An Arctic musing
Sitting here reminiscing on my time spent cruising the Norwegian coastline it is hard to place it all into one thought process let alone one post – and god forbid one photo album. For the second part of our Norwegian journey we set off from Bodo and headed across to the impossibly remote and extremely dramatic chain of Lofoten islands, sat roughly 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The locals are quick to give approving nods (and correct your pronunciation) when you talk of the Lofoten Islands. And rightfully so, they are staggeringly beautiful and unlike nowhere else I have ever experienced. It is hard to forget your first sighting of the islands, like a mythical sea dragon rising out from its seabed, the green and granite peaks seesaw out from the clear waters which can be seen from miles off. Formed when Greenland separated from Europe billions of years ago, there are four main islands; Austvagoy, vestvagoy, Falstadoy and Moskenesoy, which are linked by impressive bridges and tunnels and cut through with Arctic fjords.
Having never ventured this far north before in my travels, my “Arctic” image of barren tundra and icy glaciers was quickly and dramatically overturned. With thanks to the Gulf Stream, the climate is mild. We cruised within the months of July and August, these summer months mean the midnight sun shines over the exceptional natural beauty for near to 24 hours a day. However don’t be fooled with this concept of all day and night sun, because in the Lofoten when it rains – it really rains – introducing their abundant green surroundings.
With scenery that has seemingly been put on steroids, impressive light conditions lasting into the night and with the Vestfjord waters so still, it is hard to believe anything here is real. The Lofoten Islands are simply a picture perfect region and I am sceptical to think there is anywhere else so breath taking – would also like to prove this wrong. The island’s only constant is change, hosting a winter filled with complete darkness and a sun, which never sets in the summer. Apart from it being a photographers dream throughout the year there is also plenty to do on and around the islands.
A near to endless supply of mountains to explore, this archipelago is a hikers paradise. From wandering, easy trails to technical climbs the geography of the islands offer options for everyone. At every opportunity we went for a hike not only to get a birds eye view of the incredible scenery but also to fill our lungs with such fresh air. It is strange to think that you can have sliding scales of “fresh air” until you experience the Lofoten you will understand this pure Arctic air. Aside from hiking, there is no shortage of other adventures and activities to get involved in throughout the islands. In the summer, the islands are famed for kayaking, in which we weren’t short of.
To add to the islands natural beauty and again moving away from this harsh Arctic image, Lofoten offers a multitude of pristine white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal blue waters, be aware these may not be quite (or anywhere near) Caribbean temperatures. Not short of a sunny day up in this latitude we anchored off a few different beaches only easily accessible by boat, making it even more desirable, these were mostly located on the northern coast of Moskenesoya. When the long summer nights drew to an end, the beaches made a great base for a fire, complete with marshmellows.
Aside from its rugged appearance the islands have a much softer and more charming side to them, usually strategically placed at the foot of the mountains are a varied selection of picturesque small towns. With their isolated nature and harsh climates, there is a surprisingly friendly and very casual attitude, seeping through these small fishing villages. One of my favourites was Reine. Sailing into the anchorage (apart from the overwhelming fish (fisk) smell) the first thing you are faced with are the adorable fisherman’s cabins, known as rorbuer’s, painted a regal red they line the clear waters on stilts and are commonly used as holiday rentals. Don’t be fooled by the rows of codfish hanging out to dry, these are not for tourist benefits as some of the cabins are still used by the local Lofoten fishermen.
Undoubtedly not your usual island paradise getaway however it would be my number one choice every time. I would definintely compromise the Caribbean sunshine for a piece of this untamed beauty with dramatic and contrasting scenes at every turn.