It’s been a long time since we posted a travel entry, but we’re baaaack! Jason took his first vacation from Lenda and Erin had teacher vacation, so the stars aligned and we decided to see Scandinavia in three chapters: Stockholm, Sweden; Lofoten Islands, Norway; Helsinki and national parks, Finland.
We just completed part 2, our biking adventure through Norway’s Lofoten (pronounced Loo-fa-ten) Islands! We’d like to share our itinerary, Strava maps & some quirks with anyone else who is interested in unsupported, self-guided riding, as we didn’t find anything of the likes online when we planned our tour. A special thanks to Michael Stafford for your local tips over email and to Corin Greenberg for connecting us.
Our Dates: June 26, 2017- July 1, 2017
Itinerary for Prep Day and Day 1: We arrived at Svolvær airport and took a taxi to Lofoten Rorbuer, where we checked into the rorbuer– or traditional stilted fishing cabin– and picked up our reserved bikes. A test drive was in order, since we’d be pedaling for the next 5 days, so we took a spin down to the town center for bacalao (local fish stew) and a burger (not so local but with a tortilla chip and cucumber addition ON the burger. Hmmm…) A quick run to the supermarket stocked us up on snacks and a pop-in to the tourist office produced a map and ferry schedule. We hurried back to organize our bike panniers and hit the sack early, wanting to be refreshed for the first day!
Fourteen hours later, we awoke. (Yep, it’s possible to pass out for that long, even in the midnight sun! We’d blame it on jet lag but we did that for the first 3 days in Stockholm.) After oatmeal and goji berries made in our kitchenette, we loaded up the hybrid bikes on the deck and began the 24 kilometer journey to our lunch destination, Henningsvær, where we planned to rest and eat before pushing the last 32 kilometers to Gimsøy.
Roses and Thorns: (This section explains the highs and lows of the day.) The best part of our first adventure was stopping in Henningsvær for a lunch break– the Klatrekafeen (climbing cafe) served tasty, t Nader, tomato-based lamb soup; a fireplace inside warmed chilled bikers and hikers, rejuvenating them for the second part of the day. Visiting the neighboring outdoor apparel shop, we purchased necessary wardrobe embellishments– a new rain jacket and rain pants for a pricey Scandinavian sum!
You may have guessed, the rain was the only thorn!* We were SOAKED by lunch and realized that packing in the 103 degree heat wave of Marin County, California had thrown off our sanity– we forgot how it felt to be soggy and chilly! But the glacial blue waters and the craggy, saw-toothed mountain spires made up for the overcast weather. Trying to compare this place to anything we’d seen before was impossible. Was it Hawaii, New Zealand, Ireland or Patagonia it reminded us of?! Maybe a bit. But then we settled on acknowledging that Lofoten was like no place we’d ever visited.
Climbing the bridge to Gimsøya, the wind raged and the cool mist blew, but we were focused on the sights below– a real maelstrom! The way the water swirled and bubbled added to the mystery of this new place. After four hours of biking, we arrived at Lofoten Links and realized it was a golf course on the sea! The chef, a Canadian transplant, served us coffee and rhubarb cake and delivered a bit of wood to our cabin up the road so we could dry out and warm up. This accommodation won the award for the best design and the most beautiful hotel of the trip. In fact, we dreamed of recreating the lodge closer to home some day.
Accommodation Contact Info: Lofoten Rorbuer AS, Jektveien 10, Marinepollen NO-8300, Svolvær. (Bike rental and rorbuers)
Lofoten Links Lodges, Hov Tore Hjortsvei 389, 8314 Gimsøy, Norway. Phone: +47 76 07 20 02
Alternative tips: if you’d like to book a short fishing trip or boat ride, Svolvær’s Lofoten Rorbuer offers these excursions to people who are not as jet-lagged as we were. Also, Lofoten Links Lodge check-in is the club house for a seaside course if you have energy for a round of golf!
*As I read this aloud to Jason, he had an addition to the “thorn” section. The Queen Anne’s lace on the side of the road smelled putrid, he claimed! Ha! I enjoyed it’s presence, and must not have as delicate of a sniffer. 😉
Photo Gallery Day 1:
Itinerary Day 2: We cycled 66 km. from Gimsøya (stopping at the gorgeous Brustranda Sjøcamping just over 1/2 way –after Valberg– for lunch) to Ballstad. We used mostly quiet back roads until reaching the Hagskaret area before Leknes, the first climb of the trip. From there, through Leknes and into Ballstad, there are a few bike paths, but it’s mostly busy road riding. The good news is that drivers respect bikers and there are signs encouraging drivers to share the road, such as the one below. We ended in Ballstad at a large old home on a rocky inlet now turned inn.
Roses and Thorns: An obvious rose was waking up (& actually falling asleep to) sunshine! We cycled 1k to the traditional European buffet at the clubhouse of Lofoten Links, commenting that vacation food always tastes better.
An unfortunate thorn soon pierced our banter–we got stuck in a rain storm on the way home, soaking the clothes we were about to wear all day during biking. From this we learned to always dress for rain, even in sunshine, because the weather changes quickly. We avoided the temptation to just jump back into bed and instead changed and hit the road, with some light precipitation swirling.
Other roses of the day soon blossomed, one being the beach we stumbled upon before Valberg, where we dismounted and played in the sand, and another being the lunch spot mentioned above– red rorbuer cottages over the water with a spunky woman serving warm apple cake, GF chocolate desserts, and coffee to name a few.
