This 12-day road trip starts from Tromsø, Norway's 'Gateway to the Arctic', where—in May, June, and July—the sun never sets on these gorgeous views. From here, you'll steer yourself through the rugged landscapes of Senja island and partake in active outings before ferrying across to another less-populated island (Andøya) where spotting whales is practically a guarantee. Hike a coastal trail before heading back to the lively city of Tromsø for a few more nights of Scandinavian fun.

Highlights

  • Rent bikes and pedal to a sandy beach followed by a microbrewery
  • Dine on local cuisine options like arctic char, salt cod, and goat cheese
  • Jump on a half-day cruise and get a glimpse of whales and seabirds
  • Enjoy the scenery as you drive and hike on several coastal roads and trails
  • Take a memorable late-night kayaking tour under the Midnight Sun

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tromsø Tromsø
Day 2 Explore Tromsø in Summer Tromsø
Day 3 Tromsø - Drive to Senja Senja
Day 4 Hiking Free Day in Senja Senja
Day 5 Ferry to Andenes - Explore Andøya Island Andenes
Day 6 Hike the Queen's Route Andenes
Day 7 Drive from Andenes to Bø
Day 8 Explore Vesterålen
Day 9 Drive to Finnsnes, via Sortland, Setermoen & Bardufoss Finnsnes
Day 10 Ferry from Finnsnes to Tromsø Tromsø
Day 11 Explore Tromsø Like a Local Tromsø
Day 12 Depart Tromsø  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tromsø

Tromsø's pretty harbor setting

Welcome to Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway!

Surrounded by sea and mountains, Tromsø is a lively place with 65,000 inhabitants. In addition to its lovely scenery and rich history, the city has a large student population and is famous for its robust music and film culture, so get out and explore this self-proclaimed 'Gateway to the Arctic'.

A good place to start is taking a ride on the cable car, which runs up to a mountain ledge in just four minutes. The two gondolas, known as Seal and Polar Bear, each have a capacity of 28 passengers. From the viewing platform at the upper station, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Tromsø and the surrounding islands, mountains, and fjords. 

If you want to stay for dinner, Fjellstua restaurant on top offers dinner with views. Otherwise, head back down to Tromsø for a variety of pubs and restaurants.

Day 2: Explore Tromsø in Summer

Join a kayaking trip under the Midnight Sun

After breakfast, you will have the whole day to explore Tromsø. Here are a few suggested tours and activities that can be arranged with local guides:

  • Walk Through History: Meet your local guide and set off on a three-hour walking tour of Tromsø. Visit the largest city in the north—street by street—and take in its rich culture and beautiful architecture, including historic wooden houses dating as far back as 1789. View relics and buildings dating back to medieval times, and learn about the city’s extensive fishing culture, which was established when trade in Norway was at its peak. You will also tour the modern Arctic Cathedral

  • Hike to Mount Fløya: This easy to moderate in-town hike draws visitors, especially in the evening, who want to see the city's best place to watch the Midnight Sun. That being said, you can hike up any time of day for a great view of the city and surrounding islands. There are several ways to get to the top: some choose to ride the cable car to Storsteinen and then walk further up the hill, while others climb 324 steps along the “Sherpa staircase”, which starts close to the lower station located on Tromsø’s mainland.

  • Kayaking under the Midnight Sun: Explore the Arctic wilderness by sea kayak under the magical light of the Midnight Sun. This full-day activity led by a professional guide passes small picturesque villages, mountainous fjords, and small islands with opportunities to encounter jellyfish, sea stars, otters, sea eagles, puffins, and bottlenose dolphins. During a break on a nearby island, you will enjoy the warmth of an open wood fire with grilled sausages and hot beverages.

If you remain in the city in the evening, great restaurants and lively nightlife await.

Day 3: Tromsø - Drive to Senja

Forests and rivers on the way to Senja
Forests and rivers on the way to Senja

After breakfast in Tromsø, hit the road and take a three-hour drive for 130 miles (210 km) to Senja, Norway's second-largest island. Stop at Nordkjosbotn along the way for a snack or lunch—this tiny village is located at the end of the Balsfjorden where the river Nordkjoselva meets the fjord. 

