I have just come home from a ~1600 km road trip over the last week. There are mobile homes everywhere on the roads! I’m not the only one wanting to be outdoors in these awesome landscapes. I start from Kiruna Sweden, from here it’s approximately the same distance to drive both to Norway and Finland. I love a good view and the taller Norwegian mountains lure me in.
Lofoten Norway will be the main attraction of this road trip. Here on latitude 68 we don’t expect trees up on the mountains, it’s the same latitude as the center of Greenland. However the gulfstream makes climate favorable with temperature never exceeding a few degrees below 0 C. It rains often and wind can be hard. This is in stark contrast to Kiruna (Sweden) which also is on latitude 68 but gets at least 2 months per year with temperatures below -30C and snow covering the ground from October to May. I have always liked a contrast.
I moved here to experience life north of the polar circle full time. I have spend most free weekends with outdoor activities but I havn’t had any longer stretches like now to go on a lengthy adventure. Desperately needing some relaxation it’s great that the weather has been hasslefree. It’s doable to be out in rain and cold and wind but it takes more effort, and especially when you’re out for a longer time and you get wet and it never really dries – that’s no fun. People do die from exposure every summer, not that I would, but getting caught in bad weather isn’t a dream scenario.
The weeks road trip ended up looking like this…
The mystique of the arctic areas is that it’s constantly changing
Weather and light and daylength – you have to the there the “right” day, you can’t wait 10 minutes to take a picture because it can already be lost. You just have to pick up your camera and shoot the beauty of now – this applies well to life as well. We say we are lucky to live where every season is beautiful and it really is!
Same same but different! Some photos of landscapes with and without fog.
Driving in fog – fog here is just another word for low altitude clouds. You get engulfed by the clouds and it can make navigation very difficult. Obviously driving is not so bad as you follow the road, but sometimes even the road visibility gets very bad. The low clouds create beautiful patterns – you see the mountains and there is a cloud lying on the water or the cloud is eating a whole mountain and then suddenly a top is visible but nothing else.
Borderland Sweden Norway
I start driving from Kiruna towards Lofoten. This takes me past Abisko, famous for hiking in summer and northern lights in winter. After that comes Riksgränsen which is a Popular ski lodge. Last year Riksgränsen did northern lights skiing in winter and prepared for hiking in summer but there was so much snow that by midsummer they had midnight sun skiing instead.
I got a picture of what’s called “ark” up on land on the beach of lake Torneträsk. Arks are used on the ice while fishing or just sitting drinking coffee and enjoying the outdoors. It’s a portable wind protection that can be very sophisticated on the inside and most of the time they are moved by snowmobile. You know us Swedes have to have our “fika”.
Somewhere on the road I drove past a shop with Sami handicraft and dried meat. The Sami (information) is a indigenous people that has lived close to nature in these areas long before there were roads and trains. They have their own language which is an official Swedish language and many still keep reindeer but most have other work as well and don’t live very differently from other Swedish.
Narvik area (map)
Driving into the area around Narvik the landscape opens up for beautiful fjords. Coming from Sweden into Norway there is a fork where you either go south towards Narvik or north towards Alta or Å Lofoten and this time I choose Lofoten. If you love the outdoors and the Scandinavian charm you can travel in all directions here. There are very special environments and a quiet beauty whichever way you go here.
The first night I slept in my tent in Kongsvika. It was a little awkward to get the stuff from the car to the tent and to cook outdoors, but I slept just fine and in a great environment. After looking at the map and thinking this would be a nice area it felt good to stop and have a little walk. They even have road signs counting down to where the trolls are. I walked the “Troll trail” uphill and got a feel for why this could be an enchanted forest. The bright white birch trees create a light of magic.
The next morning I met this young crow, not being scared at all. Obviously being by the sea you get lots of birds. Both the magnificent big birds hunting and the smaller common sea birds.
Lofoten Islands (map)
I’ve been wanting to go to Lofoten for quite a while now and I had it planned for this summer. It’s not just a weekend trip from here if I want the time to enjoy it.
Lofoten is a group of islands connected by bridges, tunnels and ferries. It’s a very rare landscape. Green mountains next to blue sky with polar night and aurora at winter and midnight sun during summer. (Lofoten Wikipedia link) The longest tunnel is 6300m, this gives you ample time to think about how long it would take to run out of it in an emergency. I’m just a little scared of confined places. Before I went through this I thought my previous record of 3400m was a long tunnel! Norway is filled with bridges and tunnels and many of them are long. This stunning landscape doesn’t make infrastructure easy.
Kabelvåg is the little community where I stayed a night at Lofoten hostel which was a great place to stay with good breakfast, beds and wifi. Even though it’s great to be outdoors I wanted a real shower since I would meet up with a friend next evening in Å. Kabelvåg has a famous church called Lofoten Cathedral. It’s close to many activities for people travelling with children or wanting to see museums and aquariums. I’m more of a outdoors person just taking in the beauty and enjoying different activities so I just continued driving.
Lofoten in full fullshine felt like Stockholm archipelago with the exception of being next to big green mountains. Quite surreal.
I saw sea eagle every day on Lofoten. They are impressive and powerful birds. Bigger than you think as they get closer.
This futuristic looking Borg road church is visible from a long distance. It’s on a hill next to the Lofoten Viking Museum and patched in between farmland.