Although Villa Ballstad had incredible views, we do have to report a thorn– the inn was noisy, with 6 bedrooms sharing 2 bathrooms. Our tiny attic-type room had 2 single beds and 2 hand towels for the shower. You can imagine the dance back to the room from the community showers in a 1’x2′ towel!
Alternative Tips: Stop at the grocery store for food in Leknes before continuing to Ballstad, as you may not feel like getting back on your bikes when you arrive at the seaside villa. (We didn’t, so we ate cheese, crackers and cashews for dinner on the patio! This is Erin’s perfect dinner anyway.)
Also, if you feel like biking longer today, you can add 20 k to the itinerary by going to Stamsund, via Sennesvika, to Ramsvika, where you’ll see stunning views of Gravdal and Leknes. (We did not opt for this detour.)
Lastly, if you’re into diving, you can dive with a heavy wetsuit right off the beach of Villa Ballstad. The inn’s family also owns a PADI diving operation.
Accommodation Contact Info: Villa Ballstad, 8373, Skarsjyveien 67, 8373 Ballstad, Norway, +47 400 51 852, lofotendiving.com
Photo Gallery Day 2:
Itinerary Day 3: From Ballstad, we took a one-hour ferry to Nusfjord, a tiny yet touristy fishing village. From there, we cycled 40 km. to Sakrisøy, using many alternate bike paths to avoid the tunnels blasted into the mountains. Sakrisøy, just outside of touristy Reine, was a gem and we didn’t want to leave!
Roses and Thorns: This day we deemed “the perfect day” and we had to reach for ANYTHING negative as a thorn. The only hurdle in the whole day was finding the bicycle ferry dock, but with the instructions and purchased tickets from Kræmmervika Rorbuer (Kræmmervikveien 3, 8373 Ballstad, Norway) we eventually found our barge, manned by one friendly captain. When the wind picked up, Erin relocated to the warmer lower deck while Jason chatted with the other 3 passengers up top. Noticing this, the captain hustled down from his watch tower, rummaged around in a closet, and pulled out a winter weather fisherman’s one-piece! Erin was giddy to slip that thing on– and honored to be wearing the presumed outfit of many professional Norwegian fishermen! It felt like a down comforter and she giggled, anticipating climbing back to the top of the deck for the makeover reveal. Jason was, of course, thrilled and had a photo shoot.
Back on the bikes after a coffee in Nusfjord, the scenery was jaw dropping, towering high above us, the traffic was mild, and we found the best restaurant in our final area, Anitas Sjømat (8390 Sakrisøy, Norway.) From the moment we woke and were offerd free bacon, to the time we checked in and got a free accommodation upgrade, we didn’t stop grinning.
Our favorite accommodation of the trip, Sakrisøy Rorbuer, served bottles of wine, homemade ice cream, and chocolate whip right on our front deck while we played cards. (See if you notice anything weird about Jason’s card hand below!)
Alternative Tips: Before going to Nusfjord, travelers of this route could hike in Ballstadheia, which showcases supposed beautiful views.
Also, if the weather is cooperative, Sakrisøy Rorbuer rents stand-up paddle boards and kayaks.
Accommodation Contact Info: Sakrisoy Rorbuer AS (aka our favorite spot of them all!) 8390 Reine
Photo Gallery Day 3:
Itinerary Day 4: This is an easy day of biking, since Å, or “the end of the road,” is only 12 km. away! This leaves some time for the fish museum or for sun bathing on the rorbuer deck. Don’t forget a quick stop at the mini mart if you’d like to stock your rorbuer’s fridge!
Roses and Thorns: Roses today included some down time of reading in the sunshine on our porch after arrival and tasting stock fish for the first time.
A thorn here, and really in most places on the trip, was the service in the restaurant. Although tipping is costly in the USA, it sure motivates servers to be prompt and friendly…but we get it. We Americans are uptight diners, so we tried to relax and be patient as best we could!
Alternative Tips: Check out the fish museum in Å.
Accommodation Contact Info: Smaken av Lofoten, Å i Lofoten, 8392 Sørvågen, Norway, Phone: +47 76 09 21 00
Photo Gallery Day 4:
Itinerary Day 5: We woke at 8:30 and pedaled the 4 km. to Moskenes Camp Ground, where we unpacked our trusty panniers and repacked our backpacks. Since the bikes were a one-way rental, Lofoten Rorbuer picks up at the camp ground weekly. We walked 5 minutes to the ferry terminal. The ferry then transported us for 3.25 hours to Bodø, where we enjoyed our first jog along the water and overnight stay on mainland Norway.
Roses and Thorns: We arrived at the ferry 45 minutes before the 11am departure, soon realizing we would have had plenty of time for a leisurely coffee or later wake-up–a slight thorn when on vacation. The ticket buying process started at 11, which was when we were scheduled to depart, and took 30 minutes to process everyone. Despite the late departure, coffee and a game of rummy occupied us on the calm seas, and soon we were walking the .5 miles to our hotel on Bodø’s water edge. Other roses involved our jog along the water’s edge– we still had energy since we only biked 4 km. We also loved the stellar views of the sea from our hotel room and (souvenir spoiler alert!) finding a grocery section for varieties of “Mager Ost” squeeze cheese, Norway’s version of EasyCheese, to take home!
Accommodation Contact Info:
Scandic Havet, Tollbugaten 5, 8006 Bodø, Norway, Phone: +47 75 50 38 00
Photo Gallery Day 5: