The idea to join together the E4 in Sweden with the E6 in Norway was conceived in the middle of the 1950s. A number of enthusiasts formed a society to help promote the concept, and the working title of the road back then was “from coast to coast”. However, Lennart Hartin, for many years the driving force behind the “Blue Highway” society, was not impressed:
“from coast to coast isn´t a name, it´s a description”, he said.
In 1962, when Hartin was due to record a radio program about the proposed highway, he was forced to give it a name. Together with his wife Birgit they struggled with the problem of what to call it. Then they spotted a simple map with a line drawn on it with a blue pen. The blue line was the answer – of course the road should be called the “Blue Highway”.
The enthusiasts suceeded. Today the Blue Highway is an increasingly important traffic route and evidence of exceptional international co-operation.
In the 1960s the Blue Highway went through Finland all the way to the Russian border. In 1990 it crossed the border and today it runs all the way to Pudozh in the Russian Republic of Karelen.
This is why today the Blue Highway provides an epic 2000 km long journey over mountains, through forest, towns and rural countryside scenery.
A thousand islands and a thousand lakes
Civilisation´s ancient trails followed water. When people decided to establish a place to live they chose a place near water. To travel on the Blue Highway is like having water, culture and history as travel companions. Today´s travelers are on the move in both summer and winter, by car or bus, staying in comfortable hotels, campsites or in Bed & Breakfast.
The rapids in the Ume river are quiet these days. The river is one of the leading providers of waterpower in Sweden. In the Vindel river on the other hand the rapids rage as before, a fact that is celebrated every year with a National River Day.
The Traena group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean is the Blue Highway´s outpost in the west. The thousand islands and rocks are located in the Arctic Circle but the Gulf Stream creates green and mild winters. To the far east you find the islands in Onega with the world heritage Kizhi and its unique example of northern Russian wooden architecture. Between these end points the Blue Highway runs past rivers, across oceans and straight through the country of a thousand lakes – Finland.
The sun never sets
The sun never sets and the mountains are reflected in the clear waters of the lakes
Several kilometres inside Norway Snötind and Istind rise 1600 meters above sea. Around the summits the glacier Svartisen spreads out in an awesome ice-age landscape. In the middle of Saltfjället-Svartisen national park you will find the Arctic Circle center, Northern Norway´s most popular tourist attraction.
Once you are in Sweden the Blue Highway goes through Europe´s largest nature reserve. The Vindelfjällens (Vindel mountains) nature reserve with its abundant animal and plant life is a dream for all nature enthusiasts. The gateway to the reserve is Hemavan. Both Hemavan and Tärnaby are famous winter sport resorts with downhill skiing, snowboard, off piste, heliski and cross-country skiing. In the summertime many people choose to start out in Hemavan on their hike along the Kungsleden, one of Sweden´s most famous hiking trails. Fishing is an obvious attraction both in the summer and the winter. There are direct flights to Hemavan from Stockholm throughout the year.
Wild animals, core industry and research
The Blue Highway winds its way through the pine tree belt of the northern latitudes. Elks, bears, lynxes and wolves roam the forest but shy away from humans. The surest way of meeting these wild animals is at Lycksele Zoo, which has been designed so that visitors get the true impression of how the animals live in the wild. Real close encounters with the kings of the forest can be experienced at the Elk´s house in Bjurholm. Another attraction in Lycksele is Gammplatsen with the forest museum, a large outdoor museum that tells the history of the settlers. The Sami world is illustrated at the museum of Västerbotten in Umeå. There visitors will also find the Swedish skiing museum with the oldest ski in the world.
The forest is a core industry along the Blue Highway and above all in Umeå and Joensuu you can find world-leading expertise within the fields of technology and forestry. The idyllic islands of Norrbyskär bear witness to the important sawmill era of the late 19th century and are a popular daytrip attraction near Umeå.
The cultivated landscape
Living countryside with new meeting points and activities
The farms have been rationalised, silage in large white plastic balls are spread out over the fields like a giant´s toys. The summer is short but the midnight sun benefits barley, potatoes and grasses and creates outstanding aromas for arctic raspberries and cloudberries.
The countryside is thriving. Demand for locally produced food is increasing. New meeting places have sprung up in the form of canoe routes, hiking paths as well as swimming and fishing spots. A large number of tourist operators offer activities and outdoor experiences such as white-water rafting, horse-riding tours, dog-sledding, snowscooter riding, fishing, seal safaris and golf. Guides can be hired for hiking, fishing and hunting.
We recommend you use the Internet to find information on places to stay, dining out and activities. You can also find information on attractions, days out, outdoor museums, handcrafts, folk art, cultural festivals and other events.
The prospering city
Knowledge, culture, entertainment, youth and a vision of the future
In the city you find young modern society with a broad and varied job market, good service and a great choice of entertainment, culture and shopping. Umeå is growing and is steadily advancing towards its goal of 150 000 inhabitants.
The city´s cultural life is rich with its own opera – Norrlandsoperan, a professional symphonic orchestra, galleries, theatre groups, an international jazz festival and many other cultural festivals.
Education and research is a common theme among the cities of the Blue Highway. Umeå, Vasa, Kuopio, Joensuu and Petrozavodsk all have universities.
The excellent travel connections with buses, trains and flight in the Blue Highway region mean that both business tourism and leisure tourism are growing. The Bothnia rail link ties together the towns and the cities along the Norrland coast line, increasing the supply of jobs, education, culture and services. In addition, powerful forces are now working towards replacing today´s ferry link across Kvarken with a bridge connection.
The Blue Highway – there and back
New routes give new experiences
The final point of the Blue Highway on the Norwegian main land is Nesna. This is where the Blue Highway reaches the Helgeland coast and the Coastal road. Anyone who is turning back now has several alternatives to choose from. By traveling north along the Coastal road or the E6 you reach Bodö and from there you can take the silver Highway to Sweden.
If you travel southwards instead you can choose the Coastal road to Brönnöysund and from there continue on the saga highway to Örnsköldsvik via Hattfjelldal.
In Hattfjelldal it is also possible to use the Krutfjell road to Sweden. The trail from Norway to Sweden across the Krutfjäll has been used for many generations- originally by people traveling by foot or on skis, with reindeer or horses. Today´s road go around the mountain and offer the traveler two different routes, although both roads go to Joesjö on the Swedish side.
The choice of alternative routes is a joy for the senses. This is where the ocean meets the mountains in awesome, untouched nature and there are very good opportunities for winter sports, hunting fishing, cycling, hiking and interesting encounters with the Sami culture.
The blue highway bus travels daily the route Umeå – Mo I Rana – Umeå.