The small town of Harstad, 75 miles northwest of Narvik, sits surrounded by craggy, snow-topped mountains on the island of HinnÑya. With about 22,000 inhabitants Harstad grew into a successful and productive herring and fishing port during the last century. Today, the engineering industry also plays an important part in the local economy, with shipbuilding and repair yards servicing regional and visiting ferry and fishing fleets. As a result, the sprawling docks present a tangle of supply ships and cold storage plants.
Harstad's greatest attraction is the Trondenes Church which dates back to the 13th century. This structure was originally built as a fortress church; its design incorporates massive walls, some 7 1/2 feet thick. At the time, Trondenes was also Norway's northernmost stone church and one of the most important in the country during Roman Catholic times. As early as the Viking Age the church was used as a local gathering place, including the meetings of the Ting (local parliament).
One of the town's proudest achievements is its school for the experimental growing of flowers, bushes, trees and vegetables; it is the world's northernmost school of its kind. The area surrounding Harstad is important farmland. Serving as the breadbasket for northern Norway, this region provides seasonal fruits and vegetables for nearby marketplaces.
Harstad's pretty setting with hilly streets, rainbow-colored wooden houses, terraces and views of the mountains is especially appreciated by the summer crowd which flocks here to enjoy the North Norwegian Arts Festival and International Deep-Sea Fishing Festival, usually held in June and July.