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Senja: Northern Lights, Things to Do and Travel Tips (2022)

    Senja is an island located just above the Vesterålen Islands and easily accessible from Tromsø, famous for its beautiful landscapes, towering mountains and fabulous beaches on an emerald sea. Senja is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions in Northern Norway and a popular destination for Northern Lights and whale watching.

    With its hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails, Senja is also one of the best hiking destinations in Norway and dozens of quaint fishing villages lie along the Senja National Tourist Route, one of the most beautiful routes for a road trip in Norway. Explore its most remote corners, enjoy its astonishing landscapes, taste the delicious freshly caught local fish, and experience the magic of the wonderful island of Senja.

    What you will find in this travel guide to Senja:

    Senja: Things to Know Before You Go

    Senja is Norway’s second largest island and is located just 100 km from Tromsø, in the county of Troms og Finnmark, in Northern Norway. Its location, abundantly above the Arctic Circle, makes it one of the best destinations to see the Northern Lights in Norway, but the island is also highly regarded for its astonishing landscapes.

    Senja Island is located just 1 km from the coast, and is connected to the mainland by the Gisund Bridge. For this reason Senja is an easily visited destination from Tromsø, and its variety of landscapes, the large number of hiking trails and scenic spots invite travelers to stay at least 3 or 4 days.

    The gateway to Senja Island is the town of Finnsnes, from here the Gisund Bridge leads to the village of Silsand on the island. From there, 3 roads start, Road 860 towards the southwest of the island, Road 861 towards the north and main Road 86 which leads to the most scenic areas in the northwest of Senja.

    The island is still much less touristy than the nearby Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands, but no less beautiful. Nicknamed “Norway in Miniature” due to its variety of landscapes, Senja is the ideal destination for a road trip. The coastal road that runs from Torsken to Straumsbotn and from there to the villages of Skaland, Senjahopen, Mefjordbotn, Botnhamn, Aarnes and Gibostad back to Silsand, offers breathtaking views of a wonderful natural scenery: snow-capped mountains, forests and desolate bays.

    Senja is inhabited by around 7,800 people who live mainly on the east coast. The largest town on the island is Silsand which has about 1500 inhabitants.

    Things to Do on Senja Island

    Senja National Tourist Route

    There are 18 National Tourist Routes in Norway and one of them is Route 86/862, which allows you to take a wondrous road trip to Senja. The route is considered an extension of a tour of the Vesterålen Islands: from Andenes you can take ferry 82 to Gryllefjord, otherwise you can get there (or the nearby village of Torsken) simply by driving from Silsand and passing through the village of Svanelvmoen.

    The Senja National Tourist Route is 102km long and runs from Gryllefjord to Botnhamn, and from there you can continue along Route 861 back to Silsand and from there to the mainland. The road is a bit narrow in some places, but it is perfectly feasible and in good condition. It is not uncommon to see travelers with RVs. Along the rugged northwestern coast, the road runs along the side of the mountain, overlooking the ocean.

    Along the way, you’ll encounter dozens of tiny villages and major island attractions, such as Bergsbotn, one of Senja’s most famous viewpoints, and the village of Fjordgård, which can be reached through a series of narrow tunnels. Continuing east you can visit the picturesque fishing village of Husøy, located on a tiny islet in the Øyfjord connected to the mainland by a causeway.

    Among the most beautiful villages in Senja is Mefjordvær, with its traditional houses and a fabulous mountainous landscape with a breathtaking view of the ocean. Between Steinsfjord and Ersfjord there is a footbridge which, passing over the rocks, slopes down to the sea: go and enjoy some time to contemplate the dramatic and fascinating landscape. A short distance away, near the beach of Ersfjordstranda, you can see a decidedly bizarre construction: a triangular golden polyhedron. And no, it’s not some eclectic work of contemporary art, it’s just the public toilets.

    Hamn

    One of the most beautiful villages in Senja is Hamn, located along the Scenic Route 86, on the west coast of the island. It is a tiny fishing village from 1880, scattered on some islets connected to the mainland by bridges.

    Here is the quaint Hamn i Senja hotel, which boasts modern and comfortable accommodation in rooms and apartments with ocean views. It is located in a perfect spot for outdoor activities and for viewing the Northern Lights, and also has a nice sauna and outdoor hot tubs. Near the village you can also see a small dam: this is believed to be one of the first hydroelectric plants in the world.

