It’s not exactly easy to reach the Lofoten Islands, just off of Norway’s northwestern coast. It takes a flight from Oslo to Bodø, followed by a three- to four-hour ferry ride to reach the archipelago—but you won’t regret making the effort. Once there, you’ll find clear blue waters that rival the Mediterranean, craggy mountains that rival Iceland, and enough edgy museums and fishing villages to rival…well, just pick any Scandinavian hot spot. Yet while Lofoten’s sites may draw some comparisons, the beauty here is truly unparalleled: think colorful fishing villages, majestic fjords, and frozen beaches dotted with surfers. Need convincing? Tand
Located 800 miles from Oslo and 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the Lofoten archipelago is known for its remote, rugged beauty. Painters and authors have long drawn inspiration from the islands, which make appearances in many Norwegian paintings and the work of Jules Verne.The water in Lofoten can be as clear and blue as the Caribbean or Mediterranean (if not nearly as warm). Just take a look at the waters surrounding Haukland Beach for proof, where kayaking and swimming are inviting propositions during the summer months.
Henningsvær is one of Lofoten’s most important fishing villages, where cod fill the surrounding fjords during mid- and late-winter; the waiting fishing boats catch the fish, dry them on racks, and then export them to Europe and Africa. The skrei is such an important commodity, the town’s unofficial motto is “In Cod We Trust.”
We mean it: Lofoten is serious about its cod. Fiskehjeller, pyramid-shaped racks that are traditionally used for drying the fish, are a common sight around the islands from the months of February to July—and is equal parts tantalizing and creepy. Norwegian cod has been a staple since the age of the Vikings and remains a valuable asset in the fishing community.
Yep, you can go surfing above the Arctic Circle—even in the middle of a blizzard. Those in the know head to Unstad Beach on the island of Vestvågøya, known for its world-renowned break and camping sites set up along the shore. (Consider the spectacular ocean views an added bonus.)
Lofoten’s deep fjords are perfect for kayaking, with the surrounding mountains reflected in the water and tons of wildlife to spot. Book an excursion with a tour company to paddle alongside orcas and camp out overnight on nearby beaches. Feeling extra adventurous? Sign up for a three-hour snorkeling trip, which lets you swim with the sea mammals in freezing Arctic water (don’t worry, dry suits are provided).
You can see many types of wildlife on the Lofoten Islands, from humpback whales to white-tailed eagles to adorable puffins. On land, keep your eyes peeled for moose and sheep wandering along beaches—they’re big fans of the seaweed-infused soil.
Henningsvær may only have a population of around 500, but it has gained recent Insta-fame thanks to its awesome, highly photographable football stadium. The term “stadium” is a loose one, seeing as it’s only used for amateur football and there is absolutely no seating, but the field’s remote, rocky location is certainly worthy of attention.
The phenomenon of the midnight sun (when the sun doesn’t set for several weeks during the summer) affects places south of the Antarctic Circle and north of the Arctic Circle—and that includes the Lofoten Islands. The event resembles a dreamy sunrise or sunset, giving you 24-hour viewing access to northern Norway’s striking landscapes from mid-May to July.