Once you reach Senja, check out the staggering diversity of the landscapes around you, with ocean views, mountains, beaches, lakes, forests, and fields within short distances of each other. Staying here allows you to partake in a wide variety of adventures all on the same day: hiking, kayaking, fishing, cycling, or just lying on the beach! 

Restaurants and eateries in Senja also reflect the region’s scenery and nature. To get a real taste of local delicacies, keep your eye out for char from Altevatn Lake, cod from the sea, and goat cheese from local farms.

Day 4: Hiking Free Day in Senja

Hit the beach after your hike
Hit the beach after your hike

Today, you'll have the freedom to explore Senja's network of trails as you please. Now that you're armed with a wealth of local knowledge from the previous day, you can choose between many options. Better yet, pack a picnic, hop in the car, and stop at several places while looping around the island.

Not all of the trails are steep and challenging—there are more moderate, relaxed options to choose from, too. One idea for a gradual uphill climb is Husfjell, one of Senja's most rewarding trails with stunning scenery and varied terrain, located on the island's northwestern coast. When you arrive at the top, you can also climb to several other nearby peaks to find more impressive panoramas of Ersfjorden, Steinfjorden, and the Okshornan mountain range.

You can also combine hiking with other activities like biking, fishing, wildlife viewing, or sunbathing at one of Senja's uncrowded white sandy beaches. Another activity is to paddle between the hundreds of islands in the calm water with eagles and breathtaking views of mountain peaks.

Day 5: Ferry to Andenes - Explore Andøya Island

Welcome to Vesterålen!
Welcome to Vesterålen!

Following breakfast at your hotel on Senja Island, you will pack up your car and take a 1.5-hour ferry to Andenes (available from late May to early September). This is a village on Andøya Island within the archipelago of Vesterålen, which lies just north of the more touristy Lofoten Islands

Nature lovers will be in heaven here, for the varied landscapes span from calm and peaceful beaches to craggy, alpine mountains and dramatic fjords.

Most Norwegians know Andenes as a year-round whale watching destination and the northernmost point in the world where you can observe sperm whales. Even short trips offer a very high chance of spotting a whale, so take the afternoon to enjoy a 2- to 4-hour boat trip with a local whale-watching operation, where you can get a glimpse of the mighty sperm whales as well as other aquatic life and seabirds. 

Alternatively, you can go walking or biking between the five different islands linked together by bridges or tunnels. The routes are mostly flat along asphalted roads that were originally built where people lived. Traffic is heaviest in the mid-summer season, but it is still moderate—apart from the E10. To avoid crowds, skip the E10 highway in favor of lesser-traveled roads.

Day 6: Hike the Queen's Route

Hike and hit the beach today
Hike and hit the beach today

After a hearty breakfast, set out towards the fishing village of Stø—a beautiful 2.5-hour drive from Andenes, 93 miles away (151 km).

From here, you'll hike along Dronningruta, the Queen’s Route. This moderate, 9-mile (15 km) round trip takes you along the shoreline and over the mountain between Stø and the old fishing village of Nyksund, in the far north of Langøya, Norway's third-largest island.

Named after Queen Sonja, who first visited the island in 1994, the route itself is much older and has been used by many people, including (according to legend) the midwife of Stø on her way to births in Nyksund. The route is now a combination of two well-marked hiking trails (a low and high route) running along the ocean's edge. Together, they form an incredibly beautiful walk.

When you're done hiking, take time in the late afternoon for a drive on the National Tourist Route along the west coast of Andøya—one of the best ways to experience the region's coastline and its characteristic fishing villages with colorful wooden houses.

Day 7: Drive from Andenes to Bø

Coastal landscapes in Vesterålen
Coastal landscapes in Vesterålen

After breakfast in Andenes, you will drive further into the Vesterålen Islands in order to get to

A trip into Bø is like experiencing a condensed of Vesterålen: here you find the frothy open ocean alongside calm skerries, white sandy beaches and colorful moors, flat stretches of heath and alpine peaks, cacophonous bird rocks and silent marshes, as well as many, many deserted natural beaches.

