Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

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Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 7:09 pm

Hi everyone,
after travelling to Yellowstone and Colorado back in 2018, I hadn't done any big trip outside France. One in the French and Italian Alps in 2019, then another one in the French Alps in 2020 due to covid restrictions. This year, we had the opportunity to travel properly again. I could see some friends from Sweden, and so I decided to add a solo trip to the Lofoten Islands and Lappland prior to that. The itinerary would start in Luleå, via Stockholm. Then I would rent a car, see a bit of Sweden, spend about 2 weeks in the Lofoten islands, and back to Luleå. This was in September.

The first part of the journey wasn't easy : Scandinavian Airlines was a nightmare. My initial flightplan was Paris-Goteborg-Luleå. They first changed Goteborg for Stockholm, and then the day before canceled it at 10 PM... They added a layover to Copenhagen instead. Then my third flight to Luleå from Stockholm was canceled : upon boarding the plane, they couldn't shut the doors. This meant I landed in Luleå at 11 PM, luckily the hotel I was staying at was open late. But the rest of the trip would be pretty smooth.

The first real travelling part would bring me to Jokkmokk, a small town with everything you need, nearby some national parks. Something to be said for Sweden and Norway compared to my last trip in 2015 : there's now 4G absolutely everywhere, even on the most remote of roads (this is Lappland). The only way you can escape it is by hiking deep. So navigation is super easy. September in Lappland means it's already Autumn : yellowing leaves (which would be fully orange by the end of the trip), cool when not freezing temperatures in the morning. It also means very few tourists. Since there are lakes everywhere, I first went for a bit of photography.

My first real hike would be in Muddus National Park towards big waterfalls. Hiking in Swedish forests is very relaxing, but you seldom get good views, not until the waterfalls themselves. The real views would be for the next day, near Kvikkjokk and the mountains of Sarek National Park, some of the biggest mountains in Sweden (1900-2100 m). Since I had to cope with the rain (this region is very wet), I only went for a short half day hike. But it was still gorgeous. 360° views, and real arctic landscape. The silence was deafening, there aren't many animals up there.

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Last edited by Hallu on Tue 21 Dec, 2021 5:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 7:20 pm

After 3 days in Sweden, it was time to enter Norway. There was a check for my vaccine pass at a roadblock a few kms after the border, but that was expected. As usual, Norway is stunning. Every road is so scenic you want to stop all the time. I first stopped near a town called Evenskjer. It wasn't the Lofoten islands yet, but the landscape was similar: gigantic cliffs, lakes everywhere, and moutains that rise above the sea level at around 1200 m. At first I was worried about all the rain, but the weather kept changing all the time. I had never seen so many rainbows in my life. I explored a lake nearby, but it was simply too wet and fogged in. I didn't bring high shoes, so got soaked pretty quickly. But the next day, I found an astonishing hike, towards the top of some awe inspiring cliffs, North of Kasfjord. I would learn that there are tons of little hikes like these : you simply climb up 100 to 300 m, and get stunning views towards other islands, the Norwegian sea, and fishing villages. The ominous bad weather made it all the more impressive.
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Rainbow near Tjeldsund Bridge
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Hike to Keipen mountain, view from the top of the cliffs
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Last edited by Hallu on Tue 21 Dec, 2021 9:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 7:43 pm

It was now time to drive to the Lofoten islands themselves, to a stunning AirBnB right by a fjord that I had rented. Prices for AirBnB weren't too high, not as high as I remembered them. You could rent a house with a stunning view for about 80 € per night. The eye-watering cost would be fuel though : 2 € per liter, that stings. Especially when Hertz gives you a massive Volvo SUV instead of a small economical car. But it was truly worth it : the roads are some of the most scenic I've ever seen. Green mountains with cascading waterfalls that seem prehistoric. Fishing villages hugging a wind battered coast as if they'd been here for millenia. Towering mountains 4 times smaller that in the Alps, but just as impressive because all of their height is right there, as the roads are at sea level. But I was really stunned at all the tunnels and bridges that connect these islands. It is so easy to travel there, in this seemingly hostile landscape... I was lucky to see it in September though, one of the AirBnB owners told me July/August is really clogged up and unpleasant. But here, appart from some viewpoint carparks in the most touristy areas like Reine being really busy, I was free to go where I wanted, not thinking about getting up early to have a spot at a carpark. Remember to take cash at the start of the most famous hikes : the carparks are almost always 5 or 10 €, and you need cash. You can only pay online with a Norwegian bank account, but I'm guessing this will change in the next few years.

