Winter island hoping - 48 hours in Sommarøy, Norway


Sommarøy, Norway

We can all appreciate islands for what they are : white sandy beaches that stretch for km's, crystal clear waters and summer sun bathing opportunities. But visiting an island in winter, is not something on many people's bucket list.


I visited northern Norway earlier this year, and wanted to have an experience that was different to your average tourist. I hope that through my unique experience you will feel inspired to visit this winter island and find my 48 hour guide of things to do useful.


Norway can work out hellishly expensive if traveling on the South African rand so instead of paying ridiculous amounts of money on tours to see the northern lights I opted to "chasing" them myself. These natural light phenomena after all can be seen all around you provided you are in areas that are away from the cities light pollution. Being a photographer I am a pro at sourcing great photo shoot locations, so I was confident in my scouting abilities, in addition to receiving tips from Norwegian locals.

They assured me that these islands would offer the best sightings of the northern lights with the wide-open sky's it has on offer. Effort spent on finding ways to save on costs is what led me to the Sommarøy Islands to began with.

Advice before visiting

The weather is ever changing in the region and locals couldn't place more emphasis on the importance of constantly monitoring weather forecasts for any changes. Especially when you are planning on road tripping through the mountains. It's not a natural habit for me coming from a country that has constant daily weather patterns, and the day that I forgot could have been to my detriment. I missed an 100m avalanche by 8minutes. When I arrived at the Havfrua Kro Anne-grete Jensen restaurant for a lunch stop the locals I became friends with the day before, filled me in.


Jess - this awesome girl I met at my hostel in Tromsø was traveling with me on this day, among a few others I had met. Earlier on the road trip she mentioned that her mom had given her two pieces of advise when she left for her trip. 1) Be careful of the avalanches (this would have been helpful if she mentioned this before we left) and 2) Be careful of the lakes. I am a photographer, I wonder and usually wonder into the unknown to get the perfect shots. This includes me driving on roads where road markings are concealed by the recent snow fall and could possibly be snowed covered lakes. Luckily for us the rental had an inbuilt GPS and I could monitor any areas that could possibly be water.

Dress warm, very warm. I traveled in January when Norway is known for being the coldest month. Temperatures dropped as low as -17.3 °C. You don't want to be freezing in the early hours of the morning when cashing the lights. I spent my days in layers of clothing and at some times was still freezing.

The route

I rented a car in Tromsø from Budget car rental and drove a little over 2 hours to my destination. Well 4 hours, if you add up all the times I stopped along the way to take in the natural beauty that lay before my eyes.


There are two routes from Tromsø leading to the islands. One offers a more direct route that is only 55km and the other through the scenic Lyngen mountains that is 122km. I drove the second route there, and returned on the more direct route.

The impressive majestic mountain passes provided an incredible setting for landscape travel photography. The snowcapped mountains reminded me of the icing of a black forest cake. The route offered a colourful mosaic of other great photo opportunities of snow filled beaches in some parts, rocky coastline in other parts, cute red fishing cabins that can be found scattered across the coast line and a series of yellow abandoned houses that adorn the country side.




The Svensby - Breivikeidet / Rc91 ferry crossing

I have to mention again that I am from South Africa. Which means one thing - We are inexperienced.

We drive on the left hand side of the road, we don't have snow, and don't have ferry crossings. Other than my 9 days in Iceland, a week prior, I had never driven on snow filled roads, in snow storms, been familiar with the meaning of snow tyres, driven on the right hand side of the road, and never had to drive my car onto a ferry to cross an ocean. "What! You do this here?" was my first thought. My nerves where shattered. Once I got over the initial fear of being incapable of doing this, it was so much fun. Well for me at least. Maybe it is the accomplishment of doing something for the first time that excited me.


The 40 minutes I spent on this ferry certainly made my trip more exciting. We passed through breathtaking scenery through the majestic Lyngen mountains and I couldn't resist spending a lot of time on the viewing deck photographing this 360 degree view.

If you are looking at traveling here be sure to view the ferry timetable and the costs involved here.

Lyngen Mountains

The Lyngen Mountains, famous by Norwegian skiing enthusiasts and glacier hikers are at least 90 kilometres and has a width of 15–20 kilometres.These mountains follow the western shore of the Lyngen fjord in a north-south direction. The highest summit is the 1,833-metre tall Jiekkevarre, the highest mountain in Troms county. They are impressive to say the least. The next time I am in the area, I am definitely going to try my hand at skiing.


