Senja is my favorite, my “love at first sight” place in Norway.. One of the biggest islands in the country and yet one of the best kept secrets. Located west of Tromso, not necessarily easy to access, it is, for the moment not very touristic although it evolves from year to year.
Senja is a concentrate of Norway. Fjords, mountains, lakes, beautiful roads, a paradise for the northern lights. And of course some cute villages.
However, with all these advantages, Senja remains unknown. It is hardly mentioned in the guides, the tourists only come for one or two days, and only a few addicts like me spend more time there and come back year after year. Because we feel good about Senja. We have an exceptional nature where we can not meet anyone for hours. Quite incredible views when hiking on the mountains, worthy of the Lofoten islands.
In short, it is difficult to describe the happiness you feel when you are on the island of Senja. Then I suggest you read the articles and information below to discover it or especially to prepare your trip for Senja! But, for sure, you will NOT regret it !
5 good reasons to go to Senja
- Seriously, that’s incredibliy beautiful
- The northern lights, of course !
- Many fjords, lots of mountains
- Almost no one there, an island still Personne ou presque, an island still preserved from tourism
- The (few) local people are nice
The must-see places in Senja, you should not miss
Senja is a “set”, difficult to be described, but we easily find some specific places to see absolutely. Especially those below. But they are also the best known. So do not hesitate to take the (rare) other roads, to go in the fjords of the west where there is no one for example.
- Drive the 862 road from Torsken to Husoy
- The road is long, you have to do it in several times because there is really a lot to see, but it is clearly the essential of Senja. It is the route of the fjords, you will walk along the beautiful coast, not cross many people and make too many photo breaks, I prefer to warn you! Let’s see some of the places below
- On the road 862, Tungeneset is Senja’s most popular view, but it’s not without reason. It is a spectacular view of the famous “devil’s teeth”, a series of very sharp mountains. There are some great views there, but the best is by the very lake after a 5 minutes walk, that gives you a perfect reflection of the mountains in the water
- A footbridge that offers a crazy view of a round fjord. It’s also a great point of view for the Northern Lights! As the bridge is located on the side of the road, it will be impossible to miss it. However, watch out for the wind! It can blow hard up there!
- A pretty village but especially an incredible fjord. The view of the bridge that crosses it, but also plenty of opportunities to walk around this fjord for crazy views, in any season! During winter you can go snowshoeing around the fjord or on the old road, for example. The view from the bridge is incredible, mostly for sunset !
- Anderdalen national park and Sifjord
- the natural park is really big and beautiful (ideal for hiking), but with a main road that crosses it and leads to the most beautiful view (in my opinion) of the island: Sifjord. This zigzag road gives a crazy view on a beautiful fjord. And if we continue, we will discover other fjords and beautiful mountains with a nice advantage: there is absolutely no one!
- The village of Husoy
- A funny and weird one because it’s located on a very small island. The view to get there is really beautiful and before you cross a huge and impressive fjord! It’s a bit far from everything but it really deserves a visit. It is a true fishing village, houses concentrated on a small space, fish that dry. Surprising!
How to go to Senja
Well, if there are not many tourists in Senja (at least in winter), it is also because it is a bit difficult. There is no airport. So, to come by plane, you must land either in Tromso, or in Bardufoss, depending on what you want to visit in addition to Senja.
Bardufoss is about an hour from Finnsnes, which is the entry point of Senja, or 2 big hours from Hamn i Senja.
Tromso is a 3 or 4 hour drive from Tromso airport. Or more depending on the photo breaks (because the road is really beautiful).
Going to Tromso is not particularly complicated or expensive. There is a stop in Oslo, Bergen, Copenhagen or Stockholm (for example), it takes 5/6h depending on the stopover you’ll have. Without stopover, it’s around 4h.
Bardufoss is a bit tricky because there are fewer services. Wideroe goes there, a super practical company but not cheap.
I really advise you to do simulations on several travel dates and several comparators. On my part I use and strongly advise Kayak and Momondo (in addition to go directly to the sites of the companies).
By car or campervan
We can come by car from Tromso, it’s a 3 or 4 hour drive, a beautiful road (ok I don’t take much risk saying that). On the other hand, if you come from the Lofoten, it’s further away. About 7/8h from Reine I would say, and 7h of Andenes to Vesteralen.
In summer, it is faster because there are the two ferries that make Andenes-Gryllefjord and Brensholmen-Botnhamn to come from Vesteralen and Tromso.