    Husøy

    Husøy is a small village located on an islet at the northern end of Senja, in the Øyfjord. The island is just 3km long and connected to the mainland by a 300-meter-long causeway. The village has a few dozen houses and its economy is mainly linked to fishing. From here you will have an amazing view of the fjord and surrounding mountains.

    Mefjordvær

    Located a few kilometers from Roalden Trail Head and some of Senja’s most famous hiking trails, the village of Mefjordvær is one of the most famous on the island. It is conveniently located along the Scenic Route 862, a short distance from the village of Senjahopen. The Knuten Trail Head is right in the heart of the village and leads to one of the most scenic views in Senia.

    This beautiful fishing village is a good place to stay on your road trip on the Senja National Tourist Route. Many excursions (such as whale watching and Northern Lights tours) and outdoor activities depart from here. Mefjord Brygge offers fabulous rooms and apartments with free private parking, sauna, hot tub, fully equipped kitchen and also an excellent restaurant serving regional cuisine.

    Tranøya

    A few kilometers south of Silsand is a scenic islet called Tranøya. It is located just 1 km from the coast and is home to just a small church and a farm. It is an idyllic place, surrounded by nature and tranquility. Tranøya’s family-run farm is also wonderful accommodation, modern and characterful. And on polar nights the Northern Lights are simply magical from here.

    They come to pick you up by boat (free of charge) from their parking area, reachable by car via Route 860 and then the Fv231. For guests they also cook delicious local specialties, and from here you are free to explore the island, wild and untouched. This settlement is over 2000 years old and the small church, called Tranøy Kirke, dates back to 1773. The farm buildings, originally a vicariate, date back to the mid-1700s. It could be the highlight of your holiday, it is absolutely worth the trip.

    The villages of the southern coast of Senja

    One of the most remote and wildest corners of Senja Island is the southern coast, reachable by the Road 860 which starts near Silsand. The road passes through forests, along lakes and fjords, passes by the Ånderdalen National Park and arrives in the small town of Stonglandseidet.

    From there you can continue along the Fv223 road to the tiny village of Valvåg or on the Fv221 to Skrollsvika and Rødsand, both of which are remote fishing villages. The area offers many fishing and hiking opportunities. There is also a good hotel near Stonglandseidet, the Senja Fjordhotell, which offers modern accommodation in one of the quietest corners of the island.

    Along Route 860, near the village of Vangsvik, is Norwegian Wild, which offers great lodge accommodations that are also suitable for large families. If available book the Deluxe Apartment, in a fabulous old lighthouse with a crazy view of the fjord. This is also a great starting point for hikes in Ånderdalen National Park.

    Fjordgård

    Fjordgård is a small fishing village at the foot of the Hesten and Segla mountains. Its main attraction is the hiking trails that lead to the top of the mountains, but it also boasts beautiful views of Ørnfjorden and the village of Husøy, located on the opposite bank of the Øyfjord.

    SENJA’S Best Viewpoints

    Bergsbotn Utsiktsplattform

    Another famous lookout point in Senja is the Bergsbotn Utsiktsplattform, also located along the National Tourist Route 862. From this 44-meter-long platform you can have a wonderful view of the Bergsfjord and the mountains behind it.

    Tungeneset

    One of the most famous attractions in Senja is the Tungeneset, a wooden footbridge which is located between Steinsfjord and Ersfjord, along the National Tourist Route 862. There is a small parking lot along the road: you can leave your car there and go down the short walkway leading to a scenic cliff.

    You can come here to enjoy some relaxing moments by the sea – you will have a nice view of the fjord and if you are lucky enough, in winter this is a good place to see the Northern Lights. In summer, however, it is a great place for a picnic. Here are also some of Senja’s more photogenic cliffs and beautiful views of Mount Oksen.

    Best Hiking Trails in Senja

    Hesten trail and Segla trail

    The Hesten Trail and the Segla Trail are the most popular hikes in Senja. The Hesten Trail leads up to the summit of Mount Hesten, from which you can have a sensational view over the entire surrounding region. The route is about 5 km, with an elevation difference of 550 meters. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the top and the route starts from a small parking lot near the village of Fjordgård (GPS: 69.51300, 17.62385).

    The Segla Trail is longer and more challenging than the Hesten Trail but the view from the top is truly unparalleled. The route is 5 km long, with an elevation difference of about 700 meters. The last part of the trail is quite steep and can get a little crowded in summer. It takes 2.5 to 3 hours to get to the top.

