Our second month in Norway was even more awe-inspiring than the first. After meeting with Linda and Steven from The Chouters, we continued north on the Kystriksveien (Coastal Highway/FV 17) coastal route. This is a 630km scenic route which is more beautiful but slower than the E6 highway: there are six ferry crossings on the main route and many more possible crossings to additional islands.
As we headed north along the route, we began to cross incredible lunar landscapes and, on a ferry, we entered the Arctic Circle (and brought out our Cayman Islands flag). Linda and Steven recommended a wild camping site that overlooked Svartisen Glacier and Amelia picked wild blueberries and raspberries. We also saw the Saltstraumen maelstrom, where some of the world’s strongest tidal currents form whirlpools when the tide rushes in and out of the fjord.
We parked by a beach just outside Bodø. Soon other motorhomes arrived and Amelia met some French children and played with them in the golden evening light. While the kids played, the parents told us about their experiences in the Lofoten Islands, particularly the Reinebringen hike, and we shared Vin de Noix (fortified walnut wine) and Vin de Sureau (fortified elderflower wine) that we made in France. We also chatted with a couple from the Netherlands who also had a Weinberg motorhome. Amelia became interested in spotting license plates during our travels and mentioned to them that she had noticed their “NL” license plates. We were touched when they left us a bag of treats and a sweet note from the “NL Weinsberg” before driving off early the next morning.
The next day, we drove into Bodø where it is possible to catch a ferry to the Lofoten Islands. There was a forecast for sunny weather the next morning, followed by a week of rain, so we decided to catch a night ferry to Moskenes, near the western tip of the Lofoten Islands. It was our roughest ferry crossing yet and we were glad to see an incredible wall of jagged mountains as we approached the islands in the twilight. We drove to the town of “Å” a few miles away and stayed in a parking lot which was filled with motorhomes from all over Europe. The next day, we woke up early and set off to hike Reinebringen while it was still sunny. It was a difficult hike up 1,560 steps but the views from the top were truly spectacular. We felt as if we had stepped into one of computer screen saver photos that had tempted us before we had even started our travels.
Next, we stopped in the town of Reine and found it very touristy – even late in the summer and in a Covid year with no cruise ships or tour buses. A cold rain began to fall the next day so we took the opportunity to visit a glassblowing shop that had been recommended by our friends at Frenchy Le Van – it was a perfect day to watch amazing glass blowing demonstrations by a roaring furnace.
We then began driving back through the chain of islands toward the mainland, following recommendations from the wonderfully comprehensive Motoroamers blog – they even have an eBook on the Lofoten Islands. We found the islands to be much less busy once we left Reine and particularly enjoyed the 815 route – a quiet road with spectacular granite boulders and spiky mountains. Next, we drove through Andoya and took an evening ferry to Senya – following even more scenic routes. We did not find these islands to be quite as stunning as the Lofoten Islands (almost an impossible act to follow) but if the Lofoten Islands were too busy we thought they would be preferable! We agreed that we loved the lack of crowds and the sense of discovery and exploration that we found in Norway; the popular places are popular for a reason but many areas that are off the beaten track are just as spectacular. Too soon, it was time to head south. We found a small friendly campsite and settled in for a couple of days to celebrate Gary’s birthday – including his first ‘polar plunge’ within the Arctic Circle.
Given that the Kystriksveien which we took on the way north is a scenic route and the E6 is an inland highway, we had low expectations for the drive south. However, the northern portion of the E6 was surprisingly scenic. We would still pick the coastal highway if we were only driving one way in Norway but we enjoyed seeing granite domes, fjords, forest, and high plateau – including reindeer by the Arctic Circle Centre and musk ox habitat near Hjerkin.
On our way to the Lofoten Islands, we took a route near the coast and missed several highly recommended scenic routes and sites, planning to see them on our way south. First, we visited Briksdalbreen Glacier. The surrounding area is also spectacular, with rivers and lakes coloured a shocking blue by ‘rock flour’ – rocks which have been pulverized to dust by the movement of the glacier and which are suspended in the water. We then drove more incredible scenic routes, including Trollstigen (a dramatic mountain road with a 10% grade and eleven hairpin bends), Dalsnibba Utsiktspunkt (literally jaw-dropping scenery which we viewed through gaps in the mist), Gamle Strynefjellsveg (landscapes from another planet with guard stones lining the road like teeth), and the Flåm scenic route (where we were fortunate to see flaming autumn foliage reflected in the dark water).
We left Norway by way of Moss, near Oslo, where we visited Gary’s old friends Bernhard and Olaug – spending some wonderful time together and joining them for a typically Norwegian taco dinner . It was sad to say goodbye to Bernhard and Olaug and leave Norway after two months of wonderful travels but at the same time we were excited to enter our next country: Sweden, where Amelia was looking forward to trying banana pizza – you’ll find her review in our next blog 😊