Are you planning a trip to the Lofoten Islands, and do you have extra time in Bodø? Are you wondering what some must-see attractions around Bodø are?
We never used to be big fans of Bodø and always thought of this city with distinctive post-war architecture as a transit destination to and from Lofoten. I guess we just never did any research about what to see around Bodø because after spending more than a week exploring the city’s surroundings, we fell in love with the mountainous landscape and pristine beaches that we kept postponing our departure to Lofoten.
So, for all of you wondering if Bodø is worth visiting, the short answer is yes. There is plenty to see and do within two hours’ driving distance from Bodø to keep you busy for a few days. Here are our suggestions on what to visit around Bodø.
Just beware that most places on the list are not accessible by public transport, so you need to have a car. If you do not travel by your own vehicle, you can rent a car at Bodø airport from some of the big car rental agencies, or you can rent a car from local people via Getaround.
To help you plan your visit, we also included an interactive map of all the best places to see around Bodø. Take a look at it at the end of the article!
About half an hour’s drive from Bodø, you can admire one of the world’s strongest tidal currents. Every sixth hour, 400 million m3 of water forces its way through the 3 km long and 150 m wide strait at Saltstraumen. The average speed of Saltstraumen is around 7 knots (about 13 km/h), but the maximum speed can go up to 20 knots (about 37 km/h).
When the current is at its strongest, it leads to the formation of vortices up to ten meters in diameter and five meters deep at the eye of the vortex. Like all tidal currents, Saltstraumen is strongest just after a new and full moon.
As the tidal water passes the narrow and shallow straight every sixth hour, it pushes rich nutrients up from the deep sea floor. These nutrients fuel an explosion of planktonic plant and animal growth, which gives Saltstraumen a unique underwater biotope and a vast diversity and quantity of marine life.
There are a few ways to experience Saltstraumen Maelstrom. You can look at the whirlpools from the Saltstraumen Bridge or while walking along the shores. If you are up to something more thrilling, you can take a guided trip on a RIB boat through the current or dive straight into Saltstraumen on a guided snorkeling or diving tour.
TIP: Check the web camera and the schedule of the tides in Saltstraumen.
About a 15-minute drive north of Bodø and surrounded by gorgeous mountains, Mjelle Beach is a popular swimming spot in the summer. There are plenty of other beautiful sandy beaches in the surroundings of Bodø, but Mjelle is unique thanks to its red sands.
Unlike other red sandy beaches whose color is caused by the presence of Iron, Mjelle’s red sand contains Garnet infiltrations. The red part stretches over a portion of better than 2 km, creating an impressive mix of colors. The short hike from the parking lot is easy, and you can visit Mjelle all year round. It is a beautiful spot for watching the midnight sun during the summer.
NOTE: Average temperatures for July in Bodø sit around 16°C, and the water temperatures are about 11-12°C. Now that’s refreshing, but it shouldn’t stop you from taking a dip in the sea!
When you first see the pictures of the Hovsundet beach with its yellow sands surrounded by turquoise waters, you wouldn’t guess that this beach lies north of the Arctic circle. The beach has until recently been a hidden gem known only among locals, but lately, it has become a big hit on Instagram.
Despite that, you won’t find much information on how to hike to the beach. The path is not marked, and even though the terrain is not difficult (for an average hiker), finding the right way among the rocks is sometimes challenging.
NOTE: Beware that the trip takes about 1,5 hours each way and goes through pastures and bird nesting areas.
Be a responsible tourist: keep your dog on a leash, stick to the path as much as possible, and leave no trace.
The rock formations at Finnesjura are unlike anything else we have seen in northern Norway. According to the legend, Finnesjura is a female troll that tried to build a bridge to Grimstad on the other side of the Storvika bay. But, as it usually is in the old tales, she forgot about time and turned into stone.
You will get a beautiful view of the Stokvika bay from the rock pillars at Finnesjura, but we highly recommend you keep hiking until you reach the top of Finnesfjellet at about 500m. From there, you get a magnificent view over the Gildeskål’s mountains, and if the weather is clear, you will admire the whole Lofoten wall.
TIP: Finnesfjellet is an excellent place to watch the midnight sun, thanks to the open horizon towards the north.
Caving is a great activity to do on a rainy day. About 1,5 hours drive south of Bodø, in Gildeskål municipality, you will find the stunning Brusteinarhola cave. Unfortunately, you won’t find almost any information about it online regarding its size or history. It is not even on Google maps, but there is a small sign next to the road, and the cave is visible from there.
Brusteinarhola is sometimes called the Cathedral of Novika because of its mighty size. The cave is not particularly deep, and you can manage without a headlamp, but its size will take your breath away.
