Have you been thinking about a Norway travel adventure? Stop thinking about it, and go for it! You won’t regret it because it’s such an incredible place. I went on my own trip to northern Norway for 10 days, and it was such an amazing trip that I will never forget. I’d even go as far as to call it the trip of a lifetime—and it was certainly the highlight of my year. This is a northern Norway travel guide for those looking to visit the Lofoten Islands and beyond. Tips for the best hikes in Norway and how to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway, too.
We visited this beautiful Scandinavian country in early September. The main reason for this was really to catch a good night of northern lights (September is one of the best times to go to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway) and we actually experienced the magical phenomenon on most of our nights there. It is a great time to take a trip to Northern Norway.
We also got to experience great weather most days, although it was definitely chilly. Although the northern lights were undoubtedly my favourite part of this trip to Norway, there were many impressive highlights. This includes hikes, boating adventures, and more. Follow along for my Northern Norway travel guide!
It took quite the journey to get to the Lofoten Islands, which was the first stop on our trip to Northern Norway. First, we flew from Vancouver to Copenhagen, and then to Oslo. From Oslo, we flew on a small plane to Tromsø. One day, I would love to spend time in this area as there are so many things to do in Tromsø. On this trip though, we were only passing through. Finally, we took the final flight to Leknes.
We then rented a car in Leknes and drove about an hour south to Hamnøy. Once we arrived there, we stayed at the Eliassen Rorbuer cabins.
I highly recommend that you rent a boat in the Lofoten Islands, and take advantage of exploring the Hamnøy area by water. We had the best time boating. In the morning, the water was calm because no one else was out there. The boat really allowed us to explore the Lofoten Islands area from a different perspective. You can see how abruptly the mountains rise out of the water. The landscape was very different from my home in western Canada. I live in a mountainous place, but these mountains were unique even to my eyes!
The Eliassen Rorbuer
I am sure you recognize these cabins—you see this photo of the Eliassen Rorbuer all over Instagram. A little history lesson: they used to house fisherman from all over Norway who came to compete in an annual cod fishing competition. Although the traditional décor remains, they have renovated the insides to comfortably accommodate Norway tourists. There is still plenty of that original character, though!
I’m definitely glad that we stayed at the Eliassen Rorbuer on our trip to Northern Norway. It was nice holing up in such cozy cabins which are also centrally located in the Lofoten Islands. That was certainly convenient for us. Plus, I can’t forget to mention the cabins’ perfect waterfront setting which made for excellent views and a perfect ambience. It’s all about the location! You can snap this photo just over the bridge on your drive in to Hamnøy when you take your own voyage to Northern Norway.
This is one of my most favourite videos ever!
A HUGE thank you to Joel Schat for filming all the content, taking photos for me.
The Aurora Borealis in Northern Norway
If you follow my Instagram, then you likely saw my Aurora Borealis posts from Norway. This was my first time seeing the northern Lights, and WOW, it was unforgettable. It was such a big deal for me, seeing the lights for the first time. It was a highlight of my trip to Northern Norway.
Here’s a little background on what causes these magical lights to appear in the night sky. Basically, they appear when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with atoms and molecules within the earth’s magnetic shield. Pretty geeky stuff, but who doesn’t love science and nature working together in harmony—especially when the outcome is so lovely? Either way you slice it, this natural process is super cool and insanely beautiful.
Joel took this photo right outside our cabin. We simply couldn’t believe how breath-taking it all was. I will truly never forget these nights…although we didn’t get much sleep. The lack of sleep was so worth it, though!
How to Track the Northern Lights
Without the proper tool, you might struggle to find the best spots and times to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway. That’s what northern lights trackers are for! Check out Soft Serve News to track where the Aurora will be, so you don’t miss a single night if you don’t want to. I wouldn’t blame you because I felt the same way.
The lights are incredible in the Lofoten Islands because this area boasts some of the most impressive Norwegian landscapes! There are plenty of northward facing beaches, which is an essential part of getting some of the best views. The lights also reflect beautifully off the water and sand on the outstretched banks of sand. At times, I felt like I was in a different world. It is a great idea to get some tips for seeing the Aurora Borealis with some research.
You can see the amazing Lofoten northern lights in action in this video below.
Fun Facts About the Aurora
Wondering what makes the lights move that way, or “dance,” as some people characterize it? According to Visit Norway, “The aurora appears where beams of high energy electrons penetrate the upper atmosphere. As the beams move, the aurora moves.”
