Trip to Norway through the Arctic, Fjords and Northern Lights
My travel to Norway has been one of the best experiences I have lived and I will never forget. Visiting the wildest Norway had been in my head for many years. It was one of the trips I had dreamed about all my life. I could even say that it became an obsession since I was 15 years old. I saw that documentary of the Norwegian Fjords, which left me speechless.
The panorama of the Norwegian fjords and mountains make it hard to arrange a suitable travel itinerary with the Sognefjord, the Hardangerfjord, Geirangerfjord, Lysefjord and Preikestolen. From Bergen beginning circuits to the great fjords, Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord, the peak of Preikestolen and glaciers of the interior, as well as cruises along the Atlantic coast on board the Hurtigruten postal fjords.
On other hand is the Scandinavian Alps, with the highest peak of the mountain Galdhøpiggen (2,500 meters) in the massif of Jotunheimen. In the capital, Oslo, one of the most interesting shopping area is Grunerløkka, where there are also independent shops of fashion and design.On the peninsula's southern part Vikings sailed up to Guadalquivir River.
I did not stop until I got it, and now, I can say that I have fulfilled some of my dreams. My trip to Norway was in the winter. It is the ideal time to see the northern lights. Is it too cold in winter? True, but it is necessary to enjoy landscapes dyed in white and nights with indigo-colored skies. The northern lights need very specific conditions and specifically in Lofoten or Vesteralen, the islands that I visit, have a very special microclimate. The average temperature is around 0 degrees, so they make it the perfect destination for a mini winter vacation.
At last, I was able to visit the Scandinavian country and tour Norway. Was it enough? Of course not. You never have enough time to visit one of the most beautiful countries in the world, sculpted in stone and ice by the Viking gods. But yes, I traveled the 14 days in Norway to the fullest. Therefore, in this Norway Travel Guide, I tell you in more detail, as was my trip through Norway.
Norway is indescribable. There are no words that can express so much beauty together. Norway is synonymous with pure nature. It is synonymous with freedom, distance, darkness and endless sunsets. Norway is life, strength, fjords, valleys, and water (in all its forms), with giant glaciers, mirror lakes, and vertiginous waterfalls.
You can imagine it, you can tell it, you can see photos or videos, even read about this Scandinavian country, but nothing is comparable to being able to feel it. Setting foot in Norway and breathing as deep as you can is obligatory. Before you know it, in a blink of an eye, Norway will take your breath away with its landscapes of vertigo.
Norway is not to be missed. And I did not! Before telling you everything I saw, and what our Norwegian Fjords itinerary was, I would like to tell you more about Norway. Norway is a very big country. So much so, that from end to end, there is about 2300 km, linking by road the towns of Kristiansand (South-West), with Vardo (Northeast). Norway is a very expensive country. The standard of living of the Norwegians and their salaries are very high and everything goes accordingly. In fact, I think it is the most expensive country I have been in so far.
As I only had little time, I started reading different travel blogs, and travelers forums. I find a lot of the necessary information to establish our route plan. The first thing to do when thinking of traveling to Norway is to decide what I want to visit: the south, with its cities and fjords, or the north, with its midnight sun or its northern lights.
I had marked the key points that I wanted to see like Stavanger, Preikestolen, Kjerag or Kjeragbolten, the fjord of light, Lysefjord, the sword monument Sverd I Fjell, Folgefonna Glacier, Odda, Bergen, Flam, Norway's prettiest and narrowest fjord, Naeroyfjord, among others. In any case, I went from Oslo to Trondheim seeing nature, cities, museums and wooden churches, walking through glaciers and navigating fjords.
But the farthest point remained. There where trees do not grow, where the road twists between impossible cliffs and even the sun hide for months in winter. The north of the north was to tread, the polar distance far north of the Arctic Circle. That could only mean an epic journey. A memorable trip in which I did not want anyone by my side. A pilgrimage to the northernmost highway where every kilometer was one more step towards a lunar landscape, so desolate and wild that one can not believe that there is life there.
This is the chronicle of the trip to the North Cape. At the highest latitude that a man can reach driving in continental Europe. The chronicle of more than 5,000 km on impossible roads. The arrival at 71 10' 21". To one of the ends of the world.
In addition to the Norwegian Lonely Planet Guide, and travel blogs, one of the most complete pages I found and that helped us prepare our route plan, was the official website of the Norwegian Tourism Office. After soaking up all this information and fighting with the clock, to give time to see as much as possible of Norway, the travel plan was prepared.
I squeeze my trips to the fullest. There is nothing of loitering in bed and lose a morning at the hotel. I get up early, take the backpack and do not return until dinner time. I always try that. My trips are very balanced, in terms of things to do and see. So I always try to make a mix of nature and city, culture, gastronomy, folklore and fun (night), when the trip allows it.
Day 1 - Oslo
Literally running around the terminal, I arrived in time to take the flight to Oslo-Rygge. I had many alternatives to travel the more than 2,000 km that separate the Rygge airport from the North Cape. But my intention was to feel the country, walk it from end to end and feel how the latitude indicated by my GPS was increasing very little by little. I want to savor every degree, every minute and every second. So I left aside the plane, the train, and other exotic alternatives and opted for the car.
