You guys know that I really love Norway. It's a country that offers some of my favorite things, including epic landscapes, delicious seafood, interesting culture/history, and safety for solo female travelers.
And, even though parts of Norway have definitely been “discovered” (spots like Bergen and Trolltunga and the Lofoten Islands), there are lots of other spots that are still flying quietly under the radar of most travelers.
After my last trip to Norway, I wrote about my Northern Norway road trip route that didn't include the Instagram-famous Lofoten Islands. Instead, I visited places like Sommarøy and the Vesteralen Islands, where there were only a handful of other tourists.
Another spot I visited on that trip was the island of Senja. Senja is Norway's second largest island, covering just over 600 square miles. It has jagged mountain peaks, tiny fishing villages, and lies above the Arctic Circle, meaning it experiences the Midnight Sun during the summer and Polar Night during the winter.
Sounds pretty amazing, right?
Well it totally is! And yet Senja is criminally underrated as a destination within Norway. Local Norwegians (especially those who live up north) know about it and how awesome it is. But tourists from outside of Norway? Many have never even heard of Senja.
Senja isn't really on the tourist trail in Norway; you won't run into any cruise ships or many coach tour groups. This is still a part of Norway that feels a bit undiscovered by mass tourism – which is precisely why I loved it so much.
The best things to do on Senja
If you think Senja sounds awesome, here are all the things you can do there. I recommend at least 2 days on Senja to fully appreciate its scenery (and to fit in a few unique activities!).
1. Senja National Tourist Route
Norway has 18 different “National Tourist Routes,” which are essentially portions of highways and roadways that are designated as being especially noteworthy.
The Senja National Tourist Route traverses the island's rugged outer coastline, connecting the towns of Botnhamn in the north and Gryllefjord in the south via Highway 862. (You can traverse Senja's other coastline by car, too, but it's the outer one that's really the star.)
Along the Senja National Tourist Route, you'll find a lot of the other things on this list, from stunning viewpoints and picnic spots to wild beaches to picture-perfect fishing villages.
2. Admire the view from stunning viewpoints
The Lofoten Islands might be known for their tall, jagged mountains, but Senja has its own notable peaks. There are a few designated viewpoints along the Tourist Route that are worth stopping for:
This is technically a rest area with accessible toilets, but it's also probably my favorite spot to get a view of the Okshornan peaks, the jagged mountains on the edge of the sea. Go for a walk along the rocks here, where you may see “rock cauldrons” filled with sea water at low tide.
This 44-meter-long platform offers up views out over the town of Bergsfjord and the surrounding peaks. The floor of the platform is wooden, but the sides are see-through – so this might not be great for people who don't like heights!
But, to be fair, you can simply pull over on the side of the road in many spots and get equally amazing views!
Hiking on Senja
There are also a few excellent hikes on Senja, which also offer up jaw-dropping views. I didn't have time for any proper hiking when I was on the island, but here are some resources to help if you're interested in hiking:
The website Outtt lists 15 different hikes on Senja, ranging from “easy” to “expert.” Check out their Senja hiking guides here.
The most popular hike on Senja is Segla. It's not a long hike (less than 5 kilometers round-trip), but it does fall into the demanding/strenuous category of hike. Read about the Segla hike here.
3. Dip your toes in at a Norwegian beach
Summers in Northern Norway come with long days and sunsets that seem to stretch on forever, but not necessarily warm temperatures. In fact, you'll definitely want to pack layers for this trip!
But just because it may not be beach weather doesn't mean you can't visit some of Senja's beautiful beaches.
The most popular beach on Senja is probably Ersfjord Beach, a white sand beach in the town of Ersfjord, which is right off the Senja National Tourist Route.
On my own trip to Senja, I took a detour off the main road to drive to the lighthouse at Bøvær, where you'll also find some pretty beaches. The road to get there is extremely narrow and winding (I still list it as one of the most terrifying roads I've personally driven a car on!), but it was quiet and I made it just fine.
And the beaches? Perfection!
Also near the lighthouse is a restored wooden fisherman's house called Kråkeslottet, or Crow Castle, which now houses artists and a cafe. They put on different cultural programs and events here, including Artfestival which runs all of July.
4. Visit adorable fishing towns
All of Senja's towns are tiny – the whole island has a population of less than 8,000 people. But some of the tiny towns are more photogenic than others.
Some of my favorites included:
This small island sits in the middle of the Øyfjord and is home to Senja’s most active fishing community. The drive out to Husøy is incredible on its own, with the views out towards the island being very Lofoten-esque. There's not a whole lot to do on the island itself, but it's still a drive I recommend making.
I visited Senja as part of a longer summer road trip, and therefore took the ferry to Andenes from the tiny port town of Gryllefjord. Only a couple hundred people live here, but the views (and the brightly colored cottages) make it worth visiting even if you're not catching a ferry.
Other towns with great views on Senja include Senjahopen, Mefjordvær, and Torsken.
5. Search for sea eagles
Whale watching is popular on the next island over (especially in the town of Andesnes in the Vesterålen Islands), but if you want to see unique wildlife on Senja, I recommend going on a sea eagle “safari.”
I went on a safari with Northern Adventure Troms out of the tiny settlement of Laukvik. Here, owner Jan Viktor Nilsen has built up a fishing resort on land that has been in his family for generations. He takes people out on fishing trips, and also on tours to see some of the local wildlife.
For our sea eagle safari, we headed out on a small boat for the island of Hekkingen, where white-tailed sea eagles can often be found. None came close to our boat that day, but we saw plenty of the graceful giants in the sky and on the cliffs.
6. Go on a Midnight Sun or Northern Lights cruise
Senja is a few degrees north of the Arctic Circle, meaning the island experiences Polar Night during the winter months and enjoys the Midnight Sun in the summer.
In the winter, Senja is a good spot to chase the Northern Lights since there's not much light pollution. In the summer, you can go on midnight fjord cruises or kayaking trips.
7. Stay at Hamn i Senja
If you're looking for a good base from which to explore Senja, I can highly recommend Hamn i Senja. Located in what used to be a fishing village, Hamn i Senja is now a holiday resort right on the water.
Rooms are mostly apartment-style here, and I'll admit that I never wanted to leave my suite!
Hamn i Senja offers lots of optional activities year-round, like midnight fjord cruises and kayaking tours in the summer, and things like snowshoeing, skiing, and Northern Lights tours in the winter.
The resort also has a fun outdoor hot tub inside of an old fishing boat!
BONUS: Senja Husky Adventure in winter
If you're visiting Senja in the winter months (because yes, it's possible to visit year-round!), you can go dogsledding on Senja with Senja Husky Adventure!
I haven't tried this myself since I visited Senja in summer, but I've been dogsledding at similar family-run spots in Norway, and it's a lot of fun.
Read more about Senja in winter here.
Senja doesn't get the attention it deserves as a travel destination, but maybe this is actually a good thing. It's a corner of Norway that may stay “secret” and very authentically Norwegian for a little while longer.
If you're looking to get slightly off the beaten path in Norway, look no further than Senja!
Who's ready to plan a trip to Senja now?
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Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!