TIP: Inside, there are also ancient cave paintings on the ceiling! And if you look carefully, you will find a funny (and slightly scary) thing in the cave 🙂
Lønngangen is a long and narrow cave in Gildeskål, located just a few kilometers from Brusteinarhola. While Brusteinarhola is a massive open cave with an incredible view, Lønngangen is its exact opposite. You enter the cave through a small entrance and follow a narrow corridor created by water and ice.
Next, you walk for about 200 meters through the mountain, where you can either exit the cave and follow a path back to the entrance or come back the same way through the cave.
The cave is easy to get to, easy to navigate, and fun to explore, even with small kids. Just be sure you take clothes that can get dirty as the cave is sometimes very narrow, and do not forget to bring a good headlamp.
Note: Never leave marks on the rock, and don’t dig or damage the caves in any other way. Take pictures, nothing else!
Langsanden Beach, located on the northern tip of the Sandhornøya island, is with its 2 kilometers long beachline one of the largest beaches in Norway. Like many other beaches in northern Norway, it is surrounded not only by crystal clear turquoise waters but also by stunning cliffs.
The area is perfect for beach strolls, bathing, midnight sun watching, or camping on the beach. There is a vast parking place and a service building where you can use the toilets and shower for free. Note that there is no power outlet or emptying station here.
TIP: If a beach walk is not your thing, put hiking shoes on and go for a hike to the mountain ridge from the north side of Sandhornøy. You will get a lovely view of the Gildeskål archipelago and Langsanden beach.
The interactive map of Lofoten is a set of more than 200 points of interest in the Lofoten islands entered into the Google Maps app.
All POI are marked with icons and divided into layers according to categories: hiking trails, churches, and museums, recommended accommodation and campsites, practical information, activities, etc.
In addition, all places include a short description and links to official sources of information.
Are you wondering what a “jekt” is? Don’t worry; we didn’t know it either before we visited the new Jekt Trade Museum that opened in June 2019.
A jekt is a big, open cargo vessel with a square sail that roots back to the Viking era boatbuilding traditions. In the Middle Ages, stockfish from Northern Norway was Norway’s primary export. The trade routes from northern fishing villages to Bergen and the rest of Europe were the arteries of the country’s economy.
More than 3000 jekts were built during the jekt primetime, but only one remains nowadays in Northern Norway. The Norwegian Jekt Trade Museum presents the last of the Nordland jekts, Anna Karoline, and tells the story of the stockfish export trade. The exhibition is exciting and designed to go slowly from post to post while walking around the boat Anna Karoline which is the museum’s centerpiece.
Forget the prejudice that museums must be boring. At the Norwegian National Museum of Aviation in Bodø, you will find 10,000 square meters filled with lots to see and do for adults and children. The exhibition combines war history, technology, polar exploration, the role of women in early aviation, and civil aviation then & now into a package that nicely suits a rainy day in Bodø.
The Norwegian Aviation Museum is among the largest aviation museums in Europe, and the collections include more than 40 aircraft and helicopters. You will see some famous planes, including the Spitfire, Starfighter or the spy plane U-2 “The Black Lady.”
TIP: Do you dream of flying? In the Newton Flight Academy, you can experience how it feels to fly in a full-motion flight simulator. For the novice captain, you can choose excellent flying conditions, and the instructor will assist you through a simplified checklist before allowing you to take off. The thrill-seekers or more experienced pilots can use the simulator to exercise dangerous situations, like engine failure, emergency landings, etc.
To give you an idea of where are the places we recommend you visiting around Bodø, check this interactive map.
There are plenty of places to stay in Bodø, with most hotels located within walking distance of the city center and ferry terminals. However, book accommodation in advance, as Bodø is an essential hub for those traveling further to the Lofoten Islands. Especially during the high summer season, the accommodations get fully booked.
The best accommodation for you depends entirely on what you seek to get out of your stay. A downtown hotel or hostel is the best choice for those who want the freedom to explore the city on a whim. However, if you plan to focus mainly on exploring the beautiful surroundings of Bodø, these options might better suit your needs.
In Norway, it is allowed to camp in the wild. However, you should pitch your tent or park your car at least 150 meters away from any inhabited building. Also, be aware that it is not allowed to light a fire during the summer months (April 15 to September 15). You can find more information about wild camping in the article below.
If you search for a place to spend a night in your car or a van, there is a big parking place with toilets close to the Ausvika beach, about 10 minutes north of the city center. You can also spend a night at a parking place close to Mjelle and Hovsundet beach. (Note that it is forbidden to camp overnight in a car at the parking at Mjelle). If you need to refill drinking water or empty your grey water tank and toilet, there is a free emptying station at the ESSO gas station in Bodø harbor.
There is a campsite close to Bodø airport (and the Jekt Trade Museum) that seems to be temporarily closed at the moment (August 2022). For campervans, there is a camping place with a beautiful view in Løpsvika.
We hope you found our travel guide to the best places to visit around Bodø helpful. Which of these would you like to visit/have visited? Or do you have some recommendations for other unique places in the area? Please leave a comment below to let us know.