NEW! Since summer 2021, the ferry between Brensholmen-Botnhamn to come from Tromso is open all year round, and this is super convenient:)
There’s no train line here! The last one is in Narvik (on the swedish railway), and there’s another station in Bodo. So you can reach Finnsnes by bus, but without a car, Senja remains complicated to visit. There are a few buses from Finnsnes to the villages, but not to the main viewpoints.
The Hurtigruten goes through Finnsnes, which is convenient. But in the summer, between June and early September, we have ferries that leave Kvaloya or Andenes to go to Senja. This is super practical and avoids stuffing the 4/7h drive by car. Well, the only concern is that they only tour during the really tourist season, the summer.
There is also a ferry (without car) from Harstad to the south west of Senja: Skrollsvika
When to go to Senja
Like in Lofoten islands, Senja is full of norwegian tourists during summer holidays. But honestly, that’s ok.
During summer, you have the midnight sun and a lot of hikes.
If you want to see the northern lights, they appear from early september to mid april. Here are the different possibilities :
- september and october : it’s not snowing yet, there is light, days are quite long and in september you can see the beautiful autumn colors. A great season, really
- november to mid january : raining and then snow, short days or even no daylight. The weather is not the best but you can still deal with the clouds to see the northern lights
- february and march : snow, days are longer, a great season to enjoy the lights and landscapes !
Spring is a beautiful season, less snow, nature is coming back, not always possible to hike, long days. Neverending sunsets
How to discover these different places
There are some buses that go from Finnsnes to the different villages. But there is no “touristic” bus, no possibility to stop at the different viewpoints. So, you need a car. As you will come to Senja from Tromso, Lofoten or Bardufoss, I would strongly advice you to book your car there, before arriving in Senja.
Where to sleep in Senja
The possibilities are quite limited here. There are a few hotels, but very good ones. Some nice houses to rent too. I would strongly advice you to rent it as soon as you can, mostly during summer and february, because of this lack of possibilities.
I would not advise you to stay in Finnsnes. Because the city is not beautiful, it’s only a good place for supermarkets. But otherwise, try to stay in some more beautiful places like Gryllefjord, Skaland, Hamn, Mefjordvaer. But let’s see all these options :
- Hamn i Senja : an institution in its own archipelago, with its harbour. Incredible landscapes! Water is incredibly clear, perfect for kayaking
- Mefjord Brygge : in a fjord, surrounded by mountains, a nice hotel with cottages, a great team and beautiful views !
- Skagi Lodge : located in Skaland, a beautiful place close to everything
- Aurora Borealis Observatory : an ideal place to see the northern lighst, but not located in the fjords
- Kaikanten : beautiful cottages located in the incredibly beautiful Gryllefjord
- Senja Fjordhotell : in a southern fjord, a very nice hotel in a great environment
♥ Favorite ♥
Located in a perfect archipelago, Hamn i Senja
- Hamn i Senja has its own archipelago, surrounded by crystal clear water. A very comfortable place, great breakfast !
- A perfect place to enjoy the northern lights
- Prices from 120€
What to do in Senja, which activities
Senja is not like Tromso with a lot of excursions and tours. In Senja you’ll almost have to do it all by yourself ! And that’s why we like it. But most of the hotels propose some activities like snowshoeing, northern lights tours, boat safari.
Here are the main activities in Senja :
- Hiking : Senja is a paradise for hikers! The most famous hikes are Segla, Husfjellet, Andervatnet lake, Riven or Sukkertoppen. With snow, you must be really prepared and experienced.
- Hamn i Senja proposes some guided hiking tours
- Northern lights : we’ll see it below, but Senja is incredible for the northern lights
- Snowshoeing : if you have your own ones, you can easily go snowshoeing in the Anderdalen park for example. If you don’t have yours, you can rent it in hotels like Skagi, Hamn i Senja, Mefjordbrygge
- Kayak : this is also a superb place to do kayaking. Clear water, beautiful beaches, you’ll be in paradise ! You can rent a kayak in Skagi hotel, in Skaland
- For guided kayak tours, Hamn and Wandering Owl !
- Sightseeing : well for me this is the best to do here. Landscapes are incredibly beautiful
- Photography : if you’re a photographer, amateur or profesional or whatever, you’re at the good place. A lot of possibilities, some really photogenic places, not a lot of people. What else do you need ?
- Dog Sledding : even if Senja is full of mountains, there is a kennel south of the island, in Vangsvik. You can discover Senja Husky here !
