Vesterålen is one of the most beautiful archipelagos in Norway, located just above the Lofoten Islands and the Arctic Circle. Compared to its more famous neighbors, Vesterålen boasts less mountainous landscapes, characterized by peat bogs, lakes and tiny fishing villages.
Vesterålen is a great destination for hikers and one of the most famous places in the world for whale watching. Boat trips depart from Vesterålen all year round to spot the wonderful gigantic cetaceans.
What you will find in this travel guide to the Vesterålen Islands:
- Vesterålen: Interesting Facts and Things to Know Before You Go
- Things to Do and See on Langøya
- Things to Do and See on Andøya
- Things to Do and See on Hadseløya
- Things to Do and See on Hinnøya
- Things to Do and See on Austvågøy
- How to Get to the Vesterålen Islands
Vesterålen: Interesting Facts and Things to Know Before You Go
Vesterålen is an archipelago located in northwestern Norway, about 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, just north of the famous Lofoten Islands and just south of Senja Island. Despite its proximity to the Lofoten Islands, Vesterålen has a very different landscape, less mountainous and rocky and with more hills and grassy valleys and marshes.
The Vesterålen Archipelago consists of hundreds of islets, three major islands: Langøya, Andøya and Hadseløya and part of the islands of Hinnøya and Austvågøy. Vesterålen boasts beautiful landscapes and quaint fishing villages far less traveled than those of nearby Lofoten and Senja. The main islands are well connected by road bridges and the villages lie mainly along the coast, making Vesterålen an ideal destination for a road trip.
Vesterålen is one of the most popular whale watching destinations in the world. Whales can be spotted here most of the year and there are great boat tours from Andenes. Another popular activity is hiking: Vesterålen boasts plenty of opportunities for nature walks, while the old traditions of fishing and reindeer herding are still well preserved in the more remote villages.
Things to Do and See on Langøya
Langøya is one of the largest islands in Vesterålen and is one of the most beautiful, with its mountainous landscapes interspersed with grassy valleys, lakes and fabulous fishing villages. Here you will find some of the best hiking trails in Vesterålen and some of the most famous villages, such as Sortland, Nyksund and Myre.
The main town on the island of Langøya is Sortland, located right by the road bridge between the islands of Langøya and Hinnøya. Due to its convenient location it is one of the liveliest towns in Vesterålen, and there are several shops, supermarkets and good hotels here, such as the Scandic Sortland, which offers modern rooms with nice views, and the Sortland Hotel. Do not miss the chance to stay in the two-bedroom house of the Sortland Hotel, a fabulous old-fashioned traditional cottage.
There are also some shopping centers in Sortland, such as the Sortland Storsenter and the Skibsgården Center, where there are also some good supermarkets and some eateries (including a Burger King). Sortland’s city center is quite curious: many buildings have a blue painted facade, this is due to a restyling carried out in 1998 when the city administration and local artist Bjørn Elvenes decided to paint the town’s buildings blue.
The Sortland Museum is a small but interesting museum located in the Kulturfabrikken culture house. The museum has two main sections, one dedicated to the wonders of Vesterålen’s marine life and which through simple and engaging interactive exhibits tells the importance of preserving this endangered ecosystem.
The second main section of the Sortland Museum is dedicated to local history and that of the Vesterålen trade unions, who in the 1900s fought to bring better working conditions to these once poor and remote lands.
Akvakultur i Vesterålen
Around Sortland, in the village of Blokken (about 30 minutes drive) you can visit the interesting Akvakultur i Vesterålen, a fish farm that offers 2-hour guided tours, a great opportunity to learn more about aquaculture and fishing in Norway.
Fish farming is one of Norway’s main businesses and salmon are mainly farmed. Here you will have the opportunity to visit one of the offshore farms on a boat trip and learn many interesting things in the onshore factories, where you can also taste the excellent local salmon. Prices for the guided tour start at NOK 150, and advance reservations are required. More info and reservations on the Akvakultur i Vesterålen website.
One of the most scenic villages of the Vesterålen islands is Nyksund, a tiny fishing village located on the northern coast of Langøya island, a few kilometers south of Stø and reachable by the road that comes from the town of Myre, located about 10 km away.
Until a few decades ago Nyksund was a desolate and declining village. Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century it was a thriving fishing village, it had an important port, with factories and workshops, a church, a grocery store, a school and a post office.
