Review of Norway's Arctic Islands winter journey
Svolvaer was most interesting. We visited in the February fishing season when the great cod shoal had arrived setting the community into energetic activity. Impressive A-framed timber structures are neatly hung with bodies and heads of salted cod that remain drying in the sea winds until June when the majority of the enormous catch is exported. Whilst the charming fisherman's cottages, standing on seemingly tottering stilts at the rocky interface with the sea, provide outstanding and wonderful views, some are located further from the road and guests make their way along icy boardwalks. For Inntravel visitors, this is a perfect part of the adventure, but would endorse other's comments that boots with grip soles are essential. It is well worth walking to the bronze statue of the fisherman's wife as described in the Inntravel notes. The scenery is exceptional.
We headed out on the Lofoten Nature Safari. The fish soup served at lunch whilst standing around on the deck was delicious, and the young men throwing fish as bait for the white-tailed eagles did a superb job. We relished seeing about twenty eagles at close range, mostly young ones, either catching the fish in the air or swooping down to pick them out as they fell in the sea. It was a great experience. A tip for those thinking of participating: We were not given thermal suits as the literature promised, and anyone not dressed in insulated trousers and jackets, would have been very cold.
The next day we joined a 3-hour snow shoeing group with the most excellent story telling guide called Odd (short for Odin, the father of Thor) and a person with thoughtfulness for us slightly older ones and the hard work that the activity brought. We would stop and rest fairly frequently between bouts of walking the virgin snow to be entertained with local myth and legend.
We imagined there would be a problem in having to leave our accommodation next morning and the long period before the boat left in the evening but the snow shoeing followed by a visit to the unique and interesting war museum and then a relaxing couple of reading hours in the Børsen Spiseri bar before our excellent meal, filled the day perfectly. We were able to change clothes in the same building.
The activities are not cheap but it is certainly worth saving up for them.
Hurtigruten is a decent cruise ship as well as a cargo boat. The cabins were small but we slept very well, and appreciated the generous breakfast.
Hamn i Senja provided us with our own apartment overlooking the small harbour with magnificent views through the picture window. Here, we would recommend the kayaking. We were kitted out in dry suits, neoprene shoes and gloves and felt very safe with an expert guide who gave tips on how to improve our sloppy techniques. There were cresting waves out at sea and the guide took us to calmer waters sheltered by a string of islands.
In Tromsø we found ourselves cross country skiing. There's no need to pre-book, just turn up at the shop located very close to the hotel and the cost for the day is reasonable. A short bus journey sees you to the beginning of the trail. We were able to ski to the Arctic University Museum of Norway and spent a couple of hours learning about Sami culture. If you don't feel like skiing back, the nearby local bus will take you back to town. Waffles, cream and strawberry jam greets the hungry explorer on their late afternoon return to the hotel. The free evening meals are very good too including a hot dish in addition to soup and salad. One evening we walked across the bridge to the Arctic cathedral to be delighted by the first-rate acoustics within as we enjoyed a variety of musical styles performed by a celebrated Norwegian soprano. It would have been a perfect ending to a perfect day if we had sighted Aurora as we left the cathedral that evening near midnight, but sadly she evaded us throughout our visit.
Ms Lindgren, Wales, 7 February 2020