Approaching the Lofoten Islands by boat is unforgettable. My Norwegian experience has been hard to place into one thought process let alone one post, and God forbid one photo album. The impossibly remote and extremely dramatic chain of Lofoten islands, sit roughly 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle and I was lucky enough to visit them this August.
The locals are quick to give approving nods (and correct your pronunciation) when you talk of the Lofoten Islands. And rightfully so, they are staggeringly beautiful, unlike nowhere else I have ever experienced. Like a mythical sea dragon rising out from its seabed, the green and granite peaks seesaw out from the clear waters, which can be seen from miles off. Formed when Greenland separated from Europe billions of years ago. There are four main islands; Austvagoy, Vestvagoy, Falstadoy and Moskenesoy, which are linked by impressive bridges, tunnels and cut through with Arctic fjords.
Having never ventured this far north before in my travels, my “Arctic” image of barren tundra and icy glaciers was quickly and dramatically overturned. With thanks to the Gulf Stream, the islands climate is mild. We cruised within the summer months, where the midnight sun shines over the exceptional natural beauty for near to 24 hours a day. Don’t be fooled with this concept of all day and night sun, however, because in the Lofoten when it rains – it really rains – the simple reasoning behind why everything is so green and lush.
With scenery that has seemingly been put on steroids, impressive light conditions lasting into the night and with the Vestfjord waters so still, it is hard to believe anything here is real. The Lofoten Islands are simply a picture perfect region and I am skeptical to think there is anywhere else so breathtaking. The islands’ only constant is change, hosting a winter filled with complete darkness and a sun, which never sets in the summer. Apart from the obvious photography benefits throughout the year, there is also plenty to do on and around the islands.
A near to endless supply of mountains to explore, this archipelago is a hikers paradise. From wandering, easy trails to technical climbs the geography of the islands offer options for everyone. At every opportunity we went for a hike not only to get a bird’s-eye view of the incredible scenery but also to fill our lungs with such fresh air, and yes when you reach the Arctic realms “fresh air” has a sliding scale. Aside from hiking, there is no shortage of other adventures and activities to get involved in throughout the islands. In the summer, the islands are famed for kayaking, in which we weren’t short of with thanks to the calm still waters surrounding us.
To add to the islands natural beauty and again moving away from this harsh Arctic image, Lofoten offers a multitude of pristine white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal blue waters, be aware these may not be quite (or anywhere near) Caribbean temperatures. Not short of a sunny day up in this latitude we anchored off a few different beaches only easily accessible by boat, which made it even more desirable, these were mostly located on the northern coast of Moskenesoya. When the long summer nights drew to an end, the beaches made a great base for a fire.
Aside from its rugged appearance the islands also have a much softer and more charming side to them, usually strategically placed at the foot of the mountains are a varied selection of picturesque small towns. With their isolated nature and harsh climates, there is a surprisingly friendly and very casual attitude, which seeps through these small fishing villages. One of my favourites was Reine. Sailing into the anchorage (apart from the overwhelming fish smell) the first thing you are faced with are the adorable fisherman’s cabins, known as rorbuer’s, painted a regal red they line the clear waters on stilts and are commonly used as holiday rentals. Don’t be fooled by the rows of codfish hanging out to dry, these are not a tourist attraction as some of the cabins are still used frequently by the Lofoten fishermen.
Undoubtedly, Lofoten is not your usual choice for an island paradise getaway, but after experiencing it, I urge you to think twice. I would definitely compromise the Caribbean sunshine for a piece of this untamed beauty with dramatic and contrasting scenes at every turn. There is a never-ending list of powerful adjectives to begin to even try and describe Lofoten, so on that note I hope you enjoy the photos instead.