We woke up late on our last day in Tromso. The lethargy was real after two consecutive nights of Northern Lights chasing. The snow hadn’t stopped since it started the night before. It was our last day in Tromso, having had spent 3 days there, and the grey skies seemed to match our mood.
We initially planned to visit the famous Tromso Arctic Cathedral (also known as Ishavskatedralen) and take the cable car (Fjellheisen) to the mountain ledge of Storsteinen (421 m above sea level, where you can see Tromso city in its entirety). However we cancelled our plans due to the heavy snow. We would have to visit Tromso again for the wonderful view.
We left Tromso for Lofoten Islands. The husband had pre-booked tickets for the Hurtigruten Cruise . It was a 18-hours voyage towards Svolvaer (the “capital” of the Lofoten Islands). The journey from Tromso to Svolvaer constitutes one leg of the famed Hurtigruten coastal voyage that supposedly allows passengers to relish in the spectacular coastal scenery of Norway. Along the route, passengers could take part in hikes and activities led by the on-board Expedition Teams (we didn’t as our main goal was to make our way to Lofoten Islands. Second goal was to capture pictures for Instagram).
The south-bound cruise ship was scheduled to arrive at the Tromso harbour at around midnight. Thankfully, cruise passengers are allowed to stow their luggage at Scandic Ishavshotel, located right beside the harbour. We just had to show them our tickets for the cruise. We had to check out our AirBnb at noon, which meant we had a lot of time to kill. We went to the Tromso library which had a small selection of English books and magazines (probably 95% of the books there were in Norwegian and searching for an English book was akin to a treasure hunt). After the library had closed its doors, we headed back to the Scandic Ishavshotel to wait for the arrival of the ship. If possible, we recommend to mill around at the lobby of the neighbouring Radisson Blu Hotel as it has comfortable sofas and free wi-fi (Yes. Social media is life).
After what seemed like an uncomfortably long time (no seats available for us to lounge), the cruise arrived.
As both Tromso and the Lofoten Islands are located within the arctic circle, there was a chance to see the Northern Lights on board the cruise. But lady luck wasn’t smiling upon us as it was still snowing. We slept through the night and got woken up in the morning by our hungry stomachs.
After breakfast, we proceeded to the viewing deck and were treated to the amazing view of a small town named Harstad (this was one of the five ports of call along the way from Tromso to Svolvaer). There are many similar towns and fishing villages along the Norwegian coast. We learnt that this was because fishing used to be the key driver of the economy until the 1969s/1970s, when the country struck gold (literally) with the discovery of massive oil reserves in the North Sea.
Having experienced a brief bout of sunshine in the morning, the dark clouds started to descend again as we resumed our journey to Lofoten Islands. There wasn’t much entertainment on board the ship (no casinos or free wi-fi 😦 ). We spent most of the time lounging at the indoor viewing deck, occasionally headed out for fresh air and to take some pictures of the wonderful scenery.
It was boring. I was starting to have social-media-withdrawal-symptoms. Thankfully there was a break to the boredom in the afternoon due to the demonstration by the chef on board on how to prepare salmon sashimi.
Based on our conversation with the chef, we understood that nearly all of the salmons consumed are farmed. This is because there are now very few fishermen who are willing to catch wild salmon due to the various rules and restrictions imposed to prevent overfishing and conserve the salmon population (such as limiting the number of wild salmons that can be caught, prohibitions of catching female salmons etc.)
We finally arrived at Svolvaer at around 6 pm. We had to arranged for the our rental car to be delivered to us as the office closes at 4pm (that’ work-life balance yo. No wonder Norway is the happiest country on Earth). The husband planned to bring us to a sushi bar as we were all craving for our favourite carbs – rice (#asians). To our dismay, most of the restaurants in the area were fully booked as it was a Friday and it coincided with the eve of the World Cod Fishing Championships. This championship is a big thing there where participants and tourists would flock to Svolvaer to participate/witness the event.
Disappointed, we began to search for our trusted REMA1000 to get groceries and resigned to preparing our own meals instead. Our stay for the night was at Lofoten feriesenter. It was a wooden cabin with a functioning kitchenette. The bathroom and living room are located on the ground floor and the beds in the upper floor. The house faces a lake and is located 5 minutes by car from Svolvaer. It is a very relaxing place in the middle of the nature (Do note that you have to pay extra for bed linens and towels. We brought our own to save costs. As the receptionist may step away from the registration counter, it is highly recommended to get a local sim card so that you’ll be able to contact the person upon arrival).