Far above the Arctic Circle, a curved spray of craggy mountainous islands seeks solace from the tempestuous Norwegian Sea. Tiny russet-colored fishing villages are pushed on the coastal fringes by the Lofoten Wall, a jagged spine of mountains carved by glaciers millions of years ago which rear from the cod-rich surging waters – the lifeblood and heritage of these majestic islands.
Sheep paddocks are sprinkled across the rolling emerald hills while small boats bob in the azure inlets and bays. Like a fantasy scene from Middle Earth, the travel wonder of the Lofoten Islands are stunningly beautiful with its overwhelming scenery and long languid summer days. The sun doesn’t set for a period of around eight weeks from late May to mid-July. In summer, visitors remember to close their curtains after being awoken once with sun streaming through their windows at 1:00am in the morning.
A road connects the main Lofoten islands making a motor scooter or bicycle an ideal way to enjoy the mild Lofoten weather and comfortably view the unveiling scenery. Take a jacket as the weather changes quickly from sunshine to Lofoten’s frequent rain showers. Hiking trails intertwine across the islands offering numerous postcard shots of small brightly-colored villages among sapphire blue waters and towering mountain ranges. Behind Reine, a typical Lofoten township, lies a superb trail up Reinebringen and a breathless vista of nature at its finest.
Fish racks stretch around the Lofoten villages. The cod are tied to these huge A-frame racks and dried producing a product called stockfish which stays edible for years (though I’d suggest it is an acquired taste!). The locals claim that stockfish is incredibly nutritious, providing four to five times the benefit of the same weight of fresh fish.
Further south and sounding more like an expression of surprise than that of a town, the bizarrely named Å (pronounced or) – yes, that is the entire name – and ironically the last letter of the slightly extended 29-letter Norwegian alphabet, is the end of the road in the Lofotens. Like a town frozen in time, the fishermen’s huts, now used for visitor accommodation (called rorbuer) line the shores, their earthy red coloring reflected in the waters (see lead photo). The cod-liver oil factory, fish-drying racks and boathouse reveal the harshness of these past times.
Just south of Å is an extraordinary natural sight where the tidal flows between the islands result in a dramatic brewing maelstrom, enjoyed by the teeming birdlife but extremely dangerous for those steering boats.
There are a number of picturesque small towns and villages around the Lofoten Islands with most having a similar feel. Settle in for a relaxed and serene pace for a couple of days, enjoy a walk or ride to a neighboring remote hamlet and relax in this remote Norwegian wilderness travel wonder.