By far the largest town on the Vesterålen islands, HARSTAD is just 130km from Narvik and easily reached by car, bus and the Hurtigruten coastal boat. Home to much of northern Norway’s engineering industry, its sprawling docks are a tangle of supply ships, repair yards and cold-storage plants spread out along the gentle slopes of the Vågsfjord. This may not sound too enticing, and it’s true that Harstad wins few beauty contests, but the town does have the odd attraction, and if you’re tired of sleepy Norwegian villages, it at least puts on something of a bustling interlude. The downtown core has little appeal, though the comings and goings of the ferry boats are a diversion, and almost everything you need is conveniently clustered around the harbour, with the bus station, and the jetties for the Hurtigbåt and Hurtigruten boats within a few metres of each other. The only other spark of interest takes place in late June, when the eight-day North Norway Arts Festival (Festspillene i Nord-Norge; wfestspillnn.no) provides concerts, drama and dance performances; note, however, that the town’s hotels are full to bursting throughout the proceedings.

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