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Why I’m Returning to Northern Norway (And Why I Can’t Wait!)

Everyone has their own reasons for travel. I travel to explore the unknown, to meet new people, to learn more about the world outside the happy cocoon of home. However, I have to admit that many of those places are also chosen for their scenic qualities; after all, what landscape photographer isn’t in search of ever more spectacular landscapes to capture and share with the world?

The Rorbuer of Reine

Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty scenic.

A few of those scenic places have left such an impression that I couldn’t help but to go back. Three years after my first visit to Australia, I moved here (and that was 6.5 years ago). I’ve been to New Zealand five times, and I am happily re-treading ground on a South Island road trip with my family next month. Now there’s Northern Norway.

Magical Lofoten

Magical morning light in Reine.

I think it’s well-known through my many posts on this blog that I absolutely adored Lapland and Northern Norway — so much so that I currently have a guidebook for the region in the works. My trip there last year was one highlight after another, with both adventures and scenery in equal measure. Of all the places I visited on that trip, though, the Lofoten Islands of Northern Norway were a standout for their breathtaking beauty.

Asleep for the Night

I was blown away by Lofoten as soon as I got there…even though it was midnight and pitch black.

You would think it would get old taking photos with roughly the same backdrop — the same fjord, plenty of crystal clear blue water, snow everywhere — but it didn’t. I enjoyed capturing as many different angles as I could of Reine and Svolvær in both the perfect Arctic sunshine and in heavy snowstorms.

Sometimes you leave a place feeling like you’ve really done it justice, and some places you leave feeling like you’ve done it a great injustice by ever thinking you could see it in a short period of time. Lofoten definitely fell into the latter category.

The Lone Fisherman

A fisherman heads out to sea from Svinøya Island in Svolvær.

I made as much as I could of the three days I had there, going snorkeling in the 4ºC water of Reinefjord, standing under giant stockfish racks marveling at the sheer number of drying fish, and chatting with locals about the upcoming Cod Fishing World Championships (yes, that’s a thing), but I left wanting more.

Actually in the water!

Surely this is considered ‘making the most of it’!

Part of this feeling of having given the islands short shrift came from only having seen two towns. While Reine is well-known as being one of the most spectacular places in the world and I could not believe my eyes my first morning there, I felt like I needed to see the spaces in between, those little nooks and crannies of a place that you can really only find if you’re not reliant on (relatively infrequent) public transport, to really say I’d been to Lofoten.

Breaking the Ice in Reine

There’s a reason people take photos of Reine. It’s pretty.

My one long bus trip, between Reine and Svolvær, was done in heavy snow with clouds so low that I missed many of the scenic views along the way; often, I could just see walls of rock rising until they disappeared completely. Frustration had well and truly set in by the time the bus arrived at its final destination, mostly at myself for relying on that one bus ride to see what I could of the islands as a whole.

From the Bus

This was about the highest the clouds got for the entire bus ride.

A few years have gone by since that trip, but every time I post a photo or story of Lofoten, I’ve been inspired to do a bit more research and add a few more items to my ‘Lofoten bucket list’ — the list of things I would do if I ever got the chance to go back.

Now, I’ve managed to find that chance, and even better, that chance involves travelling with a fellow photographer who won’t mind me wanting to stop around every corner to get another photo because he’ll be doing the same thing.

Red Spots in the Gloom

As long as the clouds aren’t right down, it’s still gorgeous in bad weather.

That fellow photographer is Ben Ashmole of Ashmole Photography, who has been my photography ‘partner-in-crime’ over the last year — the person that has convinced me that yes, it is a good idea to get out of bed at 3am to take sunrise photos on the Gold Coast. He’s just quit his job to travel the world and do photography full-time — something he’ll do very well at since he’s a bloody brilliant photographer. It just so happens that we’ll both be in Europe at the same time, so we couldn’t pass up the chance of going to one of our photographic dream destinations.

Golden Morning in Svolvaer

This was at 10am. The sun came up just after 7. Light like this doesn’t happen at 10am in Queensland.

Even though our trip isn’t much longer than my original visit — we’ll be there for 4 days in January (with 4 nights of possible northern lights!) — I think we’ll be able to squeeze in much more in courtesy of having our own car (even if it means I’ll be driving in serious winter conditions for the first time — eek!).

Stockfish Racks

One of the many ubiquitous stockfish racks around Lofoten (although they won’t have fish on them in January).

I’m looking forward to the oddity of having a sunrise and sunset all in one, to seeing many a fjord and more epic mountains than I can count, and hopefully, to seeing the northern lights dance overhead once again. As many times as I was lucky enough to see the aurora, I never did see it on the Norwegian coast, so maybe this trip is my chance.

Crystal Clear Svinøya

What a perfect spot — Svinøya Island in Svolvær.

I can’t wait to correct a few of my mistakes from my first trip…and to visit some of the places that blew my socks off the first time. Sure, I’ll be returning yet again to a country I (somewhat) know rather than going somewhere new (Iceland, Greenland, I’m looking at you)…but I know I’m not going to regret that choice at all. Bring on January!

Have you been to Lofoten? Does it feature on your Pinterest bucket list? If so, what do you think we should add to our photo tour itinerary?

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3 Responses to Why I’m Returning to Northern Norway (And Why I Can’t Wait!)

  1. Matthew December 15, 2014 at 2:16 am Reply

    Hi Kristin!

    I am taking a 2-week trip to Norway and Finland in January/February and found your blog through Google searches. I would love to hear a little more about how you manage with your gear and clothing/items. Do you have a “base” for your time there and rent a vehicle/transportation, or do you make it a round-trip and always carry everything with you, or some other mixture? I will be based in Tromsø (which is a lot further north than Lofoten) but I think the same principles apply 🙂

    Looking forward to your reply!

    Have a nice holiday time,

    P.S. How long are you there for? I am staying for 8 days before going on to Finland.

    • Kristin December 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm Reply

      Hi Matthew! Thanks very much for getting in touch. When I travelled through Lapland and Northern Norway (including Tromsø) in 2013, I made a big loop which meant that I took all my gear between all of my stops. When I went to places like Camp Tamok with Lyngsfjord Adventure, I stored my luggage at the hotel I’d stayed in the previous night so I didn’t have to bring everything (like my laptop, etc) with me. As for how long I was there, I spent 28 days total there (including 10 in Norway, 12 in Finland, and 6 in Sweden).

      A lot more information can be found under the ‘Lapland’ tag on this blog (as I wrote about most of the activities and places I stayed there). I’ve actually just released an eBook with 20 chapters & 130 pages of information that spans everything from where buses are available to how to take photos of the northern lights and everything in between. It’s mainly meant to be a guide that ties together northern Norway & Lapland as a region, since most of the information for Norway, Sweden, and Finland is usually separated across many guidebooks. You can find a sample at http://www.winterinlapland.com.

      Good luck with your trip — I know you’ll have a fantastic time. Let me know if you have any other questions as well.

      • Zainnee March 15, 2016 at 6:21 pm Reply

        Hi Kristine

        I am also from Australia, Sydney though not brissy. Really enjoyed reading your blog. I am also the person who will put a jumper on as soon as the temp drops to 15 degrees here! However I took a chance and started my Nordic adventure Dec 2015 and fall in love with it. From Helsinki to Rovaniemi to Tromso, all of it! that I’m planning a 2nd trip to hopefully depart after Xmas this year. I plan to do Lofoten via Bodi (hopefully little bit of Lapland surroundings), Trondheim, Alesund, Reykjavik and Stockholm in 4weeks. Any advice ?

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