In 1934 the port was devastated by a fire and the government decided not to rebuild it: over the years the fishing vessels were getting bigger and bigger, and the port would have been too small anyway. Thus Langøya’s main fishing port soon became neighboring Myre, which has a large harbor. Most of the people left Nyksund. But the troubles were not over: in 1975 the village was badly damaged by a storm, so all the inhabitants left and Nyksund became a ghost village.
In 1984 some artists from all over the world came here and began to rebuild the town. So gradually Nyksund came back to life, and today he has a church, some shops and about 20 residents. The town is now one of the most popular destinations on the Vesterålen Islands, especially in summer. There are now several guesthouses and hotels here, such as the Holmvik Brygge Nyksund and Nyksund Ekspedisjonen. Both also have a good restaurant and organize tours around the area (whale watching, northern lights, fishing etc.).
Holmvik Brygge Nyksund
Holmvik Brygge is not only one of the best hotels in Nyksund, it is also one of the best places to learn more about local history and culture. This hotel, housed in a traditional house, and its Holmvik Stua restaurant, are still run today by one of those newcomers who contributed to Nyksund’s revival decades ago.
Here is a small museum dedicated to local culture, the everyday life of the fishermen and the history of the village, with photos and objects showing what Nyksund was like in the early 1900s. The Holmvik Brygge also organizes boat trips, its restaurant serves delicious local seafood and its rooms are charming and comfortable, in a traditional Nordic style.
Located at the northwestern end of Vesterålen, just north of Nyksund, Stø is a tiny and picturesque fishing village, and one of the most remote of the archipelago. Although the village itself has no major attractions, Stø boasts a peaceful atmosphere and the chance to spot a large number of seabirds. Several whale watching tours also depart from the small harbor of Stø, and the Dronningruta, one of the most interesting hikes in Vesterålen, starts right here.
Dronningruta Hike (Queen’s Route)
One of the most famous hikes in Vesterålen is the Dronningruta (Queen’s Route). It is a 15 km long circular route, with an altitude difference of 900 meters, and it takes about 6 hours to complete it. In some places the trail is a bit steep and could be muddy, which is why it is only recommended for fit hikers.
The view from the top of the mountains is truly beautiful: this ancient trail runs from Stø to Nyksund and runs for 5km along the coast and 10km in the mountains. The route is well marked with a red T on the rocks. The trail starts from the village of Stø, but you can also start from Nyksund. Roughly speaking, the trail runs from Stø to Nyksund RV campsite.
From Stø the trail starts near the RV campsite, the trailhead is a wooden gate with some signs and a small parking lot (GPS: 69.01820, 15.11623). The trail climbs steeply to the Kvalaksla peak, from here it is flatter and easier. Along the way you will have beautiful views of the ocean and the mountainous landscape of Vesterålen. You will also be able to see some lakes and streams, as you pass some of Langøya’s major peaks, such as Mount Kjolen (456 meters high) and Mount Sorkulen (517 meters high), which can be reached by a short detour.
Going towards Nyksund you will pass through the Fingghameia plateau, where it is sometimes possible to meet some nice sheep, and from there you will arrive at the junction for Nyksund. From here to the village it is about 1 km. After visiting Nyksund you can walk back along the path that runs along the coast through scenic beaches and back to Stø.
Another popular hike on Langøya Island is Hallartinden, located at the southern end of the island. It is an easy hike about 4.5 km long which takes about 3 hours round trip.
The trail starts near the bridge to Hadseløya Island, the scenic Skagen Krysset, where there is a small parking lot (GPS: 68.58749, 14.97736). The route is not well signposted but it is quite simple, just follow the path that climbs to Mount Hallartind (530 meters high) through beautiful woods and offering a beautiful view of the ocean, the islands of Børøya and Hadseløya and the peaks of the Lofoten Islands in the background.
The small village of Bø is located at the southwestern end of Langøya Island and is a quiet place far enough from the beaten track. The main attraction of the village is the Bø Museum, a small museum dedicated to local history and culture, which occasionally also hosts temporary exhibitions. The museum offers an interesting insight into old local customs. Here, too, the main theme is fishing.
In the museum, in what was once the sheriff’s office, there is now a small local craft shop. While just outside the museum, heading towards the coast, you will be able to see the huge and grotesque statue called “The Man from the Sea”, a sculpture by Killi Olsen, one of the best known Norwegian contemporary sculptors. The artwork depicts a standing man holding an obelisk-shaped crystal in his hands as a gift to the sea.