All the fishing villages are stunning : Reine, Hamnøy, Å... There are small hikes towards viewpoints everywhere, but you can just decide to drive and enjoy the views. There are few enough roads that you can just drive all the B roads and enjoy yourselves. There are many hidden gems on those roads.And again, the light was changing all the time. I had blue skies, battering storms, rainbows, fog, drizzle, everything but snow. And due to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, this is a much more pleasant climate than Sweden.
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View of Møysalen national park from the road
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Village of Hamnøy
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Mølnarodden
Last edited by Hallu on Tue 21 Dec, 2021 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 7:54 pm

Many of you may already know the famous view of this fishing village of the Lofoten, Hamnøy. However, if you look for it while you're there like I did, most likely you won't find it. It is actually a view from a one way concrete bridge. This famous picture leads you to believe the fishing huts face the battering waves of the ocean : they don't. They face a tranquil inlet, and that concrete bridge. The road behind the huts isn't really pretty, and you also need the perfect angle so that you don't get some ugly white huts or a car park in the frame. This is the type of location I'm not very fond of. If you look at the picture, taken at sunrise, it's beautiful though. But the way it makes you feel isn't the way you will feel when you're there. There are many more stunning places in the Lofoten than this. And you will see many photographers simply waiting on that bridge for the perfect light. I can't imagine the competition in summer on that spot.

That day though I decided to take my first real hike of the trip. About 5 hours, not that much elevation gain (I think about 600-700 m), but towards the center of an island, real deep in those mountains. Hiking books warn about the mud : and rightly so. It is extremely muddy. Bogs everywhere, and signage is sometimes quite poor. Those used to Tasmania will think it's a piece of cake, but with my low cut hiking shoes, it wasn't. There are also quite a few sections with chains to help you climb slick rocks, and in the wet those sections feel a bit uneasy. But the views towards the sea are gorgeous, the lakes are gorgeous, the waterfalls are gorgeous...

This being islands, there are great white sand beaches too. Some people even surf here. And in the evening when you go back to your AirBnB, you're in awe of that gorgeous golden hour, that seems to last for so long in the North.
Attachments
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Famous fishing huts in Hamnøy
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Hike up Munkebu hut, near Sørvågen
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Waterfall at the start of the previous hike
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Uttakleiv Beach
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Nappskaret Viewpoint
Last edited by Hallu on Tue 21 Dec, 2021 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 8:11 pm

A must-stop in the Lofoten is the perfectly preserved fishing village of Nusfjord. You need to pay a steep 10 € to visit it in July/August, but it was free in September, with no crowds. You can take a trip in a fishing boat, or simply explore the village and the surrounding walks. And again, I recommend taking all the side roads and exploring those tiny villages, you may find a secret beach, a nice lighthouse... I was also stunned by the wooden churches or the lawn cemeteries you see here and there. It's a perfect landscape for contemplation, although with that weather, it usually must be done from a café or from the inside of your car. We shall also talk about food : although you will find nice restaurants, cooking at home is more budget friendly. But that may not be as easy as you'd think, there are very few fruits and veggies here. Finding a good tomato is near impossible, and you pay a premium for bad ones. So expect a lot of frozen food, rice and pasta.
Attachments
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Nusfjord
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Nusfjord
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Flakstad Cemetery
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Flakstad Kirke
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Rambergstranda
Last edited by Hallu on Tue 21 Dec, 2021 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby north-north-west » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 8:12 pm

