The Northern Lights over the island Dønna seen from partly up the Seven sisters Kristoffer Møllevik / Visit Helgeland

Embark on a journey of winter lights and coastal culture, starting from the charming town of Sandnessjøen. Experience the winter light over the Helgeland coast and enjoy the urban vibe of the city. And discover the authentic coastal lifestyle on the islands of Dønna and Herøy.

Baths, books and culture

In early winter, it can be especially rewarding to enjoy a few days in Sandnessjøen. This town enjoys a wide-open coastal landscape so at least briefly it glows in the magical light of the low winter sun. You can savour this view from a window seat in one of warm and cosy cafés, while enjoying a good meal and perhaps cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

When you’ve had your fill, just a short walk away is Kulturbadet, a cultural centre where the building also houses a cinema, the public library, and two theatre stages, in addition to Sandnessjøen’s favourite swimming pool. In other words, in one centre the whole family, young and old, can satisfy their curiosity for knowledge or find a good novel, enjoy a good film or a dramatic play. And you can also swim laps in the large main pool, frolic in the warm pool with its child-friendly shallow zone, gleefully speed through tunnels down the water slide, and feel the tension in your muscles melt away in the sauna.

The Petter Dass Museum

Also worth a visit is the Petter Dass Museum, situated less than a 20-minute drive from the Sandnessjøen town centre. This museum celebrates Northern Norway’s beloved 17th-century poet-priest, Petter Dass, and his cultural heritage. The museum shop offers great gift items, for yourself or friends and family back home.

Right by the museum is Alstahaug church, built in the Romanesque style in the Middle Ages. But stop by Margrethe’s, the museum café, for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, while savouring the winter light through its large panoramic windows.

Do check out the museum’s events calendar – there is a lot happening throughout the winter.

A café tour

With so many cosy cafés go choose from, you can use them as the basis for an exploration tour! Sandnessjøen is only a short ferry ride away from the beautiful islands of Herøy and Dønna. An excellent choice for your first stop is on Dønna: Sjokoladebrygga, perhaps the world’s smallest fine chocolate factory. When Heidi opens the door to her friendly café, which is situated in a renovated wharf building, you can smell the aroma of the handmade chocolate that is waiting for you, to be enjoyed with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee.

As you continue your journey, do take a detour to Dønnes church. Built of soapstone in the 13th century, this church has distinctive architecture and beautiful decorations. Next door is Dønnes Gård, a vicarage with a colourful history. From the churchyard there is a nature and culture trail that leads to the top of Dønnesfjellet (128 m). If you are impatient you can drive to the top. The 20-minute walk will reward you with a wonderful panorama of the Helgeland coast, bathed in subtle winter light. If you’re really lucky, you will get to witness the dance of the Northern Lights across the sky above!

From here, it takes about 45 minutes to drive through the beautiful landscape of Dønna to Seløya in Herøy. Here you’ll find Skolo, the architectural and interior design gem in the archipelago. This carefully renovated, old village school houses a café that serves Italian pizza and high-quality coffee, and a very exciting small bookstore and gift shop. Here, you can also participate in various cultural events throughout the year, such as concerts, food evenings, and yoga sessions.

The Helgeland coast – in the glow of the winter light

The landscape of Dønna and Herøy is full of contrasts, from the lush farmland to the towering Dønnamannen (850 m), and it is especially beautiful in the winter light. Herøy consists of a myriad of islands, islets and skerries, which form a mosaic strewn onto the sea. Its appearance is ever changing beneath the winter sunsets and sunrises, the starry sky and the Northern lights.

Visitors from afar will tell you this is an endlessly fascinating landscape to explore – and it’s best viewed from the sea. Especially on a boat trip with pocket-knowledgeable local guides who know the finest and most interesting places, and the best fishing spots in the diverse archipelago.

These sheltered waters are a paradise for kayaking, and you are also welcome to explore it on your own. It’s especially nice as we approach Easter, when spring is returning to the isles and the lowlands, and the coastal mountains are still clad in thick snow. In addition to your rented kayak, equip yourself with a dry suit; bring layers of warm clothes, a packed lunch, energising snacks, and a thermos filled with coffee or hot chocolate, and you’re all set for a scenic adventure!

The Seven Sisters in their winter attire

During the summer, the Seven Sisters (De syv søstre), a row of seven jagged thousand-metre peaks, are some of the most popular hiking destinations in all of Helgeland. But these mountains are at least as beautiful in the winter, when their snowy dress reflects the pastel colours of the winter sky, or their silhouettes rise sharply against the starry sky and Northern Lights.

You can, of course, admire them from a distance, from the Coastal Highway or one of the secondary roads that run along the mountain range, or on your ferry crossing from Herøy. But nothing compares to the experience of ascending these peaks!

The Northern Lights over the island Dønna seen from partly up the Seven sisters Kristoffer Møllevik / Visit Helgeland

In the middle of winter, when the days are short, we recommend that you only walk partway up the mountains. It gets dark early and the winter wind picks up quickly at higher altitudes, and then it’s not fun to have about a thousand meters of slippery snow and scree between you and your warm car. In such conditions, it’s better to stay in the lowlands, perhaps walking along the lower-lying hills that run along The Sisters. You don’t need to go very far to get a good view of the low landscape towards the sea.

As the days grow longer and brighter towards spring – say from mid April – it can be a delightful adventure to fully ascend one of the peaks. If the snow is thick and compact, you will be spared the time-consuming obstacle course through the screes and boulder fields. That means you will have time to fully enjoy your unhurried hike as well as the view for the summit. But be mindful of the weather forecast and be sure to check early that morning. Proper hiking boots, crampons, warm clothes and windproof outer garments are a must. And be sure to bring plenty of drink and a good packed lunch.

The best fish cakes in Helgeland!

Whatever activities and adventures you choose, make sure that you at some point sample the fishcakes offered by the local fishmongers. It is widely known that these are the best in the whole of Helgeland. Truth be told, people from the neighbouring towns will make a detour to Sandnessjøen just to buy some! Decide for yourself. The trip in itself will surely be rewarding.

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