Whenever asked what is the most beautiful place I’ve been there is no room for hesitation, the answer is only one: Lofoten. I know I’m biased when it comes to Norway, but I can’t help it. I like to say that I have a special connection with that country, but it doesn’t take all this love for Norway to come to appreciate the jaw-dropping beauty of the Lofoten archipelago. If spiky mountains rising straight from the sea and unexpected sandy beaches sound like something you’d love, you’ll probably agree with me about Lofoten.
The Lofoten archipelago is located in northern Norway, over the Arctic Circle, and stretches out from the mainland into the Atlantic Ocean. A road, the E10, conveniently connects all the islands all the way to Å, the last fishing village on the edge of the sea. We reached the islands by ferry from Bodø and stayed in the hostel in Å. From the second day we rented a car to be able to properly explore the islands and spent the rest of our holiday driving back and forth trying to catch a glimpse of all the beautiful places at different times of the day.
The midnight sun
They say that if you dream of something hard enough, your dream will come true. I don’t know how many times this actually happens in life, but I can say that it is true and it has happened to me. When planning my trip to the Lofoten islands, the last week of May was not a random choice. That is when the sun stops sinking below the horizon, creating the phenomenon of the midnight sun. It will stay like this all of June and most of July, but I wanted to visit in May because May is my favourite month for visiting Norway.
May is the perfect month
There is something about May I find hard to explain. On sunny days in May in Norway the colours are fuller, as if the transition from spring to summer was making everything more intense. The Norwegian sky in May has a tone I could never quite see during the rest of the year. So I started dreaming of seeing the Lofoten islands in that glorious May light, under that very blue sky that only Norway in May has ever shown me. No rain, no clouds, just that incredible light unveiling all the colours for my eyes only. Yes, that was my dream. And this is what I got for dreaming hard enough, because dreams do come true sometimes.
I had seen many pictures of these islands, especially on photography forums. Like anywhere on the Norwegian coast the weather can either be a blessing or a curse. Unlucky photographers had happened to visit the archipelago on those ominous days when the clouds are so thick and dark that they will hide all the mountains and the cold heavy showers will just make it impossible to properly set up safe shooting conditions. Not to mention the colours. Norway can be one ugly grey place sometimes. But it was not for me.
We were so lucky that out of 5 days spent on the islands we only got one with clouds. Which were still nice clouds, thin enough to allow the light to pass and let us witness those mountains gazing at their own reflections. Pictured above and below is the village of Reine, probably the most renowned for the particularly dramatic quality of its landscape. It is sea water where the mountains are mirrored. In Reine the Atlantic Ocean can be perfectly still.
Sandy beaches and cod galore
The other notable feature that makes the Lofoten islands so unique is the fact that they have a few sandy beaches that are real gems. In Ramberg we were seriously tempted by taking a plunge in the Ocean but restrained ourselves as the water was only a few degrees over zero. Despite the hot sun, the combination of cold water and sea breeze was not ideal for a bath. So we just settled on the beach and had a barbeque instead. A lunch with an unforgettable view.
The Lofoten islands look as if they came straight out of a Scandinavian fairytale. Their smell is not as fabulous – well, there had to be something wrong about this paradise, right? The archipelago’s main economy is found in the fishing industry, and in the production of stockfish in particular. Around February is when the fish is put out to naturally dry on wooden racks found all over the archipelago. It will stay there and dry in whatever the weather that nature will expose it to, until it will be taken down around the end of May and sold all over the world, but mostly to Italy that finds in Norwegian stockfish the main ingredient for baccalà.
Although some racks had already been emptied, many were still displaying the dried fish so we could take a close look. I was expecting and anticipating the spiky mountains and the beaches, but not all that fish. Not all that smell of fish. It was overwhelming and for the first two days almost impossible to get used to. Then I guess we just stopped paying attention to it. But I remember that that smell was the thing that surprised me the most.
I could go back to the Lofoten islands any time but I don’t think I’ll ever be this lucky again with the weather. Every time I flip through the pictures I still find it hard to believe that we had been so incredibly blessed with the weather. It is as if that place had always been waiting for me, reserving its best looks for the time when I would finally visit.
And this is why I love Norway so much.