Visit the archipelago of Vesterålen in winter. Situated just north of the Lofoten Islands, this peaceful region has a strong fishing culture, lots of interesting art to explore, and a front-row seat to the northern lights.
Spending time in Vesterålen feels less like a holiday and more like medicine for the modern traveller. Shoreline islets and open seas, alpine mountains and endless moors, gentle beaches and vast fjords all invite you to take a deep breath and relax.
There are few other places in the world where you can ski down a snow-clad mountain one day and go on a whale safari the next. But as Vesterålen with its rugged peaks is located at the edge of the continental shelf, the nutrient-rich waters are the primary feeding ground for humpback whales, sperm whales, and killer whales.
If you want to ski in untouched nature, Vesterålen is an ideal destination. The mountains are especially inviting to off-piste and telemark skiers as the white peaks are great for venturing off the trails to create your own.
If you prefer cross-country skiing, you can choose between several well-prepared tracks. You can also explore the pristine landscape on snowshoes.
Vesterålen is a paradise for outdoor activities during the winter season. Try dog sledging or go on a seal and bird safari or a nature safari in the daytime, and explore the northern light at night. Here, you will find marked hiking trails all over the island, and you can even observe the northern light from a mountaintop.
The northern light often illuminates Vesterålen’s polar night. This natural phenomenon is difficult to catch on camera, but if you join a northern light safari, local guides will teach you how to freeze the moment.
A visit to a native Sami family to hear their interpretation of their culture, the polar night, and the starry sky, is also a must when you are in the region. There are several options for getting to Vesterålen and around.
Find more inspiration on Vesterålen’s official website.
The NorwayLights app provides the best prediction for when to see the northern lights in the area.
The Norwegian Coastal Voyage Hurtigruten calls daily at Risøyhamn, Sortland, and Stokmarknes in Vesterålen.
There is a year-round ferry service between Lødingen and Bognes, and between Melbu and Fiskebøl. In summer, there is also a ferry connection between Andenes and Gryllefjord.
For travel to Lofoten, there’s a ferry connection between Melbu and Digermulen.
Vesterålen is connected to the mainland and the E6 with two-lane highways. Several bridges and tunnels link the island group of Vesterålen together.
Note that Norway has a unique traffic culture, in the way that it might be the only country in the world where pedestrians cross roads without paying much attention, expecting cars to slow down or even stop. The same goes for cyclists – they use the roads, but often don’t follow traffic rules. There has been many dangerous situations and accidents between cars driven by tourists and cyclists and pedestrians. For many car tourists, it can be a new experience to share the roads with these groups.
There are daily buses from larger cities in Northern Norway to Sortland, the largest town in Vesterålen.
There are frequent and regular flights from all the major cities in Norway to Harstad/Narvik Airport, which is the closest airport to Vesterålen. An airport bus service takes you to Sortland in Vesterålen in about 2 hours.
Other airports in Vesterålen are Stokmarknes Airport and Andøya Airport.