Probably no one would leave Lofoten without a visit to Reine, a small yet very photogenic fishing village near the southern tip of the archipelago. After a few days’ stay at Kabelvaeg, we went south to Reine and checked in one of those colorful rorbus, which are basically cabins built on above-water platforms or at shores in the style of traditional Lofoten fishermen housing. April seems a low season for tourism, and we didn’t see many tourists or related activities in or outside the fishing village. The air was fishy, as there were many many cod drying racks around (we had already seen near Kabelvaeg).
The weather remained gloomy, which heavily covered our hope of seeing aurora. A heavy snow storm rolled in the day after we moved to Reine. April snow, wow! All the peaks around turned white and looked much more photogenic than without snow, but just for less than a day. The snow also wiped out our hope of hiking up to Reinebringen, a steep peak overlooking Reine, because we were told the path was too icy for hiking.
Nevertheless, we drove around, in and out of snow, looking for places to take pictures of. Whatever we experienced would be valuable for our next trip there. Yes, right now, in November, some of my friends have been talking about having me lead a group to Lofoten in coming February. Yes, I will be back, Lofoten!
This post is long long overdue. I’ve been distracted by too many other matters.
Back to Norway. After a short stay in Senja, we drove southwards all the way to Kabelvaeg, a big town in Lofoten, where we booked a one-bedroom apartment for four nights. Weather was not good. Overcast all the time, snow sometime, rain sometime. I had had a plan to hike up a few mountain slopes for better photo angles, but now gave up. Below is a photo of how our environment looked alike at sunset time.
With Kabelvaeg as base, we drove around the middle area of the Lofoten Archipelago, including these interesting places: Henningsvaer (a fishing village), Borg (where there is a museum featuring a viking long house), and Utakleiv Beach (a beach with huge “pebbles”).
I had not heard of Senja until I began researching on Norway’s best tourist destinations prior to my trip to Lofoten. It is the second largest island of Norway, located roughly between Tromso and Lofoten. Since I wanted to visit Tromso and Lofoten, why not take a side trip to Senja? That’s how we ended up spending a day in Senja. Which we later regretted very much. We should have spent two or even three days there! Because Senja is really beautiful, so beautiful that we now, after the entire trip, believe it is probably a better destination than Lofoten.
For one thing, Senja is huge, with many more fjords and in locations further north than Lofoten, offering better chance to see northern light. For another, it seems cheaper to stay there. The resort unit we rented for less than $100 a night was luxurious with full kitchen and a million dollar view towards a fjord. Senja also looks wilder than Lofoten, with much less population. However, because we had already booked our accommodations in Lofoten, we had only one day to stay in Senja.
The place we stayed in Senja is called Hamn i Senja. It is located in the mouth of a big fjord, facing north, which is an ideal location for observation of northern light. Unfortunately, the night we were there, the sky became cloudy after sunset.
There are many worthwhile destinations on Senja. On our way to Hamn i Senja, we took a detour to Bergsfjord. The roadside lookout offers a stunning view of the fjord.
On our way out, we also had numerous roadside scenic stops.
If we ever revisit Nordic Norway, we will definitely make Senja a multi-day destination.
*This post is long overdue. Too many other things diverted my time.*
Tromso is in far north Norway, almost at latitude 70 degree, way beyond the Arctic Circle. We drove over 620 km up there from Tornio, Finland, along the Sweden-Finland border. The route was chosen for two reasons. One was to take advantage of the relatively low cost of car rental in Finland, and the other was to maximize our chance of seeing northern lights, as Finland’s Lapland and Norway’s Tromso are well known for northern light sighting.
It turned out, however, that the weather was not cooperative. We did not have a clear night on our way to Tromso; our imagination of greenish northern lights over snow-covered Lapland forest remains imagination only.
In Tromso, we chose Ersfjord to try our luck. We checked out the village of Ersfjordbotn in daylight on the day we arrived in Tromo, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset there.
We went back to the city center for dinner and drove out to the fjord again after 10pm. It was only about 15 minutes after we got to our chosen spot that northern lights started to flicker over our heads ! The activity level that night was not high, at only Kp 2 (on a scale from 1 to 10), and it was a bright moon-lit night. Still, the northern lights were very visible to naked eyes. With the moonlight, we did not have to worry about finding our ways on the ground and foreground objects were well illuminated. However, the northern lights were so far high up that sometimes it was difficult for us to frame it together with any foreground object below.
We spent over two hours under the flickering northern lights. Many photographs were taken but we were not satisfied, hoping there would be more chances ahead while we travel in the arctic Norway. Unfortunately, it turned out that night at Ersfjordbotn was the only night during our entire trip when we could photograph the northern lights.
It’s been a while since my last post. The reason is I’ve been away from home for half of April. I went beyond the arctic circle, into the Nordic Europe.
Specifically, on the spur of the moment, when I found a relatively cheap flight deal to Finland, I called up a friend couple and organized a two-week trip to the Lofoten Archipelago of Norway via Finland’s Lapland by car.
Lofoten has been on my list of must-see-must-shoot-must-hike places for some time already. The high cost of flying directly into Norway is prohibiting and car rental is more than triple the cost here in North America. It just occurred to me that going there via the relatively cheaper Finland might be a good idea. And it is.
I found a return flight to Helsinki via Amsterdam costs only US$720, plus a US$210 flight from Helsinki to a Lapland airport (Kemi-Tornio). An officially called “Northern Lights Road” leads north from Tornio all the way to Tromso, Norway. From Tromso, it is only a few hours drive down to Lofoten. And it is a very scenic drive. Car rental in Finland is much cheaper, and one can stock up cheaper food in Finland before driving into expensive Norway.
My plan worked very well, economically. For a 15-day Arctic Europe trip, each of us three spent less than US$2100, all inclusive. The car we rented in Finland is a Mercedes A180 with GPS and studded winter tires, and we stayed in cabins with kitchenette most of the days (so that we could cook our oriental food). What can one ask for more?
Here is a map showing my travel route and the cities/towns where we stayed overnight:
The only thing that prevents me from rating this trip excellent is the weather. We had much worse weather than we expected, and ran into practically every kind of bad weather, including heavy snow, hail, rain and gale wind.
Still, we managed to have a few northern lights photos, and a bunch of post-card like Lofoten pictures.
I will post the pictures in the next few blog entries. So stay tuned.
Al Gore should come to Vancouver to sell his curses and cures on global warming this winter. Too bad he lives in the freezing cold east coast.
We Vancouverites have just had an unbelievably warm winter. And a short one, it seems. Because the cherry plum trees (prunus cerasifera) that line up many streets here are in full bloom, at least two weeks earlier than normally the case.
Cherry trees have also begun blooming.
Spring comes early in 2015!
It’s time to photograph flowers!
All of the following pictures were taken with long lenses, either my 70-200mm f2.8Lor my 400mm f5.6L prime, all hand-held. Long lenses are very useful for photographing the blossoms on streets. They help, among other things, compressing the scene, capturing details high above the trees, and throwing the background out of focus thus giving the scene a great visual depth.
Enjoy the early spring!
While the eastern areas of North America are suffering from unusually cold weather, the western coastal areas are enjoying unprecedented warm winter. For the last ten days, we in Vancouver had no rain at all, which is truly extraordinary. The nice weather also produced spectacular sunset (and perhaps sunrise as well, but I didn’t get up early to verify that). For several days in a row, I witnessed beautiful sunset at Garry Point, the west facing seaside park near my home. There are several shots I would like to share with my fellow bloggers.
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