky above the rocks during winter or the northern lights are dancing across the sky at sunset.
Here is a picture of a non-frozen waterfall to contrast the image of the frozen water.
The Henrikkafossen in Spansdalen is the highest waterfall in northern Norway. If you drive through Spansdalen coming from the southeast on the Fv84, you can see the waterfall near Tennevol on the left-hand side. However, to me it is only impressive when I am using a telephoto lens or binoculars.
The Fv84 route from Fossbakken to Finnsnes is the alternative to the E6 on your way from the south with Senja as destination. Both routes are the same length. However, the E6 to Bardufoss is faster while the Fv84 is much more scenic.
The northern lights or aurora borealis are truly one of the best experiences during the polar autumn, winter and spring months. I do not mean luminous phenomena on the horizon, as they can occur in temperate latitudes, but the dancing light spectacle that can take up the entire sky.
The spectrum ranges from slowly "pulling" light bands, which could initially also be considered illuminated clouds to very fast-moving and appearance-changing light phenomena that are so bright that they cast shadows.
Here an important advice before you read more tips under the following pictures of the northern lights: Dress as warm and cozy as possible to make sure that you will not be freezing even after standing still for a long period of time.
In total silence, the sky shines in slow-moving bands, then suddenly a flickering fire dances or explodes above or in front of the viewer. Breathtaking - even if the intense green and purple colors you can see in most pictures appear less or hardly as bright in real life since our eyes are less sensitive to colors in low light.
A northern lights phenomenon may last the entire night, be visible for only half an hour or can even be completely absent the whole night. If you are indoors with the lights turned on and only go outside for a quick look, you might miss out on a developing northern light. This is because your eyes are not yet adjusted to the darkness (which can take up to 15 minutes). A little instant helper to avoid this problem can be your digital camera with a wide-angle lens. Simply photograph the night sky for 1 to 3 seconds with the aperture open and a high sensitivity. If there is some "green" in the picture, that means there are some northern lights and it is probably a good idea to get dressed and go outside!
Very important to be able to enjoy the northern lights is to pick a "dark" observation place. You should use the day to select a location that is not illuminated by artificial light sources.
Of course, at least for photographers, it is important to find a place that offers an attractive stage from the west to the north and the east. Some great choices are mountains in the background, water with individual rocks or a fishing boat in the foreground.
As shutter speed I use 3-5 seconds with an open or hardly closed aperture. The sensitivity (ISO) is set to underexpose the image by three levels, because thanks to my cameras, I can later increase the sensitivity in post-processing and it offers me a good protection against overexposure in case the northern lights suddenly decide to explode.
Grytøya (Vesterålen) as seen from Skrolsvik - Senja - Troms -
This picture was taken with my telephoto lens from the southwest corner of Senja in the direction of the Vesterålen, whose northern mountain flanks can still have snow even in low altitude and in July.
To me, Senja offers at least two major strengths: The island is much less visited by tourists and very diverse.
Here in the southwest, there are many similarities with the gentle, almost lovely passages of the Vesterålen.
This picture was taken during a trip on Kvaløya Island from Tromsø to Sommarøy Island, about 10 km east of the destination, facing northwest.
There is a very good reason for me to visit Sommarøy and the offshore island of Hillesøya in the summer: The water colors are indescribably intense as the seabed seems to be covered by the remains of cold-water corals which reflect much more sunlight than sand.
Bergsfjorden - Hamn - Senja - Troms - Norway
The tips of the north-facing Senja fingers are particularly attractive, as in the western part the watercolors are simply magnificent, while further to the north, very impressive mountain ranges dominate.
One of the most famous peaks is the 600m high Segla with breathtaking views. Actually, I have been told that Senja is one of the top destinations for mountain hikers in Norway. As I said, I'm not an athletic person and I even have a fear of heights ;-)
This panoramic picture taken with a drone shows the northwestern coast of Senja from a bird's eye view. In addition to a mountain hike up the Segla, I particularly recommend:
A trip to Gryllefjord just behind Hamn because of the great watercolors.
The road to Skaland until it ends at a large beach which is very beautiful.
