Along the adventure highway
Former trolls like Torghatten, De Syv Søstre (the Seven Sisters) and Hestmannen have weighty parts to play in the legend of Nordland, the old tale of how the region’s mountains came about. A trip along the 650 kilometre-long Kystriksveien has so many stories to tell that it has become a famed national scenic route to drive or to cycle and one of the most important must-do recommendations in the Lonely Planet travel guide to Norway.
South Helgeland: myriad of islands
The coastal landscape of southern Helgeland features a myriad of islands, islets and skerries scoured by the waves protecting sheltered coves with lush vegetation and farming communities. One of the most remarkable sights along the entire coast is the hole in Mount Torghatten, which has an easy-walking trail going right through the mountain. At Tilrem you will find the charming Hildurs Urterarium, a herb farm and winery where you can eat and drink well and see everything that grows in the mild Helgeland climate.
Vega and the eider duck “farms”
From the pleasant little town of Brønnøysund, you can take a boat out to the Vega islands. The Vega Archipelago is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List owing to its unique, preserved coastal culture in which humans and eider ducks cohabitate to their mutual benefit. The people take good care of the ducks, and are rewarded with wonderful, warm eider-down. Similarly, the picturesque wooden boathouses, piers, wharfs and the typical long, narrow Nordland houses, live alongside one another in harmony with the landscape of islets, coves and sandy beaches.
Beneath the Sisters
The route through central Helgeland passes beneath the Seven Sisters mountain chain, past the old island trading post of Tjøtta, mentioned in the Norse Sagas, on past the parsonage, medieval church and the Petter Dass Museum at Alstahaug, through the pleasant coastal town of Sandnessjøen, across the elegant Helgeland Bridge and into the pristine little town of Nesna, with its large marina. If you climb one of the Sisters, all this will lie at your feet!
Out to the islands
From the central Helgeland coast you can take your bike on board a ferry to one of the many islands. Sandy beaches, little island communities and ancient monuments are only a stone’s throw from one another. Dønna and Herøy, each with its own medieval church, have mostly narrow country roads, perfect for cycling, while Lovund has its puffin colonies. The triple-peaked island of Træna is a compact coastal community 60 kilometres out to sea.
Along the Svartisen Glacier
North along the Helgeland coast is where the great Saltfjellet mountain mass meets the sea, and the landscape takes on a wild and dramatic character. Norway’s second largest glacier, Svartisen, lies like a great dome between the peaks rising up to 1,454 metres (4,770 ft). In the Holandsfjord, the Engenbreen Glacier, an outlet glacier of Svartisen, stretches right down almost to the fjord edge. The drive past the industrial community of Glomfjord to the old trading post at Ørnes goes through long tunnels and in sweeping bends high above the fjords.
A wilder, more remote island realm
The old trading post at Selsøyvik, the Renaissance garden on Lurøy, Klokkergården (the old parish clerk’s house) on Rødøy and the miniscule community at Myken Fyr lighthouse all lie beneath the legendary 571 metre-high Hestmannen (“Horseman”) mountain and the mountain formation of Rødøyløva, which resembles a recumbent lion. The island realm in the north of Helgeland is well off the beaten track, but a close study of the ferry schedules can bring you out to some little known gems. From the Kilboghamn-Jektvik ferry be sure to look for the globe on the little island of Vikingen, which marks the Arctic Circle.
North of the mountain ranges the landscape becomes greener and gentler once more, with farming communities, forests and sea views all the way to the Lofoten Islands. The old church at Gildeskål, dating from 1130, is where the renowned hymn writer Elias Blix was baptised. Saltstraumen, the world’s strongest tidal current, gives four performances daily with its foaming maelstrom beneath the elegant Saltstraumen Bridge – and with that the coastal route journey ends with a festive fanfare, only 30 km from Bodø.
Kystriksveien has as many as six ferry crossings. These car and passenger ferries provide welcome breaks that allow the driver to enjoy the landscape. In the autumn, winter and spring, the ferries are seldom full, while there may be queues and waiting times in summer. It’s all an attitude of mind, however, and waiting times can be filled with everything from skimming stones to enjoying a meal at the ferry café – the best one is at the charming old trading post of Forvik.
Travelling along Kystriksveien
The coast of Helgeland is no remote wilderness; far from it – Helgeland is an ancient cultural landscape in which history and heritage abound, not to mention the good places to eat and the quirky and charming places to stay, all only a short bike ride apart. Kayak paddling, cycling and walking are easy elements to include in a holiday. Why not simply leave the car and take a boat out to one of the idyllic little islands?
County highway, coastal route, national tourist route
Kystriksveien, officially Fylkesvei 17 (County Highway 17), goes from Steinkjer in Trøndelag all the way to Bodø, a total of 650 kilometres (404 miles). Of these, 480 kilometres (298 miles) are in Northern Norway. The 416 km/258 miles between Holm (near Brønnøysund) and Godøystraumen (near Bodø) constitute the longest of Norway's 18 National Scenic Routes.
Planning and inspiration
Helgeland is a relatively densely populated, enterprising region of Northern Norway with lots to attract visitors. On Kystriksveien’s inspirational website, http://www.kystriksveien.no/. , you will find full information about ferry timetables, accommodation options and activities along the route. Helgeland Reiseliv,http://www.visithelgeland.com/ , presents everything to do with tourism in Helgeland on its website. You will also find many glimpses of Helgeland in articles on our own website. The National Scenic Routes' homepage also has a lot of information.