Lofoten is a Norwegian archipelago situated in the Arctic Circle which, of the five major circles of latitude that mark the Earth, is located to the north. It is characterized by a distinct and dramatic scenery of mountains and peaks, imposing fjords ripping the sea, virgin areas, pristine beaches and sheltered bays.
This territory is considered inhospitable by many and from the earliest times which was occupied only by the bravest men of the sea: first the Vikings and later the cod fishers, especially in the winter when the cod migrates from the Barents Sea to the South and arrives to the Lofoten Islands to spawn.
Aurora boreal | CREDITS: PIXABAY
Despite the harsh winters, due to the hot Gulf current, the archipelago has a much milder climate than other parts of the globe at the same latitude. It is this location that allows you to experience two of the most beautiful experiences that Mother Nature has to offer: the midnight sun and the aurora borealis. Let’s start the journey that will guide us along the Lofoten, one of the last places in the wild in Europe.
First stop: Tromso
Tromso is the “Capital of the North” as it is considered to be the northernmost city in the world, more precisely 350 km north of the Arctic Circle. It is known as the “Arctic port” as it is the starting point for many expeditions to the Arctic. It is a modern city where nature and culture go hand in hand and, being surrounded by water, is an important hub of the Norwegian fishing industry.
The center of the city has the largest number of old wooden houses in the north of Norway, with the oldest dating from 1789. But Tromso also houses a number of modern buildings, such as the Tromso Library, the Polaria Museum and the Cathedral Of the Arctic. With a population of more than 100 different nationalities, Tromso is a true multicultural city known for its lively nightlife and hosting many festivals throughout the year.
Wooden houses in Tromso | CREDIT: PIXABAY
Due to its location, the town is one of the most sought after places to enjoy the Northern Lights, a phenomenon occurring between September and the end of March. In fact, Tromso lies exactly in the middle of the Northern Boreal Auroras, A little of the city and see them from the rural areas, where the city lights do not disturb the observation. Between late May and July you can enjoy the Midnight Sun and, due to the high latitude of Tromso, the dusk is long, which means that there is no real darkness during this time of year. On the other hand, between the end of November and mid-January, the sun remains below the horizon, giving rise to the so-called polar night, a period during which the sun can not be seen.
On the way to the Lofoten Islands
Traveling south the road offers even more beauty. The car is a good option as the reduced speed limit allows you to enjoy the beautiful views. There are bridges over the sea linking islands and there are tunnels under water. At the end of each turn we are offered an image worthy of a postcard. From time to time, there are small villages with wooden houses painted in red that contrast with the dominant blue landscape, marked by the sea and the sky. Everything seems so calm that it is easy to see that life at this latitude flows slowly, following the rhythm of the seasons.
It is worthwhile to stop every now and then to enjoy the view, to rest and to breathe the pure air while enjoying the silence interrupted only by the sounds of nature. You are invited to have a picnic , to camp or even to make a campfire. In Norway there are no restrictions on the right of access in rural areas, including national parks. As is common sense the only rule is to respect nature and leave the place as you found it.
The landscape of the Lofoten Islands is unique | CREDITS: PIXABAY
It is good not to forget that this territory is also the land of the Sami people, the natives of the north, who have a very unique lifestyle and speak the Sami language, which is one of the official languages of Norway. The Sami people in Norway live mainly from reindeer breeding but have traditionally subsisted through fishing, ranching and hunting along the coast in the fjords and in the great rivers, further inland. Take the opportunity to get to know its culture, music and crafts.
Ballstad: one of the largest fishing villages in Lofoten
The archipelago has many islands and beautiful coastal villages, offering many options. It is best to choose a place to stay and get to know the surroundings, discovering and experiencing these magical islands.
Our destination is a small coastal village and island off the southwest tip of the island of Vestvågøy in the county of Nordland. The quintessential Lofoten Islands experience is staying in the former fishermen’s huts (robuer) which have been restored and converted into accommodation for travelers. Once installed, the outdoor activities in the archipelago are many: bike rides, mountain climbing, boat trips, fishing, white water rafting, surfing and diving.
One of the scenarios you will see in the Lofoten Islands | CREDITS: PIXABAY
The simplest way to explore Ballstad is to walk and enjoy the beauty of this fishing village protected from the open sea by several small islands. It has been a fishing community for a thousand years and is still in business with a large fleet of boats. The landscape is superb and one of the most interesting things you will notice is one of the most iconic images of Lofoten: the cod hung to dry, such as clothes on a stretch. Cod is dried outdoors by strong, salty sea winds, which means it can be maintained for a long time, in some cases for decades! If you have enough energy be sure to climb to the top of Ballstad-Heia, a mountain that offers spectacular views and is relatively easy to climb,
Nusfjord: once the most important fishing village
A boat trip to Nusfjord is an adventure in itself. Due to the choppy waters and the wind that hits us in the face, the boat path makes anyone feel like a real brave Norwegian fisherman! Upon reaching the destination you will find one of the oldest and well-preserved fishing villages which retains its fishing tradition. With buildings dating back to 1800, the earliest traces of industrial fishing were also discovered here in Nordland, which has made this place an active fishing port for centuries.
The fishing village of NusfjordCREDITS: CHRISTOPH STRÄSSLER / CC
Today, Nusfjord is a kind of museum, with a vintage-style shop, a workshop producing cod liver oil, a sawmill and a smithy. There is also a restaurant and accommodation in the old fishermen’s huts. This village is a true paradise for fishermen of the most varied levels and allows to enjoy the true experience of deep sea fishing. The highlight is the winter season, but there is plenty of fish to fish all year round. Cod is the most common species, but you will also find halibut, whiting, haddock and saithe. The Nusfjord wharf has benches for cleaning and filleting the fish. The visitor can cook the fish he has just caught in his cabin or, if you prefer, the local restaurant chef can cook a delicious meal with the fish caught by himself.
Borg: The World’s Largest Viking House
The Lofoten archipelago has been occupied by the Vikings for centuries. In 1983 archaeologists discovered what was to be the home of the village chief of Borg, a huge Vikings-era building believed to date from the year 500. When the excavations were over, traces of what would have been a Viking house were visible and the The building was rebuilt slightly north of the excavation site and converted into a museum. The Lofotr Viking Museum consists of the complete reconstruction of the boss’s house with an 83 meter length, a blacksmith’s forge, two replicas of Vikings and various reconstructions that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the Vikings’ lifestyle.
More info: viagens.sapo.pt