Vesterålen, a magnificent destination
We understand that such a confusion of Lofoten and Vesterålen arouses strong passions among the locals. In the last edition of Motor homes and Camping magazine we discussed the journey from Oh, right out at the Lofoten in Svolvaer, then continue on Lofast compound north. From there our tour continue the old way: By ferry from Fiskebøl Melbu - then experience much of the great Vesterålen has to offer.
When the film producer makes recordings in Henningsvær, one of Lofoten's real gems, and later publishes this to be in Vesterålen, it becomes a spectacle. But I can also understand the "work accident". Lofoten as a region has been incredibly good at marketing. The sights and attractions are probably much closer in Lofoten. But it was not difficult to fill a week with unforgettable meetings with a lot of nice people, and many unique experiences in Vesterålen.
Even before the ferry docks at Melbu, and Hadseløya spreads out in front of us, we see that the nature is a little milder. The houses have better space, the plots of land are larger, the mountains are further out on the horizon and the many port facilities are larger. In advance, we had spent time both planning which sights we wanted to take a closer look at, and places we wanted to get to know a little better. A good road map is a good help, but most of all it is about using the travel information you find online. Again, we must emphasize the use of keywords such as "visit", "explore" or "destination" in connection with names such as Vesterålen. Then you will meet websites under the auspices of the tourism industry, municipalities and private individuals, which together provide a good picture of many attractive activities and sights in the region.
Vesterålen consists of several different islands, and the seven municipalities that make up this geographical area offer their visitors varied opportunities to experience everything from cultural history to exciting natural experiences and a space format in world format. Vesterålen is, almost to an even greater extent than Lofoten, well adapted for motorhomes, caravans and accommodation in cabins or affordable guest houses. Our first destination after landing from the ferry in Melbu, is Stokmarknes. Here we find as the biggest attraction the Hurtigruten Museum, which gives us an excellent insight into the history of the Hurtigruten and the important role it has played for the entire region. The museum consists of both the old MS Finnmarken from 1954, which was taken out of operation in 2001 and towed ashore, and a modern museum building with direct arrival into the old vessel. Here you can walk around lounges and restaurants and experience the difference between luxury class and a journey in all simplicity, or even stand on the bridge or sit in the captain's cabin. The museum, which has both a cinema hall where films are shown and a large model collection of many Hurtigruten ships, gives the man behind the idea of a grid from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the north, Alexander With, the place he deserves in Norway's transport history.
"The Blue City"
After a few miles drive we come to Sortland, which is Vesterålen's largest city and administration center for the region. It is called "the blue city" because someone once got the idea to paint an apartment building blue, and others have later followed up in style. We had decided to visit the cultural event "Reginedagan" in Bø, and later return to Sortland, so we quickly set course for Bø municipality. We had been tipped off about a great leisure center on Kråkberget, just northeast of Bø municipality, and we decided to take a closer look at this facility with its great location, good motorhome parking space, camping cabins, a good restaurant and good fishing opportunities. An alternative was also Gudvåg, where Vesterålen Turlag has an excellent cabin facility with canoes, boats and fishing equipment for loan. Gudvåghytta has been named Norway's best DNThytte, so we were in doubt, but it started to get dark and we went for the fastest and easiest solution.
The gathering place at Kråkberget friluftssenter was not the restaurant, but sløyebua! Here many were active and the mood was high. A glance at the motorhome line-up quickly revealed that there were many foreign tourists here, and when we started talking to them we quickly understood why. The fishing opportunities are great, boats can be rented at reasonable prices, a great gutting hut is available, and there are also opportunities to freeze the finished fillets. We even ate in the nice restaurant, and if you are a fish lover like us, it is difficult to be disappointed with what you get on the plate. The words "fresh" and "short-haul" have a slightly more meaningful content when you sit on the pier and eat. We experience the northern Norwegian hospitality almost more strongly in Vesterålen than in Lofoten. People have a little better time, the tourists are fewer, and the hearts are a little bigger ...
