"Choose Cod Over Oil!" Traveling by Bike in Norway's Lofoten Region

April 27, 2017 - Kristina Krause kindly submitted today's guest blog. Thank you!

A double rainbow and an empty road ... headed into the Lofoten region.

“Choose cod over oil!” is the unofficial mantra of the Lofoten region, as oil companies push to tap the region for its oil resources. The residents of the Lofoten area, however, maintain that a focus on tourism and continuing a longstanding fishing culture is far more valuable and sufficiently profitable than giving in to oil companies at the expense of the environment.

I certainly agree.

Along with my friend Sarah, this cycle trip began in Tromso and we traveled to Å (the Norwegian pronunciation is o? from å meaning “stream”) at the end of the Lofoten archipelago. We returned via Svolvær where we hopped on a Hurtigruten to Tromso.

We had quite the time finding resources to plan this trip, mostly learning along the way, so I hope this post helps anyone looking to plan a trip to this wondrous area of Norway. Rather than telling the linear story of our two-week trip, let’s focus on the information you might need to get planning!

What to bring

I had just rolled into the lovely town of Mefjord Brygge and attempted to shift, but found the lever pushed straight through. My cable had shredded. Bummer.

Our campsite at Mefjord Brygge

After several false leads for people who might have cables, I ended up riding single speed for a hilly 40km to a tourist bike rental shop that ended up having the wrong cables, and another 20km to catch the last ferry to the nearby island of Andoya. We camped in Andenes and waited for a full-service bike shop, Andoy Sport, to open in the morning.

Lesson learned — pack some of REI’s Additional Repair Items and bring any extra components you think may be difficult to find. I had figured, with the amount of bike ownership and options for bike rental in the area, there would be more cycling resources, but it simply is not so.

My shredded cable

When to Visit

Summer in Lofoten

Unless you are really into brisk winter rides and camping, definitely take this trip sometime in August. Temperatures are perfect for cycling and more importantly, businesses are still operating in their “in-season” mode. This allows you to easily grab food and enjoy various tourist activities, if you are so inclined.

What should I wear?

Shorts and long-sleeve merino tops were my standard ... picture possible via an outdoor art installation.

Merino wool is ideal for Norway. Even in the summer months, especially in the evening, it can get cool, and although quick-dry gear works fine, you just are not going to get the same warmth from synthetic fabrics.

That said, I brought one outfit of quick-dry clothing, noting that rain was a real possibility in Norway. Luckily, we did not experience it.

Washing yourself and your clothes

Because there are many ports in Norway, dockside laundromats and showers are fairly common. You will have the opportunity to wash yourself and your clothes somewhat often depending on your route. Bring biodegradable soap for body and clothing.

Where to stay?

Atop a bluff near Andenes, just outside of town

You can certainly create a route where you stay in hotels or other accommodation, but the real beauty of this trip for me was being able to camp anywhere. Private property rights are different in Norway. You have the right to roam, as long as you are 492 feet away from someone’s physical structure, and you are allowed to set up camp. And wow, there are some amazing places to discover for a quick rest. Explore!

Norwegian culture: things to know

The most useful thing I learned about Norwegian culture is that you need to ask for precisely what you want and if you need extra help, ask for that too.

For example, if you are in a store and you say your bike is broken and you are looking for bike cables, also remember to ask if there is a bike mechanic in town. As you will only get an answer for if there are cables in the store. :)

We did a little research and found that Norwegians don’t like to make assumptions about what other people may feel, want, or need. Just be sure you have asked all the questions before you give up!

What to eat

Fish. So much fish. Also, stockfish.

Fish drying racks

Also being a vegetarian is hard in Norway, but there are waffles. They are the choice snack on most ferries and in cafes.

What route should I take?

A portion of our route

As for the route, luckily, islands are some of the easier cycling trips to take — sort of hard to get too lost when you have coastlines to follow.  Watch out for a fair number of dark tunnels, large trucks, and bridges with windy conditions; but otherwise the roads are well maintained and car traffic is minimal.

