It's far from a tourist hotspot, but the tiny settlement Nyksund has a fascinating story to tell and more than a few surprises up its sleeve. This is the story of Nyksund.
As you wind your way along the narrow coastal road of Langøya island in Northern Norway, it's only natural to begin to wonder. Surely no-one lives here?
With the frigid ocean on one side and an imposing, craggy mountain on the other, the ribbon of road feels precarious. You cross your fingers, hoping you don’t meet a car coming the other way.
The sudden emergence of a cluster of buildings ahead brings you back to reality. People do live here after all! This is Nyksund, a quaint fishing hamlet that has been abandoned three times in its storied past.
Remarkably, this resilient village is once again experiencing a renaissance, fuelled by an unexpected source: a group of young individuals from Berlin, Germany, seeking to rebuild their lives by breathing new life into this once-forgotten place.
A Summer Trip to Nyksund
On a recent summer cruise to Svalbard, I took the opportunity to join an organised excursion from the port of Sortland to Nyksund.
The trip also served as a bus tour of the Vesterålen archipelago, located north of Lofoten. Between Sortland and Nyksund, there's several scenic spots and you get a feel for what life is like in this part of the world.
I'd been once before on a research trip for my guidebook, but that was now a distant memory. I was keen to return to see how the village had changed. The answer? Not very much. But when you look back further in time, it's changed a great deal indeed!
A Video Tour of Nyksund
While I was in Nyksund, I made this quick video. So, if you prefer to watch rather than read, this is for you. Enjoy:
I hope you enjoyed the quick video tour of this fascinating settlement. Read on for more details and more photographs.
The Origins of Nyksund
When people first lived here is uncertain. Written records have been found dating from 1601, but it's believed people lived at this location far longer.
At this point, it's probably a good idea to put Nyksund on a map. If you take a look at the settlement on Google Maps, you'll see how isolated it truly is. So, why did people move here at all?
As with many small communities in the remote north, Nyksund grew because of the bounty from the ocean. It shouldn't come as a surprise that somewhere almost completely surrounded by water should have a strong history of fishing.
Vesterålen is well placed for deep sea fishing as it’s relatively close to the edge of the Norwegian Continental Shelf. This attracted keen fishermen to Nyksund, who were able to put with the remote, exposed location for the rewards given by the ocean.
It might seem hard to believe today, but the village was home to 800 people at its height. So, what went wrong?
Nyksund’s Fall and Rise
Many visitors to Norway hear about the city fire in Ålesund, or the blazes that destroyed parts of old Bergen. They were devestating stories indeed, but there were many more wooden settlements across Norway that suffered from fire.
That included Nyksund. In 1934, fire ravaged the wooden structures of the fishing village. Rather than rebuild them in wood, locals took the unusal (for the time) step of building many in stone. Some of those remain standing today.
In the 1970s, Nyksund suffered the same fate as many small Norwegian fishing communities. Improvements in fishing technology meant that vessels became bigger, and the village’s small harbour could no longer be used.
The Norwegian government implemented a forced relocation, financially supporting the small population to move elsewhere.
Many Nyksund locals began a new life in Myre. The bigger village, just seven miles away, had become a successful fish processing centre. It was the third time Nyksund had been adandoned, and it seemed any hope for a future was now gone for good.
Things changed in the 1980s, when a group of young German students on a road trip around Northern Norway stumbled upon Nyksund by accident. The group saw potential.
Soon, the group had started a social project to ressurect the village. They brought over young people from Berlin and other parts of the world to help renovate the buildings, while at the same time giving the young people a purpose and promoting international relations.
Vesterålen locals, initially unsure, quickly embraced the plan and joined in. Soon, more people were involved. Run-down buildings were renovated, businesses were started, and Nyksund took its first tentative steps toward a revival.
To say Nyksund is now thriving would be an overstatement. But the village is home to approximately 25 permanent residents.
That's enough to make the village a functioning tourist destination, its main source of income today. There are places to stay overnight, a couple of places to eat, a small church, and even a second-hand store.
“Since we started to restore Holmvik Brygge we got more and more impressed about how people managed to live and to work here more than 100 years ago”Ssemjon Gerlitz, Holmvik Brygge
A handful of artists and photographers now call the village their home, running a couple of art galleries. A co-working space welcomes creatives and even has a recording studio.
If you're planning to visit Nyksund, try to time your visit to coincide with one of the various events or concerts held in the summer.
Hiking in Nyksund
Nyksund is also an intriguing destination for keen walkers. The village is the beginning of the well-known Queen's Trail (Dronningruta), a hiking trail that winds its way along the rocky coastline to the small fishing village Stø.
Known for its incredible views of the ocean, the trail is a favourite of Norway's Queen Sonja, after which it's named.
Experience is required for this hike, however. The 12-15km roundtrip hike (depending on the route chosen) takes between five and eight hours.
Visit Norway recommends using the mountain trail from Nyksund to Stø, and following the shoreline trail in the other direction.
How to Travel to Nyksund
It is possible to travel to Nyksund by local bus from Sortland, but using it will take some planning. You'll need to change buses in Myre, and, depending on the day, you may be in for a long wait. Check Reis Nordland for times and fares.
So, unless you're travelling on an organised trip or willing to fork out for a pricey taxi, driving is the only feasible way to visit. It takes about one hour to drive from Sortland.
While a car is essential to live in Nyksund, you can't actually drive into the settlement as a visitor. A car park just outside is available for visitors, and it's a short walk into the village from there.
Have you ever been to Nyksund? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.