After two months living in the dramatic Lofoten Islands we decided to hop on a ferry and head to the Steigen, a region on the mainland that we fell in love with a few years ago. The last time we took this ferry it was during the night so we didn’t see any of the scenery but this time around we had blue skies and cruised past the remote villages backed by snow-capped mountains. We were welcomed with open arms and felt so happy to be back, the view was as spectacular as we remembered and as it was still the off season our friends were able to put us up in one of their luxury apartments built on a jetty. It had a sea and mountain view outside every window so it felt like we lived on a boat that was moored up in paradise.
We still had a few hours daylight so we went on a stroll down memory lane which led us to the nearby beaches set below the areas most prominent peak which is shaped like a huge pyramid. We also discovered a new ‘gapahuken’ had been built, they’re pretty common in these small communities and it’s a hut where locals can spend the afternoon sitting around a fire and cooking hot dogs with friends.
Our plan was to spend the whole month of March here in beautiful Steigen, exploring the local area and trying our luck at any more aurora sightings. We had exceptional weather for the entire month, I couldn’t believe how good it was after two months of miserable storms in Lofoten. A thick blanket of snow covered the landscape and the temperature was cold enough to keep it there so it looked absolutely magical outside.
We borrowed our friends kick-sled, technically it was a kids one but we made it work and had so much fun sliding along the icy roads. It also meant we could venture a little further afield so one day we used it to get 7km up the road so we could access a different hike. The route led us through a winter wonderland that was totally untouched. Our feet sunk a foot down with every step and to be honest it was bloomin’ exhausting. We reached a frozen lake but didn’t know how solid the ice was so we carefully skirted along the edge. I dared Craig to test a shallow section and his foot slammed through the ice and went straight into the water, oops…this led to a conversation about how I shouldn’t dare him to do things as he’ll just do it. Apparently when he was a kid his brother dared him to walk across hot ash from a bonfire which burnt through his trainers! What a fool ay.
We were tempted to give up after awhile of trudging through the deep snow but we persevered and it paid off as we got a fabulous view of the huge mountains. They weren’t just any mountains though, they were the back side of the peaks we see from our window everyday and I just love how different they look from each angle. We found a slab of bare rock to sit on and have a little fire so Craig could cook his sausages…I refrained from daring him to walk across the embers again.
Another day trip was to the nearest big town about 30 minutes away. To get there we joined the kids on the local school bus. We took a stroll to a lovely communal cabin built by the sea but it was low tide when we arrived so it didn’t look as spectacular as it could. It was a particularly cold day with temperatures at -12° so where the tide had gone out the remaining puddles were left frozen solid. Some shallow sections in the inlets had frozen on the top but were slushy underneath, it was a bizarre sensation to walk on as we didn’t sink through, our feet just left imprints in the ice like we’d walked through fresh cement.
Our walk led us to a frozen river inlet where the changing tides had created the most incredible ice sculptures from the water freezing. It formed these masterpieces of jagged ice shards wrapped around rocks. After some lunch in the sun we did a big food shop and hopped on a bus home. It was still early in the day so we did a little kick sledding tour until a section of the road turned to tarmac and we had to abandon the kick sled at the side of the road. It looked very odd on its own in the wilderness so we left a funny scene incase anyone walk by or stopped their car to see why it was there, so Craig laid down in the snow next to the kick-sled and carefully got up, leaving a huge human imprint in the snow which had me in hysterics but in reality no one would even see it as it’s such a quiet area.
To end an already perfect day our friends sent us a message saying ‘the sauna is still hot if you want to use it’. We excitedly ran across the snowy walkway to the floating jetty. The sauna was a lovely Scandinavian design with curved wooden benches and windows looking out to the sea so it felt like we were below deck on a boat. We cranked it up to 90° and once we were sufficiently sweaty it was time to brave a arctic plunge. The sea was so clear that I could see the floor, but it must’ve been over 10m deep and a little creepy to be honest so I entered the water via the ladder and hung onto it for dear life while Craig braved a proper swim. Then we ran along the snowy deck back into the hot sauna and poured some water over the stones to get the room extra hot. It was such a relaxing spot as we could sit and stare out the window at the calm sea. Occasionally boats would cruise past and the most incredible glassy ripples would come towards us.
As we stepped outside after the sauna we could see the aurora beginning to dance so I quickly got dressed and grabbed my camera. My hair was still wet from my shower so it all began to freeze when I stepped outside which is such a bizarre sensation, like my hair had been glued and turned rock hard. The northern lights swirled above us and reflected in the sea…it’s always so hard to go to bed on nights like that, not knowing if it’s about it go crazy and we’ll miss a show.
