Our Narvik tour takes you down the magical road from Abisko to Narvik in Norway. The journey along the banks of Lake Torneträsk and through the mountains to the fjord is what that we think makes this tour so special. From beautiful to historically-significant places, your guide will tell you all about them. The road we take follows the railway line built to transport Swedish iron and used heavily by German forces in WW2.
Here is one of the breathtaking views you can expect to see as we reach the Narvik fjord:
We set off from Abisko Guesthouse around 9am, heading westwards in our own tour buses.
Out of the window, on the right-hand side, you may well see people fishing on Lake Torneträsk. While the lake is frozen, you’ll see people sitting on the ice, fishing through holes and others walking dogs, standing or throwing sticks right out in the middle of the lake. During the summer, fishing is done from boats or the water’s edge. What you will notices is how spectacular the view is and how it changes as we drive along.
Abisko Guesthouse looks out over Lake Torneträsk (or Torne träsk), 330 square kms of water that originally formed from a glacier. It is deep – 168m at its deepest point and long – 70km. Despite its depth, Träsk actually means ‘swamp’. It is usually frozen from December to June.
This year (2017), spring has come late. Our guide says:
“This I’ve never seen in 30 years, nothing has melted. It is the beginning of May and spring is at least 3 weeks late.”
We drive alongside the national park up to the left. If the water is running (and not frozen), we may well stop at the beautiful Ridonjira stream that falls gently down the mountain-side to the lake. IT is such a peaceful spot, you can’t help but be still, listen to the water flowing nonchalantly past and breath in the crisp fresh air:
Up on the hills beside us, a big of digging and hammering will produce beautiful garnet stones (or, at least, they are beautiful once you polish them!). They are really ‘semi-precious stones’ and, although they come in many colours, up here you are mostly like to find black and dark red stones. As not everyone carries a hammer around, do some searching around on the ground in the little streams and brooks. You are sure to find one or two!
If you can read in Swedish (or want to look at the pictures anyway), here is a great blog post about it from one holidaymaker here:https://utefolket.com/2014/08/28/abisko-del-6-skattjakt-pa-riktigt/ We don’t always stop here on the tour – pop back another time, it is just a few kilometres from the Guesthouse.
Björkliden is the next inhabited spot along the way, though only around 20 people actually live here, according to Wikipedia. From here, you get another spectacular view over the lake and into the mountains. This gives us a great opportunity to photograph the famous gate to Lapland, the natural mountain ‘gap’ know as Lapporten.
Björkliden is the nearest ski resort to Abisko. If you look right upwards, you can see Låktatjakugugan, Sweden’s highest mountain station. We pass Tornehamns cemetery, where many of the workers that built the railway line are buried. There is also a 9-hole golf course here somewhere… under all that snow!
Every so often, along the road side, there are cars parked and these are the people you can see down on the lake or who are hiking up on the hills. In the winter, there also pens of reindeer around but in the summer, they are free to roam the park and glorious landscape. There is where we park up on the Trollsjön (troll lake or magic lake!) tour, to hike 7km up to a spectacularly clean and clear lake that is nestled in the mountains.
For information about our hiking tour up to Trollsjön – the magical lake, click here.
At this point, we turn due west and leave Lake Torneträsk, though we are kept company by small lakes and creeks alongside the road until we meet the Narvik fjord. We leave the valley at this point and start to head upwards.
Riksgränsen is next and is both a ski resort and, with an almost direct translation from Swedish, the nation’s border. In May each year, the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships are held here on Nordalsfjäll. We drive straight through the border into Norway (though make sure you have some form of ID, just in case!).
Driving through the border to Norway at Riksgränsen
Up to the left you may well see a freight train carrying iron from Kiruna to Narvik. You’ll know that’s what you are looking at because they have 50+ trucks that are all open – like skips – and all identical. Wikipedia says that 15,9 million tonnes of goods are taken from Kiruna to Narvik on this line each year.
The railway opened for traffic in 1902 and within 20 years, the whole line had been electrified. The Swedish section is called the ‘Malmbanan’ and once we head into Norway, it is called the ‘Ofotbanen’.
The lovely smooth road we drive along – now called the E10 – was built in the 1980s and, before that, the railway had a lot more stops on it that have since closed.
During the second world war, the railway lines was used to transport Swedish iron to German-occupied Norway. We stop at one of the six memorials to all the soldiers that lost their lives during the war that are situated along the roadside so you can read about it more detail and see the landscape from the viewing point.
There are cabins dotted all around Bjørnfjell, the area we now drive through. As we head down towards the fjord, the view is spectacular (again!). Keep an eye out for the first glimpse of the ocean.
You can see the mountains on the Lofoten archipelago in the far distance ahead as we wind our way down the mountain. The brush and bounty of small trees that we’ve seen so far turn into wooded areas filled with large pines. At our trip in May, we saw the change into spring that hadn’t yet made it to Abisko.
A pebble beach greets us as we get down to the fjord. At this point, we get out and walk or run down to the water. There are often cars and motorhomes parked here and sometimes campfires, with families sat around them. If you look closely, you might spot mussel and crab shells amongst the seaweed on the beach. Thanks to the gulf stream and it being salty, the fjord never freezes. The impressive landscape here is different from that around Abisko.
Narvik fjord beach
From here, we head to Narvik over the bridge. Narvik was a stone-age settlement and vikings lived here. The town we see today was badly damaged in the 1940s so many buildings have been built more recently. To get a good view of the area, we go up to the 16th floor of the Scandic hotel and its Tøtta Sky Bar. Panoramic views of the fjord, docks and town make this a place to take photos.
SkyBar and views from it
If you are taking the tour Tuesday-Saturday, then we now head to Fiskehallen – the fishmongers – for lunch. It isn’t open on Sundays and Mondays so then we don’t include lunch but you can buy yourself something at the Sky Bar, we stop by a local sushi restaurant or you can, of course, bring something with you to eat.
Fiskehallen has a fish counter like many fishmongers but the fish here is unbelievably fresh, sometimes caught only a couple of hours earlier. Piles of prawns sit alongside halibut, cod and, because it is Norway, whale meat. The Guesthouse’s owner, Klas, suggests to guests that they could pick up something to take back for their dinner this evening. He also asks for ice packs to keep it all cold!
Fiskehallen in Narvik
Time for lunch, in the authentic, calm Norwegian cafe that sits beside the fishmongers. We opted for the fish burger on our tour in May, stuffed with white fish, crispy onions and salad and it was delicious. Our guide took the soup and reported “I could kill for this soup.” We think he liked it!
From here, we potter around for a little while then it is time to head back. As we drive, we watch skiers skiing upwards (at least it looked like that from the road). Heading back across the border, the view changes to look out over Lake Torneträsk again and it takes our breath away. It is different yet equally spectacular in this direction and makes the journey back to Abisko Guesthouse just as enthralling as the journey out.