A Walk On The Wild Side: The Vesterålen Islands

, June 15, 2011

Vesteralen Archipelago
Mount Møysalen © Terje O.

If you are looking for a pure adventure in the outdoors this summer then look no further than Arctic Norway. The Vesterålen National Park can be found within the Arctic circle, an unspoilt and little known area outside of Norway, recently coined as “Norway’s most beautiful natural attraction” in 2009 by the Norwegian outdoor magazine UTE. The Vesterålen archipelago neighbours Lofoten and at just a 30 minute boat trip from mainland Norway, an untouched mountain range, remoteness and exposure of exploring at 69 degrees North make up one of Europe’s local wildernesses.

Within the Vesterålen archipelago is the Møysalen National Park and the towering, 1262m central peak of Møysalen. The 9-hour ascent begins at the start of the Lonkanfjord edge and poses a difficulty well within a fit walker’s ability. Once you top out you will experience panoramic views of the island of Hinnøya, one of four large islands that make up the Vesterålen. On a clear day you can see more than 20 different mountain peaks in 20 different municipalities.

Although the climb is not considered to be technical there is a section of via ferrata to help you over a short scrambling section at the foot of the peak where a harness and two quick draws will be necessary. Furthermore, the Øverbreen glacier looms just below the summit of Møysalen and a further addition of winter climbing hardware, such as an axe, crampons and a rope will be needed. If you do not feel confident on this kind of terrain then get yourself a guide which can be done from the Tourist Office in Møysalen.

Useful Information

  • When: Summer/early autumn
  • Guides available from the Tourist Office in Møysalen National Park Centre and can be arranged by phoning +47 761 60830.
  • The Møysalen climb is suitable for hikers in good physical condition. So long as aguide is used, no prior winter climbing skills are necessary
  • Guided treks to Møysalen
  • Visit Vesteralen
  • Norway official travel guide

Other things to do in Vesterålen

Fishing

Vesterålen hosts some of the country’s richest fishing and people visit these islands for purely the quality of fishing that can be done all year round. The most common species are cod, coalfish, haddock and redfish, but it is also possible to catch salmon and sea trout or even a giant halibut. The winter is special due to ‘skreifishing’, and provides the opportunity to go ice-fishing which is best from February to April. Abundant lakes provide ample opportunities to catch trout and char. Many of the tourist facilities have boats for hire, guided fishing trips and Fishing licences can be purchased locally. Everything about fishing in Vesteralen can be found here.

Cycling

If time is not of particular concern for you then cycle touring around the Vesterålen archipelago opens up the possibility for a magical experience. With established routes on the islands, not only are they easy to navigate they are relatively flat roads with slim chances of having to share the road with other vehicles. Visit Vesteralen provides everything you need to know about cycling in Vesteralen, including their new comprehensive cycling map which can be purchased for NOK 250 (approx £28) by emailing mailto:turistinfo@vestreg.no.

Vesterålen Islands
The town of Lofoten, Vesterålen

Paddling

Whether you are an experienced kayaker or a complete beginner Vesterålen is a paddler’s paradise. With no better way to get so close to the pristine fjords and a great means by which to witness the beautiful wildlife that the Arctic Norway offers. To hire kayaks from Vesterålen Paddling Club follow this link. If you are looking for a more competitive scene, then have a look at the 30km Arctic Sea Kayak Race, entrance is NOK 800 (approx £90) and the race is usually in the last week of July, available to both sexes.

Aurora Borealis

One of the most sought after experiences in the Northern Hemisphere is to watch the polar lights dance in the Arctic sky. Many tourists flock to Arctic Norway to witness what is known as the Aurora Borealis and Vesterålen boasts some of the best auroras due the islands being central to the aurora oval. It must be noted, the best time to experience the Northern Lights is between December and March. Check out the Norwegian Photographer Terje; and his pioneering work on The Aurora for some inspirational stuff.

Getting there responsibly

  • Oslo is the nearest international airport and buses/ferries are running to take you to the islands of Vesterålen.
  • Check this Visit Vesterålen page before planning your trip.
  • For a more environment friendly and affordable way of travelling, hop on the Eurostar from London St Pancras – Brussels – Cologne  (ICE high-speed train) and finally Copenhagen – Oslo, book tickets here to benefit from cheaper fares.