    The Segla Trail also starts from the village of Fjordgård, near the school, where there is also a large free car park (GPS: 69.50419, 17.62730). From the summit, you can get a crazy view of Mefjorden, nearby Inste Kogen Mountain and the Korkedalen Valley.

    In summer it is a fairly easy hike that does not require special skills. However, the path is rocky and often wet and slippery, so suitable clothing, a windbreaker and good waterproof hiking shoes are recommended. Both paths are well signposted and also quite popular. In winter it could be quite challenging and the lack of light due to the polar night should be considered, so I would only recommend it for experienced hikers.

    Husfjellet

    Another popular hiking trail in Senja is the Husfjellet Trail which leads from the village of Skaland to the summit of Mount Husfjell, from which you will have a 360° view of the surrounding landscape and the Norwegian Sea. You will be able to see the islets of Bergsøyan and the village of Hamn with the Teistevika headland in the distance to the southwest, while to the north-northeast you will be able to see the villages of Steinfjord and the headland behind Mefjordvær.

    The Husfjellet Trail starts behind the Berg Church in Skaland (GPS: 69.44586, 17.30033) and is 8 km long. To reach the summit it takes about 2.5 hours (one way), with an elevation difference of 650 meters. The path is well marked and passes through forests and rocky and muddy paths until it reaches the sum, dominated by wonderful mountains overlooking the sea.

    Russehula Trail and Knuten Trail

    From the village of Mefjordvær starts the short and easy hiking trail that leads to Knuten, the mountain located just behind the village. It is a short walk of about 1km, suitable for everyone, and from the top you will have a nice view of the village and the fjord. Along the way there are also places to have a nice picnic, some even equipped with fireplaces.

    A couple of other trails also start near the village, including the Skøyteneset Trail and the scenic Russehula Trail. The latter, just 1 km long, leads to the Russehula Cave, which takes its name from the first Russian explorers who arrived in Senja in the 13th century. From here you could continue to Skøyteneset Trail (6 km long) which goes to the northwestern end.

    These walks are also easy and do not require special skills, just bring suitable clothing because there is often fog, rain, wind and the rocks can be slippery. However, hikers will appreciate the entire surrounding area, one of the most remote and unexplored of Senja.

    Ånderdalen National Park

    The most important natural park of Senja is the Ånderdalen National Park, located in the central southern part of the island. The park covers an area of ​​over 125 square km dominated by mountains, forests, rivers and lakes. This is undoubtedly one of the best places in Senja for hikers – there are dozens of trails through beautiful pine and birch forests, great places to pick berries and mushrooms and spot wildlife.

    Some of the best trails start near Norwegian Wild in Vangsvik on the Tranøybotn fjord and lead to Lake Ånderdalvatnet. Along the way you will see traces of huts and remains of ancient Sami settlements, the nomadic peoples native to the region. You will be able to spot owls, eagles, or wild swans, you will be able to see deer and reindeer. The Ånderdalen National Park is home to a population of reindeer who, depending on the season, roam the different areas of the park.

    The hiking trails of Ånderdalen National Park are easily accessible in summer, while in winter you can go on skis or snowshoes. This is a good area for cross-country skiing, and there are also some pretty good peaks for skiing, Mount Kvænan and Mount Istind.

    Best Outdoor Activities in Senja

    Senja is a good place for lovers of outdoor activities. Surely its main attraction, after the road trip on its scenic roads, are the hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails, many of which are also suitable for families.

    But Senja is also an area famous for sighting the Northern Lights. Many compare the beauty of the island of Senja to that of the nearby and more famous Lofoten or Vesterålen islands. But Senja is further north, and its mountains create an ideal backdrop for the Northern Lights, which frequently appear here in the months between October and March.

    The fabulous Aurora Borealis Observatory, located a few kilometers from the villages of Silsand and Finnsnesand, is undoubtedly the ideal place for a sensational stay. It is located in an enviable position to see the Northern Lights and offers wonderful accommodations equipped with all comforts, from transparent domes to the most luxurious panoramic suites with outdoor Jacuzzi.

    Among the other activities that you can do around Senja are:

    Whale Watching

    Senja is, like nearby Vesterålen, one of the best places for whale watching. Excursions depart from some of the largest fishing villages on the island, and are frequently organized by the best hotels and agencies in the area, including Hamn I Senja Resort, Northern Light Hotel Camp Steinfjord in Steinfjorden and Basecamp Senja in Skaland. The best season for whale watching is winter.

