Driving Norway just isn't complete without a trip to the northern inlets; quite possibly the best place to see the famed northern lights. This region is home to arctic roadways along the Barents Sea and our 7-day driving route offers stops in fishing villages and at the feet of frigid mountains where you can witness this extraordinary natural wonder up-close or from the warmed seats of your rental car. Dramatic walkways and hiking trails along rocky hills give visitors a glimpse into the rugged and untouched side of Norway, while roads are narrow yet comfortable and paved with asphalt on all main routes.
Total Drive Time: 11 Hours
Main Routes: Senja National Tourist Route (Rv86/862), Rv861, Rv855, E6, Hav°ysund National Tourist Route
|Northern Lights Road Trip Driving Distances|
|Locations||Distance (Miles)||Estimated Time|
|Gryllefjord to Botnhamn||48.7||1 Hour, 23 Minutes|
|Botnhamn to Silsand||32.3||51 Minutes|
|Silsand to Olderdalen||125||2 Hours, 48 Minutes|
|Olderdalen to Oksfjordhamn||44.9||1 Hour, 9 Minutes|
|Oksfjordhamn to Talvik||69.2||1 Hour, 32 Minutes|
|Talvik to Olderfjord||86||2 Hours|
|Olderfjord to Havoysund||54.9||1 Hour, 27 Minutes|
|Total:||461||11 Hours, 10 Minutes|
There are no tolls reported on most mapping sites you will find, but to be safe, please be prepared or keep tally of the points you pass in order to settle up afterward. You may reach Gryllefjord, the beginning of your road trip, via the ferry at Andenes; however, the route itself does not feature any ferry runs and is quite straightforward once you have reached E6. As with any of our other Norway road trips, it is also advised that you have all of the necessary route info and roadside safety equipment with you, including things to keep warm and a few spare snacks.
You will start your northern lights tour with a picturesque jaunt along the Senja National Tourist Route, turning south at Botnhamn and making your way in a gradual curve northward through Olderdalen, all the way up to Hav°ysund on the northern tip of Norway. Although you will have a drive to take each day, there are many scenic spots on this unique route that you cannot see anywhere else; wildlife and landscapes that open up onto sand and grasses edging into the arctic seas.
The spectacular aurora borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, will undoubtedly be a highlight of your journey. The sub-arctic environment you'll be driving through, farther away from the equator than most other developed parts of the world, provides an ideal opportunity to catch a glimpse of this incredible natural light show. Be sure to pack extra warm clothes, or at least spend some time in the warmth of your car rental at night gazing up into the sky. Sighting the aurora borealis will surely make your northern lights driving tour one that you'll never forget!
Most recognizable for its steep cliffs and rocky outcroppings that look out over the Barrents Sea, the first leg of your 7-day trip will take you through the icy mountainsides of the Senja National Tourist Route. Leaving from Gryllefjorde, stop first at the Bersbotn platform with its man-made walkways and lookout with a risen point in its center for spectacular photograph opportunities (pictured below). This region is also a great one for hiking and mountain biking, so those cycle enthusiasts will want to strap a bike onto their roof rack for this ride.
The wooden walkways of Tungeneset are set along the shoreline on this drive as well, beckoning with their peaceful and rugged natural surroundings looking on the long beaches with grassy edging. Travel along Rv862 to reach Botnhamn on the northern side of the land where a maritime arctic hotel like the Sommaroy Arctic Hotel awaits with cozy and rustic interiors and humble hospitality to match. The view from its rooms is of the sea and it's cold, glassy serenity - an inspiring sight to wake up to.
As you make your way down Rv861, there is more sandy shoreline to the east and the road you'll drive closely follows this gorgeous shore. Many will revel in the centuries-old buildings that dot the harbor at Gibostad, which was at one time an important place along the trade route from Botnhamn and further inland. In August, the village holds a festival-like market known in the region as Gibostadmartna, where local arts, crafts and cuisine are available for sharing and purchase - something that visitors looking for authentic cultural pieces will especially appreciate.
Continue south to Silsand for some practical activities like grocery shopping and finding a place to dine. Visitors will rejoice in the hot meals served at venues across the bridge in Nygard and Finnsnes, and there are affordable hotels on either side to choose from that will welcome guests and provide a nice place to rest before the longer stretches of the journey that lay ahead of you. Be sure to stop by the Bakeri Nostalgi for dainty pastries and more delicious baked goods for the trip. We recommend purchasing a simple breakfast croissant before heading out on the E6 for the next leg of your journey.
Now that you've got your inventory stocked, it's time to make your way up the E6, a main road that hugs the western shoreline of the Lyngen to the north before making its way to the town of Olderdalen. This 125-mile stretch is full of narrows and valleys that seemingly exist within the cracks of great mountainous terrain with icy glaciers and mountain vegetation at the edge of the roads. Stop at Oteren, 67 miles up the highway for a much-needed break and an optional overnight at one of the handful of accommodations in town. If you do stop here, you may be ale to gaze upon the magic of the Aurora Borealis that is common at certain times of year in this region.
If you decide to surge on to Olderdalen, opportunities to view this spectacular display of light in the sky still present themselves. This grassy hillside village is dotted with farms and will give you the chance to fish for some of the more interesting species of arctic fish (if you're so inclined). There is another chance before you here to pick up groceries at the local market, and in the frosty crook of another hill, the Hakon Guesthouse is able to provide a quiet, comfortable place to stay right by the main road so you can enjoy some delicious Asian cuisine (who knew?) before embarking on the next leg of your Northern Lights Tour of Norway.
