From the moment we saw pictures of the Vega Islands on Norway’s western coast we were determined to make a visit to the largest island, Vega, during our epic Norway road trip! The islands appealed to all of our great loves: remote, picturesque and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perfect! As we made our way back to Oslo from the Arctic Circle we opted to take a detour to the Vega Islands and spend some time exploring the beautiful destination!
The Vega Islands
The Vega Islands are an archipelago of 6,500 islands, reefs and skerries off the western coast of Norway, just south of the Arctic circle. It is one lesser known of the 7 Norwegian UNESCO sites, likely due to its relatively remote location, and we loved the quiet isolation that the islands offered.
Obviously it’s impossible to visit all 6,500 islands! The easiest to visit is the largest of the Vega islands, the aptly named Vega Island. Although it’s the largest island on the archipelago, Vega is relatively small and, with our car, we reached most of the island in under an hour after leaving the ferry.
Visiting Vega Island
The boat trip to Vega was special in itself and it was amazing to watch the Archipelago come into view as we left the Norwegian mainland. Island after island was dotted across the landscape and the more well populated Vega Island was easy to spot. We were excited step onto the island and check out Vega!
As we left the ferry dock on Vega Island the landscape changed quickly and we were instantly immersed into the slow pace of island life. With no real plan for our time on the island we simply explored the many narrow roads and coves dotted in and around the main town, Gladstad, on the island.
It’s difficult to put into words how it felt visiting the island. Perhaps the locals describe it best when they claim that spending time on the islands means to “live your life slow”. At times it felt like we were the only people on the planet and it was incredibly peaceful. I think that’s why the islands had such an impact on us. We experienced a tranquility that we haven’t really felt anywhere else in the world. This, combined with the stunning scenery, relaxing sounds, beautiful nature and the aroma of the North Atlantic made it a magical place.
Just us and nature:The little villages dotted throughout the island:Visiting the island on the edge of spring, it was difficult to imagine how life for the islands inhabitants is during the winter months. While a serenely beautiful place, one gets the sense that the islands would be a most unforgiving environment during the winter months.Reflections!
History of the Islands
One of the key reasons for the UNESCO inscription is the fact that the fishermen and women have inhabited these inhospitable islands in a sustainable way for over 1,500 years. Many of the old traditions were still visible: from the air dried fish to the traditional fishing boats that were dotted around the many inlets on the island.
One of the major reasons many visitors come to the Vega Islands is due the abundance of bird species in the area: there are over 230 species in total! The centre of Vega island is mainly duck nesting grounds and bird colonies.
The centre of the island was home to nesting duck colony which throughout the centuries formed an important part of the island’s inhabitants livelihood. Down collected from the wild elder ducks was used to fill quilts. The tradition continues in the same way to this day, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Getting to the Vega Islands
The island is accessible by car ferry from Horn on the Norwegian mainland and an express ferry from Brønnøysund, also on the mainland. It took us around 2 hours to reach Horn from the main E9 road we were travelling South to Oslo on.
Are the Vega Islands worth the detour?
We’re fascinated with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and so, for us, the Islands were a must visit given we were only a couple of hours away from the ferry departure point. However, it really does depend on what you hope to see: isolation, nature, bird watching and traditional fishing villages are the order of the day for Vega and, as a bonus, the islands brought us an unexpected sense of peace and escapism that we rarely find on our travels.
On the flip side, if time constraints are a factor, we’d recommend that you consider prioritising the headline Norway sights such as the Fjords, Trollstigen and the incredible hikes as they are absolutely unmissable! You can check out our road trip highlights here or click on the pic below!
Staying on Vega Island
There is a campsite on the island and a number of B&B options. In hindsight we wish that we had opted to stay a night on the island but our hectic road trip schedule meant we really wanted to get a portion of the return drive to Oslo completed early the next day.
Due to a minor malfunction (ahem, we read the ferry timetable wrong) we ended up being stranded waiting for the ferry back to the mainland for almost 3 hours. Lesson learned!