Vikings north America - longhouse

The Vikings in Canada | L’Anse Aux Meadows

An Important Archeological Find

Nestled on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, Canada, L’Anse aux Meadows stands as a testament to the Viking explorations that predated Christopher Columbus’s voyages. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, this archaeological marvel offers a captivating glimpse into the Norse presence in North America over a thousand years ago. 

This site represents the first and only confirmed Norse settlement in North America, providing concrete evidence of Viking exploration beyond their native Scandinavia. Discovered in 1960 by Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, this site contains the remnants of an 11th-century Viking village. The couple had been searching for evidence of Norse settlements in North America since the 1950s, and after hearing rumors of an ancient Norse site in Newfoundland, they decided to investigate and struck historical “gold”.

Vikings North America dwelling interior

Longhouse interior

Vikings North America Viking tools, cloak and shield

Viking tools, cloak & shield

Vikings North America shed

Viking shed

The Site Finds

The L’Anse Aux Meadows site includes the remains of eight buildings, including a blacksmith’s forge, a carpentry workshop, and a large longhouse. The buildings were originally constructed out of turf and timber, and were in use for a relatively short period of time, from around 1000 to 1015 AD. Excavations unveiled several artifacts such as whetstones, spindle whorls,  a bronze cloak pin. nails and rivets used in boat maintenance , and the remnants of iron smelting. The site is  significant because it provides insight into the daily lives of the Vikings, including their diet, clothing, and technology.

Move Over Columbus

This site and its artifacts substantiate the sagas and historical accounts of Norse voyages to Vinland, a term believed to encompass parts of present-day Canada and New England. The discovery reshaped historical narratives, challenging the prevailing belief that Columbus was the first European to reach the Americas. It highlights the remarkable seafaring skills and navigational prowess of the Norse people, who embarked on treacherous voyages across the North Atlantic long before the age of modern exploration.

In addition L’Anse Aux Meadows is also an important cultural site for the indigenous people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The area has been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years, and the site is a reminder of the complex history of the region.

You Can Visit This National Historic Site

Today L‘Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can explore the site and learn about the Viking way of life through interpretive exhibits and guided tours.  The site is also important for its natural beauty, with stunning views of the rugged coastline and nearby sea cliffs. Visitors can hike along the trails that wind through the area, or take a boat tour to explore the surrounding waters and observe the local wildlife.

Vikings North America the meadows

The “meadows” of L’Anse Aux Meadows 

Vikings North America lighthouse

The lighthouse with St Anthony in background

Vikings North America Gros Morne Cliffs

Gros Morne : Vikings would have felt “at home”

Two National Sites in 1 Trip

The nearest (domestic) airport is at the port town of St. Anthony. You can also fly into Deer Lake, rent a car, and drive to L’Anse Aux Meadows and visit another another spectacular site, the Gros Morne National Park along the way. (Note this is a trip of over 400 miles or 300 km. as Newfoundland and Labrador  is a big province within a huge country.) With its towering fjords, glacier-carved valleys, and rugged coastal cliffs, Gros Morne offers breath-taking scenery and wildlife sightings. If you are a physically-fit hiker,  consider traversing the iconic Long Range Mountains. Not into hiking? Western Brook Pond, a fjord-like lake encircled by towering cliffs – an awesome sight – can be visited on a boat tour.  There’s also the Tablelands, a rare geological formation where the Earth’s mantle is exposed, creating an otherworldly landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet.

Be sure to dress in layers as it can be foggy and damp even in summer, and for some visitors from warmer climates, seem quite cool – sweater or jacket weather. Icebergs can last long into the spring/early summer and have known to be spotted off St. Anthony in August. And pack your bug spray for the black flies! But don’t let these two advisories stop you, these sites are gems to visit, both for their spectacular vistas, and L’Anse Aux Meadows for its unique history.

Vikings North America Iceberg off St Anthony

Iceberg off St. Anthony

All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of AdobeStock. Feature image is of a restored Viking longhouse at L’Anse Aux Meadows.
If visiting Newfoundland, be sure to get “screeched in“.