Kvaløya is Norway’s fifth-largest island, covering 740 square km (285 square miles), and its name translates from Sami to "Whale Island" thanks to its cluster of central mountains. Lying west of Tromsø and connected by the elegant spans of the Sandnessund Bridge, the eastern shores of Kvaløya now form a suburb of the city, known as Kvaløysletta and home to a population of about 10,000.
Of its snow-capped peaks, Store Blåmann is the highest at 1,044 meters (3,425 feet) and can be scaled by intermediate climbers. Kvaløya is also indented by fjords and wild coastal scenery, with its western fringes hitting the untamed Atlantic, while the island of Sommarøy – famous for its glorious white sandy beaches – hangs off its southwestern coast. Humpback whales can be spotted offshore from late November until January, and the little settlement of Ersfjordbotn, dominated by the sheer cliffs of its fjord, is one of Norway’s top destinations for spotting the Northern Lights during the winter months.
As well as Kvaløya’s untamed alpine beauty, there are prehistoric rock carvings to discover at Skavberg and a clutch of traditional wooden houses at Hella, which were moved there from Tromsø city center for conservation. The farm of Straumen Gård near Straumsbukta was abandoned in the 1960s and now serves as a museum, complete with tools and machinery dating from that period.
The island of Kvaløya is 20 km (12.5 miles) west of Tromsø and is easily accessible over the Sandnessund Bridge.