Leaving Oldedalen, you can see the crystalline waters of the glacier fed Lyngen to one side for the entire length of your drive to Oksfjordhamn. The delightful scenery wouldn't be complete without a stop-off in Rotsund where you can take a ferry across to the island of Ul°ya for a look at some of the tiny fishing villages and mountainous parts of the northern coastal region by hiking its trails. Here, you can also do some skiing or take snowmobiling tours among the drifts during the cooler months of the year. If you're a fisherman, enjoy a guided tour run from one of the local hotels like the Havnnes Handelssted.
Once you reach Storslett, find your way south on RV865 to absorb the scenery in its most pristine state with wildlife of all kinds and impressive waterfalls like the Mollisfossen, which is just south in Reisa National Park. You can take a riverboat to the site as well, which may bode well for those looking to burn a little daylight before reaching Oksfjorhamn in the late afternoon or early evening. Light and darkness linger here depending on the time of year since it is north of the Arctic Circle. This can make for a very impressive look at nocturnal wildlife while the sun is seemingly reluctant to go to sleep.
Rise from your sleep in one of the cozy cabins offered up by villagers as holiday homes, and drive up E6 again for more breathtaking terrain along the water and on the edge of the mountains of the arctic territory. Arriving at Burfjord, there are plenty of places to dine on regional cuisine. One such place of key interest is Porten til Finnmark kaffebar, which is a tad north in Langfjordbotn among the meadows and trees of the valley with a balcony for seating outside on the warmer days.
From here, Talvik awaits with its 19th century buildings and foggy inlet. The Lavik Church in town has sat as it was built since 1883, and further up the road in Alta, the Nordlyskatedralen, which is lit up at night to resemble the northern lights that so commonly grace the dark skies over Norway. Here, visitors can rest for the night at the Scandic Alta with its modern interiors and upscale feel. This village is also surrounded by many different trails that lead into forested areas like Bubbelen and Seiland National Park - an ideal stop for those hoping to stretch their legs and breathe in some of the crisp arctic air.
Within this National Park to the north across the water, you will find two towering glaciers as well as some fascinating arctic flora and fauna. There are hiking and snowmobiling trails and fishing is available in warmer months. The air is quite crisp and cold so extra clothing should be worn nearly every time of year, but when you dress appropriately, this climate and locale reward travelers with the unique opportunity to see and learn about one of the most fascinating regions of the world, exploring from the comfort of a comfortable SUV or sedan.
Wind your way around Arrones, a popular area for camping, and up E6 past Rafsbotn where you could pause to enjoy alpine ski slopes. This region has a very storied past with many of its memories held by the Rafsbotn Chapel. The road follows a river all the way from the sea to the Leirbotnvannet lake - its steely blue waters slicing through arctic green like a life-giving vein. Roads here can be a bit slick and in the dark, take care not to hit anything or miss a turn in the morning fog. After a few more minutes on the road, you will reach Repparfjord, which is notorious for its immeasurable salmon runs and stunning scenery at the mouth of a river. Keep your camera on hand through this leg of the trip.
The last pit stop of the day is at Olderfjord where the Olderfjord Hotell Russenes gives the choice of camping or you can treat yourself to a private cabin or room in the lodge. This hotel proves extremely useful in many ways as it features a shop for picking up necessities and snacks for the final day of your road trip but also a visitor information center, which will undoubtedly come in handy for your drive up the Hav°ysund National Tourist Route.
The final day of your adventure begins in a familiar spot, driving along the side of the ocean. Arcitc views are enhanced by a backdrop of mountains and grassy meadows on the other side of your vehicle - a setting which, after several days on the road, feels like something earned, not given. Spend enough time in a place, and you begin to understand its unique rhythms and beauty, and on the 7th day of your drive through northern Norway, you'll have come to appreciate this dazzling corner of the world in a whole new way.
We recommend a stop at the Kokelv Sj°samiske Museum - a place which reveals the lifestyles and artifacts of the Norse people of the north before the modern technologies of the 21st century and offers a worthwhile historic context to the final day of your tour. After absorbing each of the thatch-roofed cabins and their contents, head up the Hav°ysund National Tourist Route.
One of the most simple (and also the most beautiful) attractions along this route is the Lillefjord with its footbridge and walks through the woods and along the beaches - once again at the Barrents Sea. Go far enough up the paths, and you will discover the Love Bench at the edge that looks over the Lillefjordfossen waterfall in its magnanimous beauty. Linger here for salmon fishing or just rock-hounding along the beaches at Snefjord where the walk from the car to the water is only a few feet in places.
Before reaching your final destination, make sure to pay attention when passing the Selvika Bay and its sculptured rest area that takes visitors right down onto the white sands of the beach. Skip the main attractions and go off on the Fotefar Langs Nord to see a few of the settlements in the area that date back to as far as 6,000 years old. This place is a magical glimpse into the past and is preserved only by its remote location.
The Hav°ysund National Tourist Route ends at the same time as your 7-day road trip in the city of Hav°ysund itself. The beaches and hillsides seemingly open up onto the fishing community which welcomes visitors with expertly guided tours - fishing excursions on the shore and out to sea. Here you'll also enjoy options for dining and accommodation. Spend a day or two here at the Hav°ysund Hotel where you will have your very own spacious suite in addition to hired guides here that can take you out onto the highest nearby plateau, allowing you to rejuvenate and immerse yourself in the rays of the midnight sun (in summer) or where you'll enjoy an intimate look at the Aurora Borealis once more as you bid Norway farewell.