A car would be one of the most faithful travel companions I could ever imagine. It served me as a restaurant, as a hotel, as a dormitory, as a discotheque and a refuge. I planned a tour of the Scandinavian peninsula from south to north and back. They were more than 5,000 kilometers on single lane roads, and more than 1,500 kilometers below freezing temperatures, within the Arctic Circle. But it was achieved.
I leave Oslo, which was not the first goal of my trip. As I would have consumed a few precious hours I needed to drive, so I just land at the tiny airport, take the car and head north. My first destination was the Atlanterhavsvegen or Atlantic Road. Specifically, a section of it, 8 kilometers, between the towns of Molde and Kristiansund, has earned the title of the most beautiful road in the world according to the English newspaper The Guardian. It has been voted the most magnificent Norwegian civil engineering work of the entire 20th century.
The road is long. They are almost 600 kilometers, and almost all by road. Only the first kilometers are the highway. So the trip was scheduled to last 8 hours. It was already 6:30 pm, so I decided to find a hotel on the way, rest, and get there the next day.
The first thing that catches my attention, as it has also happened to me in other European countries, is the order and meticulousness with which Norwegians circulate. People absolutely respect the speed limits, without exceeding at any time even by one kilometer per hour. The road ahead was difficult, so I had to make constant overtaking during the trip. It was dark so I could not see the landscape that I was encountering.
After more than 4 hours of driving, and after the intense day I had lived, I decided to look for a hotel around where I was. It was more than 22 hours, and the task was impossible, at least for a reasonable price and at an adequate distance. I stop, then, in a rest area in the vicinity of Dombas. The night was cold, around 0 degrees, but the sky was clear and the moon did not obstruct the vision of the stars.
I hope to see the northern lights, but that night it did not appear. The back seat of my car became, then, my first hotel in Norway. Next, to where I stop, I see some public restrooms where I am also struck by their cleanliness, and, above all, the absence of writings/graffiti of any kind.
Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. Some statistics place it as the safest in the world, and that reassures. I sleep 8 hours, engine on and doors do not block. I still wake up at night, but with the peace of mind that everything is going well.
Day 2 - Ostersund
And so it is. Encouraged, fresh and happy to see the light of day soon, I set out on the Atlantic road. I drink a watery coffee in a roadside bar, where the only customers, who must have been hunters, look at me curiously. I had that feeling in general throughout Norway. The character of the people, in general, is distant, cold, little given to the smile. The opinion of a Swedish, several days later, confirmed it to me.
I continue the journey through mountains and rivers of transparent waters, in which each curve brought me an even more idyllic image of this country. The dim light of dawn cast the shadow of the mountains on the river, which in turn reflected the trees that grew on its banks. And I was driving non-stop, recreating myself in such beauty. The distance is decreasing, and the GPS gives me two alternatives. I have to take a two-hour detour through a fjord or take a ferry between two towns and shorten an hour and a half.
Of course, I opt for the latter and, while waiting for the ferry, which incessantly covers the way back and forth, I enter a kind of grocery store-cafeteria in which what surprises me most is a fruit slush machine. I choose a watery coffee they have in a thermos and for which they charge 220 Norwegian crowns. After getting off at the next town, the road to the Atlantic highway is not much.
Now I am climbing the twisted bridge I had seen several times in successive videos. The driving is very pleasant. The calm Atlantic Ocean, together with a sun timidly appears among the clouds that illuminate its waters. The mountains that surround the fjord, offers a beautiful image. I walk the road 2 times in each direction, taking pictures and videos. A path nearby enabled to travel the road in parallel, offers me a good point to take some more photos. In addition, it serves as a platform for the many fishermen who (not this day) usually pile up there.
The day was cool, but the temperature allowed for walks. I try to immerse myself in the magnetism and beauty of this corner of the Atlantic. It happens to be the second most visited place in Norway, according to its tourism page. I was lucky to be practically alone, enjoying even more of the moment. It's time to continue my way. It was about 15 o'clock when I write on my GPS the words that I wanted to introduce so much: Nordkapp. The journey was almost 1,900 km across Sweden and part of Finland, so I still had a lot to do. Road and more road, then.
I started the pilgrimage to the North Cape. I drive practically non-stop from Molde to a Swedish city called Ostersund. The road is exhausting, despite the scarcity of traffic. It was about 500 km and I chose this city simply because it was there, on my way. Located in the geographical center of Sweden, on the banks of the 5th largest lake in the country, the Storsjon, it has certainly, nothing interesting. It has not even managed to host any of the winter Olympic games.
It was my first night in Sweden, and I hoped to confirm the myth of Swedish women, famous for being tall, blonde, and beautiful. But instead, the hotel receptionist is a young boy and extraordinarily effeminate. That is, he had an extraordinary pen. Educated, but distant, he gives me the keys and I lay down exhausted.
