After a recent journey in Greenland, I started being addicted to polar areas, for their unique atmosphere, remoteness and magical lights. As an amateur photographer I, of course, heard a lot about the Lofoten islands. But I like being alone when traveling and hiking, that’s why I opted for the more remote Tromsø area, with Senja island being the highlight of my trip. My goal before coming there: shooting the amazing Segla mountain under a beautiful sunrise or sunset light.
I chose to go in September to enjoy the beautiful autumn colors and possibly the beautiful weather, without the summer crowds (that don’t compare to Lofoten anyway).
Initially, the plan, a 10-day bike trip starting and ending in Tromsø, was as follows (please note that since my trip is end of September, many ferries such as the one between Kvaløya and Senja are not working):
Because of bad weather conditions and a very early winter, I decided on the first day to skip the Lyngen alps and focus on Senja (after 2 days on Kvaløya). While the initial plan was to spend all nights outside in my tent, the weather will again imply some concessions.
It’s noon. I take my bike at Tromsø Outdoor, and its precious cargo trailer that will allow me to carry all my stuff (mostly camping gear and food for 10 days) without spreading everything in the front and back panniers.
Though I stay almost dry for the first hour of biking, I’m quickly taught how unpredictable and changing the weather can be in the area. Because of very strong wind, some torrential rains and steep roads, what was supposed to be a 2,5/3 hour ride turned up to be a quite tough 5 hour ride, to cover 60km. I’m not brave enough to reach Sommarøyisland and stop for the night on a beach just before the bridge. Anyway, the weather will probably not let me appreciate the beautiful and crystal clear shallow waters of the place. When the clouds reveal the mountains around me, I can see that the first snows have arrived (which is nice for my pictures!), a month early, I’ve been told.
In summer, I could have taken a short ferry ride from Brensholmen to Botnhamn in Senja, but since it’s only operating until early September, I have to go all the way back to eastern Kvaløya to take a ferry at Vikran. There you got a ferry that rallies Lysness in Senja, every two days, all year-round.
The ride to Vikran is more enjoyable than yesterday. It still a 3-4 hour ride, but I got the wind in my back and no more in my face, and the views to the south across the fjord are amazing. At least when the weather allows me to see something. The weather is changing every minute, between snow, rain, wind and some very rare sunny patches.
Once arrived in Lysness at the end of the afternoon, and given the very low temperatures, I decide to go sleeping at Fjordbotn camping, a quick ride from Lysness, on the way to Senja northern fjords. The place is really nice, with quite cheap rooms/cabins for the area (40/50 Euros), and beautiful views over the snowy mountains around.
After a warm night, I wake up with beautiful sunny views, but I know it won’t last! I take my bike and stuffs and take the road to Fjordgård, a village 15km away, and the starting point for the hike to the amazing Segla mountain (one of the reasons for my visit to Northern Norway).
Once arrived in Fjordgård, I am pleased to see that there is a recreational area at the end of a road. There is a cabin, a toilet, benches, and a nice little beach. Since there’s no one else and the weather forecast is still quite bad, I will sleep in the cabin for tonight. Actually not for just one night but for 4 nights, since I will be stuck there for two reasons. Firstly, too bad weather to continue my bike trip to the other fjords, and secondly I won’t be able to get proper shots of Segla before day 4.
Before my first night there, I wanted to try shooting Segla with its autumn colors (probably the last day before it gets covered with snow). For this, I will not do the hike to Segla itself, but to Hesten just below. From there, you have one of the most beautiful views in Senja (and better, in my opinion, than the view from the top of Segla). The hike to Hesten is quite quick (one hour if you have good legs), but it can be pretty slippery and wet. This first hike is not a success, since the lights are not collaborating. The following hikes either. But the last one, after 4 days, was the good one. Up there, the weather has always quite chaotic, not the best I could have expected, but anyway that’s part of the game when you come to this area at this time of the year.
It’s now time for some beach session! A 25km ride brings me to Ersfjord, where you can find a beautiful beach at the bottom of a fjord, surrounded by craggy peaks, with crystal clear water (too bad it’s too cold to enjoy it). There you have a nice camping area in sand dunes just by the beach, and can enjoy a surprising triangular, gold-plated service facility with toilets and warm water (closed between October and May).
On my way to Skaland, I stop at Tungeneset rest area, from where you can get some nice shots of the amazing Okshornan mountain range.
Once arrived in Skaland around 2pm, and since the weather is quite good compared to the last 9 days, I decide to hike Husfjell. Waterproof footwear is a must! The trail is not always well marked and sometimes very slippery.
Once at the top, the panoramic view of Ersfjorden, Steinfjorden and the Okshornan mountain range is definitely one of the most beautiful and breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. The first snows definitely add to the magic. If you go to Senja, this is a must do, with the hike to Hesten.
When descending, I could enjoy beautiful end of day lights over Bergsøyan islands. In the evening, I enjoy every minute of my last night on the beach, before the very long ride that awaits me tomorrow.
DAY 10 - From Skaland to Finnsness
A long ride awaits me today, since I decide to reach Finnsness (where I’ll take my ferry back to Tromsø) by bike instead of taking a bus. A 6-hour ride, crossing Senja island to the east. A quite tough ride (due to differences in elevation), but very nice scenic views and always this magic mix of snow, clouds, and last autumn colors that make the atmosphere so special and dramatic.
My thoughts after those 10 days
Though I have not been able to see any northern lights, due to the bad weather, I don’t have any regrets. The first snows, that came a month early, definitely make the area even more scenic. The cold temperatures have been challenging, but fortunately bikepackers can find some shelters that are very welcome in winter.
My advice, unless you come during a stable and beautiful weather (or you come in summer and can take the ferry at Brensholmen), I would skip Kvaløya island and keep focus on Senja. I’ve been disappointed for not being able to see everything I planned to see on the beautiful Senja. I could have seen more if I hadn’t «lost» two (very exhausting) days in Kvaløya.
My experience with Tromsø Outdoor has been perfect, with very reliable gear and responsive & kind feedback via email. I will definitely be back in spring when the light is back to see Senja when nature wakes up (and hopefully some northern lights!).
Words and photographs by Adrien.
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