View inland from lodging at Lofoten, Norway. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Lofoten, Norway, Part 1

Hiking in Norway is a great adventure, and I hiked in different regions, each time going further north to my final destination above the Arctic Circle. Our two guides and small group of hikers left Oppdal at 3:45 am to drive 1 ½ hours to Trondheim Airport.  That morning, I saw deer on our north woods scenic journey. Our flight took us north to Bodo, then a transfer to a ferry for a 3 ½ hour crossing to Lofoten, a group of islands above the Arctic Circle.

On the ferry crossing, I saw a long row of islands in the distance: the last barrier west towards Iceland and Greenland. The Gulf Stream keeps this area warmer than I imagined possible above the Arctic Circle. On some of the uninhabited islands are large colonies of seabirds including puffin and cormorants.

Between Vaeroy and Lofoten is one of the world’s biggest tidal currents.  As we approached Lofoten Island, it was an awesome setting of steep mountains touching the sea, with a few protected harbors of fishing villages. The mountains are awe-inspiring, with patches of snow hidden where 23 hours of sun a day still cannot melt it.

We were headed to Henningsvaer, a small fishing village with a population of 500. Here cod is dried on large racks—the same method used by the Vikings 1,000 years ago. I stayed in a red painted rorbus, a cabin on stilts. There were several of these refurbished fishing shacks right on the village wharf. The sun set for less than one hour during this time of year, but I had no trouble sleeping until I was awakened by the loud shrill of sea gulls. I soon opened the outside door and walked on the wharf. The sun was warm and welcoming.

After a hectic schedule of travel and hiking, we spent the morning at an authentic Viking site, now the Lofotr Viking Museum. The “find” is on top of a hill, and it features an excavated chieftain’s house, boat house, and smithy from the Iron Age. The house is 83 meters long, 8.5 meters wide, and two stories high. One hundred people could live in this dwelling which is full of artifacts, benches, and fire pits. As I viewed the harbor below, it was amazing to think that 1,000 years ago, the Vikings sailed from this site to Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, Canada.

The best way to get about this area is in small boats that the fishermen use to ferry people from place to place. Other than the people who live here, tourists come to hike in the summer and ski in the winter. It is a beautiful place with extreme and varying weather conditions.

Lofoten is a far away destination to gain strength for the body and soul. I enjoyed the strong natural character of the area, the gracious people, the comfort of good food, and a warm haven to rest. Next, I looked forward to hiking here.

(posted October 11, 2016)

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