Senja, Norway

Photo: Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The darkness is over. The sun is shining above the Arctic Circle again. It may only be for about six hours a day, but after three months of nearly complete blackness, any daylight is a welcome relief. So right now, Norway is awakening from its winter slumber.

On Senja, Norway’s second-largest island, the air is crisp, the views are awe-inspiring, and the Northern Lights are dancing. The west coast island is known as “Norway in miniature,” since it reflects all of the country’s natural beauty in one place.

Make yourself at home in the little village of Hamn, which was once one of Norway’s largest fishing stations. The owners of Hamn i Senja turned the old fishing buildings into a destination hotel. The icehouse became a sauna, hot drinks are served in the lighthouse, and the simple suites have water views. Not that you’ll spend much time in your room, anyway.

Photo: Hamn Eiendom AS
Photo: Hamn Eiendom AS

However you decide to spend your days, bundle up. And then add another layer to whatever you’re wearing. Watch the sun rise—it doesn’t happen until 8:30 a.m.—from Eagle Rock. You have 360-degree views, and you might spot low-flying eagles. Hike through Ånderdalen National Park’s deep pine forests, and look for moose tracks along the way. Drive the National Tourist Route, stopping at the Tungeneset viewing point, the Bergsfjorden fjord, Senjahopen fishing village, and Okshornan mountain. You’ll see seals in the fjords and salmon in the rivers, if you look closely.

Cruise the Arctic Ocean to see the beautiful scenery: the dramatic coastline, the turquoise water, the deep fjords, the white beaches, and the sharp peaks rising straight out of the water. You’ll probably spot porpoises, seals, and maybe a killer whale along the way. Prefer land creatures? Visit the Polar Zoo to get up close to wolves.

Need to warm up? Sit in the hot tub—it’s in the shape of a boat. Sip an aperitif in the Cognac Saloon. Eat fish soup, marinated reindeer, or traditional boknafisk at Storbrygga Restaurant. Or build your own fire, sit on reindeer skins, and drink hot chocolate. And pick your viewing place to watch the sky light up: climb the lighthouse stairs or snowshoe to Sukkertoppen.

You’re above the Arctic Circle. You’re overlooking a fjord. And you’re watching magenta, cobalt, and amber steak across the sky. Despite the low temperature, it doesn’t feel cold at all. There might be an end in sight to this winter after all.

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