Day 3 - Lappajarvi
After a tour of this city the next morning, I begin to wonder where the hell the Swedes are that everyone seems to be talking about. I only see short ladies, many of them brunettes and all of them without any charm. The city lacks life, traffic, and movement. The closest thing to something alive are the people who move on the street with skis in the background. Yes, I saw this in Sweden several times. Skiers walk down the street with the skis on and the sticks in hands. A curious image.
Ostersund lacked a soul but had the beauty of the lake on whose banks it stands. If it is necessary to make a summary of the country, I would define it as the country of lakes and pines. I traveled more than half of the country, from south to north, and the landscape was a magical beauty. There were hundreds of crystal clear lakes, immense forests that reached far beyond where our eyes went. There were islands within lakes, beaches lacustrine sand, endless lines between pines. And all with the winter sun as the masterful partner for this picture.
However, my eyes get used to this idyllic image as soon as the twenty-ninth lake appears before me. Lovely landscape, yes, but monotonous. At least to have to drive 1000 km through this country.
My goal that day was to arrive in Finland and find some indicator on the road marking the beginning of the Arctic Circle. However, that day I will always remember it for something I did not expect to find so soon, so suddenly and so amazingly. But everything in its time.
When I was already on the 65th parallel, my impatient glances at the GPS were frustrating. Each meridian degree equals 111 km, but of course, the road zigzags, and my course was slight to the east. So I was afraid to reach the polar circle at night and not be able to take pictures. After almost two hours, I reach 66, and a little later, I see a sign on the road: POLCIRKELN, NAPAPIIRI, ARCTIC CIRCLE, CERCLE POLAIRE, POLARKREIS, next to a silhouette of the province of Norrbotten.
My GPS tells me that I'm on the 66th parallel 33' 11", approximately 31 meters further south of 66º 33' 45", but with the indication, it's worth it. A few meters further south of the sign, a ball of the world and some abandoned buildings that served as a cafeteria and recreation area speak of a time when people stopped at that latitude as a playground. I appreciate that desolation since it impregnates even more magic at the moment. I was entering one of the roughest and most difficult areas of the planet and abandoned buildings were the best welcome.
I keep driving and I see reindeer crossing the road and they force me to stop several times. When it is already dark, I stop in the last town before the border with Finland. Its name makes me smile: Pajala. A pizza, and, a few kilometers later, I approached a bridge that acts as a border between the two countries.
In Finland, it is one hour longer than in Sweden, which is why I call the hotel where I would stay for the night to advise that my arrival time was 10:30 pm instead of 9:30 pm I had planned. The town where I spent the night has the unpronounceable name of Lappajarvi. But, taking a straight line, about 20 kilometers from the town, it unexpectedly happens what I had not imagined.
At about 30 degrees above the horizon, a gray arc begins to form that crosses the entire sky, from side to side. I thought at first that it could be a cloud because it seemed too strange that the sky was so clear. Suddenly, that gray bow begins to expand and make strange movements, swinging from side to side and then I understand everything.
I stop the car, turn off the lights, and the show makes me goosebumps. It was the Aurora Borealis. That bow changes color and begins to turn green. It is an intense green, like neon, that expands and contracts, that spirals and turns white again, and then green, in a dance that lasts 5 minutes, or maybe much less. But at that moment the time had stopped for me.
The silence that surrounded me, the darkness of the road, the fact of being somewhere in the north of the Scandinavian peninsula in the middle of the night, gave it a magic even more special that fits that moment that I can never forget.
The hotel consists of several independent cabins, made of wood, with a sauna next to a lake. The owners explain to me that I must enter it at 80 degrees of temperature, and then even more when I enter a hole made in the surface of the frozen lake. It's the Finnish sauna. The place is idyllic, and the night is perfect. After a day of high solar activity and a clear sky at night, the probability of seeing aurora borealis is much higher. And so it was. I managed to witness two more a short time later.
Whoever reads this blog and has been able to see one, knows what I mean when I say it is the most incredible show I have ever seen or can imagine. Who has not done it, I advise you to leave everything and go north, wherever you are, and enjoy this phenomenon. One will see the planet from then on in another way. There would be a small feeling, understanding how innocent we are to think that we dominate the universe.
Day 4 - Honningsvag
The night was peaceful and I woke up the next day with the clear objective to reach the North Cape. A little over 400 km away separated me from there. The most spectacular part in terms of landscapes was to come. The landscape since leaving the unpronounceable Finnish people is a majestic white. The temperature is -5 degrees and a wind blow that lowers the thermal sensation several degrees more.
I stop at the Norwegian-Finnish border, marked by a fence only opened by the road. Norway does not belong to the European Union, but yes to the European Economic Area and the Schengen agreement. The rules of the European Union do not apply in Norway. So there are some customs offices in case you enter or leave the country with something to declare. This happens in all border crossings between Norway and Finland, but not in Sweden and Norway, where there are only customs posts at the main crossings.
Again in Norwegian territory, I continue, then, my trip. The first kilometers run parallel to the Bievjaveaijohka River, from which absolutely nobody who reads this blog will have heard. It slides between mountains with fewer and fewer trees, between a white and sandy landscape, of an overwhelming beauty. The road meanders. I see frozen lakes, polar villages of houses made of sheet metal, innumerable flags of the Sami people, inhabitants of the Lapland region and water, lots of fresh water that falls from thin and high waterfalls.