We tried to get into the habit of swimming everyday, even when the weather wasn’t nice. It was always cold outside, obviously, and it ranged from extreme -10° days up to about -1°. Trying to pluck the courage up when the wind was howling was tough but we knew we just had a very short distance to get back into our warm apartment and thaw our feet on the delightful underfloor heating. Some days it was heavily snowing and I’d come back into the house with a layer of snow on my head. One day we tried to spend as long as we could handle in the water and it chilled us to the bone so we both squeezed into the hot shower to get warm as quick as possible. It didn’t have quite the right effect as the extreme change in temperatures burnt like crazy and our extremities were absolutely throbbing in pain. When the tide was high we could jump off the steps into the clear water and when it was low we’d carefully wade through the shallows, trying to avoid stepping on a spiky sea urchin or resident starfish.
One day an iceberg floated into the bay next to our house and Craig managed to swim across and grab it for me. It seemed like a good idea for me to lay on-top of the slab of ice and see if I could float on it. We were In absolute hysterics as the ice began sinking under my weight and I had to keep spinning it around to try and find a more buoyant spot.
With every day that passed the sun got higher in the sky and the daylight hours longer, it’s only mid March now but the dark days are well and truly over and it feels like the midnight sun is just around the corner. The water now looks a fabulous turquoise colour when we hike uphill and look down at the pristine bays. The weather is still treating us well with the sun shining and the temperature remaining below zero so the landscape looks fabulous and the hundreds of islands that dot the sea around us look like iced-buns floating in the deep blue sea. We’ve been exploring the hills around our apartment and taking strolls along the coastline in search of the local otters who we’ve spotted a couple of times from our window.
Considering how many clear nights we’ve had there hasn’t been many aurora shows, luckily the ones we have had have been spectacular. One show started at dusk, I’ve never seen the aurora when the sky is so light. We wasted no time and headed out to the jetty to take photos. The show lasted all night and revealed some of the most incredible colours we’ve ever seen in the northern lights.
There’s a few different styles of aurora, the weakest variety is a sort of arch across the horizon, but the better ones consist of a glowing ball of colour being thrown across the sky or hundreds of little dashes of colour moving sideways. But the best kind of aurora is when there’s a corona which basically looks like it explodes from above. It’s the most unreal thing to witness and feels like it’s coming down to touch your, swirling like the smoke from a cauldron in greens and purples.
We were treated to a couple of pretty amazing coronas that evening. But we also got some intense colours which looked like a row of lightsabers but with green bottoms and red rising all the way up towards space. All the shades of pink and even yellow were visible and it was hard to know which direction to look.
When we were here back in 2018 we took the paddle boards out and had a terrifying experience when a freak wind caused white-caps and had us battling for our lives, at least that’s how it felt. I didn’t want to give it another try but eventually an extremely calm day appeared and we plucked up the courage to go again, this time we were rewarded with one of our favourite experiences in the arctic. So we wanted to give it another go this time and headed out across calm waters. I felt nervous yet again, it didn’t help that there was a plankton bloom and the sea turned from as clear and blue as gin to green and murky. I guess the fear of falling into the unknown scared me more than the fact that if I fell in I could die of hypothermia.
Just before we left our friend gave me a neck-buff with a map of the area printed on it which I thought was absolutely genius and we used it to figure out the best route. We ventured out at high tide which meant there were a lot of inlets that were accessible, unlike at low tide when only sand and shells remain. The water became clearer and more turquoise in some areas so maybe the bloom didn’t effect the whole area. The mountains were reflected in the water and I felt very grateful to be exploring this magical area on a paddle board again. I had a few scary wobbles but thankfully managed to get back as dry as a bone. What a fabulous little outing!
Before we left the area we had one final sauna and I even managed to let go of the ladder and swim for a few seconds before returning to the sauna to cook like to rotisserie chicken again. While we were relaxing and listening to the gentle movement of the sea we heard some water splashing below us. There was a little more splashing following by heavy breathing – it was one of the little otters catching its breath in a totally hidden gap under the jetty, how cute!!
After almost a month it’s time for us to say goodbye to our friends and this magical place. We hope to return again…we really love it here, maybe next time we’ll experience a summer season. We hopped on a ferry to Bodø where we had a flight to catch but not for 10 hours so we popped our bags in a locker and headed on a hike to a lovely little beach. It was backed with rustic red beach-huts so we sat on a bench to enjoy the view and eat our lunch. A local guy came along and went in for a swim but he just kept swimming and swimming. He was in the water for an absurd amount of time, at least 5 minutes and when he swam back towards the beach he proceeded to stay in the water breathing deeply for a few more minutes. That really put my 1 minute and 45 second record to shame.
Our flight departed just as the sun was setting but as we headed south we seemed to catch up with the sun and it came back up a little before making it’s final dip behind the curve of the earth. It meant we had a sunset that lasted over an hour with a beautiful glow to the sky and little clouds floating above the sea. Goodbye beautiful Norway, until we meet again.
2 Comments Add yours
My god this place is gorgeous! What an amazing place, and what great experiences you guys had!
Thanks so much! It’s a stunning spot, I really love it there.