Consistently rated as Europe’s most expensive country, the potentially
prohibitive costs of travelling in Norway is an inescapable factor behind any decision to visit. But Norway is also recognised as one of Europe’s most
beautiful countries, meaning you get what you pay for.
The Lofoten Islands offer some of Norway’s most magnificent scenery. Take a cruise past towering fjords and quaint fishing villages, clamber up its many jagged peaks or stroll along its fine beaches. Gorge on its bountiful
seafood, or look out for its variety of wildlife. Between May and July is the period of the midnight sun, where above the sub-polar latitude of 68o north, the sun never leaves the sky. If anybody is deterred by expenses, the Lofotens serve as a reminder that there is also luxury which money cannot buy.
Nobody said that the Caribbean or the Mediterranean had a monopoly on cruises. The indented Lofoten coastline is prime cruising territory. One does not even have to get on a cruise liner for that. Travelling by sea is as common in an archipelago as hopping on a bus. Furthermore, it offers that
exclusive front-row seat to the bewildering variety of jaw-dropping seascapes. Camp out on the deck and admire on the horizon the serrated profiles of the Lofoten Wall, the mountainous spine of the Lofoten Islands. These are sometimes garlanded in clouds, and grow to forbidding heights as
one draws nearer. Sail past sheltered coves of white sand and turquoise water, and scatters of skerries – small islands of raised rock which pepper the entire Norwegian coastline.
The highlight of any Lofoten cruise is Trollfjord, one of the most dramatic fjord settings in Norway. Watch in disbelief as the ship inches its way inside the narrow, 100m- wide entrance of the fjord. Most ships take visitors on a round inside the fjord, providing ample opportunities to lap up picture-perfect vistas all round of sheer rock and still water. Pack a windbreaker though, and have a hot drink at hand. The wind can be biting, and the weather fickle, even at the height of summer.
The sea is the lifeblood of the Lofotens. The life-giving Gulf Stream carries valuable nutrients to these far northern shores, nourishing the cod spawning grounds which in turn has attracted fishermen here since medieval times. These rich cod fisheries have filled both the islanders’ stomachs and pockets. Today, the tourism industry also reaps the benefits from this bounty. In 1120, King Øystein Magnusson ordered the construction of wooden huts along the Lofoten coast to house the annual influx of fishermen who arrive in winter to harvest the gathering cod. The fishermen who quarter in these brightly-painted rorbuer huts have since been replaced by tourists hankering after the quintessential Lofoten experience. In some villages, the breeze still brings with it the distinct tang of rows of cod drying on racks.
A visit to the local restaurants will unearth the many different ways – partially dried, dried, unsalted, salted, sliced, boiled – in which cod can be served. These are served alongside other Norwegian specialties such as smoked salmon and even something one does not get all the time around here – smoked whale.
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
Despite the wealth of maritime travel options, there are plenty of other activities in the Lofotens for those who need to feel firm earth beneath their feet. Those craving a Lofotens panorama without having to splurge for a scenic flight can literally take a hike. All you need is a map, a compass and an appetite for slopes – the higher you go, the grander the views. One need not be a hardened peak-bagger to enjoy the Lofotens’ many scenic vantage points. Indeed, the Lofotens’ tallest peak measures an attainable 1,146m above sea level. The islands are also small enough that most of these are reachable within a day’s hike.
Two half-day hikes on the island of Moskenesøya exemplify the variety of the Lofoten landscape. The first takes you inland to Munkebu Hut, and makes for a good introduction to the Lofotens if you choose to arrive via the ferry from Bodø. This trail begins at the village of Sørvågen, near the western end of the E10 highway, and climbs steadily along a series
of lakes left behind by the retreating glaciers to the hut. There is a fine view of Hermannsdalstinden (1,029m), the only mountain in the western Lofotens that tops a thousand metres. The summit of Hermannsdalstinden is a full day’s slog from the hut.
The second hike leads to the top of Reinebringen. This vantage point provides an arresting view of the striking blue water of the Reinefjord to the left, and to the right the spectacular rocky ramparts of the Lofoten Wall
receding north-eastwards. At 448m and less than half the height of Hermannsdalstinden, the possibility of the views being obscured by clouds is also considerably lessened. The narrow path climbs rapidly, and is rather steep along certain stretches (and therefore not recommended to tackle on a rainy day).