Knut Hansvold

Sortland residents have painted their town blue

In the heart of the beautiful Northern Norway countryside in Vesterålen, a town has made an audacious decision: the people of Sortland have chosen to paint their town blue.

Like most coastal towns, Sortland – the largest town and centre of communication in Vesterålen – features a mix of architectural styles comprising Swiss style, painted wood, concrete and glass. But it was here that a daring idea was aired back in 1998 – namely the idea of painting the town blue. Since then, a number of buildings in Sortland have turned various shades of blue.

Bjørn Elvenes started the Blue Town project

The man behind the idea is the artist Bjørn Elvenes, who envisaged the entire centre of Sortland as a three-dimensional painting. The artist, who has previously been employed as everything from a fishing skipper to a ferry ticket collector, is also the driving force behind original art projects in other places in Vesterålen – projects that ideally stimulate lively debate. At the moment, he has withdrawn from the Blue Town project.

Practical information about Sortland

Sortland is located on the island of Langøya in Vesterålen and can be accessed by road, boat and air. If driving you can take the E10 from Narvik northward and then westward until you reach the Gullesfjord control station roundabout where you take route 85 with signposts to Sortland. For those staying on the hurtigruten, Sortland is one of the stops on the journey giving you time to explore the town before sailing off again. You can fly to neighbouring Stockmarkness and drive north to Sortland

Yes, there is a hotel in Sortland and many air bnb options. It is a good place to take a break before heading to the outer coast and exploring the rugged and wild outer coastline of Vesterålen.

To find out more about the region including accommodation, driving routes and more simply go to the Visit Vesteralen page.

Not everyone is a fan of a blue town

There is no fun if everyone agrees on everything – and so it is in Sortland. Some people are less than thrilled by the idea of a blue town. Others are fascinated by the artist’s vision, but are not keen on the artist’s ideas being transformed into a municipal local development plan with an approved range of colours and professional marketers working on brand building. A separate Facebook group and an online petition express blue commitment to supporting the artist’s idea. The idea of having a full-on blue town evidently makes some people see red. While others want to go even further and paint the Sortland Bridge blue, too.

Always keep an eye out for writing on the blue wall

Lars Saabye Christensen, the well-known author who previously lived in Sortland, was one of the proponents of the blue town project. He encouraged the young people of Vesterålen to write texts on the blue house walls under a project entitled “Writing on the blue wall”. The attentive guest – with a blue-tinted view of the town – can thus find plenty of blue nuggets to enjoy on a blue stroll through Sortland.