The rest area on the road between Steinfjord and Ersfjord which overlooks the 600m high mountain range Okshornan protruding like a sharp set of teeth almost vertically out of the sea. This is also a great place to watch the northern lights.
In this picture Senja shows its fjell landscape. It was captured near the road Fv232 to Sifjord in the west of the island. The well-maintained road is leading over a fjell, before it descends from a height of almost 400m to sea level. Here you can find beautiful views and good hiking opportunities. However in the summer and with little wind, this location is not necessarily a mosquito-free area.
The Ersfjord on Kvaløya Island, west of Tromsø, is a magnificent stage to watch the northern lights. Unfortunately, the artificial lighting on the fjord in Ersfjordbotn has increased significantly, so it is not easy to find a good viewing location. In winter, when there is heavy snowfall, it does not get any easier.
Even in summer Ersfjordbotn has a beautiful scenery and magnificent fishing opportunities to offer.
View from Spåkenes to the Lyngen Alps - Finnmark
We had booked a comfortable glass igloo just a few miles away from the E6 in Spåkenes, directly on the Lyngenfjord, where we were planning to enjoy the northern lights as relaxed and as cozy as possible. Relaxed and cozy was certainly true but unfortunately, there weren't any northern lights as it was snowing for most of the night.
However, the view after getting up was all the more beautiful. This combination of radiant morning light, slowly moving sea water, the imposing Lyngen Alps in the west and the clear and cold winter air is absolutely stunning.
This picture was taken just a few meters next to the igloo (80° image angle, aperture 8 and 20 seconds of exposure time with a gray filter).
Is a stay in a glass igloo really worth it? If the price per night is only playing a minor role, then yes. For all other travelers I would recommend to try it one or two times in the winter - just to experience the igloo atmosphere. In terms of the northern lights, however, I believe that the observation outside at an ideal location is the more impressive option - especially since you can then photograph the phenomenon in high quality.
The fjell between Alta and Skaidi along the E6 from south to north is the second "arctic" looking plateau (the more southerly is the Saltfjell north of Mo i Rana). Even in summer I get the feeling "okay now, it really looks nordic" while driving north. In winter when everything is white except for little trees, icicles and an occasional car, this feeling is even stronger.
The road is very straight and relatively wide here, so that in addition to seeing the beautiful landscape you will also make a good pace. When I am driving through this fjell, I usually take a break somewhere in the empty landscape, e.g. at the small tree in this picture to let my mind wander. A wonderful feeling!
Actually, nearly 500 km north of the polar circle I would have expected to find arctic foxes instead of the usual red foxes. However, we have seen ten times more red than polar foxes on our trips in winter.
That could of course also be due to the color of the otherwise white environment...
At least on their first trip, travelers usually leave out the National Tourist Route Havøysund which is a real pity.
The reason for the omission can be found rather quickly: At the junction to the road to Havøysund in Smørfjord, the road continues straight to the North Cape, which is just over 120 km away.
The first attractions of the tourist road can be seen 20 km after the junction. Here, you reach a cliff landscape with the ocean on one side and rugged rock formations on the other side. Along this beautiful coastline, you drive about 20 km north. This is a wonderful location to go hiking and collect beautiful stone slabs.
Then until you reach Havøysund, the road continues alternating between ridges of a few hundred meters, beautiful views along the coast and individual beaches for 40km.
The National Tourist Route ends in Havøysund. We found the route there to be much more attractive than the place itself.
From here you can drive, cycle or hike to the "Arctic View" a few kilometers away and enjoy the beautiful view across the Norwegian Sea. One disadvantage I don't like is the wind farm you have to pass to get there.
The second alternative is a drive to one of the offshore islands in the Norwegian Sea.
The third alternative is the onward journey with the Hurtigrute from Havøysund to Honningsvåg, is especially interesting for cyclists. From there it is only 34 km to the North Cape and two larger tunnels less. All others will have the joy of a return journey through a beautiful arctic landscape.
For this trip, I recommend September and the winter months.
Now we have arrived at the North Cape and it is midnight!
