A trip around the Vestfjorden basin can be a bracing meeting with the sea, with impressive mountain and island landscape and evidence of the maritime culture on every cape.

Bodø - the gateway to the Arctic

The county capital of Nordland is not just a transport junction and a vibrant town. Bodø has a rich cultural life all year round. Saltstraumen, which is the world's most powerful maelstrom and a paradise for fishing enthusiasts, is a mere 33km / 20. 5 mile away from the town centre. North of Bodø lies the unique island of Kjerringøy, with its old, impressive trading post. In its heyday, it was the most powerful trading centre in Northern Norway, and is today the best preserved in the region. Read more at www.visitbodo.com.

To Lofoten

From Bodø to Lofoten, the ferries run as much as six times a day in the summer. Some of the departures stop off at Røst and Værøy on their way to Moskenes. Some of northern Europe's largest colonies of marine birdlife can be found here. The Atlantic puffin has nested on Røst since time immemorial, and inhabits this island group from the end of April to the beginning of August. Read more at www.lofoten.info.

Å

E10 - King Olav's Road in Lofoten terminates in Å, about 5 km/3miles from the Moskenes Ferry pier. The National Tourist Trail also ends here, after stretching from Melbu in the Vesterålen Islands across the Hadselfjord and all the way to Fiskebøl in Lofoten and onward into the southern part of the archipelago. On the way inland from Å, fishing villages such as Tind, Sørvågen, Reine and Hamnøy, dot the coast like pearls on a string. The view from Reine of the Kirkefjorden has been voted as Norway's most beautiful, and not without good reason.

Flakstadøy Island

The road winds further on past mountain sides and over bridges. The next island in the Lofoten chain is Flakstadøy, where the lure of the white Rambergstranda beach call to mind more southern climes. The fishing village of Nusfjord, with its unusual building tradition, was declared a heritage site by the European Architectural Heritage Commission in 1975. On the way out to Vikten, the wide open sea awaits you, and on clear nights between the 27th May and the 17th June, the midnight sun never sets.

Vestvågøy Island

The largest of the Lofoten Islands, Vestvågøy Island, is accessible via the 1780 meter long Nappstraum tunnel under the fjord! Vestvågøy differs somewhat from the neighbouring islands, as it has large farming villages and widespread settlements in addition to the traditional fishing villages. Leknes is the island's administrative centre.

The Island interior

Take the time to stop in one of Vestvågøys many small communities; from the island's interior community of Ballstad - with its picturesque buildings - to Mortsund and Stamsund. The coast boasts Utakleiv's, Unstad's and Eggum's magnificent panoramic views of the midnight sun. Follow the E10 over Vestvågøy to the Viking Museum on Borg, where there are installations representing the authentic Lofoten Viking way of life.

Gimsøy and Austvågøy Islands

On the neighbouring island, Gimsøya, you are welcome to play golf! The mountains become more alpine on Austvågøy, and the settlements closer to one another. Henningsvær - the Venice of Lofoten - is a vibrant place both during the summer and during the fishing season in the winter. The view of the remarkable mountain formations of the Vågakallen can be seen from here; tradition says that the 'skårungene' lads had to doff their hats to the mountain as a gesture of respect before joining the fishing fleet for the first time. These days, the 'kallen' is more likely to represent a steep challenge for mountain climbers.

Kabelvåg and Svolvær

Back on the E10, the road heads towards Kabelvåg and Svolvær. Kabelvåg was originally a trading centre and Lofoten's largest fishing village. In today's Kabelvåg there are several traces from that time. Svolvær, Lofoten's 'capital', is teeming with life! Artists have been inspired by the light and the scenery here for hundreds of years.

Goat Rock and Trollfjord

The rock formation of the Svolvær Goat, the trademark of Svolvær, challenges mountain climbers to jump from one horn to the other. We recommend the trip into the dramatic Trollfjord. In summer, there are several departures by boat every day.

Alternatives

From Svolvær, you can follow the E10 to Fiskebøl and take the ferry across the Hadselsfjord to Melbu in the Vesterålen islands. From there you can continue on Rute 4 (Vesterålen and Ofoten) or take the RV82 to Andenes. You can also take the ferry (in summer) over to Gryllefjord in Senja and continue northwards. Alternatively, the new stretch of the E10 goes to Gullesfjordbotn and you can continue from there on Rute 4.

To Hamarøy

It is best to leave Svolvær by the ferry that goes via Skrova to Skutvik on Hamarøy, where the famous Nobel laureate author, Knut Hamsun, grew up. Tranøy, which is a settlement with quaint buildings and a beautiful view over Vestfjorden and Tilthornet, is certainly worth the detour. From Ulsvåg on the E6, the ferry travels southwards. The Lule Sami Centre of Arran can be reached via the RV827 exit from Sommerset at Drag in Tysfjord. This is a good place to learn about Sami history, language and culture. Here the Lule Sami language is spoken, and Tysfjord remains a stronghold for this highly endangered language. Read more at www.hamsuns-rike.no.

Rock carvings

In Tømmernes, south of Innhavet, there are rock carvings that date back as far as 4-8000 years. Heading towards Steigen on the RV835, you will travel through a varied landscape full of remnants from the Iron Age, the war years and up to the present day. The E6 across the peninsula of Hamarøy provides a magical view! The landscape here is characterised by high, snowy peaks, polished rock formations, thundering waterfalls and many lakes. Thereafter, it's tunnel hopping on the new road in Leirfjorden.

Marble

Fauske is probably best known for its marble. One of the marble varieties, Norwegian Rose, adorns the UN building in New York, the Japanese Emperor's Palace in Tokyo, and Oslo's City Hall.

Into the mountains

The RV830 road from Sulitjelma is built on the former railway line that runs through tunnels and past waterfalls and gorges. The mining town of Sulitjelma was founded in the 1890s after the sami Mons Petter found copper ore there. The mine was closed in 1991. Today there is a mining museum and a mine open to visitors in Sulitjelma.

Back to Bodø

From Fauske, the tour takes you back to Bodø along the RV80. From Tverlandet to the fishing eldorado of the Saltstraumen, there remain some 13km/8miles to do on the RV17. Ready for a trip around Vestfjorden?