The last weekend in July every single year, the cultural festival Regine Day kicks off. The event is named after and inspired by the life and poetry of the northern Norwegian fairytale queen Regine Nordmann. In her name, concerts, poetry readings, art exhibitions and other activities are now held throughout the week. It all ended with a big concert in Malnes church, where the singer Ola Bremnes had brought his best songs and Bø Gospel Choir to a rarely good and warm concert in a packed church. Bø Coastal Museum in Vinje is also a "must" when you are first in Vesterålen. Based on the old sheriff's farm, a large collection of old local objects has been built up, documents showing coastal history, and in addition an interesting boat collection in a large building down by the beach. We must also mention beautiful sea arches at Ringstad, and not least a visit to Nykvåg, a small community all the way to the sea in the west. Beautiful, wild and unforgettable. Not least because the weather was incredibly beautiful and colored our experiences and photographs with extra strength.
strangely fishing village
Our destination the next day was a few miles north of Myhre the marvelous fishing village Nyksund. This small fishing village was the second largest fishing village in Vesterålen at the beginning of the 1900th century, was completely evacuated in the seventies. It was all like an abandoned ghost town when some German adventure-seeking students were fascinated by the magnificent location right out in the ocean in the eighties. Some of these settled down and tried to establish an accommodation option for tourists who moved outside the established. One brought the other with it, and today Nyksund is again populated all year round, has more accommodation and several interesting places to eat. An old store where you can actually buy both unused older items, as well as used items and antiques is also one of the attractions. If you come with a motorhome or car with a caravan, you will have to park outside Nyksund itself. The narrow pier is only suitable for passenger cars. A camper we spoke to thought the parking lot was uncomfortable at the foot of a high and steep mountain.
We had decided quite early on that we would spend the night inside Nyksund just to experience the special atmosphere that we had read about beforehand. Our choice fell on Holmvik pier, run by a German couple who came here several decades ago. This "hotel" is distinctive, unlike anything else we have stayed at before, and can perhaps best be described as a fishing village version of "Hotel in Special Class". Everything was nice, clean and tidy, the food was good, but the overall concept was definitely a bit different ... Nyksund is also known for "Dronningruta" - a hiking trail that goes over the mountain to Langøya's northernmost point, Stø. It got its name after Queen Sonja went on the trip and herself experienced the majestic view from high mountain peaks and the proximity to the sea, where the path goes back to shore again.
Sortland's role as the region's center is not difficult to understand when we look at the map. From here, the roads lead us to Andenes, Harstad, Narvik and Lødingen. An unexpected experience was Sortland Hotell. Not only is it beautifully adorned with lots of great art, it has lots of objects associated with Knut Hamsun, and it has a beautiful library-like "chambre separé" inspired by the many years the author Lars Saabye Christensen lived on the site. Sivert Høyem from the pop group Madrugada also comes from Sortland. We were so lucky with the "timing" on our trip, that we went to a concert where he also participated. We have already mentioned that Queen Sonja has visited Vesterålen several times, and one of those she has established a relationship with is the artist Tove Hov Jacobsen in Sigerfjord, a few kilometers outside Sortland. High up in a west-facing li we find Lihallen Kulturgård, which is the artist's home and studio. The farm was built in 1914 to be a Tuberculosis home and had patients until 1956, when the operation was discontinued. Tove opens her home for art lovers every summer, and a walk among the many beautiful pictures and lithographs - primarily inspired by northern Norwegian summer - is a "must" once you are on those edges.
Wild and beautiful
When we drive over the bridge to Andøya, there are two roads that lead up to Andenes, at the northern tip - and thus Vesterålen's northernmost point. I would definitely recommend driving on the west side of the island - at least one way. It is narrower, wilder and more beautiful, but even a large Concorde motorhome that we met several times had no problems. The reward for moving at a lower speed is plenty of time to look at nature, stop at places like gallery Nøss (in Nøss), stop at one of the many viewpoints (this is an official Norwegian Tourist Route), and not least take a detour into the built-up area of Bleik. The long white sandy beaches are also great for stretching your legs after sitting behind the wheel for a few hours.
The terminus for our fourteen days long trip Andenes, and when we stand by the great lighthouse and considers the Arctic Ocean before us, it is not difficult to understand that the main tourist attractions here, just as they are. Whale watching and bird watching with different boats run several times daily during the summer season, and it is virtually guarantee to see whales up close. This costs a bit, but is of course a truly exotic experience for foreign tourists. Andenes Space Center is the second major point of interest or on site. Annual made it launches of missiles, and a large research station where naturally "Northern Lights" is an important topic, is also an important part of the center. A visitor center, where visitors both get a good idea of aeronautics and space, put an end to our journey in Lofoten and Vesterålen for this time.
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