After a couple of hours of walking, I finally reach Alta, capital of the Finnmark region. On the banks of the fjord of the same name, I am surprised to be on a lively city, with children playing in the streets, an intense traffic and not too monotonous. It has almost 20,000 inhabitants and its situation, at the bottom of the fjord, softens the temperature so much that it enjoys a climate very similar to that of the south of Norway.
In addition, it has clear skies of clouds most of the year, which makes it one of the best cities from which to see the northern lights. I stop a couple of hours in Hammerfest. I take this opportunity to go down to visit the northern capital, a modern town whose attractions are a church and the Polar Bear Society.
I was not there to stop for a long time there since the end of my journey was near. I wanted to get to the North Cape before it was dark. So I continued the road north in what would be one of the most pleasurable of my whole life.
Once on the village of Olderfjord, which gives its name to the fjord, passes, the road runs parallel to the Barents Sea, that is, to the Arctic Ocean. The beaches follow one another adorned by fishing huts that dock their boats on the same shore. The sun does not stop going down, but it does so in an extraordinarily slow way, as befits those latitudes, casting a dull, dim, gray light.
The road then goes through a lunar landscape, shockingly desolate. There is not a tree, hardly any life, or circulation, for tens of kilometers. Only some birds and lichens, and the music in my car give me company. There are endless lines in front of me in what seemed, and in fact was, the road to the end of the world.
Near the tunnel that connects continental Europe with the island of Mageroya, I go along the ocean without crossing any car. The feeling of loneliness is terrifying and fascinating. Ahead, there is no human settlement beyond some semi-abandoned fishermen's huts. I stop to breathe the icy breeze of the Arctic Ocean, to touch its waters and nature seems to ask me what are you doing here.
I try to put myself in the skin of the first settlers of these lands, in those of those explorers who were incessantly looking for the passage from the north. For a moment, I came to imagine their sense of abandonment, fascination, and humility before these landscapes where nothing seems to survive.
And finally, I reach the North Cape Tunnel, which connects with the island to which I am heading. With 6870 m long and 212 meters below sea level as the minimum level, it was for a time the longest and deepest underwater tunnel in the world. The first 3 kilometers are downhill, on a steep and straight slope that causes the ears to be blocked by pressure. And, in the end, I enter Mageroya.
Literally, Mageroya means "desolate island". And those who baptized this corner were not mistaken in the name. It continues the same landscape that I described before. There is a landscape of tundra, of mountains without trees, vegetation, and life. The calm Barents Sea gives the landscape a picturesque touch like a postcard.
My destination was the hotel in Honningsvag. Under Norwegian law, a population deserves city status when it exceeds 5000 inhabitants. Honningsvag has just under 2500 but was declared a city in 1996, which makes it the northernmost city in Europe, and one of the most boreal in the world. I am the only client of the hotel and one of the few travelers that have visited the island for those dates. And, of course, the only one who has made the journey from Oslo by car. So I earned the name of crazy according to several inhabitants of the island.
There was no time to lose. The light began to get scarce alarmingly fast. So I leave the suitcase in the room. I take the car and I go to the Nordkapp, which separated me the last half hour of the road. I zigzag between mountains, with less and less light, and I fear I will not arrive on time. The winds whip to the point of shaking the car. I take the last detour, and I head toward my end of the journey. As expected, I was the only visitor.
A visitor center, a restaurant and a parking lot are totally empty. I stop the car and go on foot to the ball of the world that stands as a symbol that you are at the end of the world. The wind is strong and freezing. The light is practically non-existent, and the cliff is steep and high. I am alone. Behind me is entire Europe.
In front of me is the north pole. I have arrived and the feeling of satisfaction is only comparable to that of absolute solitude. The sun refuses to set. I find myself beyond the 71st parallel, and its light reaches here at an impossible angle,
The goal is fulfilled. I grab some stones, the most northern in Europe, and I put them in my pocket. And I hear the sound of two people screaming. There were two Latvians who work in Tromso and who have come from there to do the same as me. A little closer, I tell you. They stay in the same hotel as me and they ask me to take some pictures of them. They leave and I continue with my reflections and enjoying the moment until it is time to return, once it gets dark.
The restaurants are closed at that time (approximately 6 pm). So I enter a supermarket and buy a pizza to make in the hotel kitchen. While I eat, I start this blog and take the opportunity to look at the sky, to see if I hope to see some other aurora borealis. But the weather is horrendous, with strong winds, rain, cold and the sky, logically, overcast. I'm going to bed soon.
And then an idea occurs to me. Why not use one of these apps to meet people around to see if by any chance there is someone willing to stay for a drink? After all, I am intrigued by life here, told by locals. Bingo, there is one less than 2 km away, which means it is in Honningsvag. I set up a virtual conversation.
The girl was born in Honningsvag but grew up in Kirkenes, Norwegian town near the border with Russia, where the midnight sun shines for more than two months and the winter darkness also looms for two months. The mental confusion produced by the midnight sun is something that is hard to get used to even if you were born far beyond the Arctic Circle, like him. She cooks typical Norwegian cakes as a hobby.