Really good to have you back, Hallu. Some beautiful shots there.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 8:18 pm

I then switched to another AirBnB on the island, on the "big" city of Svolvær. Although the islands look small on the map, you cannot simply take one central accommodation and explore the lot. You need at least 2 different locations, or even 3 if you want to explore the Vesterålen islands as well, like I did. The part of the Lofoten near Svolvær seems a bit less spectacular. The islands are bigger, so it feels a bit less wild. You need to travel further to hikes, like an hour, but you still find great viewpoints, after short climbs. I never get tired of those amazing views, it's always steep but always worth it.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 8:27 pm

My last hike in the true Lofoten would be another easy but stunning hike. Blue skies this time, and a panoramic view that really stunned me. It's probably then that I realized it is one of the most beautiful trips I had ever done. Even in New Zealand I didn't get views like this, at least not such a massive reward for very little walking. I've visited Southern Norway before, with the fjords and the lakes, but this is even better. And it was far from being over...
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Avatar » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 8:33 pm

Great report. Would appreciate some captions. Presumably skiable down to sea level in winter.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 9:10 pm

The Vesterålen islands are bigger and slightly more developped than the Lofoten (bigger towns). But there are places that are just as wild, and I rented a house with another stunning view, with a nice wood stove. There are plenty of these tiny houses to rent, with a nice homely feel. The mountains on this archipelago felt bigger, more Alpine. So the views went even further than on the Lofoten, only the cute fishing villages were missing. By that time of the trip, Autumn was at its peak too, the forest were mostly orange, it was truly magical, especially on that nice hike towards a round hut.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 9:20 pm

While the Lofoten were mostly car touring paradise, the Vesterålen were hiking paradise. Plenty of small summits to ascend, with huge rewards. Much less mud than in the Lofoten too, which was a big plus. I did a hike on a rocky outcrop where you're surrounded by cliffs, which was both amazing and scary, and then an easy summit that gets you to a true alpine setting. It would have been a shame to skip these islands and only focus on the Lofoten : they are just as spectacular, and much much less crowded. I used the Rother hiking book for the Lofoten, which has hikes for the Vesterålen as well, this book is a must have is you intend on hiking there. I skipped the scariest and most difficult hikes though, the weather was just too unpredictable.
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 11:28 pm

I then reluctantly drove back to Sweden for the last 2 days of my trip. I stayed in Kiruna, a mining town for one of the biggest mines in the world. Luckily the town isn't too big, and the area to visit around here, Abisko National Park, still feels wild. First of all, you can't miss Torneträsk lake. The road follows the coast of this massive deep blue lake, with a gorgeous mountainous background, with some snow already in September. You can explore on foot the shores of the lake, especially on the mouth of the river Abiskojåkka. This is also where I saw my first wild reindeer, just jumping and eating on the side of the road... It's a very sunny part of Sweden, the driest, due to the rainshadow provided by the mountain range between Norway and Sweden. Hiking there was just open views, and orange trees all around, with a superb backdrop. You can also buy some moose and reindeer meat nearby, and there's a reconstitution of a traditionnal Saami village(the indiginous people of Lappland).

Overall it was an amazing and unforgettable trip. Sweden was beautiful, especially around Abisko, but Norway is just too good. If I had to do it again, I would land directly in the Lofoten, even though the flights are more expensive. I would also bring high shoes and proper gaiters, so I could do more serious hiking. It's a must do for any traveller, but it has to be done in shoulder season. Everyone told me Summer was too crowded. I didn't see any auroras, I had only one night of clear skies, and they didn't appear that night. You need clear skies and solar activity, which usually happens in winter.
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Hallu
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Re: Lofoten Islands and Swedish Lappland

Postby Hallu » Mon 20 Dec, 2021 11:42 pm

Avatar wrote:Great report. Would appreciate some captions. Presumably skiable down to sea level in winter.


thx. I'll try to make some captions, it's hard to remember all the locations though, especially with the Norwegian names, and so many little villages and islands.
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