This fun and fast-paced itinerary explores the best of Norway's stunning Arctic coast. Starting from Tromsø, the 'Paris of the North', you'll head to Senja island, the Vesterålen Islands, and Lofoten Islands, respectively. Choose between a number of scenic outdoor activities as you travel by rental car and Hurtigruten cruise—all under the extended daylight hours of the 'Midnight Sun'—for the ultimate summer adventure.

Highlights

  • Check out Tromsø's hip dining, culture, and nightlife scene on your first night
  • Explore the hiking trails and sandy beaches on Senja island at your own pace
  • Look for a variety of whale species off the coast of the Norwegian Sea
  • Choose between hiking, sunbathing, and rock climbing in the Lofoten Islands
  • Enjoy cool street art and fresh seafood in the walkable city of Bodø

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tromsø Tromsø
Day 2 Transfer from Tromsø to Finnsnes - Drive to Senja Senja
Day 3 Arctic Boat Safari in Senja Senja
Day 4 Hiking Free Day in Senja Senja
Day 5 Drive from Senja to Finnsnes Finnsnes
Day 6 Hurtigruten to Sortland - Drive to Bø
Day 7 Explore Vesterålen
Day 8 Drive from Bø to Reine Reine
Day 9 Hiking & Beaches in Reine Reine
Day 10 Drive from Reine to Henningsvær - Explore Henningsvær
Day 11 Drive to Sortland - Hurtigruten to Bodø Bodø
Day 12 Hurtigruten - Explore Bodø Bodø
Day 13 Depart Norway  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tromsø

Welcome to Northern Norway!
Welcome to Northern Norway!

Welcome to Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway!

Surrounded by mountains and sea, 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 down to Tromsø for a variety of restaurants of which there are many to choose from, hence its other moniker: 'Paris of the North'.

Day 2: Transfer from Tromsø to Finnsnes - Drive to Senja

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

After breakfast in Tromsø, transfer to Finnsnes where you'll pick up a rental car for the drive 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 nearby sea, and goat cheese from local farms.

Day 3: Arctic Boat Safari in Senja

Look for marine life on this Arctic boat tour
Look for marine life on this Arctic boat tour

After breakfast in Senja, you'll join Arctic Boat Safari, one of the ultimate ways to experience the unique landscapes of the island.

During this half-day excursion, you will visit some of the beautiful coastal destinations where you can admire remoteness and wilderness of Arctic nature. Your crew will also be focused on spotting sea eagles, as well as several species of whales and seals, so keep your camera close. If time permits, you will also get a sneak peek of the local fisherman and their daily routine on the job. 

In the afternoon, you will have free time to explore more of the island on your own, perhaps with a self-guided hike in the area. 

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 locals you've met thus far, 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: Drive from Senja to Finnsnes

Bright blue water near Finnsnes
Bright blue water near Finnsnes

After breakfast in Senja, you will make the return drive to Finnsnes to return your rental car. If you'd like to take your time, you can make detours at Ersfjord beach for a picnic, and Tungeneset—a walkway built over the rocks to provide a view to the Northern Sea.

When you arrive in Finnsnes, 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. 

Several small boroughs surround Finnsnes, forming one large urban area. It is an important hub for transportation both on land and sea, so you'll find plenty of places to have dinner in the evening. 

Day 6: Hurtigruten to Sortland - Drive to Bø

A church from 1902 in Sortland
A church from 1902 in Sortland

Early this morning, you will make your way to Finnsnes pier in time to board your Hurtigruten cruise. You will arrive in Sortland in the early afternoon and pick up a second car for your drive to beautiful in the Vesterålen

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. Spend the rest of the day enjoying the year-round hiking trail to the Vetten Mountain or simply sit back and have a chat with the locals at Losjehytta.

Day 7: Explore Vesterålen

Undeveloped scenery in the Vesterålen Islands

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.

For hiking, the tallest peaks in Vesterålen reach more than 4,000 feet above sea level. Bring your hiking gear and follow the designated trails along mountains and meadows. For instance, Dronningruta (The Queen’s Route) is a marked trail about 10 miles long, and it creates a nice loop along the shoreline and over the mountain between the old fishing villages of Nyksund and Stø.

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 8: Drive from Bø to Reine

Reine's jaw-dropping setting

Today, spend a relaxing morning in Bø before you make the drive to Reine in the Lofoten Islands. Give yourself ample time, as you'll likely want to stop often to explore the charming fishing villages and beautiful nature. 

Reine's red and white fishermen’s huts from the late 1800s—called rorbuer—dotting the shoreline are quite a contrast to the surrounding peaks of granite shooting out of the Reinefjorden, which is why it attracts photographers from around the world. 

Visitors can opt to stay in the original fishermen cabins (the oldest one is from the 1890s), which have been modernized with indoor facilities and Wi-Fi, providing a cozy place to stay. Local museums and galleries provide history and culture of the region, and there's even an annual jazzfest held in April.