Wondering when you can visit Norway to see its northern lights displays? Visit Norway’s site specifies that “statistically, springtime (March/April) and autumn (September/October) has the highest level of aurora activity. However, you will see it in October, November, December, January and February as well.”
You can also see the aurora more clearly on cold nights. That’s due to the clearer night skies in the cold weather. You’ve just got to bear the cold to experience the joy and wonder of the northern lights! And honestly, it’s a no-brainer. Bundle up and bring an extra blanket or two, because you will want to sit and watch them for some time.
There’s also some really interesting historical significance with the special ribbons of light that dance in the sky. For example, the Vikings apparently considered the northern lights to be the “armour of the Valkyrie warrior virgins which shed a strange flickering light,” according to Visit Norway.
Fast-forward to today, and you might hear the locals often refer to the Norway northern lights as “the green lady”. If you look at our photos and videos, it’s not hard to understand why!
Hikes in the Lofoten Islands
We tried to complete at least a hike each day, but sometimes we were overachievers and did two! We wanted to see so much in and around the areas we were visiting, after all. Most of the Norway hiking trails were fairly easy, and they were also located pretty closely to where we were staying. This meant that travelling to them quite convenient. Check out the below list to find some of the best hikes in Northern Norway that we experienced.
This is the view from the Offersøykammen hike. It is about one 1km to the top and takes approximately one hour. Sadly, when we did the hike there was no view from the very top because it was so foggy. However, that didn’t stop us—we simply walked a little bit downward and were able to capture some great shots from those points.
This is also at Offersøykammen near the middle of the mountain. It was honestly such a pretty little lake! You can get some amazing views from here if you don’t want to hike all the way to the top. If you do make it to the top and it’s a clear day, you can usually see a great view of the peninsula to the north. The water can be so blue to it looks like a tropical island! You might be able to feast your eyes on all the fjords around the islands if you’re lucky. It’s truly such an impressive view, so you might want to try going on a clear day to get the most out of your experience! Hiking was at the top of our list on this trip to Northern Norway.
This hike is also only minutes from Leknes in the Lofoten Islands, so make sure to include this hike in you Leknes itinerary. It’s also apparently a great place to view the midnight sun in the summer. It’s one of the best spots to catch the “sunrise and sunset”. That’s because the sun approaches the horizon to the direct north of the mountains in the distance.
You can watch my Northern Norway trip vlog below or on YouTube for better quality. Consider this a Northern Norway travel guide in video form!
This is the view from the Mannen hike, which takes about an hour. It was located a little north of Leknes and was my favourite hike for so many reasons. Firstly, it was a super easy hike, which is always nice when you’re doing a hike or two a day! Also, the view was incredible. Even with such an easy hike, the scenery does not disappoint one bit.
The water looks tropical blue and it will make you completely forget that you’re still in the Arctic. However, you won’t stay in the fantasy that you’re somewhere tropical very long because it was really cold up there—or at least it was in September! Regardless, I will never forget this amazing view we experienced here. I’d say it’s one of the best hikes in Norway.
Travel tip: The mountain is nestled between two of the most gorgeous beaches in Lofoten, the Uttakleiv and Haukland beaches. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit the beaches in the same trip as your hike of Mount Mannen!
Another equally amazing and visually satisfying hike we did in Lofoten was the Ryten Mountain trail. It wasn’t too steep and only took a few hours. The views at the top of the mountain completely took my breath away! Up there, you get views of Kvalvika Beach, the other surrounding peaks, and those lovely fjords all around you.
It felt like we were on top of the world up there. Talk about dramatic and epic vistas! Keep in mind that you should bring lots of layers because it was freezing at the top.
We also attempted to do another hike, the Reinebringen, but we had to turn back since the trail was not in good shape, and therefore deemed unsafe for hikers. I hope that on the next trip the trail is repaired, so we can make it to the top! For now, this is the view from where we were able to reach.
Northern Norway has so many hiking options, each with their own incredible views. Climbing these mountains is a wonderful way to see the surrounding fjords, beaches, and impressive mountain peaks. I’d definitely recommend adding a few of these to your Norway hiking check list!
For the second part of our Norway trip, we drove about six hours north of Hamnøy to get to Senja. It was such a beautiful drive! Along the route you can see lots of beautiful coastline and many impressive beaches. You’ll pass by lots of quaint and charming fishing villages sporadically. You can expect to see beautiful views the whole way.
We spent two nights in Senja where we stayed at the Hamn i Senja resort, which we really enjoyed.
The first day we arrived to Senja, we hiked to see Mt. Segla that afternoon. We wasted no time! This hike was also a pretty easy and straightforward two-hour long trail. Both trails start from Fjordgård. You will need to hike Mt. Hesten to see Mt. Segla. The view here was, again, just unforgettable! These trails are not to be missed.
