A landscape made for cycling
Norway is a country of mountains, and Vega is a mountain island. And yet the Vega landscape makes for easy and enjoyable cycling country, since most of the roads pass along the shore and between the farms. There are around 50 farms and smallholdings on the island, so most of the time you are never that far away from people. There are only two real inclines, enough to keep the heart pumping healthily. Places to eat, sights to see and activities abound within comfortable cycling distance. Just don’t pedal too fast – you need to keep an eye out for the flowers by the roadside. Vega has in fact 11 varieties of wild orchid, and this is the only place in Norway where the Vegamaure (“Lesser Bedstraw”) grows, although it is quite common on Iceland.
Why not lock your bike to a tree and take a stroll? For there are as many as 18 marked walking and hiking trails on Vega; the shortest takes only 15 minutes to complete, the longest 4-5 hours. Some are suitable for families with children, while for others you need to be in good shape, but all are pleasant ways to while away the hours. The trail from Eidem to Sundsvoll goes along the entire uninhabited west side of Vega, and is 11 kilometres (roughly 7 miles) long. Mount Trollvasstinden is 800 metres (2,624 ft) high, and offers the steepest climb of all 18 trails. But the reward for all that effort is stunning views of all the 6,500 islands in the Vega Archipelago. On clear days you can even see as far as Mount Torghatten, the Seven Sisters mountains, Træna, Lovund and Mount Hestmannen.
Stone Age trail
At Åkvika on the south-east of the island, Stone Age archaeological remains lie almost cheek by jowl. A marked trail leads you from one settlement to the next. Since the sea was up to 75 metres (246 ft) higher in the Stone Age than it is today, you will need to walk up the hillside to see the finds. They can be difficult to spot for the untrained eye, so information boards have been set up to help visitors.
Kayaking, fishing, horse-riding
The 6,500 islands, islets and skerries of the Vega Archipelago are a sheer paradise for kayakers. You can hire a kayak from Vega Opplevelsesferie and paddle out to seal colonies, to deserted little islands and to sheltered sandy beaches in the area. The firm also organises introductory courses for novice paddlers. The many angling lakes on Vega are full of trout, and a fishing licence can be purchased from the tourist information office. At Floa in the south-east of Vega, you can hire a horse and ride through the beautiful countryside.
At Nes in the north of the island is E-Huset (“The Eider House”), a museum telling the fascinating story of the special culture surrounding the eider duck “farms”. It also houses a World Heritage exhibition, which explains why the little islands in the north and west of the Vega Archipelago are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. From Nes, it is also possible to take a boat trip to these islands north and west of the main island of Vega.
Little coastal culture gems
On Vega you will also find Risbakken Gårdsmuseum, a privately owned agricultural museum housed in a 200-year old house, showing what life was like on a traditional coastal farm. The old trading post Handelstedet Vegstein on the east side of Vega is well preserved, with picturesque piers, boathouse and main building, and exhibitions on the history of the old coastal culture. The Little Museum at Valla in the north-west of the island is housed in a quaint old shop.
There’s no need to take your camping stove with you to Vega, for there are some excellent places to eat within only a short distance by bike. Vega Havhotell in the north of the island serves gourmet Vega dishes on starched white tablecloths. A carefully composed four-course menu, which changes every day, typically based on fresh fish and seafood from around the Vega coast, local all-year outdoor-reared lamb, as well as venison and elk, and even home-grown berries and herbs from the hotel’s own garden: why not cycle over and see what today’s menu will be! More simple fare can be found at Vega Vertshus at Gladstad and at Himmelkroken Havkafé at Nes, where you can expect to find coffee, sandwiches, salads and fish burgers to keep a hungry cyclist going.
Vega has its own lefse bakery at Sandmo Gårdsbakeri at Kjul. You will find this traditional and very popular soft flatbread served folded and spread with butter or other foods at all the local eateries and on some of the organised tours, for the locals take most of the lefse this farm bakery produces. If you cycle to Kjul, though, you can treat yourself to a genuine Vega lefse - two delicious layers with soured cream in between. This indescribably delightful indulgence is a slap in the face for both Weight Watchers and Slimmers World!
If you don’t have your own cycle with you, you can hire one at the tourist information office in the municipal administrative centre at Gladstad. The local tourism organisation has an extremely informative website with everything you need to know about Vega : www.visitvega.no. Helgeland Reiseliv’s website www.visithelgeland.com is packed full of information and is also a good place to read more, as is our own website.