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Do you want to visit the hourglass of the universe?
Massive forces are in play between the two fjords Saltenfjorden and Skjerstadfjorden, outside the city of Bodø in Northern Norway.
When the tide turns and flows in and out between the fjords, spectacular maelstroms are created in Saltstraumen.
Take your time and listen. You can hear the sound of the extreme forces of nature, as 400 million cubic meters of water cross the narrow strait.
There's a lot of cool (and safe) ways to experience the maelstrom.
Here's what not to miss while visiting the world's strongest tidal current.
Four times a day, a huge volume of water forces its way through the 150-metre narrow strait in Saltstraumen, making enormous whirlpools that dance between the fjords. We are talking 400 million cubic metres of seawater moving at an impressive 13 kilometres per hour on average – far more when the current is at its strongest. No wonder why people from all around the world travel to Northern Norway to experience the world-famous nature phenomena.
The ideal time to visit is around new moon or full moon, and up to three days after, when the tidal current is at its strongest. The difference between high and low tide can then be as much as three metres – a really impressive sight worth seeing.
The current has fascinated people for many years, and still does! In 2016, Norwegian broadcaster NRK showed a live-stream of the maelstrom, minute-by-minute, which enchanted a million Norwegians sitting in front of their TVs.
Go for a walk on Saltstraumen bridge, which passes right above the watery chaos. There are footpaths on both sides of the bridge, making it easy to look straight down into the massive currents pressing underneath. Visiting in winter? Remember to wear warm clothes! It can get windy on the bridge.
If you want to get a real close up of the stream, check out one of the many viewpoints along the shoreline. Some paths along the stream are also accessible by wheelchair. You can feel (and hear) the incredible powers, as the water splashes against the coastline nearby. Just remember to keep safe, and don't get too close to the water – the current is no joke.
Also, keep in mind that the maelstrom shifts directions. When the tide comes in from the west, you can get the best views from the east side of the bridge, while you should be on the west side when the tide recedes.
Tides are a regular change in the water level, which occur everywhere along a coast. The lowest water level is called low tide, and the highest high tide.
The biggest change in the water level occurs approximately at new moon and full moon.
Saltstraumen is a protected marine area.
The nutrient-rich current creates unique fauna in the area, making Saltstraumen a paradise for wildlife, both above water...
Let's dive in.
"Diving in Saltstraumen is not for beginners, as the strong currents and steep walls makes it demanding to dive here. But, if you're a certified diver, and go with a professional local guide, the experience is just unique," says Borghild Viem.
Borghild has been a divemaster since 2015. Together with master instructor Fredric Ihrsen, she runs Nord&Ne, a diving centre located near Saltstraumen.
"What's really thrilling about Saltstraumen is that you have a small window where you can dive, just as the current shifts. You'll have about an hour in total, before the washing machine, as I call it, starts again. But I have to say, there is no place like Saltstraumen," explains Borghild.
"The marine life is incredible. While diving, you'll see large kelp forests dancing in the stream, colourful anemones covering large rock walls, as well as large cods, and huge halibuts and sea snails. If you're lucky, you can also spot wolf fish. The area is also a popular site for underwater photography," says Borghild.
Borghild and Fredric guide divers from a boat or on land, outside the strongest current. Diving in Saltstraumen requires a dry suit and warm clothes underneath. The lunar phase, tidal range, and time of day determine how challenging the dive is. Remember to never go diving in the current without experience or a professional guide.
A less extreme way of exploring the current is by snorkelling. It's suitable for most people and considered safe, as long as you go with a professional guide, and have basic swimming experience. The main season for snorkelling in Saltstraumen is from May to October.
Explore the underwater world:
Keep in mind: The marine life in Saltstraumen is fragile, and it's recommended to refrain from fishing in the current. The professional divers in the area spend lots of time removing old fishing hooks and lines from the water. If you want to go fishing in the area, go further away from the current, ask locals for tips on the best spots to fish.
Saltstraumen, literally translated, means "salt stream".
Want to have a taste?
In a small smoke house, right above the current, freshly produced salt is being smoked.
Talk about local food!
“Arctic Salt is the true taste of Saltstraumen. It's only natural to produce it here, right at the pier above the current, with fresh, salty seawater from Saltstraumen.”
Tore Hongset, owner and founder of Arctic Salt
You can purchase the salt at local shops and at some farm shops in the Bodø area.
The salt is also an ingredient in some fantastic chocolates made by pastry chef Craig Alibone. Try his salted caramel chocolate — the blue one — inspired by Saltstraumen.
Hungry for more local food?
At Kjelen Kafe, right by the current, you can enjoy delicious local food with a panoramic view of the current.
Sample the local's favourite, Møsbrømlefse – a thin pastry with a sweet brown cheese filling!
You can also make Norwegian lefse at home! Check out the Norwegian Cookbook for more delicious recipes.
Travelling with a group?
Why not end your stay at Saltstraumen with a unique night at Tuvsjyen, a place inspired by the Stone Age settlement found in the area.
The remnants of the 10,000-year-old hunter settlement, is one of the oldest known traces of human settlement in Bodø, and one of the oldest archaeological finds in Norway.
At Tuvsjyen, you can literarily have a taste of what it was like to live in the area at the time.
Spend some time in a turf hut, and prepare self-caught fish in the cooking pit! When you want to get back to a more comfortable, modern way of living, slide into the hot tub, and enjoy the view.
Plan your trip now!
Discover where to stay and what to eat, and find more exciting activities in the area.
Saltstraumen is located at the end of one of Norway's most beautiful road trips, Kystriksveien, the Coastal Route, 33 kilometres from Bodø city centre. To get there, you can take a local bus or taxi from Bodø. Bodø Taxi offers sightseeing round trips to Saltstraumen for a fixed rate.
If you're feeling extra sporty, you can rent a bike, or join a guided bike tour, and bike from Bodø city centre, or the airport, to Saltstraumen.
A cool option, which gets you really close to the tidal current, is to take a RIB tour from Bodø to Saltstraumen. There are several providers that offer tours during winter, too. If you're taking a RIB, keep your eye out for sea eagles. Bodø has one of the largest populations of sea eagles in the world, so you have a good chance of encountering one along the journey!
Explore RIB tours in Saltstraumen:
To get the most out of your trip, visit Saltstraumen when the current is at its strongest. The times vary day to day, so make sure to check in advance.
Check the Saltstraumen timetable.
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