One of many tunnels

We met a few cyclists along the way that took slightly different routes to Lofoten, so don’t get too hung up on the route, but I have listed our general route below with key stops.

Anker Brygge in Svolvaer

Anything else to know?

This region of Norway is truly beautiful and provided a strenuous but satisfying route. As mentioned before, cyclists are appreciated in the area because they do not rely on oil — we had zero issues with drivers being frustrated about cyclists on the road. Like most multi-day bike trips, just remember to stay open and flexible, and you will have a grand time in Norway. There truly is no better way to experience the world.

Kristina is a Boston-based UX researcher working in the healthcare industry. She uses all her vacation time on long-distance bike tours and is looking forward to her next trip riding through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Photos by Kristina Krause

Here's a detailed itinerary of Kristina’s trip:

Day

Location

Food, Activity, Camp, or Hotel

Notes

1

Tromso

Tromso Bed and Books

This place was lovely. Offered to store our bike boxes for two weeks and were flexible when Norwegian Airlines lost our bike. They also had a washing machine, kitchen, and were close to Tromso center. Lots of great food in Tromso, but Riso mat & caffebar stood out for me.

2

Fjordvegen 16, 9100 Kvaløysletta, Norway

Eide handel AS - Grocery Store

Great grocery store to stop at for stocking up on snacks and quick hot meal. Also, restrooms and very helpful staff!

 

Somewhere around Tisnes to Mjelde on 858

Camping - Unknown

We stopped to camp in a public park that looked over the ocean. It was beautiful and also a hot fishing spot. The grocery store manager from our previous stop, told us to take this lower route (858) as the sun would be on us longer and it was a more pleasant ride. You will also see a sign to take the upper route on 862, which works too. Oh, and this random stop happened to have a bathroom and running water too.

3

Scandic Partner: Sommarøy Arctic Hotel

Great restaurant at the hotel, drinks, horses, and bathroom

Great meal, beer, bathroom.

 

Sommarøy

Camping

We camped on a beach a mile or so from the hotel off the main road. Many places to set up camping, take your pick. A few grocers and places for basic amenities in the area.

4

Brensholmen

Few grocery stores and restaurants. Also where the ferry leaves from

We passed through here on our way up to Sommarøy, then rode the few miles back to the ferry.

 

Mefjordvaer

Grocery, restaurant, hotel, camping

We camped nearby after a lovely shower and delicious meal.

5

Hamn

Hotel, restaurant, shower, hot tub, fishing

We stopped here for bike repair, but was unable to solve the cable problem. So we enjoyed a good meal and shower.

 

Somewhere before Hamn is a troll! Stop to see it and grab a snack.

 

Gryllefjord

Many amenities

Where we took the ferry to Andoya

6

Andenes

Town with everything you need

Only place we found solid bike shops except for Tromso.

 

We camped on a bluff down a random road. Good luck!

7

Sortland

Town with many amenities

We camped somewhere just before Sortland and arrived in the morn to have a great buffet breakfast at the Sortlund hotel.

8

Svolvær

Town with everything you need and more

We stayed in the lovely rooms at Anker Brygge and ate at a few great restaurants nearby.

9

Å

Great town with small historic village too

End of the line!

10

Leknes

Various restaurants and shop

Back toward Svolvær on narrow roads with several stops along the way.

11

Ballstad

Great little shops and just a few places to eat. Hostel down here too.

This was a very cute fishing area, with some great wool shops and a delicious restaurant called Himmel og Havn.

12

Gimsøysand

Campsite with shower and kitchen

Found this place by mistake and was so happy. Thought I was going to have to camp in the middle of nowhere. There also was a restaurant and 24 hour golf course!

13

Svolvær

 

Back to Svolvær to get on the Hurtigruten to Tromso. The Hurtigruten allows for bikes - remember to tell them you are bringing one with you.

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