I still can’t get over this view, it was just so amazing. I would love to go back when it is snowing to see the contrast! In fact, I would love to re-do this entire trip again to see it as a winter wonderland, all blanketed in white.
You might also like 15 Photos to Inspire a Trip to Norway, Key West Sustainable Boat Adventure with Honest Eco Tours, or My Trip To Kauai.
Boating in Senja
We also went out in a boat in Senja and had such a great time. It was a lot colder there than it was in Hamnøy, but then again we were much farther north in the Arctic. After four full days and nights in Lofoten, we were actually pretty tired by the time we got to Senja.
We only really shot sunrise and sunset there and it was so nice to have time to relax and rest. We did work and napped most days. It was raining one day then cleared up at night which was exactly what we needed for capturing the Senja northern lights!
Northern Lights in Senja
Again, we were very lucky to have seen the Northern lights when we were in Senja. I was so blown away by them each time; they honestly never got old, and the lights’ vivid colours were just as vibrant here as they were in the Lofoten Islands.
It was so nice to be able to watch the lights in the night sky as they reflected off the beautiful Norwegian fjords, making the northern lights in Senja unique. Senja never used to be the most known places to catch the Aurora Borealis in Norway, but it has recently gained popularity as a destination to spot them.
One evening we were blessed to see have seen the bioluminescence in the water while catching the aurora in the sky at the same time. There were so many magical colours and sparkles that it truly felt like we were living out a fairy tale for a night. I have a feeling that it was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m so glad we captured it all.
If you haven’t heard much about the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence, you’ve probably seen it without even knowing. Remember trying to catch fireflies as a child, maybe? Bioluminescence happens when a chemical reaction occurs in some organism’s physical body.
According to Live Science, these creatures have to contain a chemical compound that’s called luciferin to have the reaction, which is what allows them to glow in complete darkness! It’s a chemical form of energy that results from oxygen exposure. The same thing is what allows fireflies to glow so brightly, along with glow-worms, jellyfish, some types of fungi, and more. I was not planning to experience this on my trip to Northern Norway, so it was a pleasant surprise.
I bet you didn’t expect to get two science lessons in this blog, did you?!
The final part of our Northern Norway trip took us south. From Senja, we drove to Bardufoss and then we flew to Oslo. From Oslo we flew to Molde. Since we only had 10 days on our trip, we decided to fly instead of driving. I’m sure it is a gorgeous drive though, just like the rest of the parts of Norway we experienced. Maybe for the next trip, we’ll make a point to drive that part. We rented a car in Molde to get around from there.
Located right alongside the river Molde, this city is also known as the Town of Roses. The reason behind this might just be because of the many rose gardens that inhabited the town before a fire destroyed many of them. “Molde consisted of luxurious hotels surrounding an idyllic township with quaint, wooden houses, lush gardens and parks, esplanades and pavilions, earning it the nickname the Town of Roses. This was interrupted when one third of the city was destroyed in a fire on 21 January 1916,” according to Wikipedia’s historical background of the city.
The Town of Roses up in Flames
However, the town came back to life again soon after. Then, Molde was hit again in 1940 by German air raids in both April and May. The Wiki article states that “April 29 turned out to be the worst day in the history of Molde, as the city was transformed into a sea of flames by incendiary bombs. Until then the church had escaped undamaged, but in the final sortie a firebomb became stuck high up in the tower, and the beautiful wooden church was obliterated by fire.”
Those fires ended up destroying about two-thirds of the city once again. It’s been through a lot, that city! Luckily, it sprang back to life in no time after World War II finally ended. It became a completely modernized city around 1964. If you decide to visit Molde, you’ll have plenty of background to learn about. Those fires definitely changed the course of the town’s history forever.
We drove to Ålesund which is such a cute little town with lots of colourful buildings everywhere you look. It’s known for its beautiful art nouveau architecture—especially since it, too, was rebuilt after a horrible fire. The rebuilding happened in 1904, just before Molde’s first fire happened. Ålesund is also known for being the cultural hub of the region, since it hosts many festivals every year.
If you enjoy outdoor activities more than city ones though, you can just as easily have an amazing time exploring the fjords, or find a place to do snow sports such as skiing or snowboarding. There’s no shortage! The various bodies of water in this area also have lots of fish to go for if fishing is your thing. And of course, there are always great hiking options, as you can see from the photo below.