For those skiing enthusiasts have a look at this video clip that I found on youtube.

Sommarøy bridge

This 522m narrow cantilever bridge connects the islands of Kvaløya and Sommarøy, and offers impressive views of the fishing bay on the left and on the right you can view the open sea in a hamlet at the end of the earth. Bridges in countries of extreme weather conditions are electronically heated during the winter time to prevent ice and snow building up which could result in serve accidents. I couldn’t resist parking my rental, and walking along the bridge to take images of this surreal setting, followed by a small hike down the mountain vertical to the bridge to access the ocean.

The fishing village of Sommarøy

This scenic and coastal fishing village houses only +/-300 inhabitants, however is an important contributor to the national economy of the country of Troms. Living side by side with a rich community of birds, locals appreciate the picturesque postcard setting they call home.


Although known as the Summer Island, Sommarøy attracts many visitors all year round that are drawn to the natural beauty of the Island. I can only image what this place must be like in the summer, but there was a unique charm in visiting the islands during wintertime.


During January, I had as little as 5 hours of daylight, but these few hours I spent there offered me a pleasing soft winter light that lit up the freezing snow filled beaches in pastel pink and orange hues. Scattered across the island one can find traditional red fishing huts that pop against the pure white landscape.


The shallow crystal blue bays with views of the distinctive island of Håja and the mountains on the islands of Kvaløya and Senja enhanced this sublime setting. Håja also known as Haaja, is used by the locals for picking seagull eggs and berries, traditional ingredients of North Norwegian cuisine.


Whale Watching

During mid November to late January humpback whales and orcas can be seen feasting on the herring. Whale tours can be booked at the Sommarøy Arctic Hotel for NOK 1095 and last for two hours.


Image credit:

These amazing images were captured by Audun Rikardsen : A Norwegian based internationally recognised photographer.

Click on his name to view a few more of his award winning images.


Image credit:

These amazing images were captured by Audun Rikardsen : A Norwegian based internationally recognised photographer.

Click on his name to view a few more of his award winning images.


Image credit:

These amazing images were captured by Audun Rikardsen : A Norwegian based internationally recognised photographer.

Click on his name to view a few more of his award winning images.

Watch this video to see what you can expect from the whale tours


Video credit: Arctic Whale Tours

Northern Lights - Natures spectacular light show

I thought that the more you view natures spectacular light show, the less you would come to appreciate it. This is not the case on any accords. In fact viewing it from the islands were more breathtaking than I could have ever imagined. It must have been because of the wide open skies the locals had told me about.

Don't become disheartened if it is raining, the weather changes quickly, and after having experienced a rain storm earlier on in the evening, the skies cleared.

Each time the Aurora Borealis decided to come out and play, changing their shape and sizes, I was overcome by jaw dropping facial expressions as the emotions filled me. The skies lit up in bands of various shades of green with a hint of pink illuminating the secluded snow filled bays of the Atlantic ocean, then disappearing in the distance only to start again. It's surreal to think that a whole different world exists out there for this night owl.

Until 4am I marvelled at the bands dancing throughout the star filled sky at different locations around the island.


Stay at - the Sommarøy Artic Hotel

I impulsively drove to the islands two days in a row, and I regret not overnighting at the Sommarøy Artic Hotel. The popular hotel is located on a spectacular beach and offers 28 guest rooms with modern facilities. It comprises of a main building and several seaside cabins and fishermen’s cottages that will offer you a traditional Norwegian experience with amazing views over the Atlantic.


Although not having stayed there, I did spent a lot of time there between each sighting I had of the northern lights. The staff there where friendly and offered me complimentary coffee breaks when I needed shelter and warmth from the freezing cold. Their restaurant food was amazing to, and you can try out a range of traditional Norwegian dishes.

You can book your nights stay at the hotel by visiting their website: www.sommaroy.no


Keep an eye out on www.51countriesandcounting.com for my photoblog that I am busy preparing of my entire trip to northern Norway to inspire you to visit.

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All images contained on www.51countingsandcounting.com are that of Chantelle Flores unless otherwise credited for.

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