Along the E6 northbound
At Fauske you follow the E6 northbound (Route 3) . From Ulvsvåg on Hamarøy the journey takes you through sheltered coves and high, craggy peaks. A side road at Bognes leads to Leiknesfeltet, one of the country’s largest and best preserved fields of ancient rock carvings. They are 8,000–9,000 years old and comprise around 40 life-sized figures. The ferry goes from Bognes to Skarberget. On the way you will see amazing views of the wild Tysfjord and Efjord mountains. Alternatively, you could turn off towards Drag, which has a ferry connection to Kjøpsvik. Then take the Rv 827 to the E6 and on to Narvik.
Stetind – Norway’s national mountain
Stetind is a natural obelisk that towers 1,381 m up from the fjord. Its surface area is as big as a football field! In 2002 Stetind was named Norway’s national mountain. At the head of Tysfjord Norway is at its very narrowest. It is just 6. 3 km from Hellemobotn to the Swedish border. From October to January Tysfjord is visited by pods of killer whales (Orcas), who come in to gorge themselves on the shoals of herring. If you take an Orca safari you can see these playful animals at close quarters.
The road then goes over the elegant Efjord bridges (Efjordbruene) to Ballangen and on to Narvik. The mountains in Ofoten are rich in minerals and quarrying has been an important source of income for this region. Skjomen has ancient rock carvings, and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking both in the mountains and over the glaciers. This magnificent mountain country is criss-crossed with marked trails. And Skjomen also has an 18-hole golf course!
Narvik is Europe’s largest shipping terminal for iron ore. This was one of the reasons why it was so important for Germany to gain control of the town when they occupied Norway in 1940. The cable car takes you 650 m up the mountainside, where there are breathtaking views to be had. In winter this is the world’s most northerly skiing world cup arena. But for most of us one of the less challenging pists will probably do just as well.
Along the Ofotfjorden
At Bjerkvik the E6 continues north. Along the Ofotfjorden you can experience Sami culture and history in the districts around Evenes. The journey continues over the bridge at Tjeldsund to Hinnøya, Norway’s largest island, with high mountains and deep fjords that almost cut it in two at several places. There is a bridge over to Sortland at Strand, but first we continue on to Andøya. Along the Rv 82 you pass Norway’s most northwesterly pine forest, some of whose trees are 700 years old.
The road runs all the way around Andøya. The island is full of historic monuments, medieval farm burial mounds and Northern Norway’s best preserved iron age farming settlements.
On the seaward side the road passes through open coastal countryside, with views over the Norwegian Sea. Small communities lie clustered together as if for protection from the raging seas and winds, which have been known to blow the asphalt off the roads!
Set a course for the bird island called Bleik, and the nature reserve for common seals outside of Nordmela, not to mention a whale safari from Andenes. Here you can put to sea to watch for sperm whales which gorge on squid in the seas beyond.
The next stop is Sortland, which is the regional centre for Vesterålen. It is a modern town and headquarters for the Norwegian Coast Guard. The mountain called Reka is a rock-climbing challenge.
North to Langøya
The village of Nyksund, Rv 821, is an exciting experience at the very edge of the ocean. After experiencing a period of economic stagnation, depopulation and decay, this historic fishing village is making an ever growing name for itself as a centre for food and the arts. Stø is a unique fishing village at the northern tip of Langøya. In the summer daily whale, seal and bird safaris depart from Stø. This is a great place to see the midnight sun – against the limitless northern seas.
Along the Rv 820 nature again offers up the unexpected. Outside Nykvåg are the remarkable round, steep mountains called “Nykan”, that are home to many different bird species. The outer reaches of Vesterålen form the backdrop for the books by Northern Norwegian author Regine Nordmann. It was here she found inspiration for, among others “Eventyret om Ringelihorn” (The Tale of Ringelihorn) . On the way to Stokmarknes we choose to take the road along Eidsfjorden.
The home of the Hurtigruten
Vesterålen’s largest village, Stokmarknes, was known from the earliest times as a marketplace. Stokmarknes is also the birthplace of the Hurtigruten (Norwegian Coastal Voyage) . The Hurtigruten Museum presents displays and slide shows that give an exciting insight into what it is like to travel with the Hurtigruten and the route’s importance for businesses and communities along the coast. The former Hurtigruten ship Finnmarken from 1956 is permanently docked at the harbour.
In the very south of Vesterålen
The village of Melbu is known for its vibrant cultural life, with the “SommerMelbu” festival being staged each summer. Today the village economy depends heavily on the modern fishing industry, which also has its own museum. Tour boats to Trollfjorden depart from Hennes, Melbu and Stokmarknes. Ask at the tourist information office for timetables. A ferry from Melbu crosses the Hadselfjorden to Fiskebøl and on to Lofoten .
Once again our journey takes us north to Sortland. Along the way you can view the elegant Møysalen. At a height of 1,261 m, it is the highest mountain peak in Lofoten and Vesterålen. In summer there are guided tours to the top. From Sigerfjord it is approx. 35 km to Hennes, where these tours begin. From Sigerfjord further out along the Rv 85 you arrive at Gullesfjordbotn. Here you can turn off and take the new E10 road over Hinnøya and Raftsundet to Austvågøya in Lofoten, from where you can continue the tour in Lofoten.
However, our tour continues from Sigerfjord along the E10/Rv 85 via Gullesfjorden to Lødingen, where there is a ferry to Bognes.