Wilder, greener, and more remote than the Lofoten Islands (though you'll have a night here, too), those who come to the Vesterålen archipelago will have access to hiking trails, peaceful beaches, rock formations, and seaside teeming with whales, not to mention extended daylight hours to soak it in by land and sea. Finish with an overnight coastal steamer to Tromsø —a lively city nicknamed 'Paris of the North'.

Highlights

    • Start the trip with a hike in Bodø followed by a ferry to Svolvær
    • Check out uncrowded beaches and marine life in the Vesterålen Islands 
    • Photograph the world's largest toothed whales on a guided tour
    • Hike around Lofoten Islands' jaw-dropping towns and stop for lunch
    • Get out and explore Tromsø's vibrant film, music, and restaurant scene

Overview

Vesterålen is an archipelago just north of the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle. For those looking to escape summer crowds, this is a great alternative (i.e. the farther north you go, the more rugged the terrain gets and the fewer people you see). The adventure begins with one night each in Bodø and Svolvær before you drive to Bø. Keep your camera close as these green highlands are known for wild reindeer, arctic fox, and seabird colonies.

From here, spend the next few days exploring the Vesterålen region 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, drive to Reine in the Lofoten region where you can do more hiking and dining on fresh seafood and local produce. Finally, board the Hurtigruten to get to Tromsø, where you'll have a night in Northern Norway's largest city.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bodø Bodø
Day 2 Explore Bodø - Ferry to Svolvær Svolvær
Day 3 Drive to Bø - Explore the Vesterålen Islands
Day 4 Explore the Vesterålen Islands
Day 5 Drive to Reine - Explore the Lofoten Islands Reine
Day 6 Drive to Svolvær - Board the Hurtigruten Hurtigruten
Day 7 Hurtigruten - Arrive in Tromsø Tromsø
Day 8 Depart Tromsø  

Day 1: Arrive in Bodø

Spend a night in this pretty seaside city

Welcome to Norway! Upon arrival in Bodø, you'll pick-up a rental car and spend the night. Some 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.

Day 2: Bodø - Ferry to Svolvær

Ferry to Svolvær in the afternoon with enough time to explore

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

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.

Down in the city, 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 shrimps from the fishermen. 

In the afternoon, you'll catch an express ferry to Svolvær, a town in the Lofoten archipelago with about 2,000 residents. Spend the day soaking up the history while walking through the windy streets with centuries-old wooden houses and buildings, surrounded by majestic Lofoten mountains and sea. 

Make sure to stop into Foto Galleri for spectacular photos of the islands where the work of photographer Anders Finsland is on display. You can also sample traditional Norwegian cuisine at one of the local restaurants and then have a pint at Bryggabaren, a cozy, low-beamed pub made from a WWII Polish troop ship that washed up in Svolvær in 1946. 

If there's time, consider a short trip to the vibrant fishing village called Svinøya—a little section of Svolvær on an island across from the main part of town. This is the oldest part of Svolvær and has been a thriving fishing hub since 1828. Keep an eye out for the fish processing plant, as well as iconic stockfish racks, art galleries, old wooden houses, and the fish restaurant called Børsen Spiseri

Day 3: Drive to Bø - Explore the Vesterålen Islands

Summer months offer unique flora in Vesterålen. 
Summer months offer unique flora in Vesterålen

Today you'll make the scenic drive to Bø in another archipelago—this time the Vesterålen, known for its green islands, marine life, rich history, and friendly locals.

Consider a stop in Sortland, 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 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 foxes 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.

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 year-round hiking trail to the Vetten Mountain or have a chat with the locals at Losjehytta.

Day 4: Explore the Vesterålen Islands

A deserted beach beckons on this remote archipelago

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll have the entire day to explore Vesterålen Islands 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, take a drive along the west coast visiting hamlets along the way. 

Day 5: Drive to Reine - Explore the Lofoten Islands

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

Today you'll drive to Reine in 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. 

You can kayak between islands or hike around Reine and other charming towns like Henningsvær 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: Drive to Svolvær - Board the Hurtigruten

Look for waterfalls as you pass through the Trollfjord.
Look for waterfalls as you pass through the Trollfjord

Today, 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 drive back to the village of Svolvær to catch the Hurtigruten. You will return your rental car in the evening and enjoy summer's extended daylight hours in town with a late dinner until the Hurtigruten arrives. 

Board the ship and enjoy the comfort of your overnight quarters at sea as you make your way to the lively city of Tromsø.

Day 7: Hurtigruten - Arrive in Tromsø

You'll spend two nights on the Hurtigruten during this trip. 
Spend a night on the Hurtigruten to get to Tromsø

Today, you will arrive in Tromsø on the Hurtigruten in the afternoon. Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, this 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. 

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

Tromsø's harbor and iconic cathedral

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.