Lofoten is a cluster of islands located within the Arctic Circle, part of Norway’s Nordland county. It is known for its excellent fishing villages and dramatic landscape of tall craggy cliffs overlooking the Norwegian sea. In June, Lofoten serves as an excellent base for viewing the midnight sun while in December, people come here for the northern light.
My husband and I are a sucker for islands. And although this particular island is practically in the north pole and it’s gonna be freezing cold, I included this in our itinerary nevertheless. Besides, what’s the point of going to Norway in June if you’re not going to check out the midnight sun?
We arrived in Svolvaer, Lofoten, on a rainy Saturday evening. While trying to figure out how to reach our accommodation, we met two fellow Singaporeans, Rachel and Shiwei, who came from the same ferry as us and happened to be going to the same accommodation. Lofoten isn’t exactly a very touristy place as it is more known among the Norwegians. Throughout our 3 days there, we didn’t encounter a single Asian besides us. So it was quite a surprise that two Singaporeans arrived on the same day and stayed at the same accommodation as us. We quickly bonded over the cold and wet weather, rushing together to reach our destination with the sole objective of getting indoor as fast as we could.
Knowing that the tourist information office was not going to be open on Sunday, we asked as much information as possible from the lady who managed our accommodation. She pointed out to us places with the best view of the midnight sun and at what time. She also recommended Lofoten Rent-a-Car, whose car rental price went as low as NOK 600 per day.
We discussed our options while enjoying a bowl of spicy tom yam instant noodle for dinner. Knowing how expensive living cost is in Norway, renting a car was initially not part of our plan at all. But as we studied the map and looked at the places she pointed out, it seemed that we would have to rent a car if we wanted to catch the midnight sun. The thought of car-pooling with the two Singaporeans crossed my mind and I suggested that. But since my husband and I are generally shy (I’m sure some of our friends will gag when they read this :-P), we didn’t pursue the idea and went to bed with no conclusion.
The rain thankfully stopped the next day. With renewed energy, we started contacting Avis, Hertz, and Lofoten Rent-a-Car to check out their one-day car rental prices and make some comparisons. Lofoten Rent-a-Car was the cheapest by far, with Avis and Hertz charging nearly twice more expensive. So we set up an appointment to pick up a car from them in the afternoon. We spent the remaining morning hiking to one of the nearby peaks.
For NOK 700 a day, we got ourselves an old Toyota Camry with automatic gear that was still in perfect condition. The rate included unlimited mileage but we had to top up the petrol to full tank.
The plan was to drive as far south as possible while stopping at a few towns and villages recommended in The Lonely Planet, hopefully being able to reach the last and the southernmost village in Lofoten called A, before going back up to the midnight sun viewing place by midnight. The first thing we did after picking up the car was to drop off the groceries we bought from the supermarket at our room.
As I was walking along the corridor towards our room, Shiwei suddenly came out of her room and asked “Are you guys planning to catch the midnight sun?” I said “Yes.”
She then asked “We’re also planning the same thing and wondering if you want to car-pool with us?”
Her question left me speechless. We nearly approached her with the very same question last night. Before I had the time to answer, my husband came out of the toilet and found us in the corridor. I immediately relayed Shiwei’s invitation to him and he said “Sure.”
So we told her that we had already gotten a car and planned to leave as soon as possible. She said they would be ready in 5 minutes’ time. The whole thing was settled in less than 2 minutes. And that’s how our midnight sun adventure began 🙂
Our first stop was Henningsvaer. There was nothing fantastic about the village itself, but the drive from Svolvaer to Henningsvaer was one of the most scenic coastal drive in Lofoten. We passed by rocky cliffs and thundering waves of clear blue waters. The only thing marring the spectacular view was the constantly hanging clouds. They had better disappeared by the evening if we were to catch the midnight sun.
And just before we reached Henningsvaer, we passed by a narrow bridge over a lagoon of eerie-looking greenish water.
As the car sped along E10, the expressway running through the entire Lofoten from north to south, we chit chatted with our new friends. It turned out that both Rachel and Shiwei were also NTU graduates *roll eyes*. Small world indeed. We chattered around the topics of NTU halls of residence, graduation, job-hunting, and the School of Arts, Design & Media where Shiwei studied. NTU didn’t have this school back when my husband and I were students there, so it was quite interesting to hear what had become of our alma mater.
After crossing over to Vestvagoy, the second island in the Lofoten archipelago after Austvagoy (where Svolvaer is located), we branched out of E10 in search of a more scenic coastal drive as the E10 cut through the center of the island. This road is called the 815, and it didn’t disappoint at all. We had to stop the car nearly every 5 minutes to take pictures of the dramatic sceneries. Temperature of below 10 degrees did not deter us at all from going out of the car and capturing every single view. Since it had been relatively cloudy for the whole day, some of the mountains looked as if they were hiding beneath a veil of soft, fluffy whites.
