The Helgeland Coast in Northern Norway is an undeniably awesome place to explore. Its incredible beauty and laundry list of exciting things to do rival that of even the Lofoten Islands. From the iconic Seven Sisters mountain range to the UNESCO protected Vega Islands, there is so much to see, do and experience while sailing around this region.
Whether you decide to visit during the nightless summer days or the dark winter hours, the natural and cultural treasures of this region will leave you with lots of stories to tell.
Where is the Helgeland Coast?
Situated in Northern Norway, the Helgeland Coast stretches over 400 kilometres along the country’s scenic shoreline. Locals sometimes contest where it begins and ends, but Rørvik up to Ørnes or Holm and Godøystraumen are often cited.
Nevertheless, the area encompasses several coastal towns, archipelagos, and mountainous islands, creating a diverse and ever-changing landscape that captivates visitors. While mostly below the Arctic Circle, the northernmost parts of the region extend beyond it.
How to Get to the Helgeland Coast
Getting to the Helgeland Coast is relatively straightforward, with various transportation options available:
By Air: The closest major airport to the Helgeland Coast in Mo i Rana Airport, which offers domestic flights from Oslo and other major cities in Norway. From the airport, you can rent a car or take public transport to reach your desired destination along the coast.
By Train: The Norwegian railway system connects Mo i Rana with other parts of the country, providing a scenic and comfortable option for travel. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the picturesque journey as you make your way to the Helgeland Coast.
By Car: Driving is a popular option for exploring the Helgeland Coast, albeit not the most sustainable. The E6 highway runs through the region, connecting it with other parts of Norway. Rental car services are available at major airports and cities.
By Public Transport: The coastal express boat, also known as the Hurtigruten, is a unique way to experience the Helgeland Coast. This boat trip offers stunning views of the coastline, and stops at various ports along the way.
Where to Go on the Helgeland Coast
The Helgeland Coast is dotted with charming towns, picturesque islands, and awe-inspiring natural landmarks. Here are some must-visit destinations along the coast:
Mosjøen: The oldest town in the Helgeland region, this historic town is known for its well-preserved wooden buildings and cobblestone streets. Explore the charming city centre, visit the Sjøgata Street Museum, and immerse yourself in the local cultural heritage.
Brønnysund: Located on the mainland in Southern Helgeland, Brønnysund serves as a gateway to the Vega Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Norwegian Aquaculture Centre, explore the coastal nature reserve, and enjoy the laid-back coastal atmosphere.
Helgeland Islands: The Helgeland Coast is home to several mesmerising islands that offer breathtaking landscapes and unique experiences.
Susendal: For a day trip inland, be sure to visit Susendal. Nestled in the Susna Valley. Susendal offers a tranquil escape surrounded by mountains and pristine nature. Enjoy hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and the chance to experience Sami culture. Susendal is a two-hour bus ride or hour-and-a-half car ride southeast from Mosjøen.
The Helgeland Islands
The Helgeland Islands are a true highlight of the region, each with its own distinct character and natural beauty.
Hestmannøy: The main island of the Helgeland Islands it is the largest and most populated island in the archipelago. From charming villages to beautiful beaches, Hestmannøy is a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Træna: Træna is an archipelago known for its dramatic cliffs and vibrant cultural scene. The Træna Music Festival, held on the islands, is a must-attend event for music lovers.
Støtt: Støtt is a small island with a rich fishing heritage. Visit the historic trading post, enjoy fresh seafood, and explore the surrounding coastal landscapes.
Bolga: Bolga is a tranquil and picturesque island with stunning sandy beaches. Take a leisurely stroll along the coast, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, and soak in the natural beauty.
Dønna & Herøy: These neighbouring islands offer a mix of idyllic landscapes, historic sites, and charming villages. Explore the picturesque fishing village of Sør Gjæslingan on Dønna, and visit the medieval Herøy Church on Herøy.
Lovund: Lovund is famous for its puffin colony, providing a unique opportunity to observe these adorable seabirds up close. The island also boasts beautiful beaches and hiking trails.
Vega Islands: Vega is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its unique cultural landscape and rich birdlife. Explore the Vega Archipelago, visit the eider duck farms, and hike through the beautiful nature reserves.
Myken: Myken is a small island known for its rugged beauty and artistic atmosphere. Visit the Myken Lighthouse, enjoy local art exhibitions, and savour fresh seafood at the island’s renowned restaurant.