On a gently rising road, you will reach this place of longing that has been visited for centuries. Shortly before the cape, you will first have to face a toll station with rather high entrance fees, though. Afterwards, you will be able to reach the car park, which is usually full of campervans and dozens of busses from all over Europe in the summer at midnight. On top of that, you often see an additional 50 busses with thousands of tourists from cruise ships arrive.
Still, even despite all this, the North Cape is a truly magical place. The uninterrupted view of the "only" 2000 km distant North Pole, the visitors from all over the world and a dream come true for many travelers make the North Cape a place of reflection and great emotions. Here you will meet people who arrived with their Vespa from Sicily, with their bicycle from Warsaw or who came by plane from South America.
By the way, you should not give up hope to see the midnight sun at the North Cape, even when there is bad weather a few kilometers south and it is cloudy or foggy. The North Cape is located more than 300 meters above sea level and thus often above the clouds.
On our last visit in 2017 we were here on the 2nd and 3rd of July. This is clearly the wrong time, because the sun is high in the sky even at midnight. This is far less emotional than a sun that almost sinks to the horizon and then does not set but begins to rise for a new day. Our next visit is planned for the second half of July.
Road to Gamvik-Nordkinn
To get to Gamvik you have to first cross the peninsula Nordkinn, which is located in the middle between the North Cape island Magarøya and the Varanger peninsula in the Barents Sea.
From Bekkarfjord, you can expect a fascinating almost untouched arctic fjell landscape with many reindeers in the summer and comfortably developed roads in impressive, wide landscapes on your way to Kjøllefjord in the west, Mehamn in the north and Gamvik in the northeast.
From Mehamn you can ambitiously hike towards the midnight sun to get to Kinnarodden, which is the actual northernmost point of mainland Europe (the North Cape is located on an island) or from Gamvik, you can reach the lighthouse Slettnes Fyr by following a small road for a few kilometers.
Seltnes Fyr is the northernmost lighthouse on mainland Europe (some sources even refer to it as the northernmost mainland lighthouse in the world) with a stunning view of the Arctic Ocean and the midnight sun.
At the moment, the southbound Hurtigruten ship is passing by the lighthouse at midnight each day which is the northernmost point of its journey. The area itself is shared by reindeers and motorhome owners during the summer.
For some travelers, this is a nicer alternative to the North Cape, as there are much less tourists here. My Opinion: Yes, there are less tourists and a wonderful northern horizon even when you are on the ship but not 300m high as is the case at the actual North Cape.
By the way, according to the signage, it is "only" 2,814 km to the southernmost Norwegian lighthouse in Lindesnes on Skagerak from this point.
The trip from Tana Bru to Båtsfjord or Berlevåg is crossing the Kongsfjordfjellet. The route initially rather boringly follows the Tana and the Tanafjorden to the north, rising 300m to the Kongsfjordfjellet after about 60 kilometres, which has many similarities with Nordkinn. Very arctic!
After 30 km on the fjell and the crossing to Berlevåg you can look down on the Barents Sea and will now drive through the fishing village Kongsfjord along the often wind-blasted coastline past bizarre rock formations and beaches to Berlevåg over a stretch of nearly 40 km.
In Kongsfjord, there is a great place to stay with very friendly people and good local food: Kongsfjord Gjestehus.
The ocean road from Kongsfjord to Berlevåg-Varanger
I have only seen the Arctic Ocean Road in winter - and it is terrific! Behind every curve, you get a fascinating view of the snowy landscape, can see great beaches or picturesque stone formations. It is a great route to lean back and simply enjoy!
As was the case in Kongsfjord, we met many emigrants from Central Europe in Berlevåg, who prefer the special life here in the extreme north over the hectic pace and, as they called it, "a life without purpose" in their homeland. In Berlevåg you will find artists, shops, an airport and a Hurtigruten ship.
Ocean road from Kongsfjord to Berlevåg-Varanger
The Arctic Ocean Road is narrow, entirely asphalted, professionally secured and therefore very easy to drive on.
The rock formations are reminiscent of the national tourist roads Havøysund west of the North Cape and Varanger in the road section Vardø to Hamningberg.
