Train to the Arctic – Norway’s Nordland Line Explored

Train to the Arctic Norways Nordland Line Explored

During Train to the Arctic: Norway’s Nordland Line Explored, travelers will experience the untamed beauty of Norway’s far north and learn about important historical events along the way. In addition to a variety of impactful activities, guests will enjoy personal encounters with locals and a diverse selection of locally sourced food.

1. Saltfjellet

The Nordland Line runs north from Trondheim to Bodo, and at 729km long it is Norway’s largest mainline railway and one of the few lines in the world that crosses the Arctic Circle. From the moment you step aboard, you’re surrounded by nature and history. Benny, a guide at Nordland National Park Center and owner of the Arctic Circle Classic motorcycle museum, takes you along the ten-hour journey to explore the highlights.

First up is the small town of Mosjoen, a charming area that’s known as Norway’s geographic centre. The town’s well-preserved 19th century buildings, cosy cafés and galleries make it the perfect spot to spend the night.

From here, the train makes its way towards Saltfjellet, a giant mountain area that forms an important physical and cultural border between Helgeland and Central Sápmi. The Nordland Line passes right through this mountain range, which is home to many fjords, rivers, lakes and the stunning Svartisen Glacier.

As you continue north, the landscape becomes wilder and more mountainous. The peaks rise high above the treeline and provide a rugged, majestic backdrop for the wide-open areas where you’ll find the pristine wilderness of Bredekrunde National Park.

The park is famous for its waterfalls, but there are also plenty of other things to see. For example, hikers can take the Bredekrunde loop trail that passes by old farms, wild meadows and the snow-capped peaks of the Saltfjellet mountains.

You’ll hear a message over the loudspeaker as you cross the Arctic Circle and enter the realm of the midnight sun, or Northern Lights if you’re traveling in winter. This is the official entrance to the magical realm, and you’ll be able to see a number of stone pyramids beside the railway.

2. Saltstraumen

A train trip on the Nordland Line gives passengers the opportunity to enjoy Norway’s spectacular fjord and mountain scenery, passing over the Arctic Circle. The route is one of the country’s most popular excursions, especially in winter when you can witness nature’s own fireworks – the northern lights.

The highlight of this journey is Saltstraumen, a natural phenomenon known as the world’s strongest maelstrom. The strait, only 150 metres wide, is squeezed between two large bodies of water with huge currents flowing in opposite directions. This creates a spectacular mix of whirlpools, rushing waters and glass-like still areas. The strait is most impressive every six hours when the currents are at their strongest, and the area is also home to a number of rare seabird species.

During your stop at Saltstraumen, it’s possible to take a boat tour through the maelstrom and experience its power and beauty for yourself. Alternatively, you can simply admire the area from the nearby observation platform or stroll along the cliffs and beaches. The strait is just 33 kilometres from Bodo city centre, and it’s easy to reach by bus or taxi. Local company Bodo Taxi offers sightseeing round trips to Saltstraumen at a fixed rate.

During the summer, it’s also a great opportunity to spot wildlife. The Nordland Line makes a stop at the Borgefjell National Park, where you can see the arctic fox and its prey in their natural habitat.

3. Trondheim Fjord

The train winds through the fjord country of Hordaland county, and while the scenery here is less dramatic than along the Bergen line, there’s still plenty to see, including river areas, tunnels, and small communities. In summer, watch out for the stunning vistas of Trondheimsfjorden (Trondhmsfjorden), Norway’s third-longest fjord. It was used to represent Hoth in Star Wars and often has patches of snow even on Midsummer Day, so you might get lucky with some Northern Lights views if you travel here in winter.

The next highlight is a stop at Lassemoen, where you can visit Namsskogan Wildlife Park to see the likes of wolverines and lynxes in their enclosures. If you book ahead, the park offers a chance to sleep right by the wolves and bears in their exclusive lavvos (cabins based on Sami tents).

As the train continues north, you can watch inland farmers work their fields and admire the vibrant colors of spring and summer landscapes. You’ll also see the concrete blocks that mark where the German battleship Tirpitz was hidden in Trondheimsfjorden during World War II.

Nearing Bodo, the Nordland Line makes a final stretch of wilderness, dotted with mountain areas and gushing waterfalls. The scenery here is so beautiful, and you’ll be able to spot reindeer. You’ll hear a message on the train’s speakers as you cross the Arctic Circle, and you can take pictures of the stones pyramids beside the railway that mark this magical border.

As the train pulls into the Bodo station, it arrives bang on schedule. It’s Nasjonaldagen, the Norwegian National Day, which celebrates the signing of the country’s constitution in 1814 and is a joyous street party. I join the crowds for a feast of seafood and the obligatory serving of julep, which is poured in generous quantities to toast the occasion.

4. Abisko

A seat on the Nordland Line is an immersive experience. As you lie back in your seat and enjoy the view, you will be able to witness how the landscape changes from lush valleys to rugged mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls. You will also get the chance to see mighty glaciers, cross the Arctic Circle, and explore some of Norway’s most spectacular natural wonders, such as the Torfajokull Glacier, Europe’s largest ice-free lake.

From the end point in Abisko, you can take a short hike to Rombaksbotn, a small glacier village. It’s well worth a stop to enjoy the jaw-dropping natural scenery and learn about how people used to live here in the past. It’s an excellent way to experience what many consider to be the best place in the world for admiring the Northern Lights.

Once you reach the most northerly point of the railway, Fauske, you will be treated to the most spectacular scene of all: the Arctic Circle. If it’s a clear night, you can even admire the Northern Lights from here. This is a special moment for the whole family, but it’s important to remember that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and they can never be guaranteed.

The train journey to the Arctic is an unforgettable experience. With mighty mountain peaks, dramatic waterfalls, and jaw-dropping views of the fjord and mountains, it is no wonder that this route has been named one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. To make the most of your experience, we recommend downloading the Voice of Norway app to listen to stories about the places you’re passing through. There are also plenty of other interesting apps and websites that offer a range of different audio tours.

5. Bodo

The final stop on the Nordland Line is Bodo. Getting off here is an excellent option, as it’s only about 15 minutes away from one of the world’s strongest maelstroms, Saltstraumen. The tidal current creates whirlpools up to ten metres in diameter, and this very specific and peculiar nature phenomenon is a must-see for anyone who makes it here. The best time to visit is in March when the tide difference is at its greatest. Trips by RIB boat to the area are popular throughout the year. The city of Bodo also offers a variety of activities. A walk to the red sand beach at Mjelle or to the Kjerringoy trading post is a good idea, while a visit to the conservatory at Bryggerikaia by the harbour is ideal for trying traditional stock fish (dried cod) dishes.

The last stretch of the train journey, which is around two hours from Bodo, takes you over the Arctic Circle. At the Lonsdal station you can walk to the monument marking this point in the arctic wilderness. It’s a very special moment, surrounded by snow-dotted mountains and gushing waterfalls and with a view of the gaunt Saltfjellet mountain towering over you.

Norway’s Nordland Line is a truly unique railway journey and it would be a shame to miss out on the opportunity. The route features spectacular scenery and, if you travel in winter, the chance to experience the northern lights. In summer you can enjoy the midnight sun and a range of activities in some amazing places. There is a diverse mix of travellers from all over the world who make this special journey, and the atmosphere on board is often festive and warm.

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