Arctic Circle 66° 33′ N

Situated on the E6 about 80km north of Mo I Rana the Polarsirkelsenteret is a bit more than just a line across the road.

We arrived at the Arctic Circle at about 17:00. It was a pleasant afternoon with an air temperature of about 18C but at that time of year and latitude the sun is very hot. There is a large car park, a visitor centre with all the touristic paraphernalia built astride the line and overnight parking for campers. There are also monuments, including those to Russians and Yugoslavs from WWII, and a large area of rock piles that Fred had a go at knocking over!

DSC_0204We were not sure what to expect at this latitude and the surrounding terrain is rugged but then the visitor centre is at 630m a.s.l.. However not far down the road in either direction industry and agriculture continue despite the shortened seasons.

We were in too much of a hurry to get here and were worried about how long it is going to taker to get home. In reality we could have taken our time and / or gone further north. We must come again and and carry on to the North Cape.

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Kristiansand to the Arctic Circle

Depending on the actual route you take it is about 1000 miles from the southern tip to the Arctic Circle by the main coast road and then the main road north. Sounds like a long way but that is only half the distance to the North Cape – but that will be another story.

kristiansand2arcticcircleDay 3 – Thursday 16 June – Kristiansand is the southern most tip of Norway a 4 hour crossing from Hirtshals The Colorline ferry arrived mid afternoon and took quite a while to disembark and single file past the immigration / customs – sadly a test of things to come post Brexit

It was overcast and damp as we hit the road aiming to find a camp site not too far away for the night. The first of many spectacles came on the E39 at Feda, a tunnel that exited directly on to a suspension bridge over a fjord before going straight back into another tunnel on the other side. Shortly after we cut off at Flekkefiord on to the 44, a smaller coast road. It was spectacularly senic even on a damp and dreary evening often single lane winding through narrow fjords with big drops, picturesque valleys and cragy tops. Getting desperate we stopped in a small village and contemplated stopping for the night until we opened the door and met the local residents – mosies! Eventualy we found a small and surprisingly inexpensive campsite with nice facilities, Bakkaano Camping, in hills near Sognadal.

Day 4 & 5 – Friday 17th & Sat 18th June – The next day we followed the coast north heading for Stavanger. After stopping for a quick look at Egersund church and a coffee by the fjord the country side along this stretch of coast turns into flat coastal plain with arable farming all the way to Stavanger Fjord. I used to stay at a hotel in Sola so we headed for Sola Strand, a long sandy beach, where we rocked up for lunch. Sola is next to Stavanger airport that is constantly busy with helicopters coming and going to the oil and gas rigs.

A quick look at a couple of camp sites and we decided on a nice site on the beach south of Sola Strand at Olberg harbour. It was barely separated from small the beach by a row of dunes and had great facilities. Next day was Sue’s birthday so our plan was to stop here and chill. It was a great spot and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Fred particularly liked the beach, the Oyster Cachers and a family of Eiders. It was windy and a showery at times. The winds off the Atlantic were a constant 65kph for 24 hours so we had to take down our inflatable drive away awning and when it came time to go we had to to turn the van back into the wind so that we could lower the roof without risking damage.

Day 6 – Sunday 19th June – After filling up in Stavanger with what had to be the cheapest diesel in Western Europe we headed for Bergen opting to take the scenic route with a couple of longish ferries hoping across the islands. However before we could do that there was the tunnel under Stavanger Fjord which at 8.5km long may not sound too spectacular but at 265m deep it certainly is. There are 2 ferries each about 45 minutes and such an enjoyable way to travel.

We arrived in Bryggen, the old town at the heart of Bergen, for a spot of lunch parked up just off the waterfront and had a quick look at the touristic buildings. Most of the big buildings are stone or brick from the early 1900s, presumably because the wooden ones would have succumbed to fire amongst other things, but there are several preserved or reconstructed buildings.

A short stroll was enough for us – nowadays we really don’t do cities and Fred certainly doesn’t! This section of the old waterfront overlooks the harbour where apart for a host of sail boats and fishing boats the ferries and cruise ships dock. Further out to sea it quickly gives way to shipping for the oil industry.