Day 9: Hiking & Beaches in Reine

Spectacular views from a trail in Reine
Spectacular views from a trail in Reine

After breakfast,  you'll have the entire day to explore the numerous hiking trails and beaches near Reine. 

A recommended hike is Reinebringen, leading to one of the biggest viewpoints in the area with a panorama of Reinefjorden and the Lofoten Wall. Make sure to leave enough time to enjoy the views at the top! You can also pack a picnic and enjoy lunch at the top. 

From here, a good idea (if the weather cooperates) is to check out various secluded beaches around the Lofoten Islands. Despite what many travelers think of the Arctic Circle, there are numerous stretches of soft white sand with turquoise blue water and mountain peaks in the background. In fact, these might be some of the most spectacular beaches you will ever see. 

Many stretches of sand are accessible by car but there are also some beautiful beaches that are only reachable by hiking (and some that require taking a ferry and then hiking). For instance, Bunes beach requires a ferry trip from Reine, followed by an easy one-hour hike, rewarding you with a special beach experience without cars, noise pollution, or development.

Day 10: Drive from Reine to Henningsvær - Explore

More glorious views as you head to Henningsvær
More glorious views as you head to Henningsvær

Today, you'll make your way to Henningsvær, home to some of the most well-preserved architecture of the traditional Norwegian fishing villages. Henningsvær is considered to be the Lofoten’s liveliest place and the artistic heart of the islands—home to quirky cafes, restaurants, and local artists. Despite its recent growth, the village maintains a level of authenticity with fishing still being the main industry (rather than tourism).

As for scenery, Henningsvær’s dramatic setting is on par with Reine, with colorful buildings lining the harbor and the steep mountains of Austvågøya as a backdrop. The area is also home to some of Lofoten's excellent beaches. For example, Rørvikstranda beach is accessed via a short rocky path from the parking area.

Due to the fact that Henningsvær consists of a number of islets spread peacefully among the waters of Vjestfjord, the town is a rock climbing mecca offering everything from a beginner's climb to a demanding ascent of Norway’s national mountain, Stetind

For a memorable evening experience, book a private dinner with a local fisherman who will share the history of the islands over freshly-caught seafood.

Day 11: Drive to Sortland - Hurtigruten to Bodø

Board the Hurtigruten in the early afternoon
Board the Hurtigruten in the early afternoon

After breakfast today, you will drive back to Sortland. The drive back will take about two hours and you can choose to drive via Melbu, which includes a ferry, or via Langvassbukta.

When you are back in Sortland, you will return your rental car and embark on yet another Hurtigruten cruise in the early afternoon. Enjoy a nice dinner on board while you sail further south to the little city of Bodø. 

In the middle of the night, you will arrive in Bodø where you will check into your hotel and rest for the rest of the night.

Day 12: Hurtigruten - Explore Bodø

Head to Mjelle Beach for sunset

Feel free to sleep in this morning after arriving late, via the Hurtigruten. Once you've had breakfast at your hotel, enjoy a free day to walk Bodø. Keep an eye out for amazing street art scattered around the city center, thanks to a traveling art festival that came to Bodø in 2016 with international artists who decorated the sides of buildings downtown.

If feeling active, consider a hike to Keiservarden, a mountain plateau on top of Veten Hill near the city center. You can drive halfway to then continue by foot—it's a comfortable 40-minute walk to the top. From here you can see all the way to the Lofoten Islands. You can also drive to the Turisthytta, where there is also a spectacular view.

You can also enjoy the vistas from the 17th floor at Scandic Havet with a panoramic vantage point of Bodø and the surrounding area. From here, walk to the harbor and buy fresh shrimp from the fishermen.

Additional options for exploring the area include:

  • Visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum, the largest aviation museum in the Nordic countries.

  • Check out the world’s strongest tidal current in Saltstraumen during a guided tour. Your guide will take you through the area's breathtaking scenery while you learn about proud coastal heritage.

  • Walk along Mjelle Beach, 30-minutes from the city center of Bodø. From the parking lot, there is a nice hike along a trail by the sea before you get to the beach, which takes about 15 minutes.

  • Join a guided Arctic Coastal Walk where you will learn about the elements geology of the area. Your guide will tell you about the local history and explain our dependency on the sea. He/she will also you some of the many Viking graves discovered in this area.

At the end of your adventures, return to Bodø and enjoy dinner in town.

Day 13: Depart Norway

Goodbye, Northern Norway!

After breakfast, head to the airport and catch your departing flight. Although it's time to say goodbye to Norway, the memories from your trip will surely stay with you forever!

Map

Map of Best of Norway's Arctic Islands - 13 Days
Map of Best of Norway's Arctic Islands - 13 Days