Say hello to your latest bucket list addition – Saltstraumen, Norway.
The natural wonder of Saltstraumen Maelstrom is a gem you do not want to miss out on. 33 kilometers north of the arctic circle (and a 10 minute drive from my childhood home) you can see the world’s strongest tidal current in action. Every 6 hours or so, when the flow of the tide passes through the narrow strait between Skjerstadfjorden and Saltfjorden, the forces at play create fascinating whirlpools everyone should experience at least once in their life.
The area surrounding the current is breathtakingly beautiful with hiking-worthy mountains everywhere you look, an exciting wildlife, and a unique marine life below the surface. Saltstraumen is also home of the third oldest human settlement in Norway, and there is a lot of interesting Stone Age and Viking history to learn. You can even see Norway’s oldest musical instrument while you’re there.
In other words, this place has a lot to offer and it’s the ultimate destination for those who enjoy hiking, fishing, diving, history, photography and nature in general. Keep reading for my best insider tips on places to stay, where to eat and things to do in Saltstraumen!
Table Of Contents
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5 Things To Know Before Visiting Saltstraumen
There’s a handful of things everyone should know before visiting Saltstraumen.
1. Saltstraumen’s Location And Name
Saltstraumen is located in Bodø municipality in Nordland country, northern Norway. The name Saltstraumen not only refers to the strait and tidal currents, it also refers to the village surrounding it. The city closest to Saltstraumen is Bodø, which is located approximately 30 minutes away by car or bus.
2. Saltstraumen Is Easily Combined With Other Destinations
Saltstraumen is easy to combine with other destinations in Nordland county, and northern Norway in general. This is due to Saltstraumens superb location along the scenic Coastal Highway (FV17), and the fact that it is close to both RV80 between Bodø and Fauske and the main road E6. Combine a visit to Saltstraumen with a trip to Lofoten, Hamarøy, Vesterålen or Helgelandskysten and have the time of your life. There is so much beauty to explore in this part of Norway.
3. How To Get To Saltstraumen From Bodø
From Bodø you can get to Saltstraumen by renting a car and drive yourself, by booking a guided RIB safari tour, by taxi (expensive af), or by bus. Look up bus times using the app Reis Nordland (app store/google play) and purchase bus tickets using the app Billett Nordland (app store/google play). Consider purchasing Travel Pass Nordland in the app if you’re planning on traveling a lot by bus or boat in Nordland.
4. Timing Is Vital When Visiting Saltstraumen
Good timing is vital if you want to see the whirlpools in action. I highly recommend you plan in advance and visit Saltstraumen when the current is at its strongest. Only then will you truly experience the massive forces of nature at work, creating fascinating currents and swirls in the strait. What time of day the current is at its strongest will vary and you should always check this timetable when planning your visit.
5. Pick The Best Season To Visit Saltstraumen – For You
Saltstraumen is beautiful all year round. That being said, I personally prefer the lighter months in northern Norway. Not only is it warmer between late May and late August, you can also enjoy longer and lighter days due to the wonderful midnight sun. Longer days means more time to explore the arctic, and as it is peak season, there will generally be more things to do during summer. The only con is the crowds. The darker months provide us with shorter days, which mean less time to explore in daylight. The weather can also be more unstable. On the plus side you’ll escape the crowds, and you might catch the northern lights if you’re in luck! Every season has its pros and cons so you’ll just have to figure out what the best season is for you.
Places To Stay When Visiting Saltstraumen
When you’re visiting Saltstraumen you have a ton of options when deciding on where to stay. Your two main options are staying in the village of Saltstraumen, or staying in the closest city, Bodø.
Stay In Saltstraumen
Saltstraumen is the perfect place to relax and enjoy Norwegian nature at its best. There you’ll find a handful of lovely places to stay, which is perfect if you want to take full advantage of everything the area has to offer. Spend one night, stay for a weekend – or why not a week? Book an affordable chalet at Pluscamp Saltstraumen Camping, an apartment with an amazing view at Saltstraumen Brygge, or stay at the wonderful Saltstraumen Hotel if you’re looking for the little extra. The hotel is located right next to the strait and has a magnificent view, a restaurant on site, and a spa with a hot tub, sauna and gym.
Stay In Bodø
A 33 km drive from Saltstraumen lies the city of Bodø, which is a popular place to stay among visitors of the current. Bodø is the closest city and is well connected to the rest of the country by plane, train, boat, bus or car. I recommend staying in Bodø if you’re only spending a few hours or one day in Saltstraumen. Stay at Scandic Havet if you want to enjoy the best view of Bodø, or at Thon Hotel Nordlys if you want to experience their famous breakfast (which includes a chocolate fountain!). Hotels fill up quickly in Bodø so definitely book in advance.
10 Things To Do In Saltstraumen, Norway
Although most people who visit Saltstraumen do so for the whirlpools, there are more things to do in Saltstraumen than that. Here are a few ideas!
