“You’ll never forget your first approach to the Lofoten Islands.” – Lonely Planet
Positioned 200km north of the Arctic Circle, Lofoten is a Norwegian archipelago that comprises four main islands: Austvågøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy and Moskenesøy, all linked together by tunnels and road bridges, isolated from the mainland by the majestic Vestfjorden.
The mountainous masses and their surrounding bottomless fjords serve as an irresistible attraction for lovers of the great outdoors including hikers, scuba divers, skiers, anglers and kayakers. Lofoten also offers some of the world’s most northerly surfing, incongruously with a climate to match thanks to the Gulf Stream that keeps conditions far more temperate than other similarly placed spots. Visitors can marvel at the midnight sun from around late May until mid-June, while the Northern Lights bedazzle in all their blinding glory between September and mid-April.
Submerged offshore, the Røst Reef represents the planet’s largest and most complex deep water coral reef as well as being its most substantial reef of a cold-water coral called lophelia, stretching for 35km and up to 3km at its widest point. Fishing remains one of the main industries, and nearly three-quarters of the region’s caught fish breed in the reef. Cod especially is abundant, and the menus of many a waterside eatery brim with the freshest of stock (a traditional local dish called stockfish sees unsalted fish, often cod, dried by cold wind and air on waterside wooden racks known as hjell).
Marine birds congregate here in their millions. Few countries can claim such a concentration of sea eagles—whose magnificent wingspans stretch to more than two metres—and other aquatic birds, including the puffin. Humpback whales and orca patrol often, and moose and otters are regularly sighted also.
The seas have been fished, and the land roamed—but never truly tamed—for millennia. The archipelago was once a Viking stronghold, home to the largest excavated Viking longhouse, whose 83-meter expanse is now reconstructed as a fascinating real-life museum.
Sprinkled throughout the islands, colourful fishing settlements contrast beautifully against the granite cliffs and steel seas. Visitors must take the chance to stay in the former fishermen’s cabins known as rorbus. The renovated dwellings are often perched on stills at the edge of the sea, with ocean and mountain views, fully self-contained and equipped with luxuries like Wi-Fi—though if ever there was a place in the world to choose to disconnect, then this is it.
THE ISOLATED WILDERNESS, HYPNOTIC NATURAL LIGHT DISPLAYS REFLECTED IN THE GLASSY WATERS BEFORE WINDSWEPT COASTLINES HAVE LONG LURED ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS. CHECK OUT THEIR WORKS AT THE ARRAY OF EXQUISITE GALLERIES.
DURING THE COUPLE OF MONTHS OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN, LOFOTEN GOLF LINKS IS THE WORLD’S ONLY GOLF COURSE WHERE YOU CAN COMPLETE A ROUND OF GOLF IN NATURAL LIGHT 24/7.
WHEN APPROACHING BY SEA OR WHEN VIEWED FROM A PEAK, THE ARCHIPELAGO APPEARS TO FORM AN IMPOSING UNINTERRUPTED MASS KNOWN AS THE LOFOTEN WALL.
A PROFUSION OF SEA CAVES PUNCTURE THE GNARLY COASTLINE, INCLUDING THE MAJESTIC KOLLHELLARENM THAT REACHES FOR 115M WITH A 50M ARCH UPON WHOSE CEILING ARE PAINTINGS FROM 3,000 YEARS AGO.
THE NOTORIOUS MOSKENESTRAUMEN IS SAID T BE AMONG THE WORLD’S MOST TREACHEROUS MAELSTROMS, CHURNING INTO VIOLENT WHIRLS EVEN DURING CALM WEATHER. SUCH IS ITS LEGEND THAT IT WAS WRITTEN ABOUT BY ANCIENT GREEK EXPLORER PHYTEAS AS WELL AS THE SCRIBES JULES VERNE AND EDGAR ALLAN POE.
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces