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R 17
From the Norwegian town of Bodø, the Kystrikveien Highway 17 hugs the coastline down the edge of the Saltfjellet National Park and glacier. This is truly a drive to fire the blood and inspire the spirit. However, if you prefer to watch the scenery and let someone else do the driving, Rv. 17 Coastal Route buses run between Bodø and Steinkjer. If you love to explore under your own power, the R17 makes an incredible cycling holiday route for the fit.
 
The Kystrikveien route covers almost 650 kms of amazing coastal scenery, and passes the Vega Archipelago, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The R17 highway follows the crinkles, twists and turns of the coast itself, offering access to islands, crossing fjords and occasionally disappearing under mountains.
 
As you leave Bodø, your first stop should be Salstraumen, the world's strongest maelstrom, or 'tidal rush through a small gap between two parts of the fjords with whirlpools, crashing water and confused fish', to you and me.
 
The part of R17 between Storvika, south of Bodø, and Stokkvågen, (west of Mo i Rana), form the National Tourist Route for the coast of Helgeland. Here, the summer foliage and flowers contracts with the stark mountains and raging rivers, making this area a hiker's paradise. It's the kind of place that makes you want to strap on boots and a backpack, and walk in air so clear, it invigorates you with each pure lungful.
 
As you gaze out of the car window, every twist a turn brings a new vista into view, from towering mountains to waves crashing on the shoreline below, the turning inland for a few miles to pass over the mouths of fjords, dark-watered and mysterious even in summer.
 
Driving this route, it's hard not to tick off a list of the impressive sights you experience. There's the Torghaytten, a mountain gazing over the water, with a hole in it reached in just 30 breathtaking minutes on foot. You pass by De Syv Søstre, or Seven Sisters Mountain range, near Sandnessjøen. The Svartisen glacier is a chilly reminder of teh forces that shaped Norway. The second largest glacier in Norway glistens just off R17 at Holand, but much as its majesty might beckon, only explore it with a professional guide.
 
© 2009 Kirsty Young
 
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