In contrast to the road from Vardø to Hamningberg on the east side of the Varanger peninsula, the Arctic Ocean Highway remains open, except for extreme weather conditions in winter.
If you have no further plans in the far north, you can embark on the daily Hurtigrute ship at the end of the Arctic Ocean Road in Berlevåg and get to Senja, Vesterålen or Lofoten in 1½ to 2 days. I recommend reserving a parking space for your car a few days in advance.
This is already the second picture of Kongsfjordfjellet, that made it into the book.
Here are some tips for driving in winter:
In winter, the roads are usually cleared quickly and professionally. During heavy snowfall or strong wind, especially on fjell roads, it is possible that driving in a convoy is mandatory. This means that on certain, predetermined times (see the sign on the turnpike) a convoy is driving behind a snow plow to cross the difficult road. Information can be found at www.vegvesen.no.
If you drive alone when it's snowing, the biggest difficulty is the so-called "whiteout". During these times, the road, the landscape and the sky are very bright without any contrast which immediately poses the question where the road is. At slow speeds, this should not be a problem, though.
This is the third picture of Kongsfjordfjellet that made it into the book. And it is absolutely beautiful!
That is all that needs to be said about it. Except the following:
On our trips, we like to ask the people when the best time to visit their region is. On Varanger, in large parts of the Finnmark and in the north of Finland, winter and autumn are winning by a large margin.
Autumn because of the berries, mushrooms and colors and winter because that is when the landscape looks exceptionally wonderful.
In this picture, you are looking north on the E6, north of Karasjok (in the direction of Lakselv).
In the morning we had taken a husky-sleigh ride at minus 30°C and when the picture was taken, I stood in the middle of the European Road just before sunset at minus 35°C - and I did not regret it. The arctic landscape seemed to be standing still with a peaceful smile, bathed in a magical light. A real experience! In summer, the view is beautiful and inspiring for those who have not been here in the winter.
Here two suggestions for the interior of the Finnmark:
Sven Engholm's Husky Lodge (http://www.engholm.no/) has a deep affinity to life in the arctic north - extremely emphatic people, very harmonious handling of huskies and excitingly designed huts. To watch the northern lights right at your doorstep, the lodge is less suitable, though. Unfortunately, it isn't the cheapest accommodation either ;-)
Juhl's silver gallery in Kautokeino (https://www.juhls.no/) offers exceptional jewelry dreams in silver in combination with an attack on your wallet. Definitely worth a visit!
The National Tourist Route Varanger runs between Varangerbotn and Hamningberg and is 160 km long.
While the first 120 km are not enough for experienced Norwegian visitors to stop and get out of the car - only with a very special light maybe - this changes drastically shortly after the crossing to Vardø. Here begins a narrow, well-developed road along the coastline through a cliff landscape with the Arctic Ocean (Barents Sea) on one side and grandiose stone formations on the other side that is closed in winter. The road stops at the abandoned fishing village Hamningberg, which has now been revived as a summer holiday destination.
The picture was taken in the afternoon in a strong storm.
If I interpret the local information and discussions correctly, the entire coast is the perfect destination for birdwatchers.
Road from Inari to Kirkenes
From Inari in Finland, an easy to drive, over 150km long road is leading from the northern shore of lake Inari to Neiden on the E6 in Norway. Only 50 km are separating Neiden from the Russian border. In terms of a lake view, I have to disappoint you, unfortunately. You will see numerous smaller lakes and ponds, but getting a glimpse of the great black lake of the north is rare.
The picture shows the typical autumn colors of the European north. There are intense reds on the ground and many yellows in the leaves of the birches. The leaves of the rowans, which are not featured in this picture, can also contribute rich colors. In contrast to the Indian summer of North America, maple trees, which are famous for their fall colors, are almost completely absent in northern Norway.
Reindeers in the arctic winter
This is the cheating picture of the book. The reindeers and the light can, of course, also be found in the Finnmark in northern Norway. However, this was actually captured in Lapland 2 km southwest of the Russian and 20 km southwest of the Norwegian border near Nellim.
This is the last picture described here. If you are planning to visit the north for yourself and are looking for some answers to your most important questions, please contact me at hello (at) thomaskleine.com.