Bodø (Bodo), Norway

I’ve said this before, it’s funny how you sometimes end up loving places you didn’t expect, and not liking places you thought you’d love. I didn’t expect to like Bodo, I thought I’d be bored, but I was so wrong! As soon as the plane began to descend, I was awestruck by the beautiful snow covered mountains and fjords. It looked otherworldly and majestic.

Cost: I flew from Stockholm to Bodo with a connection in Oslo (there are no direct flights from Stockholm to Bodo) with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines), for $115. Stockholm to Oslo was about an hour, Oslo to Bodo was a little over an hour.

Transportation: Part of the reason I didn’t think I would like Bodo is that when trying to find information online, it was very limited. People suggested taking the 1 or 4 bus from the airport into town, but I couldn’t find very many details. The bus stop is immediately to the left when you exit the baggage claim area. It runs daily from 5:40-1:10AM, with departures every 15 minutes until 6:10PM, and twice an hour after that. Fylkeshuset stop is most likely where you want to get off if you’re going to the city center of Bodo or are staying at a hotel near the waterfront, this is the information I couldn’t find anywhere online. Luckily for me the bus was waiting when I exited the terminal, and a friendly Norwegian woman told me where to get off. The bus accepts credit card payment only onboard, and was $7. Fylkeshuset is the third stop and a 5 minute ride via the 1 bus. The city center area of Bodo is very walkable. From the airport the only options are bus and taxi. There is a train station in Bodo with trains to Trondheim and Rognan. I opted to take a taxi from the hotel to the airport on the way back because my flight departed early in the morning. The front desk at the hotel couldn’t give me a clear answer on how much a taxi was because it’s metered, they said between 100-200 NOK. It ended up being $26 with no traffic, the meter’s in Scandinavian taxis seem to go up a kroner a second. I ran into a guy from my hotel at the airport, he said he walked and it took a half hour. I think this would be doable in the summer, but I wouldn’t do it in winter.

Stay: I stayed at the Scandic Bodø (3.5 stars, $206 for 2 nights again on Hotwire.) Rooms were nice with typical Scandinavian decor, and the rate included a smorgasbord breakfast. It has a great location walking distance to everything you could need, and it’s about a 5 minute walk from the bus stop which I navigated using Google maps (just walk towards the water.)Hotel facadeRoom

Eat: I was in the mood for something other than meat and potatoes and didn’t expect much from a Thai restaurant in Norway, but Chonticha Thai was right next to my hotel and again I was proven wrong. I ordered chicken fried rice minus the oyster and fish sauce (probably an odd request in Norway), and it was as good as any I’ve had in the States ($26 total with coffee and tip). There are a lot of Vietnamese and southeast Asian people in Scandinavia, so I shouldn’t be surprised. The service was good and I highly recommend it, it is popular with locals. I asked for hot sauce and they seemed confused; when I said spicy they gave me a chili powder, which was really spicy and really good! I guess sriracha isn’t popular in Norway yet.Thai chicken fried rice with salad

Lovold’s Kafeteria was also down the road from my hotel, this is a cafeteria-style place that’s really popular with the local crowd for lunch during the day. The views are beautiful, and the menu is entirely in Norwegian but the employees spoke English. There are two menus, one where they serve you hot food, and the other is for ready-made smorgasbord style foods and deserts you select yourself. The meals come with free coffee. There’s a small and big plate option, for the meatballs the small plate has 3 and the big one has 4. They give you as much potatoes or pea stew as you want. There were fried fish tongues on the menu, a Norwegian specialty, which clearly didn’t interest me.Lovold’sHot food menuSmorgasbord, desert, and beverages Kjøttkaker (meatballs) with peas, potatoes, lingonberry jam, and coffee ($21 total). This tasted better than it looks!

Bodo is Beautiful!

I chose to come to Bodo because I really wanted to see the Northern Lights, and I’m so glad I did. Tromsø, which is even further north than Bodo, is a more popular tourist destination as it is a bigger city, but if you want to be away from tourists and see real Norway, I highly recommend Bodo. My thinking at the time of booking was that going to Tromso in February might be worse weather-wise. When I arrived in town, I was even more in awe of how breathtaking Bodo is. The sky at twilight is an ethereal shade of blue. The sun sets earlier here than anywhere else I’ve been because it’s north of the Arctic Circle, at around 5PM. The “city” of Bodo (it’s more like a town) reminded me of Reykjavik, with shops, bars and restaurants, even a small mall.Bodo on a map of Europe for referenceBodo city center views and artwork on the Bodø kommune building Koch Mall, there’s also a movie theater located in the mall where I saw Black Panther ($16). Seeing a movie in another country is a cultural experience! I remember when I first visited Europe it took 2 years for popular American movies to make it into theaters here. The movie was in English with Norwegian subtitles. The theater, Fram Kino, was actually Norway’s first cinema, opening in 1908.

Northern Lights

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, occurs when charged particles from the sun collide with elements in the earth’s atmosphere. The chemical reaction results in the distinctive (usually green) lights. Magnetic fields towards the equator are too strong to allow visibility of this phenomenon the further away from the Poles you get. I tried to see them in Iceland, and learned then that you need a perfect combination of solar activity and weather to be able to. I wasn’t able to see them over a 5 day period in Iceland due to too much cloud cover, and I only had 2 nights to do it here. I kept googling “Is Bodo or Tromso better to view the Northern Lights?” The answer is no where is better, in either place you are north of the Arctic Circle and therefore stand a better chance of seeing them here than anywhere else, but you need to be a bit lucky with your timing. I am happy to say I was indeed lucky on this trip, and on the first night! I read the harbor in Bodo was the best place to see them, but again couldn’t get an exact address for this. If you put in Bodo havn in Google maps this is the exact location. It’s a good spot because there’s less light from the city. I used the website NorwayLights to get the Aurora forecast, and it kept saying my first night was the night to see them. It tells you what time is the best time for viewing; in my case this was from 9PM-12AM. The harbor was about a 10 minute walk from my hotel, and I left around 9:15. I bundled up in a long sleeve thermal and pants, a fleece lined shirt and pants, coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and earmuffs. The kind of cold you feel here is different than any cold I’ve ever experienced back home, it’s the burn your nose and eyes, hurt your teeth kind of cold. I positioned myself near the library first with a hot cup of tea, because there are enclaves you can stand in which protect you from the wind. After about an hour of standing here I was going to give up when I decided to walk around and change position. All of the sudden I looked up and there they were! The sky was glowing green with swirls of light. I was awestruck and speechless to be finally witnessing this. I took several pictures but unfortunately didn’t bring my GoPro or regular camera, I usually take pictures on my phone for ease of posting them. The pictures I have really can’t do it justice. My fingers were becoming numb so I decided to go back to the hotel, and the view from town of the lights in the distance was actually even better! If you rent a car, I read nearby Mt. Ronvik is a great place to view them. Bodo doesn’t have nearly as many tours as Tromso for the Northern Lights because it doesn’t get as many tourists, but you can definitely see them on your own without a tour here.

My trip to Bodo and quest for the Northern Lights was a success. Bodo is a beautiful town that is often overlooked, but I would definitely come back and highly recommend it for those looking to explore the far north of Norway without crazy crowds and tourists. Saltstraumen, one of the strongest maelstroms (tidal currents) in the world is nearby and attracts tourists, but I opted not to do this because my second day in Bodo it snowed and was bitterly cold. You can also take a ferry to the Lofoten Islands, but this wasn’t practical in winter with only 2 days in Bodo. Now that I’ve seen the Northern Lights, the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) is on my list of things to see!

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