Sometimes we prefer to take the bus back home to Tromsø rather than fly. The bus ride is about six hours but it means we get to look at the scenery, have a snooze, eat, ride on the ferries and spend some time playing with the kids.
The seasons are very dramatic in Norway and different parts of the journey to Tromsø stand out at different times of the year. These are the parts that stood out in February (all the pictures below were taken from on the bus, so you might see some shadows, as the bus doesn’t stop – but the pics will give you a good idea of some of the beautiful scenery that you can experience on this bus route):
Kvenvik is just West out of Alta and contrary to what the name suggests this village was never a Kvenish settlement. The Kvens are Finnish-Norwegians the immigrated to Finnmark during the mid-1800s. They have their own distinct language – not quite Norwegian and not quite Finnish.
Coming into Alta from Kvenvik (at Hjemmeluft) there is the only road sign in Norway that has three recognised languages which reads – Alta (Norwegian), Álttà (Sami) and Alattio (Kvennish).
Below is the ‘vik’ of Kvenvik. ‘Vik’ means bay in Norwegian. From the bay you can see the Alta fjord in the distance. Farms in Norway can be very close to the waters edge and some follow the shoreline. It is very common to paint farm houses white and barns red like the one seen here.
Because Norway is a coastal country there is a lot of zig-zagging in and out of bays and fjords. The fjords are usually quite deep and Kåfjord is deep enough to hide a battle ship. During WWII the German battleship Tirpitz was using Kåfjord as a base for its Arctic sea operations. The Norwegians provided this ‘intellegence’ to the Brits. After several failed attempts at bombing it by air, the Brits used two-man submarines to plant charges on the hull to sink the battleship. The ship only became damaged and so was towed to Tromsø for repairs. But now that the ship was in open water it was bombed again by the Brits who this time sank it.
The above shot was taken at the end of the fjord on a bridge. There are actually three ‘Kåfjords’ on the way to Tromsø. Two are actuaully fjords and one is a kommune (municipality). Kåfjord has a lovely little church with a surrounding graveyard with monuments and statues of important townsfolk. The fjord is quite long for such a small place but once you are past it you are on your way to the next small village.
Past Talvik is Isnestoften. This is where your stomach can settle down as the road isn’t so windy. This place is a little fishing village but has been inhabited since the early Stone Age proven by archaeological findings such as paintings, tools and weapons and house foundations. Also Sami camp foundations have been found from the 1600s. The most famous find is a rock carving called Pippi in the Stone as it looks like Pippi Longstockings. It is now on display at Alta museum.
Below is the beginning of Langfjord – because the fjord is… long. It is 31km with steep mountains on both sides.
A pitstop at Burfjord – the usual bus-break. The break is only for 20mins but is just enough time to get out and stretch, go to the toilet and buy a big greasy bacon and cheese burger from the local take-out shop. You have to eat it on the bus though – no time to eat-in. At this point it is good to fill up so you can have a nap for the straight road ahead.
But just before the straight road, are the mountains. Up one, down one. Around the fjord. And you are in Sørstraumen – a little village right in between the mountains. It can get some wonderful moody mist trapped between the mountains that rests on the water and surrounds the little red sheds.
Then, up the other mountains and down again. This second mountain is the highest peak of the whole trip and the road follows the cliff edge so you can have a wonderful view of the Alps, fjord and farms down below. The weather changes quickly here and so you can see brilliant lighting effects through the clouds. And as mentioned above, every season has a new take on this landscape. We have stopped here many times when driving by car to take pictures: Halfway to Alta
The straight to the Lyngen ferry. This road follows the backside of the Lyngen Alps. They are to the West and the sun sets beautifully over them.
The light and colours change depending on what corner you are on. As we zoom through the little villages sometimes the sun peeks from behind the mountains and other times it is free from any obstacle, shining brightly into your bus window.
Even on the bus, the mood of the sunset can make you catch your breath. There is just something about a lazy afternoon on the way home.
There are two ferries next up on the way to Tromsø. One takes you to Lyngen and the other to Breivikeidet, and then you are only 50 minutes from the Paris of the North. On this trip in February we arrived at Lyngen but the road was closed because of an avalanche – so we had to go the long way around. The sun had already set and the camera couldn’t focus. Not to worry – it was great to have a catnap on the way home.
The bus from Alta to Tromsø runs once a day from 11am-5pm. There are no bookings – you just show up and get on. The bus policy states that if everyone can’t fit on the bus then they will provide another one. It costs about kr.370 one way which includes ferry travel. The bus company is Nor-way Buss Ekspress.