Things to Do and See on Andøya
Andøya is the northernmost of the Vesterålen Islands and is also one of the most visited for its beautiful natural landscapes and coastal towns, such as picturesque Andenes, which is also a popular base for whale watching boat trips. Andøya has a landscape that is partly flat and partly dominated by steep mountains up to 700 meters high. The plains of Andøya feature numerous bog areas, famous for the production of quality peat. But Andøya is also famous for its cloudberries and nature reserves which are a good place for nature walks and bird watching.
Route 82 allows for easy travel from Hinnøya to Andøya: there is a road bridge near Risøyhamn at the southern end of Andøya. From here, Route 82 continues along the east coast of the island to Andenes, while Route Fv974 runs along the west coast passing through the villages of Stave (where there is the excellent Stave Camping & Hot Pools) and Bleik (and the fabulous Bleik Sea Cabins) and then arrive in Andenes.
Andenes is one of the most famous towns of the Vesterålen Islands and is located on the northern tip of Andøya Island. It is easily reached by the roads that run along the coasts of the island and reach the port of Andenes, from where there are frequent ferries to and from Gryllefjord, on the island of Senja. Andenes was once an important fishing village, but over time it has become a modern town whose economy is now linked to tourism, fishing and the airport located near the town, which is also home to a military air base.
The most popular activity in Andenes is whale watching: the town is one of the most famous places in the world for Arctic whale watching and boat trips with qualified guides depart from here all year round. You can book your whale watching tour online or at the best hotels in Andenes, such as Thon Hotel Andrikken, Hotel Marena, Grønnbuene Rorbu Hotel and Kristina Apartment & Alma House.
At the northwestern end of the town you can see the picturesque Andenes Lighthouse, dating back to 1859. This 40m tall lighthouse is still active today, and its light is visible up to 33km away. The iconic red cast iron lighthouse was automated in the 1970s and is active throughout the winter. In the summer it is turned off due to the midnight sun.
It is possible to visit it by climbing the approximately 150 steps that lead up to the lantern. From the top you will have a beautiful view of the town and the surrounding landscape. Tours depart from the nearby Andøy Museum and the ticket is a bit overpriced, starting at NOK 100 (NOK 130 for the ticket which also includes the nearby museum).
A few steps from the Andenes Lighthouse you can visit the Andøy Museum, dedicated to the Arctic and local culture. This small museum boasts an interesting display of local hunting and fishing culture, as well as telling the story of local explorer Hilmar Nøis, famous for his more than 40 hunting expeditions in Svalbard. Once this activity was quite common and profitable, today fortunately Svalbard’s wildlife is protected and hunting is severely limited. The exhibit offers an insight into Arctic wildlife, such as bears, seals and seabirds, and the geology of Vesterålen. Part of the museum is dedicated to local culture and the long history of trade between the people of Vesterålen and Russia.
The Whale and the Whale Center: The Andanes Whale Museums
Andanes is world famous for whale watching: boat trips depart from here all year round to spot whales, orcas, humpback whales and other cetaceans. One of the most famous whale watching operators in Vesterålen is Hvalsafari, located right in the heart of Andanes, a stone’s throw from the lighthouse. They offer excellent boat trips with specialized guides, and they guarantee you will see some whales, if not, they offer you another boat trip for free or give you your money back.
Hvalsafari also has a small but interesting museum dedicated to whales, the Whale Center, which organizes interesting guided tours and which allows you to learn many interesting things about the magnificent cetaceans. But Andenes’ fame as one of the best places in the world for whale watching has attracted the construction of a majestic museum entirely dedicated to whales here, The Whale, an impressive piece of contemporary architecture designed by Danish architecture firm Dorte Mandrup. The Whale looks like a concrete and glass structure rising as a soft hill on the rocky shore, and seen from the coast it has the shape of a whale’s tail. The Whale, scheduled to open in 2023 – 2024, will house an interactive whale museum and an international marine biology research center.
Andøya Space and Spaceship Aurora
Andenes is also famous for its space center, Andøya Space, which during the second half of the 1900s was an important base for launching experimental rockets into space.
