Sunday, January 06, 2008

A journey through the polar night




















My brother lives north of the polar circle. This means that the sun never sets from mid May to the end of July, and that the sun does not rise over the horizon from the end of November to mid January. It is strange to experience both periods, as the light mysteriously affects the natural environment. During summer there is an intense activity around the hour, whereas during winter it quiet during the short dusk and long hours of darkness. This is where I traveled for Christmas in 2007. I will tell you how to get there, and what to see on your way.

How to get there

There are two options to get to Vesterålen by plane. Norwegian Air Shuttle and Scandinavian Airlines have several daily services from Oslo Airport to Harstad/Narvik Airport, Evenes, serving the cities of Harstad and Narvik.

You may also travel to Bodø airport and change for a direct service to Stokmarknes Airport, Skagen, operated by Widerøe.

The easiest way to travel from the airport to your destination is by bus. You may travel by an airport shuttle bus from the airport to Sortland.

The bus will take you over the impressive bridge over Tjeldsundet to Lødingen. Then from Lødingen over Norways largest island, Hinnøya to Sortland. The distance covered is around 100 kilometers (65 miles) and it takes around 2 hours.

A word of advice. When you embark, ask for a round trip ticket. It will save you 50% on the return ticket. Current price for a round-trip ticket is NOK 330 (€41). One way you pay NOK 220 (€28).

Tjeldsundbrua and Tjeldsundet

Leaving the airport, you pass the community of Evenes, climbing a small hill and travel towards Tjeldsundet, separating Hinnøya from the mainland. On the mainland you find the community of Skånland. Then you travel on towards the crossing point, the impressive bridge over Tjeldsundet. Here you find Tjeldsundbrua Kro & Hotell, where you may book a room for the night or one of the fishermans cabins with the waterway as your nearest neighbour.

You have a spectacular view from the bridge in nice weather. South you can see much of Tjeldsundet itself and you may enjoy a short glimps of many of the small and larger islands north of Hinnøya.

Sandtorg

As you travel northbound you reach the community of Sandtorg, a trading community going back to the early 13th century. Here you find the impressive Sandtorgholmen Hotell, located on an an old trading point going as far back as 1557.

The oldest building today is the storing house (Stabburet), dating back to around 1750. Here you may book you own private suite and have no neighbours.

Bårdstuen used to be servants quarters and dates back to the mid 19th century.

The impressive main building is built in 1910 in Swiss chalet style, very popular in Norway at the turn of the last century. It has the most exquisite interior from the same period. I have heard the the kitchen at the hotel and the wine cellar are very impressive. You may book a room on the hotel website.

From Lødingen to Sigerfjorden

From Sandtorg you travel through the small community of Kongsvik. Here the mountains tower up to 1000 meters (3000 ft) over Tjeldsundet.

Lødingen is the main centre of the borough with the same name. This is a small fishing community, and from here the ferry M/F Tysfjord may bring up to 104 cars and 339 passenger over Tjeldsundet to Bogenes on the mainland. This crossing will take you an hour. See schedules here.

As you leave Lødingen you travel up the curvy and steep hill towards Kåringen, where you have camping facilities and a cafe by two beautiful small lakes. You travel on to Kanstadfjorden, that with the closely located Gullesfjorden nearly splits Hinnøya in two.

Near Kanstadbotn, the E10 splits in two. From here you may drive out to Lofoten along what is known as the Lofast connection, a new road with tunnels linking the archipelago to Hinnøya. The E10 ends on the other end in Luleå in Sweden.

Then you drive along Gullesfjord, past the small communities of Våtvoll and Bømark, until you reach Langvassbukt, where the road split again. One road goes to Flesnes where you have a ferry over to Kvæfjord. We turn towards the largest city in Vesterålen, Sortland.

Sortland and Stokmarknes

As you pass through from Langvassbukt through tunnels and a narrow valley, you enter the outer part of Hinnøya. Here you find the twin cities of Stokmarknes and Sortland. These communities are growing quickly and the boroughs of Hadsel and Sortland combined have today a population of a little under 18000. Here you find a local hospital, Skagen, the busiest small airport in Norway, restaurants, shopping centers, hotels, and much more. My brother lives at Rise, a small community mid between these cities, and I was going to stay there for christmas.

You pass the small community of Sigerfjord, before crossing the impressive bridge over Sortland- sundet, separating Hinnøya and Langøya.

From Sortland you have many options if you would like to experience the nature, flora, and fauna of the Vesterålen archipelago. The twin communities are ideal, as here you have what you need in the urban community and a short distance to the most breathtaking natural wonders.

For your help I have mad a map of this journey and the area. Visiting Vesterålen is highly recommendable, and you may admire the mysterious blue light during winter. I did!


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