The fishing village of Nyksund in the Vesterålen Islands was abandoned in the 1960s, and since then the place has been generally dark in winter. But the darkness is a great advantage when you’re chasing the Northern Lights. If you want to see the Northern Lights as an independent traveller, without a busy programme of excursions and activities, the solitary peace of Nyksund offers a fine alternative.
The fishing village of Nyksund succumbed to the demands of the modern age in the 1960s and was abandoned. With a harbour too small to accommodate modern boats, one of Norway’s leading fishing communities packed its bags and moved to the busy, modern port of Myre. But, after lying deserted for some years, Nyksund has been given a new chance as a haven for people seeking to get away from it all. Now Nyksund is relatively lively in the summer, attracting walkers, pleasure boat-owners and former Nyksund residents and their descendants. In the winter, however, only 20 people live in Nyksund, so you can really feel the silence and the peace.
Around 1970 Nyksund decided to turn off its lights
Nyksund was the second place in Northern Norway to have electric street lighting, beaten only by Hammerfest. But that was then. Today’s new inhabitants enjoy being in the absolute dark, and have deliberately chosen not to turn the street lighting back on. And so it is virtually pitch-black in Nyksund. The only atmosphere is created by the lights twinkling from a few house windows. Over towards the north-west, where most Northern Lights sightings occur, there are positively no light sources other than the moon and the stars.
You can stay next to the sea in Nyksund and wait for the lights
Ssemjon Gerlitz and Jasmin, originally from Düsseldorf, are Nyksunders by choice. They spend most of the year in Nyksund, and look forward to winter and the Northern Lights. They run Holmvik Brygge, a fine old wharfside establishment in the centre of Nyksund harbour. Here you can stay in a room simply furnished in quirky, old-fashioned style, and in the reception/restaurant relive the atmosphere from Nyksund’s glory days of the early 1900s.
See the aurora for yourself after a short walk from Nyksund
“It’s completely dark here, and the conditions are perfect for seeing the Northern Lights,” says Ssemjon. He recommends donning a thermal snow suit and head flashlight and taking a long walk in the dark. Go up the little, steep path to the viewing point on the outer side of the island, and look out over the sea, even though you can hear it more than see it. Cross the little stone mole to Langøya, the main island in Vesterålen, and walk along the beach. Even in the middle of winter there is little snow out here, so it is easy to get about. “If you’re outside, you can always catch the Northern Lights if they’re there”, he adds.
You’ll be in good hands during your stay
Ssemjon and Jasmin are experienced Northern Lights watchers, and enjoy sharing their advice and experiences. The important thing really is to spend as much time outside as possible in the evenings. “We give our guests an introduction to the Northern Lights when they arrive,” Ssemjon explains, “and then we leave them alone, but we’re available all the time. Our guests are probably seeking peace and quiet”.
The area offers multiple activities in the winter season
What is there to do in winter, some will wonder. Need one do anything? Pleasant walks and cosying up with a book in front of the fire are quite sufficient for lots of people. A visit to the neighbouring fishing village at Stø may be a good idea. Stø is buzzing with life in the winter, for here the winter fishery is in full swing. Fish is delivered by the coastal fleet and salted to make the klippfisk (clipped, salted and dried cod) that is used to create the famous dish Bacalao. Also not far from Nyksund is a marked contrast to the coastal culture of the islands; the reindeer-herding Sami community on Hinnøya, which also welcomes guests in the winter. The “blue town” of Sortland and the Hurtigruten Museum at Stokmarknes are also pleasant places to visit in winter.