Day 5 - Tromso
I wake up very early and procrastinate in bed looking for information about this place. The hotel reminds me of a movie with its long corridors, its desolation, and its environment. I'm the only customer who takes breakfast at that time. It is a buffet consisting, among other things, of salmon paste in a tube, fish in vinegar, cod and different delights of the ocean.
The cold climate made up for it with a contained passion, an authentic oasis of interior warmth. The end of the European continent united in an impossible latitude. The exterior desolation contrasted with an unleashed fury, stripped of all modesty.
In winter we have discovered this strip of Europe becomes a kaleidoscope of lights from the natural ones of the sun to the artificial ones of the cities. Everywhere there are lights that color the landscape, are reflected in the sea or sparkle in the snow. And we realized it right away, already when the plane approached Tromso. From the top, we can see vast white spaces surrounded by dense yellow lights that run through the fjords.
The light show continues once we arrive in the city. Tromso, which has the highest number of wooden houses (old-style ones) in Norway, looks like a huge carillon of lights reflected in the sea. Many of these houses have been converted into bars or restaurants. And inside we discover a new light, the warm one of the candles that is reflected on the faces of the people, on the wood of the furniture and between the glasses especially of beer as Tromso has the most northern brewery in Europe.
We have dinner in one of the restaurants a few meters from the sea, which turns out to be the best place to eat the reindeer. Despite the initial perplexities, we take courage and discover that the filet has the flavor, but much more tender. And the meal continues munching potatoes and nachos.
Day 6 - Tromso
The awakening in Tromso offers us a new show. In the darkness of the previous evening, in fact, we could not see all the cliffs, the huge blocks of rock that surround the fjords. It is precisely on these imposing masses of stone and snow that we begin to see the first colors of the Norwegian dawn, a long and special spectacle. First the black of the night turns towards the blue, meanwhile, from the bottom, it seems to rise a pink halo. Then the blue becomes blue and in the center appears a yellow stripe.
Because of the particular inclination between the Earth's axis and the solar ecliptic, in fact, in this season the sun is never seen directly. The sun is there but seems to have hidden beyond the horizon. And the only sign of its presence is the colors of the sky.
In front of a landscape so beautiful we cannot do anything but admire in silence, at most take more photos as possible to try to tell the uniqueness once we get home. But suddenly someone hears someone exclaim: Frozen! Focusing on watching the sunrise on the left, we forgot to enjoy the fjords on the right. A landscape that changes at every turn and that, suddenly, opens on a loop of a frozen sea. We are about to reach the destination and the temperature is around -30 degrees.
We meet the Alaskan Husky that will lead our sleds. Already from a distance, we start to hear them barking. They seem aggressive but are just impatient to shoot. So much so that when we approach to caress they become affectionate and playful.
The path in which they lead us with their sleds is characterized above all by silence where there are rivulets, rivers, and small waterfalls in summer. Now everything is covered with snow as if suspended in anticipation of spring. The excursion to Lyngsfjord is also an invitation to learn about the Sami culture.
After the sleigh ride, in fact, we have lunch at the camp where a lavvu has been installed especially for tourists. The lavvu traditionally is the encampment of tents for shepherds, in this case, it is the space where they serve lunch. The ceiling is only in fabric and yet the naturally heated environment with the wood stove manages to remain very hot. And the warmth creates a relaxed and friendly, almost intimate atmosphere. Some take off the cumbersome snow-proof suit, some drink coffee, while some only enjoy the flames.
After the reindeer of the evening before, we now taste the salmon soup. Perhaps for the fire, perhaps for the fabric of the ceiling, we have discovered a new color of Norway. In the lavvu it is all amber.
Day 7 - Andenes
The weather varies in a fast and merciless way. So I chose the day for the boat excursion to the Svalbard Islands, according to weather forecasts, a choice that turned out to be perfect. Before leaving I decided to take a hike to the so-called Arctic cathedral, another modern church shaped like a tent with the beautiful stained glass windows. Our boat leaves on time in the direction of the glacier.
In the course of navigation within the fjord to reach our destination, I immediately sight many animals. The wind whips my face, so I stand, high up in the bow of the boat. The views are unique. Under the cliffs covered with guano, the puffins are the masters. They fly, play, chase each other around the boat.
At one point, the guy who was introducing us to life in the Arctic, tell us many interesting facts about these extreme territories, and stops and diverts our attention somewhere in the middle of the fjord. Here it is! The whole boat shakes and the captain changes direction to get closer. We meet the blue whale. We all bow to admire it. The huge blue whale that sailed the seas of the world and that we had seen so close in Sri Lanka on board of the small boat. Now we admire in all its grandeur nothing less than in the Arctic.
Then the seals. Even the seals inhabit the Arctic. I have seen them swim calmly before the glacier. A helicopter flies over us at low altitude, that connects other remote locations of the Svalbard Islands like Longyearbyen. Meanwhile, we approach the glacier. It is impressive in its enormity with its blinding whiteness and a thousand shades of blue that the ice takes on reflecting this limpid sky.