In 1995, Andøya Space was at the center of the infamous Norwegian Rocket Incident, the most serious accident between nuclear relations between NATO and Russia: the launch of a rocket to study the Northern Lights was mistaken by the Russians as a possible launch of a American nuclear missile. As a result, the Russian President’s nuclear briefcase was activated and there was a serious risk of catastrophic nuclear retaliation. Fortunately, the Russians were able to correctly interpret the rocket’s trajectory, and once it was understood that it was not headed for Russia no attack was ordered.
Beyond the curious facts, the Andøya Space now houses an interesting museum, the Aurora Museum, also known as Spaceship Aurora. Located about 1km south of Andenes, heading towards Bleik. The museum allows you to visit part of the space center and see some interactive exhibits on space and the Northern Lights.
The exhibits make extensive use of video and virtual reality, which makes it suitable for kids as well. The main attractions are a space-themed escape room and Journey to Mars, a VR experience dedicated to the exploration of Mars. Tickets are a bit overpriced, as the exhibition is really small, and start at NOK 225. The escape room and Journey to Mars are not included in the ticket (the entrance ticket to the museum and Journey to Mars costs 375 NOK, for example).
Scenic Route Andøya
The Scenic Route Andøya is part of the Norwegian National Tourist Routes, and is 58 km long. It runs along the west coast of the island from Bjørnskinn to Andenes and offers travelers breathtaking views of Andøya’s rocky cliffs, bogs and tiny fishing villages.
Coming from Andenes one of the first attractions along the way will be the viewpoint of Kleivodden, from where you will have a suggestive view of the ocean and the island of Bleksøya, located in the direction of the village of Bleik. The island is famous for its seabirds, including puffins. If you are lucky enough and have good binoculars you might see them. It is a great spot to admire the Northern Lights or the midnight sun.
A few kilometers further south is the tiny fishing village of Bleik, famous for its fabulous beaches: over 3km of white sandy beaches on an emerald sea. Right on the beach are some traditional wooden houses which are now one of the most scenic guesthouses in the region, Bleik Sea Cabins, offering great sea view accommodation.
Guided boat trips (puffin safaris) also depart from Bleik to see puffins and other seabirds, including white-tailed eagles. Boat safaris depart from Bleik Marina and reach the shores of Bleiksøya Island, located just minutes from the village. Here you can also see cormorants, black guillemots, razorbills and gannets. Bring binoculars and a long-focus lens for your camera.
Another famous attraction along the way is Bukkekjerka, located about 15 km from Bjørnskinn. Bukkekjerka is a rock formation that was once a sacred place for the Sami. Today a modern work of contemporary architecture stands here, which is designed to be an open-air church. Bukkekjerka is right next to the road and from there an easy path leads to a small lighthouse along the coast and a picnic area. A curious (and useful) fact is that modern Bukkekjerka is also a public toilet.
Halfway between Bleik and Stave you can take one of the most scenic hikes in Vesterålen called Måtinden, a 3.5 km long medium difficulty trail with an elevation gain of 500 meters. The hike is famous for beautiful views of the ocean, surrounding lakes and the mountainous landscape of Vesterålen. The hiking trail starts from the small Baugtua car park (GPS: 69.23549, 15.94767), located right along the road. Otherwise there are considerably longer and more difficult hiking trails from Blake and Stave (around 8-9km long).
The path is well signposted and first crosses a forest and then climbs the mountain and continues on a narrow and scenic path to the summit of Måtind, 408 meters above sea level. The hike takes about 4 hours (one way) and can be quite windy, being located near the coast. Towards the end of the hike you will meet two more trails leading to the villages of Stave (3km) and Bleik (6km) respectively. Once you reach the end of the trail you will find a red mailbox, inside is the guest book that you can sign with your name.
Things to Do and See on Hadseløya
Hadseløya is a small island located just south of Langøya, to which it is connected by a road bridge between the village of Skagen (where the small Stokmarknes Airport is located) and the islet of Børøya and another from there to the city center of Stokmarknes. The island also has ferry connections between the town of Melbu and the tiny village of Fiskebøl on the Lofoten Islands.
Stokmarknes is the main town on Hadseløya Island and one of the largest in Vesterålen. The main attractions are the Hurtigruten Museum, located right next to the Stokmarknes Hurtigruten Terminal and the tiny Hadsel Church, from the early 19th century, located a few kilometers southeast of the town.