How to see the northern lights in Senja
Senja is an exceptional place for the northern lights, in the sense that the fjords are very well oriented, we have a lot of visibility, the weather is good and there is little light pollution. This is a great playground to chase the auroras !
To see the aurora, you will need a little preparation, a little luck and patience:
- check the weather in advance, hour by hour, to know the cloud cover in the area. So you will know where to go and when to go out to have a clear sky
- be patient as the aurora may appear at any time. It happened to me to have absolutely nothing (it’s rare but it happens!) like non-stop evenings until sunrise. Try to be ready by 7pm, or at least by nightfall if it comes later
- be mobile because the weather can really change from one fjord to another, or within 10km. Or sometimes you might have to cross the island or come out to have a clear sky
Some of the best places to enjoy the northern lights :
- Tungeneset (everybody goes there but that’s a beautiful place)
- Hamn beaches
- road to Mefjordbotn
- above Husoy
Useful information about Senja
How long to stay in Senja
Some make the tour in just two days, the time to walk along the northern road (862). Some now take the ferry from Sommaroy, do the tour in one day and go back to Tromso by night. Others, like me, could stay there for a very long time. Senja, in winter, is really quiet. No coffee, no restaurants (unless you go down to Finnsnes), so if you need to see people, staying in Senja for a long time might scare you:D Time to see the main places, fjords, villages, 3 days is not bad for a first time. This allows to see Gryllefjord, Sifjord, Tungeneset, Husoy, Anderdalen, Bergsbotn without rushing.
For my part, I stay there about ten days each winter to find new small places, try to do walks when the weather allows, hunt for the northern lights. This is a “feel good” place, that’s why I stay here and I could stay even longer 🙂
Is Senja touristic
The first time I came to Senja, in 2017, there was almost no one there. No groups of tourists, but almost only photographers. I could spend hours at a place without running into anyone (which can be problematic in the event of an accident, but at worst I am found thawing in April).
Since then, things have changed a bit. I’ve seen more tourists arrive, I see more people, buses and photo tours. The island could not be indefinitely preserved and unknown, especially since I keep talking about it (so I can only blame myself!). But frankly, even now it’s going well. Infrastructure is more or less ok. Few hotels, roads not crazy (a lot of works), it can discourage some people that want more “life” and some more “organized”. It’s not as easy as in Tromso, where everything is done for tourism, for example. And this is why we love Senja !
Climate and temperatures in Senja
Like in Tromso, it’s cold but dry. But it’s okay. Because dry cold won’t take to the bones (not sure about that expression in English), it’s mostly the wind that will be terrible. There are two different climates here. At the water’s edge, it is never really cold, but there is wind. -10 would be a minimum (without the feeling).
But as soon as you go to the center of the island, for example on the road leading to Finnsnes and especially when you start to enter Anderdalen park, pfou, it’s like in Lapland. I sometimes have -35° in the middle of the day, the one that makes it impossible to hold the camera and frosts the nose hair.
Afterwards, it’s really very changing. You have to watch the weather all the time. Besides, the best app and site for the weather is Yr.no
During summer, it won’t be very hot. 10 15°, sometimes more, enough to jump into the sea and its paradisiac beaches. But it often rains, mostly during autumn !
Really easy. In Senja, you can pay everything by card. All the gas stations, shopes, coffees, everything. I haven’t paid anything by cash for years there.
Internet and Wifi
If you’re from European Union, Norway is included in your plan, data and voice, for something like 7Go (depending on your plan).
The 4G coverture is exceptional everywhere in the island (well ok, in all Norway) and even better than in my parisian flat.
Each restaurant/hotel will provide wifi connection.
Cost of living in Senja
Like in the other parts of Norway, this is more expensive than in France for example. But less than in Lofoten (and much less than in Iceland). In Finnsnes, prices are fair for a place far from everything. Gasoline is among the cheapest in the country. And since there are not many restaurants (apart from those in hotels) or cafés, there is no risk of bursting the budget. Practical!
Taxis and more
There are some taxis in Finnsnes, they go to the small villages in the island, but they will not come on their own, you have to call them first. And I do believe it would cost quite a lot.
Feeling safe in Senja
I really don’t see what can happen to you in Senja. Leave the car open and nothing will happen, even the engine on. Forget something somewhere and you’ll find it. The only trap, the ice when you get out of the car, but otherwise I don’t see.