Leaving Bergen and still on the E39 it was a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon and the views from the road across the fjords simply went on and on. We stopped for refreshment at a busy road side cafe to buy ices – not something to be recommended at those prices. Parked up enjoying them a guy pulled up next to us in the most pristine black 1957 Thunderbird convertible, such a nice way to enjoy that road. Shortly after we came across the quintessentially Norwegian church nestling in a small hamlet on the shore of the fjord at Vikanes.

Crossing the Sogner Fjord to Lavik we took a detour from the E39 in search of a camp site for the night. We found a one in the middle of nowhere and by that I mean we turned off the main road following a camping sign and drove for miles along small roads until we came upon it by lake Askevatnet,. It was in an idyllic spot in a valley next to the lake with several Huttes (the Norwegians enjoy holidaying in Wendy houses) and a small communal block with a toilet, shower and small kitchen. It was so quiet we only had 2 other vans and several Polish workers for company that night.

Day 7 – Monday 20th June – The following morning still following our detour on scenic small roads we came across a roundabout at Dale in the middle of the tunnel that was lit in disco blue. The whole day was just more great roads and fab scenery on our way to our next stop over that was to be Alesund.

Here we made our first foray into the supermarket which as expected was expensive and we were surprised by the poor choice, something we found throughout Norway. We also had to go to a pet shop as Fred had chewed through his lead and if we thought the supermarket was expensive the pet shop beat them hands down! That night finding a camp site was a annoying and we drove 20km up the road until we found one at Sjoholt. It was a bit uninspiring but the dreary evening probably didn’t help.

Day 8 – Tuesday 21st June – The following morning I was on a mission so we drove back into Alesund. As a kid one of my favourite books was the Shetland Bus, the story of the Norwegian fisherman and sailors who escaped from Nazi occupation of Norway and with the help of the British SOE formed a naval unit that sailed from Scotland to Norway in fishing boats supplying the resistance, rescuing people and carrying out attacks like the attempted sinking of the Tirpitz. On the harbour front by the ferry terminal is a monument to the men of the Shetland Bus.

From Alesund we headed on toward the Atlantic Road. A series of bridges hopping across several small islands. Nice though it is it is no where nears as spectacular as the tourist literature makes out. As it sweeps from one island to another there is only one main arch, to allow boats past, and this is the one you will see on all the photos. The other bridges are all fairly flat. We stopped for coffee and waved to the first Brit we had seen since Germany and who just happened to be another VW T5. They pulled in for a chat and recognised our van from the T4/T5 Forum!

Immediately after the Atlantic Road we followed a sign for a camp site heading out to the islands. It took us so far out and the road eventually turned to gravel before we got to Camping Lyso. This site has to be recommended with loads of pitches in amongst the rocks and views all around. The facilities were excellent including good WiFi and all for a great price. That night was midsummer so the shortest of the year and we were able to wonder around taking in the views late into the evening while the sun still shone on the mountains.

Remote though this place was there were new holiday homes being built in several places and some of the Lithuanian workers were staying on the camp site. Yet another example of Norway’s relationship with the EU.

Easy 9 – Wednesday  22nd June – Continuing to head north and after several days following the E39 we finally reached the end and joined the E6 on the way to Trondheim. Sue had been suffering from a bad cold and sore throat for several days so we made a detour into a small town, Bardshaug, and called into Boots the Apotek for a packet of Strepsils at twice the UK price!

Despite the northern latitude it was warm in the rush hour traffic around Trondheim so we were pleased to find a nice camp site just north of Steinkjer, Follingstua Camping on lake Snasavatet. From our pitch we had an elevated view over the lake.

Day 10 – Thursday 23rd June – The following day we simply headed north on the E6. On the way a long tunnel at Hemnes was closed and the traffic redirected over the old mountain road. From the viewpoint at its peak we got clear views of the Okstindan mountains and the Okstindbreen glacier. As the weather promised to be fine all day we decided to press on to Arctic Circle that afternoon. Just before Mo I Rana something strange happened to the sat nav and the screen decided that it was night time so that the only solution was to turn the day night feature off. It was a haul getting past Mo I Rana because of the amount of road works but we made it late in the afternoon.

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