Steep mountains will surround you and locals will be greeting you on arrival where you will stay in traditional cabins with access to your own kitchen. On arrival, walk the all year hiking trail to the Vetten Mountain or have a chat with the locals at Losjehytta.

Day 8: Explore Vesterålen

Orcas off the coast of the Vesterålen archipelago
Orcas off the coast of the Vesterålen archipelago

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll have the entire day to explore Vesterålen any way you please.

The landscapes of this district and archipelago tend to be much wilder than other areas in Northern Norway, with rounded mountains (compared to the jagged mountains in Lofoten), lush green valleys, inland lakes, and small villages close to the sea.  

You can join a whale watching tour, as this is one of the area's biggest draws since your chances of spotting whales are very high due to the fact that the area is rich in whale nutrition. Whale watching is a year-round activity, but in summer months, you'll likely get a glimpse of the mighty sperm whales.

You can also rent bicycles, sea kayaks, or rowboats. Sign up for a fishing trip with a local fisherman or visit a lighthouse with a guide. If you want a relaxing day, drive along the west coast visiting hamlets along the way.

Day 9: Drive to Finnsnes, via Sortland, Setermoen & Bardufoss

Scenery on your way to Finnsnes
Scenery on your way to Finnsnes

After breakfast in Bø, you will make the drive to another scenic route via Sortland, Setermoen, and Bardufoss to get back to Finnsnes. Several small boroughs surround Finnsnes, forming one large urban area. It is an important hub for transportation both on land and sea.

When you arrive at your hotel, enjoy some free time in the area for hiking, kayaking, and/or fishing. You can also visit the town's central park that includes the rare attraction of a natural lake. Fishing and agriculture are still important, and fish farming is of increasing economic importance. 

A very interesting sight is "the blue city" which has created interest and activity in the city. It has given positive results and consequences both locally and throughout the region.

Day 10: Ferry from Finnsnes to Tromsø

Cycle to the beach when you get settled in Tromsø
Cycle to the beach when you get settled in Tromsø

After spending the morning in Finnsnes, you will take the ferry back to Tromsø. Once you are checking into your hotel, you'll have a free afternoon in the city. 

If the weather is good, consider renting bikes and pedaling over to Telegrafbukta Beach for some relaxation and views. Cap off the afternoon by cycling to the Mack Ølbryggeri (brewery), the northernmost brewery in the world.

For dinner, you can sample more of the local proteins found in Tromsø. Look for restaurants serving stockfish, cod, and Atlantic Wolffish. If you prefer meat, there are plenty of options like reindeer, moose, and lamb. 

Day 11: Explore Tromsø Like a Local

Hiking trails near Tromsø
Consider a hiking trail near Tromsø

Today, you'll have one more free day in the Tromsø area. Since you've had time to explore the city center earlier in the trip, now is a good chance to take an excursion. Here are a few local recommendations:

  • Hiking Trails: Tromsø is surrounded by mountain trails and summer months are perfect for emerging yourself into Arctic nature. Locals say there’s a mountain for every level, each with a view that will take your breath away. The closest hike is Frøya
  • Visit a Local Farm: Take a drive to Trapper's Farm and get a taste of how to be a farmer in Northern Norway. You will meet husky dogs and perhaps join them for a hike or ride with wheels (very fun!). You will also go fishing with a guide followed by a nice meal that, with any luck, involves some of the fish you have just caught!

At night, check out more recommended eateries in town, like Restaurant Smak, Emma's Drømmekjøkken, and Skarven.

Day 12: Depart Tromsø

Goodbye, Tromsø!

It's time to say goodbye to Norway! Before your flight, spend some time wandering this cozy city center and charming pedestrian streets for unique souvenirs before heading to the airport.

Map

Map of Arctic Norway Summer Road Trip - 12 Days
Map of Arctic Norway Summer Road Trip - 12 Days