1. Taste Some Local Food
Stop by the lovely Kjelen Kafé to enjoy some coffee and a waffle with jam (Norwegian fave) with an amazing view, or taste the local cuisine for dinner at Saltstraumen Hotel (their Sunday buffet is great for tasting different Norwegian dishes). If you’re traveling in a group you can also book a Stone Age dining experience at Tuvsjyen. Or you can always bring food with your or purchase a low-key meal from the local supermarket.
2. Enjoy The Sights On Foot
The best way to experience the tidal current on land is by sightseeing on foot. My favourite trail start right below Saltstraumen Hotel. From there you can walk along beautiful surroundings until you reach the little lighthouse under the bridge. A great spot to see the strait up close! Afterwards you can head towards the middle of Saltstraumen Bridge, which will provide you with a great view of the whirlpools created by the strong currents (beware that the bridge will be closed if the wind is real bad). Another great viewpoint is by Kjelen Kafé. Check out my map below for more details on where to go.
3. Get A Stone Age Dining Experience
If you’re traveling with a group and book in advance you can get a stone age dining experience when visiting Saltstraumen. At Tuvsjyen you can enjoy a story telling session and taste a delicious Stone age casserole with herbs, vegetables, and local reindeer or fish. Other activities can also be arranged along with the dining experience, like archery, stone oven baking, guided tours or fishing. Read more here.
4. Go On A Saltstraumen RIB Safari
The ultimate way to experience the forces of Saltstraumen is by booking a RIB safari boat trip! Embark from Bodø and look out for sea eagles on your way across the fjord to Saltstraumen, and see the whirlpools up close. You might even spot a porpoise or puffin if you’re extra lucky. RIB safaris are available daily between June and August and you should always book in advance. Although I grew up 10 minutes from Saltstraumen I haven’t done this myself yet (only in Lofoten), but everyone says it’s SO much fun. Unsure it it’s worth the money? Let this video persuade you.
5. Go Fishing
Saltstraumen is a popular fishing spot for a reason, it is such a fun experience! Catch your own fish and enjoy it for dinner – you won’t find a more Norwegian experience than that. Purchase fishing equipment at Kjelen Kafé or the local grocery store, or rent equipment at the hotel. Most accommodations in Saltstraumen come with a kitchen or an outside grill where you can prepare your fish. If yours doesn’t, you can get a disposable grill at the supermarket. Check out my map below to see the locations of my favorite fishing spots.
6. Try Snorkling Or Diving In Saltstraumen
The fascinating wildlife of Saltstraumen isn’t limited to those of us above the surface – you can experience the exciting world underwater as well! Go snorkling or diving with the experienced people at NORD&NE and see the impressive marine life below the surface with your own eyes. Underwater life in Saltstraumen was actually featured on BBC’s “A Perfect Planet”, so make sure to check out the ocean episode if you want a sneak peek.
7. Taste The Salt From Saltstraumen
Yup, it is possible (without sticking your tongue in the ocean). Arctic Salt produce gourmet salt from Saltstraumen that you can use on your food. It both tastes and looks great! Get it at the supermarket, at Saltstraumen Hotel or in shops or at the airport in Bodø. Perfect if you want to get someone special a unique gift, or get yourself a souvenir you’ll actually use – all while supporting a local business.
8. Go Hiking
There are a ton of great hikes available in the area. Experienced hikers should consider hiking one of the breathtaking summits of Børvasstindan, the most popular mountain chain in Bodø. Less experienced hikers can look up Tuvfjellet, which is a fairly easy hike with an amazing view of the area surrounding Saltstraumen. The glorious waterfall Valnesfossen isn’t far from Saltstraumen either, which has a 60 meter fall worth the trip. Most hikes are easily available if you have a car.
9. Learn About The Local History
Saltstraumen has a very interesting history. It is one of Norway’s oldest documented settlements and people have been living by the strait for approximately 11,000 years. Vikings also lived in the area, with “new” artifacts being discovered every now and then (recently someone found a viking grave below their house). Visit Saltstraumen Museum if you’d like to learn more about local history in the area. The museum is small, yet informative, and they offer guided tours all year round if you book in advance. You can also see the oldest musical instrument in Norway there, which was found in Saltstraumen. If viking history is your thing you should read about the local Viking chieftain Raud den Rame in the saga of Olav Tryggvason in Snorre’s Heimskringla.
10. Enjoy A “Saltstraumen” Beer Outdoors
The Bodø based brewery Bådin has a delicious saison beer named after the world known Saltstraumen. I can’t imagine a better place to enjoy one, so if you’re a beer lover like myself you should get one from the supermarket and enjoy it outdoors while you’re in Saltstraumen.
Map Of Saltstraumen
Below you’ll find a map of Saltstraumen, including driving instructions from Bodø, my favorite fishing spot, and more.
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