Lofoten Islands, the Arctic paradise
The Arctic version of paradise is in Norway: The Lofoten Islands. The stunning combination of high sharp mountains, deep blue sea, and turquoise glacier water makes this archipelago a unique place on Earth. Although the Lofoten Islands are a beautiful destination all year around, I decided to visit in summer to experience the midnight sun in all its glory.
During the summer, from 28 May to 14 July, the sun never sets, and you can experience 24 hours of sunlight. As the summer days are long, so are the winter nights. The Polar nights in the Lofoten Islands happen approximated from 6 December to 6 January. It’s a great opportunity to experience the aurora borealis.
The archipelago was not yet discovered by the horde of tourists that roam around Europe every summer. It’s a Norwegian secret. The few tourists we encountered along the road were Norwegian families, most of them in comfortable Motorhomes.
The best way to get there is to rent a car in Bodø and take the ferry to Moskenes. From there you can drive all the way up to Svolvær. The ferry has an open deck, but the strong Arctic winds make it almost impossible to enjoy it. Most people get out really quick just to take a picture and rush back in. It’s a good idea to bring a book to pass the time because the trip takes more than 3 hours. Make sure to arrive at least one hour before the ferry departure to guarantee you will get in. The ferry has a vehicle limit. Once the limit is reached, you must wait for the next ferry. Sometimes it takes hours. Be sure to check the ferry schedule in advance at the Torghatten Nord website.
The summer is the perfect season for hiking and cycling. It’s a shame I didn’t have enough time to do that. I decided to explore by car along the E10 scenic road, also known as the Lofoten National Tourist Route. The road, with 230 Km, runs through the archipelago from Å to Raftsundet. It connects the islands through a series of bridges and tunnels. There are many stops along the road, with viewpoints that will take your breath away and make you feel thankful for being alive.
The port town of Svolvær is the biggest village in Lofoten. It’s a good place to spend the night. I stayed at the Thon Hotel located at the harbor. The hotel was almost empty, and I was given a room with a fantastic view. I watched the sunset while I was enjoying a beer at the Bacalao Bar but when the cold night came, I sought the comfort of the hotel’s bar.
Besides hiking and cycling, the Lofoten Islands offer activities like boat cruises, fishing trips, scuba diving, sea kayaking, horseback riding and even a Viking Museum where you can row a Viking ship.
As I didn’t have enough time for a hike, and I wanted to do something different, I decided to take the Rib-safari to the Trollfjorden from Svolvær. It was pretty exciting! Especially when the boat reached full speed! As the Arctic winds were blasting my face, I was glad I was wearing that ugly orange protection suit they gave me.
During the tour, we saw isolated little wooden houses with private beaches, small uninhabited islands, and the beautiful Trollfjorden. We were able to see some birds, and we were lucky enough to see an eagle in the sky looking for prey.
From Svolvær you can take the ferry back to Skutvik. But after the boat tour, I wasn’t ready to leave on the ferry just yet. I couldn’t get myself to leave without one last look at the beautiful places I had seen the day before. I hit the road again and drove all the way back to Moskenes. This time I managed to stop in some new places along the road.
Although I arrived at Moskenes an hour before the ferry departure, there were so many cars in line in front of me that I could not get in. I waited five agonizing hours for the next ferry. There was nothing around that could provide any source of distraction. There was a coffee shop, but it was closed. The minutes passed slowly. As I began to feel hungry I started to dream about the whale salami I saw on selling on the road. Of course, all was forgotten once I was in the ferry’s open deck admiring the magical midnight sun.
You can download brochures from http://www.lofoten.info/en/Brochures but I advise to taking some time to go to a tourist information center and get the printed brochures for free. They are high-quality brochures with lots of useful information. For more information about the Norwegian national tourists routes go to http://www.nasjonaleturistveger.no/en