What you might not expect in a place like this is beaches with white sand and children swimming. There are several very nice beaches, not usually this sunny though.
There are lots of activities in Lofoten, most known for fishing and it’s stunning scenery it’s also a surf- and kitesurf-mecca. The wind has all of the Atlantic to pick up.
Å Lofoten (map)
When you drive all the way to the top of Lofoten you get to the little fishing community called Å. Very picturesque with the red houses on poles called “rorbuer” traditionally used to house fishermen but now mostly tourists. If you love the Scandinavian look – it’s hard to find something more stunning. Wild, free and red cottages by the sea.
Reine and Hamnöy Lofoten (map)
Starting the drive back – not far from Å you come to the Moskenes ferry terminal connecting both with Bodö on the mainland and the outer Lofoten islands Röst and Vaeröy.
Most often if you see photos from Lofoten they are from Hamnöy or Reine and it’s even better in real life.
Lofoten in fog on the way back
Weather started changing on the day I started driving back from Å. More and more fog and some rain came in. The fog is beautiful but the light becomes dull and the air gets considerably colder.
I went to this bay close to Äröya both going out and coming back. It’s a majestic bay in full sunshine, but as I was returning I almost missed it completely even though I was looking for it. I was thinking I could have as great a time on the way back as on the way out, but it was a different story completely. At this time I was very appreciative that I’d had the energy to get out of the car and take all those photos on the way out because the whole experience was different now and I would have missed it. Had I waited I wouldn’t be bringing home some captures of the true beauty of Lofoten in sunshine and I would have experienced it differently. Life is fleeting and we should take the chances we get to see or do what we want because the opportunity may not come again! I always write about not missing out on possibilities. I’m very focused on this – it may reflect my fear of getting stuck in circumstances, missing out on life. So – if you love it – do it!
Another particularly beautiful spot is Sildpollnes view point. There are even stairs up a small hill to simplify your photo opportunity.
It has been magical to drive around completely as I like, I don’t envy the people going by tour bus or by regular bus carrying a big backpack. It’s such an opportunity to live close enough to be able to drive here now when the weather went from horrible to great, and in my own car. As a normal tourist you just get there the days you do and since wether never is guaranteed you shouldn’t expect this sunny, even though July and August are pretty safe. In Swedish Lapland mostly August and weather varies much. We had snowfall something like 10 days in June and that’s not unusual.
On a whim I decided to go home via Tromsö and Finnish Tornedalen. I was thinking when is a better time than now? I have never been there.
My little Primus kitchen is easy to use. I’m getting used to pitching my tent and I can definitely get used to the view I get when I make my evening meal and have some tea and just sit with nature at Storvatnet (Norway) tonight. I sleep well in a tent even though it is light all night. I’m enjoying the Scandinavian freedom to camp for the night almost anywhere (rules apply!). I can feel the outdoors is soothing my mind. Starting to get more excited about life again.
Tromsö area (map)
The scariest tunnel I have ever been in goes through Tromsö island. You go into what looks like a small parking garage, 2,4m high and go through tunnels and roundabouts in 70km/h on wet roads in dim lights through several interconnected tunnels.
This was my favorite place to camp. Beautiful and biodiverse and just inspirational for me. As I went up the mountain to see the view I stumbled over wild orchids (some dactylorhiza), which in unusual at latitude 70. They had sheep loose and the landscape was patchy with both wet and very dry parts. The sloping mountain changes both in substrate and with snowmelt. So next to the mix of cloudberry, crowberry, arctic campion and grass there was clubmoss and horsetail and ferns, in between sphagnum and sedge and cotton-grass. A beautifully maintained arctic landscape.
It seems like my temperature regulation has caught up after a few night in a tent. It’s not too cold but it was 15C at daytime so now it’s probably 10C. The Norwegian air is humid and not dry as on the Swedish side of the border. This adds to the feeling of being cold. My first night I was quite cold, pulling up my sleeping bag and putting on an extra layer of clothing but now after a few nights I am much more comfortable.
Tromsö to Finland (map)
Now we’re getting further north than I’m used to. I was surprised that there sometimes were just sand and rock down at sea level.What I mean is the absence of organic matter that’s usually only seen on high altitudes otherwise. I would love to drive even further north but it still is 515km (8h) to the north point Nordkapp from where you turn back into Finland towards Sweden. Weather is getting worse and it’s time to go home.
In this area around the Torne river valley you can find another official Swedish Language Meänkieli called “Tornedals Finnish” (loosely translated).
Driving through Tornedalen the road is dead straight, it must have just been laid out along the border. It’s a big marchland, flat, wet, great for fishing but also great for mosquitos. Every time I left the car I got really annoyed by the mosquitos and I couldn’t open the car door just to get out without getting at least 3 mosquitos in the car each time. With weather turning worse I drove all the way home even though that wasn’t the plan this morning.
I’ve been fooling around with the light meter options now and started doing some panoramas to capture the awesome landscapes. There aren’t many places on earth to experience this. I love it! You could go to Alaska which is far north enough to get northern lights. You could go to The Rockies or Banff and get a fairly similar environment but then you you will miss much of the ingenuity of the arctic experience. However I doubt you could get as many temperature zones in such close proximity as here and just drive between them. Both skiing and hiking above the tree line has real advantages.The landscape just has some kind of magic to it – it’s a constantly changing landscape.