The four of us inside the car couldn’t stop gushing about what we saw outside the window; every sea and every river, every peak and every cliff, each one more breathtaking than the previous ones. Peter Jackson could have shot the entire trilogy of The Lord of the Rings here and I would have believed it. I was completely in awe. Never had I seen such a beautiful landscape like this throughout my entire years of traveling. No adjectives on earth could describe how great the Creator is for creating such a view.
As we joined back the E10 before crossing over to the third island, Flakstad, we drove along the center of the island where the view gradually changed from seaside to green pastures surrounded by rivers, tall greyish cliffs partially covered with snow, and occasionally, small traditional houses at every couple of kilometers.
For dinner, we stopped by a tiny fishing village called Nusfjord that only consisted of a few fisherman houses, one pub, and one restaurant with floor-to-ceiling window facing the sea. We munched our fish dinner while drooling over the view. It’s a miracle we didn’t develop a neck ache after craning our necks towards one direction for one hour 😛
It was 10pm by the time we finished dinner. In the end we didn’t have enough time to drive all the way to the last village, A. To catch the midnight sun, earlier on we had decided to visit two of the recommended places with the best view; Eggum and Hov. Eggum is located on the second island, Vestvagoy, while Hov is located on a tiny island between Vestvagoy and the first island, Austvagoy. We just needed to pray that the clouds would disappear long enough for us to take some pictures.
Before driving back up, we made a small detour to visit Ramberg, a stretch of white sandy beach somewhere in the northern tip of Flakstad. The Lonely Planets mentioned that on a clear sunny day, Ramberg could easily be mistaken as a tropical island due to its soft white sand and clear blue waters. That is until you dip your toes into the icy cold water 😛
We did some goofy stuff on the beach, jumping around and taking turns to take pictures of one another while jumping. Aside from a few wooden cabins and tents, the beach was practically empty. By 11pm, we made our way back to the car, ready to leave for Eggum when all of a sudden, the clouds cleared out and immediately a few people began running out of their tents and cabins, some even decked in their sleepwear despite the cold. With cameras in hand, they rushed towards their tripods that were already set up at strategic locations. We had just received first-hand account of other people’s hunt for the midnight sun, and at the same time, our very first capture of the midnight sun 🙂
We reached Eggum half an hour later and drove all the way to the end of the village. We parked our car facing the sun, right next to another car with a couple of Germans in it. Then we played the waiting game with the clouds. We walked around, searched for a toilet, chit chatted with the Germans. I tried taking a few shots every time the sun took a peek from beneath the clouds, but it was never fully exposed. It felt like the sun was playing peek-a-boo with us.
After waiting for nearly half an hour, in between wanting to wait further and wanting to move on to the next place, once again the sun suddenly exposed itself fully to us. It was only for a brief 5 minutes or so, but it was more than enough for the shutterbugs to start clicking non stop.
We drove out of Eggum and back to the E10 with Hov in mind as our final destination. At approximately 12.30am, right after a right turn, one of us suddenly spotted the sun; bright, round and completely clear of the clouds, directly in front of us, totally unexpected. We rushed to find a roadside where we could stop and as soon as the car stopped, the three of us (minus my husband, the driver) came toppling out and ran across the road to get a better shot at the sun.
This midnight sun that appeared unexpectedly, somewhere along the expressway of all places, turned out to be the clearest, the brightest, and the roundest of all that we saw that night.
Hov was more of a closure. We reached the village at 1.30am and this time, we had learned the lessons of patience and persistence from our previous midnight sun encounters. The temperature outside was cold beyond tolerance, so we waited sleepily inside the car while gently coaxing the sun to come out. Every time it managed to show a bit of itself, the clouds would almost always cover it up. It was as if the sun was struggling against the clouds. We couldn’t help but to cheer for the sun.
Sometime before 2am, the sun finally won its struggle against the clouds and free itself completely. Once again, we trod across a patch of wet tall grass to a corner with the best angle to shoot the sun. Though completely clear of the clouds, this sun was rather flared and not as well-defined as the previous ones. I thought it was more of a sunrise kind of sun.
And that’s the end of our hunting trip. We had found what the four of us came to Scandinavia for.
We piled ourselves back in the car, exhausted. Our two traveling companions fell asleep as we journeyed back to Svolvaer. I would have joined them if not for the fear that my husband would have followed suit. Flashes of images that I had seen in the past 10 hours of our journey came to my mind like flash cards. Looking back, I realized my husband and I wouldn’t have been that persistent and traveled that far if it were just the two of us. All the while, it had been our two friends’ strong desire for the midnight sun that fueled us to keep driving and searching from one place to another. If it were just the two of us, we would have decided on just one venue, driven there at midnight, captured the sun, and driven back straight afterwards. It’s probably something to do with our engineering background 😉
Thanks to Rachel and Shiwei’s great determination to witness the midnight sun, we got ourselves an unforgettable experience. One that was made even more memorable as it was shared with two newly found friends.