The main attraction of the town is the museum dedicated to the world famous Norwegian Coastal Express, the Hurtigruten Museum or Hurtigrutemuseet, located right in front of the harbor. Recently renovated, this interesting museum tells the story of the Hurtigruten, the legendary ships that have been connecting the most remote areas of the far North for over 100 years.
The Hurtigruten was born right here in Stokmarknes in 1893, when the Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab decided to operate with her ship, the Vesteraalen, a difficult coastal route through the challenging and then poorly-charted waters of the North Sea. Today the journey along the Norwegian Coastal Express route is one of the most memorable and famous cruises in the world, and this museum is the best place to learn more about the history and legends of the Coastal Express.
You can also visit an old Hurtigruten ship, the MS Finnmarken, which was operational along the route from 1956 to 1993. The ship has been perfectly preserved and is enclosed within the museum, or rather, the ship is the museum. You will be able to board the ship, visit the cabins, the engine room, the kitchens, the command bridge and walk on the various decks, you can also sit in the ship’s café and enjoy a drink. The ticket price starts from 225 NOK.
Melbu is a small town located in the southern part of Hadseløya, famous for its ferry port which connects Vesterålen with the Lofoten Islands. Melbu’s main attractions are its museums, Melbo Manor and the Norwegian Fishing Industry Museum, located in an old herring oil factory.
Melbo Manor is an old traditional 19th century house that was the home of an important local entrepreneur, Christian Frederiksen, who transformed the rural village of Melbu into the region’s largest industrial center between the 19th and 20th centuries. What used to be his home, surrounded by a beautiful English garden, now houses a museum dedicated to local history and culture, which boasts an interesting exhibit on Frederiksen and his soap, fabric, margarine and herring oil factories.
Norwegian Fishing Industry Museum
One of the most important factories founded by Frederiksen was the Neptune Herring Oil Factory, which produced herring oil from 1910 until the late 1980s. Especially in the past, this product was widely used in the Nordic countries as a vitamin supplement, especially for children and during the long polar night.
The factory has been preserved as part of Norway’s technical and industrial cultural heritage, and now houses the Norwegian Fishing Industry Museum, which offers an interesting insight into herring oil production processes and the fishing industry. You will be able to see some of the old machinery and, through exhibits and films, learn more about the local history and culture. One of the old herring oil tanks has been restored and converted into a concert and event hall, the Royal Neptune Hall, famous for its distinctive acoustics.
Uværshula Storm Shelters
A curious and little known attraction are the Uværshula, a kind of wooden houses among the rocks, which are actually storm shelters. The oldest and most picturesque is that of Teigan, located along the northwest coast of the island of Hadseløya, but over time others have sprung up, which are a decidedly unusual and romantic place to see the midnight sun or the Northern Lights.
Teigan’s Uværshula is easily accessible from the Yttersida road, which circles the Hadseløya Island. It is located on a rocky beach and can be reached by a short path that starts near a small parking lot located along the road (GPS: 68.57564, 14.64700). You can leave your car there and in a few minutes reach the storm shelter, which is located at the very end of the path (GPS: 68.57657, 14.64580). Go there for a sunset picnic!
Other famous Uværshula are found in Årnesan and Bø on the island of Langøya. Bø’s Uværshula is quite easy to reach, hidden behind a rock along the coast. It can be reached from a small parking lot located along Route 820, near the tiny village of Mårsund (GPS: 68.60680, 14.51004). The trail is practically nonexistent, so you will have to make your own way.
Årnesan’s Uværshula is located on the opposite side of the island of Langøya, near the village of Sandnes. The Årnesan area and its scenic emerald water bays are a popular hike destination. To reach the storm shelter you can reach the small parking lot located along the Fv885 road (GPS: 68.60252, 14.88575) and from there continue along the dirt road to the storm shelter, about 1.5 km.
The door of the Uværshula is usually open for anyone to enter. Inside there is usually also a small fireplace. You can use storm shelters freely for a picnic, as long as you keep them clean and undamaged.
Things to Do and See on Hinnøya
Hinnøya is one of the largest islands in Norway, the largest outside the Svalbard archipelago, and extends over four different districts: the northwestern part belongs to Vesterålen, while the southwestern part belongs to Lofoten. Indeed the region is famous as a gateway to the Lofoten Islands for those coming from Narvik or Tromsø. The island of Hinnøya is in fact also part of these other two districts, respectively called as Ofoten (Narvik) and Troms (Tromsø).
