You might be forgiven if you have never heard of this archipelago of six larger islands, and many more smaller ones, in Norway. It’s not on the usual cruise lists of ports of call, or in the glossy brochures of proffered resorts. But that does not make it any less worthy of a visit; it is, in fact, a hidden gem.
Located between the 68th and 69th parallels – that’s above the Arctic Circle – it is an area of astounding natural beauty from the peaks of its craggy mountains to the green fields (in summer), across its many white beaches to the blue of the sea. If you are a photographer or an artist, you are guaranteed to fall in love with this land. If you are a lover of Viking lore, you will revel in the history.
Here are some interesting – and some surprising – tidbits about this magical place:
• Visitors are welcome and there are activities available any time of the year. You don’t have to wait for summer. Spring is the time for “summit trips”; Fall for a food festival or to cycle, kayak or rock climb; winter to enjoy the World Championships in cod fishery, marvel at the Northern Lights or experience a snowshoe trek; and the summer is to explore the galleries, museums and wildlife.
• Winter temperatures are not what you might expect. Winters are often very mild due to the Gulf Stream. Some towns experience average above freezing temperatures year round – believe it or not!
• Any ”downside” there is to winter is not the cold but the darkness. For about a month, from early December to early January, you will see little or any of the sun as it stays below the horizon all day.
• In contrast, this archipelago becomes the land of the midnight sun in late spring to mid summer.
• Want to see the Northern Lights? Come late fall to early spring. they are spectacular!
• The world’s largest deep water coral reef is located off Røst.
• The islands have been inhabited for over eleven thousand years, and fished and farmed since the Stone Age. Fishing for cod or stockfish remains the primary industry, and a large one at that.
• The Vikings lived here, and the largest known longhouse ever found plus the earliest signs of a town in Norway are on the islands. The longhouse – all 83 feet of it used to accommodate over 80 persons plus livestock in its heyday – has been reconstructed and you can see it, plus found artifacts, at the Lofotr Viking Museum near Borg.
•Did you know the word maelstrom came from the Moskstraumen, infamous tidal eddies in western Lofoten?
Cycling, boat tours, kayaking, horseback riding tours, and hiking are a few of the ways to see these islands. If physical activity is off your list, you can explore by rental car too. There are many museums with the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum and Lofotr Acquarium well worth a visit. Dine, dance and drink mead at a Viking Feast at the Lofotr Viking Museum. Or visit the local craftsman shops or artist galleries. There’s plenty to do, see and experience.
Not sure what cruise lines will take you there? ( Hurtigruten is one.) Or how to plan a self-directed tour? Ask your travel professional.
All images courtesy of Pixabay and Bigstock.