Things to See and Do on the Helgeland Coast
The Helgeland Coast is brimming with natural wonders, historical landmarks, and cultural treasures.
Norway Scenic Routes
The Helgeland Coast is home to two designated Norway Scenic Routes: the Helgelandskysten and the Kystriksveien. These breathtaking coastal roads offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and are perfect for scenic drives.
Torghatten is a distinctive mountain with a distinctive feature — a large hole that pierces through its centre. This hole, known as “Torghatten’s Eye,” was formed by erosion over thousands of years, leaving a tunnel-like opening that is easily recognizable.
Hike to the top and witness this natural wonder up close. The mountain holds significant cultural and mythological importance in Norwegian folklore, with legends claiming that it was created by an arrow shot by the Hestmannen (Horseman) troll.
Explore the Skarsåsen Fortress, a World War II fortification located on the island of Dønna. Skarsåsen Fortress served as a strategic military position with underground facilities, including bunkers and command centers, designed to protect the coastline from potential enemy invasions. Today, you can visit to learn about the region’s wartime history and enjoy panoramic views from the fortress.
Explore the Caves
The Helgeland Coast is home to several fascinating caves, each with its own unique features.
- Svartisen Ice Cave: One prominent cave is the Svartisen Ice Cave, located within the Svartisen Glacier. It offers a mesmerizing experience as visitors explore the ice formations and captivating blue hues found inside.
- Setergrotta Cave: Another notable cave is the Setergrotta Cave, situated near the town of Mo i Rana. With its impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as an underground river. Setergrotta offers a unique and otherworldly environment to explore.
- Grønligrotta Cave: The Grønligrotta Cave is another popular destination. It boasts remarkable limestone formations and is famous for its exceptionally long and winding underground river, allowing visitors to take boat tours and marvel at the cave’s wonders.
Visit the Churches
The region boasts several beautiful churches that showcase local architecture and cultural heritage. Some that stand out are the following:
- Alstahaug Church: Located in Alstahaug Municipality, Alstahaug Church is a medieval stone church dating back to the 12th century. It is known for its Romanesque architecture and intricate wooden carvings, making it a significant cultural and historical site.
- Vega Church: Situated on the island of Vega, Vega Church is a white wooden church dating back to the 19th century. It features a distinctive onion-shaped dome and is a prominent landmark on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Vega Archipelago.
- Hemnes Church: Found in Hemnes Municipality, Hemnes Church is a striking wooden church built in the 18th century. It showcases a unique combination of Baroque and Rococo architectural styles and is renowned for its beautiful altarpiece and pulpit.
Lace up your boots and explore the numerous hiking trails for all skill levels. Explore the Helgelandskysten Trail, a long-distance route that showcases diverse terrain and the beauty of the coastal and mountainous areas. Ascend Dønnamannen for breathtaking views of the archipelago and Seven Sisters peaks or enjoy shorter coastal walks and explore charming fishing villages along the coast.
Various islands dotting the Helgeland Coast, such as Vega, Herøy, and Lovund have marked trails and paths that lead to scenic viewpoints, cultural sites, and unique flora and fauna.
Marvel at Rock Carvings
This coastline is known for its significant rock art sites that provide insights into the region’s ancient history and cultural heritage.
- Vevelstad: Explore the rock carvings in Vevelstad, which date back to the Stone Age. They consist of intricate designs and depictions of various animals, humans, and abstract symbols and offer a glimpse into the beliefs, activities, and cultural practices of the people who inhabited the region during ancient times.
- Rødøy Skier: Marvel at the Rødøy Skier, a Stone Age rock carving depicting a skier. This unique archaeological site is one of Norway’s most famous ancient rock carvings. The carving portrays a figure with distinct ski-like shapes for the legs and elongated feet, suggesting a representation of a person engaged in skiing. It is estimated to be around 4,000 to 5,000 years old, showcasing the long history of skiing in the region.
Scale the rugged cliffs and mountains along the coast for a thrilling climbing adventure. The Seven Sisters mountain ridge, with its distinct peaks, is a popular destination for climbers. Each of the Seven Sisters peaks can be climbed individually, allowing you to choose the specific challenge and scenery you prefer. These peaks include Botnkrona, Grytfoten, Skjæringen, Tvillingene, Kvasstinden, Breitinden, and Stortinden.
During the winter months, hit the slopes and enjoy skiing in the mountainous areas of the Helgeland Coast. Svartisen Glacier and the nearby ski resorts provide excellent opportunities for downhill and cross-country skiing.