The landscape of Hinnøya is mostly mountainous, with forests and peat bogs, while along the coast there are numerous jagged fjords and tiny villages. The island’s only town is Harstad, which with a population of over 24,000 is the third-largest in all of Northern Norway. Harstad is also one of the stops of the costal express ships (Hurtigruten) and is located not far from Narvik Airport.
The island is also home to an important nature park, Møysalen National Park where there is also the 1,262-meter tall Møysalen mountain. The park is home to a large number of wildlife and bird species. Hinnøya is connected to the mainland by a road bridge and from here, again by road bridges, you can easily access the other islands of the Vesterålen archipelago, such as Langøya, Andøya, and Austvågøya, the gateway to the Lofoten Islands.
Harstad is the largest city of Hinnøya and formally is not part of Vesterålen but of Troms og Finnmark county. However given its proximity to the mainland, the presence of a Hurtigruten terminal and the proximity to Narvik Airport (which is in fact called Harstad Evenes Airport), the town is a popular starting point for exploring the surrounding area.
There are also some good hotels here, such as Clarion Collection Hotel Arcticus, Thon Hotel Harstad, and Scandic Harstad. On the budget side are the Brygga Gjestehus and the F2 Hotel.
There are also a few international car rentals in the town, so you might want to hire a car to explore the nearby Vesterålen and Lofoten Islands. You can check availability and prices on Rentalcars or Discovercars.
Trondenes Historical Center
To discover the region’s Viking past you can take a look at the Trondenes Historical Center, an interesting open-air museum located about 3km north of the city center. You can also reach it with a pleasant walk on the path that runs along the sea and which starts from Blåveisbakken street.
This museum tells the history of the ancient Viking village that once stood here: you will be able to see some old buildings, a farm, and several costumed figures who will show you what everyday life was like here in the 12th century. In the museum there is also a small collection of weapons and artifacts dating back to the Viking era, a bookshop and a café.
Trondenes Medieval Church (Trondenes Kirke)
The real gem of Harstad is the Trondenes Kirke, a small and beautifully preserved medieval church built in 1150 at the behest of King Øystein. In fact, the version currently visible, in stone and lime with a red tile roof, dates back to 1435, when the old wooden church was renovated.
It is located a stone’s throw from the Trondenes Historical Center and can be visited for free: usually in the morning it is open, often the door is closed but with the key in the lock, so that you can open it and take a look inside. The interiors are wonderfully preserved and decorated, with medieval frescoes and some precious works, such as the Gothic triptych by Bernt Notke, the Baroque pulpit and the organ from the 18th century.
Just behind the church are the few remains of what was once a prisoner of war camp set up by the Nazis to house thousands of Soviet prisoners, forced laborers for the construction of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.
The Adolf Gun
A few kilometers north of Trondenes Kirke, on the tip of the Trondenes peninsula, is the Trondenes Fort, which was part of the fortifications of the Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and which is still a military base. Here you can see The Adolf Gun (Adolfkanone) a huge cannon designed by the Nazis initially as a naval gun, but then used exclusively as coastal defense artillery during the Second World War. There were a dozen in total, arranged between Poland, France and Norway. Today there are only four left, those visible here in Harstad, one of which is perfectly preserved.
Now the huge Adolfkanone can be visited: guided tours allow you to see the inside of the turret, the control room, the bomb depot and other interesting details on the history and technique of this cannon. The visit is a must for history buffs, although visiting the Adolfkanone can be tricky. The Adolf Gun is in fact located inside a restricted access military base, you can only visit it with a guided tour, but you must book it at least 24 hours in advance. For more info and reservations you can contact Visit Harstad by sending them an email or by going to their tourist office located in front of the Hurtigruten terminal in Harstad.
Just outside the city center is the beautiful park called Folkeparken, a good place for nature walks. There are several trails through the peaceful and pleasant countryside around Harstad, passing through woods and around picturesque lakes.
The trails are suitable for everyone and are well signposted. You will be able to hike trails ranging from a few kilometers to over 40km, which makes Folkeparken also a popular cross-country skiing destination in winter. However, the trails are well signposted and passable all year round, plus there are benches and picnic spots. The most popular trail is the Mountain Hike to Musvannet, a walk of about 3.5 km – 1.5 hours (one way) that takes you to the top of Mount Musvannet from where you can get a nice view.