Small icebergs move around us, seals swim, and at one point gets to a creak a bit stronger and a roar with the typical splash. A chunk of ice broke off and crashed into the sea. One scene wonderful from which no one would want to be detached. The sun burns the skin but does not realize it saw the cold and the wind. The crew quickly prepares a barbecue. Right here, in the warm sun, sitting by boat we admire the glacier and enjoy great seafood of the inevitable Norwegian salmon.
But the weather is unforgiving as ever. In less than no time, it is time to leave for Pyramiden. Pyramiden, the town now abandoned, was the scene of the Cold War between Russia and the West. At the port our guide welcomes us. The danger of polar bear here is real and true. It can be anywhere and has a way of hiding everywhere in the midst of these abandoned buildings and if hungry is very very dangerous. At the port, we spot a swimming polar bear.
In a very old bus, we are brought into the town and the type starts to tell stories of an incredible reality that dates back to 1998 when the town was abandoned. In practice, it was a center for the extraction of coal. Over time there occurred a kind of clash of ideologies. Thus we find, in addition to facilities for the extraction of coal, pianos still functioning. People are still engaged in melodies and theaters, with entertainment of all kinds that make it look idyllic in this place.
There is even a swimming pool with heated sea water, the first of the Svalbard Islands and then schools, hospitals, gyms, basketball courts and football grounds! We find the grass in what was called the Champs Elysees of Svalbard. The main buildings, like this, dormitories for those who lived here, had rounded edges to better withstand the incessant wind, strong and long cold winters.
The view from the highest points of Pyramiden is undoubtedly wonderful, right in front of the imposing glacier. But we must never forget that the sunny days are very few. Up there, right at the top, is what it is jokingly called the internet cafe. Yes, even here there is a way to connect to the Internet, in spite of all expectations.
You just have to have the desire to go on foot up there because the mountain front is pyramid-shaped, hence the name of the town, prevent the signal from reaching the city. The only place where the signal arrives is the station up there. In practice, it is a great method to avoid creating dependency by the connection and we arrive through the Champs Elysees, at the 79th parallel.
It is impressive really to think about how relatively little is the distance from here to the North Pole. Of course, just to stay at the hotel you must be armed with a weapon. A small museum with some of the memorabilia that time was, still tells some interesting facts about this place that is so absurd.
It is time to go back. Navigation in the fjord still gives breathtaking views with a shining sun. We admire settlements, shelters, areas used by those who even go up here with kayaks for trips to Svalbard to experience the Arctic. Even animals and a certainty and we return to spot polar bears and see the manatees.
I watch the scenery as the ship approaches the archipelago of Vesteralen. At 10 we land finally at Risoyhamn, from which buses arrive at Andenes at the northern tip of the island, my goal for that day. In the sea, in the distance, I see the profiles of the other islands and the atmosphere a bit from cover to all a sense of timelessness.
Then up here life flows at a pace so different from ours! I arrived at the hostel, where the day before I had booked. After keeping the luggage, I then go around a bit in the village. There's a big red beacon that is its symbol, wooden houses painted red along the harbor, gulls, boats, and more modern buildings but always painted in bright colors.
I make a visit to the Aurora Borealis museum and then I show up at an appointment for the safari to the whales that I had already booked. This was one of the things I really wanted to make this trip. We visit the whale museum with the guides and, we set sail. We must go on the high seas to reach the area of the whales, which they explained to be the sperm whale species but are not true whales.
As the boat goes to the ocean, there are hot drinks on offer and cookies. I make friends with young people who act as our guide. They come from all over Europe. Unfortunately, the sun disappears behind the clouds, pulled by a strong wind and it is getting colder. Between the cold, the whale has been spotted thanks to the sonar boat, but it is underwater and we have to wait for it to emerge to breathe. Finally here! All bow to it and take photos! What a thrill! But after seconds it dives and here appears again, this time even closer and longer, for about 5 minutes.
Now we head home. As we return, we have a dinner of a hot soup and bread. Then I take refuge below deck, where, despite the wet jeans, I can even fall asleep lying on a bench. Upon arrival, it was colder and I was trembling. Fortunately, the hostel is a 2-minute walk. Finally tonight I should be able to rest as I should, in a real bed, for 8 hours straight.
Day 8 - Lappajarvi
As we pass through a narrow strait between two of the Lofoten, which seem like Caribbean beaches with unspoiled nature and breathtaking views, we make a small deviation in the Trollfjord, the narrowest fjord in Norway, where the vessel moves, leaving just a couple of meters on each side. In the afternoon, during the brief stop in Svolvaer, I go down and do a tour, and for the first time see codfish hanging in the sun to dry, that I see anywhere in Lofoten, since cod is their primary production.
Svolvaer is not a particularly attractive place, and the only special feature is a nearby mountain peak that ends with two horns, which in fact is called the goat of Svolvaer. With Ski on the ship, we land finally in Stamsund. At Stamsund we do not have much to see. In fact, the environment is beautiful, where is a series of fishermen's houses, just outside the village, on a small bay.