Go on Sailing Tour
The Helgeland Coast is home to a multitude of islands, including the renowned Vega Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sailing allows you to easily navigate between islands, hopping from one captivating destination to another. Drop anchor to go fishing, explore remote hiking trails, or even try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding in calm fjord waters. The possibilities for adventure are endless.
Embark on the Helgelandstrappa (Helgeland Stairs) adventure in Mosjøen. This unique trail has a staircase with 900 steps which wind their way up the mountainside of Øyfjellet in the village of Øyfjell in Norway’s Helgeland region. It is a challenging ascent, but you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic vistas of the surrounding fjords, mountains, and islands.
Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park
One of the highlights of the Saltfjellet Mountain Pass is the Arctic Circle marker. Located near the Saltfjellet mountain pass, this iconic landmark signifies the crossing of the Arctic Circle. It is a popular spot for visitors to stop and take photos as a symbol of reaching the Arctic region.
The park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore its natural wonders. The park offers opportunities for day hikes and multi-day treks, catering to different levels of hiking experience.
Covering an area of approximately 1,447 square kilometres, Børgefjell National Park is situated on the border between the counties of Nordland and Trøndelag. It is known for its vast expanses of unspoiled wilderness, including pristine lakes and rivers, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
For an adrenaline rush, take a zip-line adventure in Mosjøen. Soar through the air and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding nature as you glide across the fjord.
Food to Try on the Helgeland Coast
The Helgeland Coast offers a delectable culinary scene, especially when it comes to seafood.
Salted and Dried Cod: Known as “klipfisk” in Norwegian, salted and dried cod is a staple of the local coastal cuisine. Taste this traditional dish prepared in various ways, such as pan-fried, in stews, or in creamy sauces.
Fresh Seafood: Indulge in a feast of fresh seafood, including shrimp, crab, mussels, and salmon. These delicacies are sourced directly from the surrounding pristine waters.
Moose and Reindeer: Experience the unique flavours of the region by trying dishes made from moose and reindeer meat. These game meats offer a taste of the local wilderness.
Local Berries: During the summer months, indulge in the abundance of local berries, such as cloudberries, lingonberries, and blueberries. They are often used in desserts and jams.
Best Time to Go to the Helgeland Coast
The Helgeland Coast is a year-round destination, each season offering its own unique charm. The best time to go depends on your preferences and the activities you wish to pursue:
Summer (June to August)
The summer months are the most popular time to visit the Helgeland Coast. The weather is mild, and the long daylight hours provide ample time for outdoor adventures. The midnight sun phenomenon, where the sun remains visible 24 hours a day, is a surreal experience that adds a touch of magic to your trip.
Winter (December and February)
If you’re seeking a winter wonderland experience, consider visiting the Helgeland Coast during the winter months. The region transforms into a snowy paradise, offering opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and witnessing the captivating Northern Lights.
Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November):
These transitional seasons offer a quieter and more serene experience on the Helgeland Coast. Spring brings blooming flowers and migrating birds, while autumn showcases vibrant foliage and the possibility of spotting the Northern Lights.
Talk Like a Norwegian
Can you say skjærgårdsøyer? Norwegian has special characters that the names of places often contain, and knowing how to pronounce them correctly can enhance your travel experience. Here’s a quick guide to pronouncing words in Norwegian with special characters:
“å” is pronounced like the “o” in “orange”
“æ” is pronounced like the “a” in “cat”
“ø” is pronounced like the “u” in “burn”
By familiarising yourself with these pronunciations, you can communicate more effectively and navigate the region with ease.
*skjærgårdsøyer means ‘archipelago islands’. The Helgeland Coast has many beautiful skjærgårdsøyer. Be sure to visit them all!
The Best Way to See the Helgeland Coast
Sailing the Helgeland Coast is an exceptional way to fully immerse yourself in the area. You’ll gain access to remote and secluded locations that are otherwise inaccessible, and be treated to coastal views that cannot be experienced from land.
Navigating through the intricate network of fjords and islands, you can uncover off-the-beaten-path spots that showcase the region’s true splendour and increase your chances of seeing wildlife such as seals, dolphins, and various seabird species such as puffins, eagles, and cormorants. Anchor at secluded spots, stroll along untouched beaches and experience charming fishing communities firsthand.
Whichever way you decide to explore, the Helgeland Coast is a destination that will leave you with lasting memories. Plan your journey, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to discover the wonders of the Norweigan Coast.