Things to Do and See on Austvågøy
Austvågøy is the largest of the Lofoten Islands, and this is also where Svolvær, the main town of the archipelago, is located. However, the northernmost part of the island is considered part of Vesterålen and right here is one of the most scenic fjords in Norway, the Trollfjord.
The Trollfjord is one of the main attractions of the Vesterålen Islands and is located in the northeastern part of the island of Austvågøy, along the Strait of Radtsud which, passing between the islands of Austvågøy and Hinnøya, marks the border between the Lofoten and the Vesterålen Islands.
The scenic Trollfjord is 2km long and its mouth is just 100m wide. It is located in a rather remote area of the island, accessible only by boat, and is surrounded by towering mountains up to 1000 meters high, which are reflected in the turquoise waters of the fjord, which shines with breathtaking beauty on sunny days.
The Trollfjord can be visited on boat trips from Svolvær, which are a wonderful opportunity to admire one of the most beautiful places in Norway and see the many seabirds that live in the fjord, such as sea eagles.
The Strait of Radtsud is also traveled by the Hurtigruten ships on their route between the Vesterålen and Lofoten Islands, which occasionally enter the fjord to show the beautiful landscape to travelers. How such a large ship manages to enter such a narrow fjord is a spectacle in itself.
How to Get to the Vesterålen Islands
Getting to Vesterålen by Plane
The Vesterålen Islands are close to four airports, however the most popular and best connected to Norway’s major cities is Harstad Narvik.
- Harstad Narvik Airport in Evenes, which has domestic connections to Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø and Trondheim operated by Norwegian Air Shuttle, SAS and Widerøe;
- Andøya Airport in Andenes, which mainly operates local flights to Bodø, Narvik, Stokmarknes and Svolvær, as well as some flights to Oslo and Bergen operated by Widerøe and Norwegian Air Shuttle;
- Stokmarknes Airport in Skagen, which operates a few local flights, mainly to Andenes and Bodø, operated by Widerøe;
- Svolvær Airport on the Lofoten Islands, which has some domestic flights to Bodø, Leknes, Oslo and Tromsø, operated by Widerøe;
In all these towns there are some car rentals, you can check prices and availability on Rentalcars or Discovercars. In summer it is best to book well in advance.
Getting to Vesterålen by Car
The best way to visit the Vesterålen Islands is by car, as the bus connections are quite long and involve several changes. Also, many of the most beautiful places are in the more remote parts of the islands, where buses don’t go. You can get to Vesterålen easily with the road bridges connecting them to the mainland, just north of Narvik. The same goes for those coming from the Lofoten Islands. There are also ferry connections between Lofoten and Vesterålen (near the town of Melbu) and between Vesterålen and Senja (in Andenes).
Getting to Vesterålen by Bus
Almost all buses connecting the main towns of Vesterålen pass through Sortland, so if you are traveling by bus you will need to consider it as a base for your travels in the archipelago.
Bus connections around the Vesterålen Islands:
- Sortland – Harstad: bus with change in Lødingen (4 hours)
- Sortland – Nyksund: Bus with change in Myre (2.5 hours)
- Sortland – Stø: direct bus (1.5 hours)
- Sortland – Andenes: direct bus (1.5 hours)
- Sortland – Stokmarknes: direct bus (30 minutes). The same bus continues to Melbu, where ferries leave for Fiskebøl (Lofoten Islands).
Bus connections to and from the Vesterålen Islands:
- Sortland – Bodø: direct bus (7 hours)
- Sortland – Harstad / Narvik: bus with change in Lødingen (3 hours)
- Sortland – Svolvær: bus with change in Lødingen (4 hours)
- Sortland – Tromsø: bus with change in Lødingen and Bjerkvik (9 hours)
Getting to Vesterålen by Ferry
The Vesterålen Islands also have some car ferry connections with the main islands in the surrounding area:
- From Vesterålen Islands to Senja: ferry from Andenes to Gryllefjord (2 hours);
- From Lofoten Islands to Vesterålen Islands: ferry from Fiskebøl to Melbu (30 minutes);
For those coming from the south, the car ferry from Bognes to Lødingen (1 hour) may be useful. There are also 4 Hurtigruten ports on the Vesterålen Islands: Stokmarkenes, Sortland, Risøyhamm and Harstad. Hurtigruten ships can carry a limited number of cars from port to port, so if you want to board your car you should contact their offices well in advance and ask for availability.