This viewpoint from the top of Mount Aksla gives a really great view of Ålesund. It’s an easy trail with just over 400 steps (with handrails at some points throughout the trail). At this location, you can drive if you prefer to do it that way instead. No judgment whatsoever—sometimes, you just want to get to the top!
According to National Geographic, “Ålesund could be the backdrop for a Nordic fairy tale – with a modern plot twist”. They definitely got that right! I could have spent a whole day exploring here, so I will have to return one day when I have a little more time to do so. I’d love to explore all that this city has to offer for Norway travellers. Every Northern Norway travel guide should have a stop included here, that’s for sure!
This viewpoint at the top of Mount Aksla gives a really great view of Ålesund. It is an easy trail with just over 400 steps (with handrails in some points). At this location you can also drive if you prefer. It is a great viewpoint to take on if you take a trip to Northern Norway.
This crazy photo was taken in Geirangerfjord. To get to this viewpoint, drive all the way down the road and up the mountain and you will find the viewpoint behind the bathrooms. You probably didn’t expect that as part of the directions, did you? Lol.
Specifically, there is a small path hidden behind those bathrooms. When you walk down, you’ll see the lower path where Joel was standing to take this picture; and then where I am standing on the edge there, you just walk a little further up. Be careful because it is dangerous!! I used to be really scared of heights, believe it or not…but not so much anymore as you can see.
There’s a reason that, according to Visit Norway, “Ålesund and the surrounding areas [including Geirangerfjord] are among the most visited sites for tourists in Norway.” Geirangerfjord is filled with waterfalls, mountain farms, (mostly abandoned) and tons of nature.
This city also has a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site within it, and it’s considered one of the jewels of the Norwegian fjords. It’s in the form of an S shape, which makes it stand out from some of the others. You pretty much know how special it is without knowing any of that, though. All you have to do is be there, and you’ll see it for yourself.
The last location we visited in Northern Norway was Trollstigen, which is where you can find this crazy switchback road through the mountains! It’s basically an intensely zig-zagged mountain road and pass, and it’s located within the Rauma Municipality. From there, it connects Åndalsnes to the Valldal village, which lies in the Norddal Municipality. This is definitely a stop you should include in your Norway travel plans! It’s pretty cool-looking both in person and in photos. Did you even take a trip to Northern Norway if you didn’t stop here?!?
This is the most visited tourist road in Norway according to Fjord Norway, and easy to see why! It’s also known as somewhat of an engineering stroke of genius. When you couple that with all the surrounding natural beauty, it makes for an epic tourist attraction. It’s just a road, you would think, but when you get there you see what all the hype is about. Overall, it was such a treat to be able to just stare at it in awe.
You can get an idea for the scale of things in this video by looking at how small the cars are on the road.
The famous road is known as Norway’s Golden Route, and it was built in July of 1936. If you’re thinking it should take a few minutes to an hour tops, it’s actually more like a two-three-hour long drive! It’s really two hours long, but you have to reserve extra time for stopping to take photos, of course. You’ll have many urges to do so, since there are so many great viewpoints to be admired throughout this special route. It might even be an idea to try and catch a sunset in this spot!
What an Amazing Trip to Norway!
On the last full day in this mesmerising country, we flew from Molde back to Oslo where we ended our trip to Norway. There is so much more that we could have seen there, so I hope that one day we can return.
I suppose that’s often the case when you’re travelling, though. You can never really do or see it all, but maybe that’s what makes travelling so enticing. Maybe it’s all in the challenge to experience as much as you can of this new, mysterious place…
I honestly was not expecting to fall in love with Northern Norway, but I really did (and I fell hard). If you ever get a chance to go, don’t hesitate…it is AMAZING! Like I said before, you absolutely won’t regret it. Get to planning a trip to Northern Norway and add it to your bucket list.
Northern Norway is a place that’s full of so much beauty and wonder. From the mystical northern lights to the hikes with vistas straight from a movie scene, this mind-blowing Scandinavian country truly has it all.
The most prevalent things that should belong on your Norway bucket list, among others, are the Lofoten northern lights (although you could chase them in lots of locations in Norway) and the many incredible hiking trails including Offersøykammen, Mannen, Ryten, and Mt. Segla. Also aim to see the magical bioluminescent water in Senja—and maybe even the northern lights in the same night, too! Also, definitely stay in the little red, traditional fisherman’s cabins at the Eliassen Rorbuer which have been famously featured so often on Instagram.
Let me know if there is anything else you would like to see in this Northern Norway travel guide. Happy Norway travels! Are you planning a trip to Northern Norway?
Bella Bucchiotti is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for food, dogs, fitness, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.