    Husky dog ​​sledding

    As in the rest of Northern Norway one of the favorite activities for locals and tourists is dog sledding. Also in Senja you can experience the thrill of this activity, which is often organized upon request by the best hotels in the area and by some local agencies, such as Senja Husky Adventure in Vangsvik.

    Northern Lights

    If you travel between October and March you will be penalized by the lack of daylight hours to visit the wonderful landscapes of Senja, but on the other hand (if you have a bit of luck) you will be able to see the wonderful Northern Lights. The region is in fact a very popular place to see them. Along the scenic route there are many good places to spot them (the various viewpoints, for example) or the more adventurous might choose to take a short hike into nature.

    The villages in Senja are small and don’t have much light pollution, so they are good places to see the Northern Lights, which are only visible in clear skies and a bit of luck. The best hotels and resorts in Senja are undoubtedly a good place to spend a magical night waiting for the Northern Lights, perhaps in a hot tub under the starry sky.

    Best Museums to Visit in Senja

    Halibut Museum

    The Halibut Museum is located in the small village of Skrolsvik, at the southwestern tip of Senja. In the past, the village was an important fishing center. Especially in the 1930s, the port of Skrolvik was full of fishing boats. In Senja, the most commonly caught fish is the halibut, a fish that populates the sea waters of this area. The small Halibut Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of Halibut fishing and drying and the region’s cultural traditions. The museum opens only in the summer.

    Hofsøy Bygdemuseum

    Another small museum dedicated to local culture and customs is the Hofsøy Bygdemuseum, located in the village of Hofsøy on the south coast of Senja. In the museum you can find out many interesting things about the daily life of traditional fishermen from Northern Norway and the shepherds and farmers of Senja. You will also be able to visit an old farm, two traditional houses, a mill and a boathouse. The museum opens only in the summer.

    Galleri Segla

    Galleri Segla is Senja’s only art gallery and is located in Mefjordveien. It is dedicated to the local artist Knut Fjørtoft and exhibits some of his contemporary artworks.

    Best Restaurants in Senja

    Salteriet by Mefjord Brygge

    The Salteriet is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Senja, and is the restaurant of the Hotel Mefjord Brygge in Mefjordvær. It is a nice traditional-style restaurant serving excellent regional cuisine, made with the freshest local products. Try the fried halibut! In summer they also have a nice terrace overlooking the sea.

    Senja By Heart Restaurant

    Another good restaurant in Senja is Senja By Heart, located near the village of Torsken. It is a modern and elegant place, in perfect Scandinavian style, with a splendid terrace overlooking the fjord. It serves excellent local specialties, mainly based on salmon and cod. In fact, they have their own salmon farm in the neighborhood. They also have some vegetarian options and serve good homemade desserts.

    Senjastua AS

    Senjastua is an easy-going restaurant located in Silsand, near the bridge connecting Senja with Finnsnes, and serves good local specialties such as lutefish, grilled stockfish and the famous boknafisk, traditionally dried stockfish (in the sun and sea breeze) served with lard, carrots and potatoes.

    How to Get to Senja

    Getting to Senja by car

    The best way to visit Senja is by car, undoubtedly. The island is easily connected to the mainland by a bridge and there are scenic roads, such as the Senja National Tourist Route, which allow you to visit the most beautiful places on the island.

    You can rent a car in Finnsnes or Tromsø, but be sure to book well in advance as they are usually in high demand. You can check prices and availability on Rentalcars or Discovercars. Many travelers visit Senja with their RVs, as the roads are in good condition and there are several places to stop.

    Getting to Senja by ferry

    Travelers on a road trip in Northern Norway could visit Senja after (or before) the Vesterålen Islands, or from Tromsø. There are some car ferries from Andenes (Vesterålen Islands) to Gryllefjord in Senjia and from Tromsø to Botnhamn in Senjia. You can check ticket prices and timetables here.

    You can also get to Senja by Hurtigruten’s famous coastal ships, which calls at Finnsnes once a day.

    Getting to Senja by plane

    There are no airports on Senja and the closest is Bardufoss Airport, about 30 km from Finnsnes, connected only to Oslo by three daily flights operated by SAS. Alternatively you could fly to Tromsø or Narvik (Harstad/Narvik Airport) and from there take a bus or ferry to Finnsnes or Lysnes.

    Getting to Senja by Bus

    There are daily buses to Finnsnes from Tromsø (4 hours) and Narvik (3 hours). From here you should hire a car to explore Senja. Public transport options are almost non-existent.