Wilder, greener, and more remote than the Lofoten Islands (though you'll have an overnight here, too), those who come to Vesterålen will have access to hiking trails and farmland, peaceful beaches, rock formations, and seaside teeming with whales, not to mention extended daylight hours to soak it in by land and sea. Adding to this weeklong summer adventure, you'll travel by coastal steamer, starting and ending in Tromsø — a culinary city nicknamed 'Gateway to the Arctic'.

Highlights

    • Get out and explore Tromsø's vibrant film, music, and restaurant scene
    • Soak in the long summer views from an overnight coastal steamer 
    • Photograph the world's largest toothed whales on a guided tour
    • Hike around Lofoten Islands' jaw-dropping towns and stop for lunch
    • Take Tromsø's gondola to the top and have dinner

Overview

Vesterålen is an archipelago just north of the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle. For those looking to escape summer crowds, check out this beautiful region in Northern Norway on a weeklong tour. The farther north you go, the more rugged the terrain gets and the fewer people you see. 

The trip begins in the city of Tromsø where you can take a guided walking tour and explore the lively cultural scene with museums, music venues, cocktail bars, and hip restaurants before you board the Hurtigruten — Norway’s historic shipping fleet that transports adventurous travelers along the coast. Stay overnight on deck and debark in Vesterålen's transit hub (Sortland) before you pick up a rental car and make your way to your hotel. Keep your camera close as these highlands are known for wild reindeer, arctic fox, and seabird colonies.

Spend your time on this archipelago partaking in fishing, whale watching, biking, kayaking, or enjoying the area's hiking trails including the 10-mile Queen's Route. For your last full day on the islands, take an overnight trip to the popular Lofoten region where you can do more exploring, as well as dine on fresh seafood and local produce. Finally, get back on the Hurtigruten and return to Tromsø, where you'll have one more night in Northern Norway's largest city.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tromsø  Tromsø
Day 2 Tromsø - Hurtigruten  Hurtigruten
Day 3 Hurtigruten - Sortland Vesterålen
Day 4 Explore Vesterålen  Vesterålen
Day 5 Explore the Lofoten Islands Reine
Day 6 Svolvær - Hurtigruten Hurtigruten
Day 7 Hurtigruten - Tromsø Tromsø
Day 8 Depart Tromsø  

Day 1: Arrive in Tromsø

Tromsø is surrounded by mountains and sea.

Welcome to Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway!

Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, Tromsø is a lively place with 65,000 inhabitants. In addition to its lovely scenery and rich maritime history, the city has a large student population and is famous for its 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 multi-cultural restaurants. 

Day 2: Tromsø - Hurtigruten to Sortland

Hit the streets of this walkable city or take the gondola uphill.

Today, after breakfast at your hotel, there's more time to enjoy Tromsø! 

You will have the opportunity to take a private tour, like this one: 

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 stunning Arctic Cathedral. 

Or simply explore the city's museums on your own. There are a number of options in town, including the Polar Museum for regional nature and history, and an arctic aquarium with seals. You can check out a 1949 ship that documents its former crew of seal hunters, or visit the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum — a state-of-the-art visual arts museum.

In the late evening, head to the port and take the Hurtigruten (coastal steamer) from Tromsø to Sortland. This company has been sailing the Norwegian coast since 1893, and today, its fleet offers modern facilities where you'll spend the night on deck, or in the lounge, so you can enjoy the landscapes against the light of the midnight sun.

Day 3: Hurtigruten - Vesterålen

Summer months offer unique flora in Vesterålen. 

Today you'll wake up on the Hurtigruten and have breakfast with a view as you continue your way to Vesterålen.

You will arrive in the village of Sortland around midday and pick up a rental car. This is Vesterålen's transit hub, located on the island's east coast, where you can check out unique architecture painted a particular shade of blue — thanks in part to a local artist — before you drive to the township of Bø for your overnight accommodations.

Along the route, check out alpine and Arctic flowers in all colors, and be on the lookout for wildlife like hares, reindeer, and fox that are common in these highlands. Vesterålen also has Northern Norway´s largest collection of grave mounds and ancient artifacts, so keep your eyes peeled.

Spend the rest of your afternoon and evening enjoying the amenities and grounds of the Skagakaia Guesthouse, your home for two nights, which has been family-owned for generations.

Day 4: Explore Vesterålen 

Take a boat trip to visit a historic lighthouse. 

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 on your own, rent a car and take a drive along the west coast visiting hamlets along the way. 

Day 5: Explore the Lofoten Islands

Hike above one of these gorgeous towns in the Lofoten Islands.

Today you'll drive to the nearby Lofoten Islands, a place of staggering beauty. This archipelago is close by, yet offers a different landscape of jagged mountain peaks, white sandy beaches, and picturesque villages with brightly colored rorbuer cottages, which have housed fishermen and traders for centuries. To get here, take a car ferry south from Melbu to Fiskebøl that connects Vesterålen to Lofoten. Bridges connect most of the islands, so you can get around easily. 

Kayak between the islands or hike around charming towns like Svolvær, Henningsvær, Reine, and Hamnøy, stopping for lunch along the way. Like Vesterålen, the Lofoten Islands sit high above the Arctic Circle, so there are long summer days that stay mild and comfortable thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Day 6: Svolvær - Hurtigruten

Look for waterfalls as you pass through the Trollfjord.

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel in Reine and take the rest of the day driving around the islands stopping for lunch, photo opportunities, and short hikes. You can also follow the National Tourist Route

Later in the day, you'll take a different route than the way you came on the ferry as you transfer back to the village of Sortland to catch the Hurtigruten. Return the car in the evening and enjoy summer's extended daylight hours in town until the Hurtigruten arrives sometime after midnight. 

Enjoy the comfort of your overnight quarters at sea as you make your way back to Tromsø.

Day 7: Hurtigruten - Explore Tromsø

You'll spend two nights on the Hurtigruten during this trip. 

Today, you will arrive on the Hurtigruten in the afternoon and have the rest of the day to enjoy Tromsø, perhaps taking advantage of any sites or activities that you may have missed at the beginning of the trip. 

Often called, 'Paris of the North', Tromsø has a notable restaurant and cocktail bar scene, so take advantage of your last night in Norway! A sample of options includes Fiskekompaniet for seafood, Presis Tapas for Spanish food, and Bardus Bistro for the locally harvested Arctic seaweed cocktail.  

Day 8: Depart Tromsø

Wake up to a sunrise in Tromsø.

It's time to say goodbye to Norway! Before your flight, spend some time wandering around Tromsø's walkable city center. Relax in a café or shop for unique souvenirs before heading to the airport.