Saltstraumen is a small strait located in Norway, north of the arctic circle near Bodø, famous for having the strongest tidal currents on the planet!
The narrow strait is the only waterway between the Norwegian Sea to the west and Skjerstadfjord to the east. Up to 400 million cubic meters of seawater forces its way through a 3 kilometers long and 150-meter wide strait every six hours. Twice a day the sea rises and falls by around 2 meters, thanks to the tidal force of the moon, and the water in the fjord will naturally want to be equalized with the sea creating this amazing natural phenomenon. The movement of such an enormous amount of water creates huge whirlpools (maelstroms), which can reach an incredible 10 meters in diameter and 5 meters in depth!!
For the best views, stand on the Saltstraumbrua bridge, overlooking the strait, and watch as the waters swirl like crazy. Pick a good side of the bridge, though – fjord side (east) when there is high tide, and the water flows in from the sea to the fjord. The seaside (west) when the tide is low, and the water goes out from the fjord to the sea. If you want to get closer to the whirlpools, you can also follow the path down underneath the bridge and stand on the shore, but make sure you don’t fall in!
The times are ever-changing, and you can find many schedules online. If you want to plan ahead, visit this web page. Next to the bridge, there is also a timetable to check tides on-site.
What to do
Most tourists come there to just marvel at the mind-blowing natural phenomenon, but Saltstraumen is also popular with fishers as the whirlpool brings about a bounty of fish when it is the strongest. Actually, the world’s biggest saithe (coley) was caught in the current using a fishing rod. So if you are into fishing, don’t miss the opportunity!
There is also the possibility to do a Rib Safari of the maelstrom, where a fast boat takes you right next to one of the whirlpools.
I also saw some advertisements about diving and snorkeling there. But to do that, you need to hire an experienced guide as the area is fairly dangerous. It is apparently a diver’s eldorado to drift with the current while marveling at different and colorful fish, snails, sea squirts, and starfish.
For the activities, check out this page.
How to get there
It is possible to get there by bus. That’s actually how I got there the first time. The downside to taking a bus is that there are only four buses daily and only two on Saturdays and Sundays. So, you must plan well 🙂 You can check the timetable on this website.
The most comfortable way is to drive there; there is a parking lot on both sides of the bridge. If you hire a guided tour, they probably have transportation in the price.