Senja, Norway: Land of the Midnight Sun
Updated: Sep 1, 2018
Norway’s spectacular coastline and fjords can be filled with tourists during peak seasons, summer in the south and winter in the north. Visitors descend on picturesque Tromso north of the Arctic Circle in the winter for the aurora borealis, or northern lights. But in the summer, head north to avoid the crowds and see the midnight sun. During June and July, the sun doesn’t set, and in August, you’ll get only a few hours of night.
Senja, pronounced Sen-yah, sits about an hour and a half from Tromso if you take the car ferry. It’s a shorter voyage if you’re on foot and take the speedboat from Tromso or ferry from Andenes. Senja boasts the typical rocky Norwegian coastline and ragged mountains jutting out over teal green fjords, so incredible to see that a drive along the coast is an attraction by itself. We stayed up late enough to see a rainbow grace the sky above the setting sun shortly before midnight in August.
There’s abundant fishing and hiking in the summer months, and a chance to rent bikes to travel the Norwegian Scenic Route, despite the challenging hills and numerous tunnels. Even better, get a kayak to visit the sandy outcroppings and coral by boat or hire a guide for a diving expedition. The water’s crystal clear beauty is similar to the Caribbean, just colder.
Accommodations aren’t plentiful on Senja. There are perhaps a dozen hotels and camping grounds on the island, so it’s important to book ahead. For a touch of luxury, rent a suite on Hamn i Senja and book a fishing trip with a guide, enjoying the sauna and hot tubs at night. The resort also rents bikes and kayaks.
For those who like to camp, it’s possible to pitch a tent or park an RV roadside, at a beach, or in the parking lot of a park anywhere in Norway. The water is so pristine, locals will tell you that you it’s safe to drink any rushing water. I tested this out once below a glacier in the nearby Lyngen Alps, and despite the presence of numerous grazing sheep nearby, did not get sick.
Fresh water and roadside camping will be some of the few free things you will find in Norway. It’s one of the most expensive places to visit in already expensive Europe. Prices for food and lodging often are double what they are the U.S. Renting a small car to visit Senja cost us about $540 U.S. dollars for three days including insurance and gas. It’s possible to take public ferries and buses to visit the island, with limited service and sometimes no service on certain days, so it’s important to check the schedule ahead of time.
Hiking opportunities abound. Maps with elevation can be downloaded on a smartphone at www.norgeskart.no. The Anderdalen Nasjonalpark in the center of the island has numerous trails and you can stay at the hiker’s cabin Senjabu, one of 500 across the country, if you get a key ahead of time.
One of the least attractive aspects of Senja is the Senjatrollet, which lays claim to being the largest troll in the world. It’s a short drive from Hamn i Senja and the troll’s cavernous restaurant with several private nooks serves traditional Norwegian fare, including waffles.
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