After crowning the Nordkapp in all its aspects, I headed for the long journey to Oslo. It was Sunday, it was 3 pm and I had 48 hours to drive 2025 km to the airport. After a really complicated journey, with the icy road and some curves where the car is about to leave, I arrived at my first stop. It is the same hotel in Finland where I had slept the night before. Despite looking at the sky for more than an hour, the aurora borealis did not make an appearance.
Day 9 - Ostersund
The family that runs the hotel receives me as one more, and the next morning, I talk to them and sign in their guest book. 54 different nationalities had passed by, he says. They introduce me to the reindeer they have as a pet, who tries to attack me with its horns every time I touch it. He was eating and I did nothing but bother him.
The day passed as expected. I travel more than 1000 km of road on Swedish roads and highways, between lakes and pines again. I had been recommended to eat reindeer, whose meat is tender and tasty, so I look for a restaurant on my way. I enter the city of Umea and enjoy a delicious steak. Certainly, it is delicious.
I was willing to drive until the body could not go any further. I surrender at 10 pm, after more than 12 hours of almost uninterrupted driving, in a roadside hotel in the middle of a Swedish town. I saw the light, saw the word "Hotell" and entered. The owner running an old road hotel, is alone, single and strange, with that cold and scrutinizing look that pretends to be friendly without getting it.
He tells me about the Norwegians was poor in the 70s until they discovered oil and now looks over their shoulder at Sweden. His English is excellent. His eyes light up and when he leaves, I look for holes in the wall and take a shower without closing the curtain, just in case.
Day 10: Bergen
We have breakfast at the hotel, the same type of breakfast as at the Oslo hotel. We go to the tourist office (a beautiful building inside) to get a map of Bryggen (the dock area with the old houses). We spent most of the morning hanging around and around the castle. We see there is a contest in the gardens and there are a lot of people making huge figures with wooden slats.
At noon we approach the famous fish market. We ended up logically eating there a hot dish. There is not much tourist yet and we can eat (standing) at some high tables that they have there. There are guys selling raspberry ice cream on the street. We have dessert! In the afternoon, we search for the Floibanen, very close to the fish market.
We ask the ticket seller for a map of the hiking routes we can take when we get to the top. We bought one way tickets, because it costs the same to buy single tickets than one round trip and we are not sure as we may make the return on foot. The views from Floyen are very good. Bergen is vast. We start to walk and do more than 2 hours of hiking. The Norwegians go up and down the slopes.
We come down to Bergen, in the park where the lake is. At 6 o'clock in the afternoon we hear a woman sing ethnic songs on the speakers (I would say Vikings) from the top of some roof. The voice is silent and then from another roof a man sings something different. He shuts up again and another voice starts from another roof.
So up to 4 points, 4 roofs of different buildings draw a square, and us in the middle. They continue like this, singing alternately for several minutes. People look at each other smiling. It's nice. It is part of the OiOi Festival, live.
We did not know, but we found out the next day that it's festival time in Bergen and there are several activities. After dinner we take a walk through the center. There are a lot of people on the street, with parties on boats. It's 12 at night and it's the first time we see nightfall.
Day 11: Stavanger
We make a last visit to the fish market to take something home. We have booked the Bergen-Stavanger trip in the Flaggruten a little over 1 month in advance. At 10 we left. Nobody asks us for the ticket. There are people who buy tickets there inside, in a window. The boat goes very fast. It skirts islets that seem uninhabited. We passed through villages. It's very good.
It makes several stops along the way. In Leirvik they announce that we must change boats to continue to Stavanger. And we do that. We eat on the boat. And it is at the exit of the Flaggruten in Stavanger when a member of the crew goes picking up the tickets bought online.
We took the map and arrived at the hotel, booked directly on the hotel's website. The room is very good! We also have hot milk with coffee and tea bags and complimentary chocolates. We let go of the backpacks and we go to see the city, much quieter than Bergen. We see Gamle Stavanger (the white houses of the old quarter) and other areas. When we get tired of walking we mix in a kind of outdoor party very close to the hotel.
There is a pub. I would not know how to define it, and in front of a garden with a DJ playing music, a girl juggling. It looks more Ibiza than Norway. We entertain ourselves by seeing the beautiful people of the city. We buy dinner from the supermarket, eat and go to sleep.
Day 12 - Preikestolen
We get up very early to go and buy food at the supermarket. We do not know what kind of food we will get at the Preikestolhytta, the shelter where the Preikestolen route begins. We have breakfast and we go to the Fiskepiren dock, just in front of where the Flaggruten left us, to take the ferry (it also takes cars) that will take us to Tau.
It's 8 o'clock in the morning. We know that we can buy the tickets in the same boat, but there is a sign that tells us that we can also buy them in the offices, before going up. So we went into the building and bought a combined round-trip bus ticket. It really is as if we had hired an organized excursion, but without a guide. When we get to Tau there is a bus from the company waiting exclusively for those of us who bought this ticket.
There is also another normal bus waiting for Jorpeland, which I do not know if it goes to the same place. I do not know if it would have been cheaper either. Now it's done. In the bus we are less than 30 people. We arrived at the Preikestolhytta, a hostel with cafeteria, kiosk, toilets and free showers!
