Let's talk about Norway

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Let’s talk Norway. First things first, I’m no seasoned arctic explorer and this isn’t going to be a crash course travel guide. This blog entry has come from a number of messages asking for advice and suggestions based on my experience. I’ll share my itinerary and thoughts.

When it comes to Norway, I tend to split the country in two. The first being the southern fjords and the second being the arctic mountainous regions in the north. As a photography destination, Norway has to be one of the world’s best. The landscape is breathtaking but what’s more, it’s accessible. So much of the Norwegian landscape can be accessed and shot with ease. I love hiking and I love camping but it does take planning and it does consume valuable time on the ground. Bang for buck, Norway delivers.

 Geiranger fjord, Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal county, Norway.

Geiranger fjord, Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal county, Norway.

I did spend some time in the southern fjords at the start of the ’17 summer and I can whole heartedly vouch for their magnificence. Nothing really compares. I am, however, returning from a photography trip to the north so I’ll focus on that for now.

Our goal for this trip was to photograph the northern lights in the Lofoten Islands (I’ll have a dedicated blog post for that coming soon). We flew into Oslo and caught a connecting flight to Bodø. It is possible to fly directly to Leknes in the Lofoten Islands but we opted for Bodø only so as we could visit Stetind en route.

Stetind is an incredible pyramidal mountain peaking from sea level in the Tysfjord municipality. We stayed at the Tysfjord Hotel for 2 nights which does have a restaurant / kitchen and fuel station close by.

 Aurora over Stetind, Norway.

Aurora over Stetind, Norway.

We rented 2 cars for the trip, 1 x Toyota RAV4 SUV and 1 x small Peugeot 108. We only used the second car to haul our luggage to and from (5 strapping aussie blokes with winter gear does take up room). We didn’t end up needing the SUV capability of the RAV4 on this trip but the snow can come and go so it’s hard to say whether I would rent an SUV here again in the winter or not. I would definitely insist on winter tyres though; the roads can be very icy.

From the Tysfjord Hotel we caught the Bøgnes – Skaberget ferry. For 1 car and 5 adults it was NOK179 each way. Stetind is approximately 25min drive from the Skaberget ferry dock.  Here’s a link to the ferry guide.

 Hamnøy - this classic scene is shot directly from the Hamnøy bridge.

Hamnøy - this classic scene is shot directly from the Hamnøy bridge.

Our plan was to then catch the Bøgnes – Lodingen ferry once we finished at Stetind and then drive from Lodingen to our accommodation in Leknes (it departs from the same ferry dock). Instead we opted to drive straight to Leknes through Narvik. No reason other than a little sight-seeing. This took us about 7hrs and was a beautiful wintry drive.

The Lofoten Islands can be split into three main areas for photography. To the south is Reine and Hamnøy, the Fredvang bridge and Flakstad Beach. To the north is Henningsvaer Stadium (however this is an aerial only location) and stunning coastal stop offs. In the middle is Haukland and Uttakleiv beach.

We chose to stay in Leknes for its central location. Here’s a link to the accommodation. Frode is the owner of Lofoten Vacations and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. Let him know you read about them here and he’ll take extra good care of you.

After our stay we caught the Moskenes to Bodø Ferry. It was 3hrs:20min and cost NOK2,257 for 2 cars and five good looking guys.

 

Now for some vital information:

Sunrise and Sunset.

Yep, up here you’re in the arctic which means long nights to cuddle up with your buddies. Early in January, you’d have complete 24hr darkness but things change quickly. By the time we arrived on the 12th January sunrise was around 11:15am and sunset around 1:35pm. By the time we left it had stretched to 10:00am and 2:45pm.  

The light between daylight hours is truly stunning and perfectly photogenic the entire way through.

Many suggest visiting here in February with longer daylight hours. That is certainly an option but my goal was the northern lights so I wanted as much darkness as possible to maximise my opportunity in the dark and I can easily make-do with 2-3 hours of day light, especially when that light is just so, so good.

 

Coffee

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I’m a coffee lover and access to good coffee does matter. It does ok. Sadly, I’ve only yet found two good coffee shops in the Lofoten Islands. Leknes and Reine. Both do offer free wifi as well.

  • Huset Kafé: Idrettsgata 1, 8370 Leknes
  • Bringen Kafé: Reine

 

Living costs

Norway is expensive. There’s no getting around that. In general, eating out and drinking alcohol are going to hurt the wallet. We did both but our cabin had a kitchen and we tried to cook meals as often as we could. Grocery items were approximately 30% more expensive than Australia, Canada and the states.

 

Mobile phone and data

It’s fairly easy to buy a SIM card and load it with data. I went with Telia this time and paid NOK399 for a card, suitable call minutes and 3GB data . 6GB was available for an additional NOK100.