For an unexpected Scandinavian adventure, bypass Iceland for the Lofoten Islands, a tiny Norwegian archipelago. Take a short flight from Oslo to the village of Evenes, followed by an hour car ride, then let the fun begin.
Stay in a Fisherman’s Cabin
There are a few hotels on the islands, including the modern Thon Hotel Lofoten (from $134 per night), which has beautiful harbor views. For a more authentic experience, book one of the 35 fisherman’s lodgings at Eliassen Rorbuer (from $133 per night), located on the small island of Hamnoy. Each cabin comes with a full kitchen and rowboat.
Paddle With Killer Whales
Take an active tour with ReineAdventure, the area’s biggest outfitter. In the summer visitors can kayak with orcas and seabirds or bike along coastal roads, and in winter Reine organizes ski trips, taking groups from slope to slope in an old fishing boat. From $23 a day for bike rentals to $380 for guided ski lessons.
Eat Like a Norwegian
Dine at Fiskekrogen (+47 9941-7900), a restored 1920s cafe in the harbor in Henningsvaer. Try the cod tongue, a local delicacy about the size of a large clam that’s freshest from January to April, when Arctic cod swim south to spawn off the Lofotens for several weeks.
For traditional fare such as salted air-dried lamb, pickled herring, fish soup, and marzipan cakes, check out Ramberg Gjestegard (+47 7609-3500), a 30-minute drive from Henningsvaer.
Learn Local History
Visit the Viking Museum in the small village of Borg. It rests on an ancient plot that was once the seat of one of the most powerful chiefs in Norway, and it’s the largest re-creation of a Viking-era house in existence. Activities include archery competitions and Viking feasts.
Play Golf All Night Long
Lofoten Links on the island of Gimso is a par 35 track that plays nearly 3,100 yards along the sea—it’s open 24 hours a day from May 23 through July 24, when the sun never dips below the horizon. During midnattgolf season, the most ambitious players try to survive four 18-hole rounds in 24 hours. Afterward, sit in the clubhouse and enjoy the waffles, said to be the best in Norway. $125 for 24 hours of golf
Catch the Northern Lights
The Lofoten Islands are directly beneath the Auroral Oval, the perimeter around the Magnetic North Pole where the Northern Lights are most prominent. For optimal views, visit the Polarlightcenter in the village of Laukvik, which can be reached by boat, taxi, or bus from the other islands. Resident scientists will text you updates about the lights throughout your stay. Ideal conditions are clear nights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. from September through March.
Read This on the Plane
Author Rebecca Dinerstein spent her recent NYU fellowship at an artists’ colony on the Lofoten Islands. There, she wrote The Sunlit Night, a poetic novel that came out this summer about an artsy woman and a Russian immigrant, set among Lofoten’s rugged beauty. “I wound up at the edge of everything: The Lofoten Islands stretch out into the Norwegian Sea like stepping stones to the North Pole,” says Dinerstein of her experience there.
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