The driver of the bus gives us notes with the schedules, so that we have it in mind at the time of the return. They had already given us the schedules also when buying the tickets. We start the road following the indications and the red T.
It's sunny and hot, but the air is cold. We take it easy and in 2 hours we are up there! We cannot believe it! Maybe the secret has been not trying to follow anyone. Most people who have started the tour with us have taken it with a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning. In the midway, which in my opinion is the most complicated part (the area of the big stones), they could not breathe.
We passed by a couple of small lakes. From time to time there is a map that tells us where we are on the route. When we get there up there are four cats. I'm glad I got up early. I cannot describe the sensation. We swell to take pictures. We have been lucky, and the fjord looks pretty good!
We had the intention of eating here upstairs, but we decided that better not, that we will do it in the hostel's snack bars. We see more people coming with us on the bus. A man from Austria, who we had met before, is happy to see us still there, because that's how we will take some pictures of him (he travels alone).
When we start the return we are even happier to have got up early. We see parents with children, dogs, and more tourists. They will not all fit there in the Pulpit Rock! After lunch we approach the hostel. At 3:45 the bus takes us back to Tau to take the boat back to Stavanger. We bought dinner at a supermarket in front of the ferry dock, which closes at 11pm and they also have hot food to take away.
We fall tired in bed.
Day 13 - Hafrsfjord
We take it easy and try to maximize our exit from the hotel. We leave the backpacks in reception throughout the day. I start by walking along the beautiful Lake Breiavatnet to later visit the Stavanger Cathedral built in 1125. It is the only medieval cathedral in Norway that has retained its original appearance and in continuous use.
From here I climbed a hill on Kirkegaten Street to reach the tower of Valbergtarnet that was originally the highest point of the city. From the tower, I go down to the old port warehouses. Today there are 60 of the original 250.
After learning more about Stavanger, we eat at the fish market. It is not a street market, but a closed, tiny place. We bought a bag of the typical boiled prawns, boiled crayfish, fried fish and smoked mackerel. We sat at a table there outside. There are people selling away raspberry ice creams here too! We have dessert again!
In the afternoon we go to see the Sverd i fjell in the Hafrsfjord neighborhood of Madla, a borough in Rogaland. For this we take the bus, in the stop near the park of the lake, very close to the train station and buses. The bus makes many stops (more than we expected) and there is nothing inside the bus that tells us their names. We get off at the Madlaleiren stop (it's written in the stand booth), and right next to it there's a military base or something similar.
We continue walking straight, see the water, and we go towards there. Next we see the swords. It is a beach on the edge of a fjord. People sunbath (today it is very hot). We explored the area. The return bus is taken from the same place but on the opposite sidewalk. Once in Stavanger, we bought food at a supermarket for dinner at night and breakfast the next day. We collect our bags and go to the train station. We bought tickets and a sleeper coach online for the Stavanger-Oslo tour.
It's the first time we're in a sleeper. It's a red train, square, a little old on the outside. Half an hour before they let us go up. A sign on the platform tells us to go to the cafeteria car to validate our tickets. The conductor is sitting there. I give him the printed paper and he hands me a ticket and the keys to the room. The compartment is tiny. We have sheets and nordic soaps too and is better than I expected.
We had dinner right there on the removable table. Someone tries to open our door. We open ourselves to see who he is and a man shows us a key with the same number of room as ours. We tell him that he must have mistaken the car or that he asks the conductor, because his key does not open and ours does.
We leave at 10. Until 12 o'clock at night there is a meeting in the hall. We cannot even get past the people! Then everything is silent, even the speaker that we have inside the room that warns us of the stops. We roll the curtain so that light does not enter. And to the beat of the noise we fell asleep.
Day 14 - Oslo
We were already awake because we had put the alarm clock. Before arriving at Oslo Central Station, we are notified by the loudspeaker. We have slept a lot, sometimes, but it has been a smooth journey, without lurches or many stops (or so I think). We arrived in Oslo at 7:26. We had breakfast at the station.
We arrived at the bus station (next door) and kept our backpacks in a locker. We take one last walk through Oslo. We approach the Akershus fortress. We are tempted to take one of the free bikes that are scattered around the center. That's what we saw that people did. But as we do not know where these points are distributed and we do not have much time left, we are left with the desire.
We return to Bussterminalen and see on the screen on which platform our bus will be back to the airport. We look for the round trip ticket that we bought when coming. At 12 the bus leaves. We check in (there is almost no one, the airport is very small). They make us pass our backpacks in the luggage because they consider it special luggage for the fact that it is a backpack. A guard passes them through the scanner and says that everything is fine.
We pass through the normal detector to access the boarding gates. Almost everyone is made to take off their shoes. We eat at a self service right outside our boarding gate. At 2 we got on the plane and took off.
During the flight we take stock of the trip. Everything was great, but we agreed that the best moments were spent in nature. The trip has been full of anecdotes, and experiences. Some have been recorded by the camera, but many others only in our memory.