In northern Norway, there is a collection of islands known as Lofoten. Often considered one of the most picturesque spots in the country, the Lofoten Islands boast everything from sandy beaches and towering mountains to dramatic fjords and lush green hillsides. Many visitors come for the wildlife and the incredible scenery, but there are also a number of small fishing villages that are just waiting to be explored.
There is some evidence to suggest that Lofoten has been inhabited for more than 11,000 years, although archeological sites date settlements back just 5,000 years. Ample artifacts remain from the Iron Age, but Lofoten is best known for its Viking history.
Fishermen from throughout the region gravitated toward Lofoten, and eventually cod fisheries were established thanks to the great conditions of the island. When agriculture also blossomed, the Lofoten Islands became a hub for transport and agriculture. In much more recent history, Lofoten played a role in World War II when it was raided by the British in order to prevent German armies from using the resources stored there.
Although Lofoten lies at the same latitude as places like Greenland and Northern Alaska, the Gulf Stream circulates to keep the weather warmer than expected. However, there are still plenty of chilly or cloudy afternoons when the best way to spend the time is in a museum. Thankfully, the Lofoten Islands has several interesting museums and galleries, offering an incredible range of culture and history to visitors.
Perhaps the best place to start is the fantastic Lofotr Viking Museum, where there is a reconstructed Long House that replicates life on the islands in centuries past. You can also tour a replica of a blacksmith’s shop, two traditional Viking ships and a small village where people are dressed in period costume to bring the scenes to life. There is also a more traditional museum where you can read about Viking culture and see artifacts from centuries past.
With such dramatic landscapes, and some of the most amazing scenery on the planet, it should come as no surprise that a major pastime in Lofoten is getting active outdoors. You can join in with the locals on a fishing trip right off the coast, and with some guided tours you may even be able to spend the night in the local fishing cabins known as rorbu.
Hiking is also popular, given the mountainous peaks that dot the islands. The Reinebringen hike is one of the best, and it is challenging but doable in just three hours. The Reinebringen hike takes you to the Lofoten Wall, offering panoramic views over the islands. Another popular way to spend time in the great outdoors is with a whale watching trip, where passengers can see whales up close and in their natural habitats.
Few visitors will get the opportunity to visit each of the Lofoten Islands, so it is important to pick and choose the right ones for your getaway. Since the main islands are connected by tunnels and road bridges, getting between them is a breeze.
The island of Vestvågøy is the most heavily populated, and it typically serves as the hub for visitors spending time in Lofoten. Vestvågøy is where you’ll find Leknes, a charming fishing village that perfectly depicts local life. On the nearby island of Austvågøy, be sure to check out the town of Svolvær, which is home to the bar called Magic Ice, where you can sip a drink in a glass made from ice and admire sculptures carved from ice. Although further afield and smaller, the island of Værøy is another popular spot to visit thanks to the groups of puffins who live there in the summer.
With such dramatic landscapes and vibrant colors, there is no shortage of scenic landmarks worth exploring. At Moskstraumen, you can see powerful currents that showcase the strength of the ocean. A boat ride through Trollfjord, where snow-covered mountains shield a narrow body of water, is also a must-see attraction.
The beach Utakleiv is ideal for a summer stroll, but it is also a popular viewing point for the northern lights visible in the winter. The Harbor of Moskenes boasts picture-perfect views of the water, the coast and the charming fishing cabins that form the local villages.