The Archipelago of Lofoten

The Archipelago of Lofoten is a must for any traveller.

Lofoten is known for excellent fishing, nature attractions such as the northern lights and the midnight sun, and small villages off the beaten track. Kayak between the islands, go fishing for the catch of your life, or look for sea eagles soaring in the sky.

Encompassing the principal islands of Hinnøya, Austvågøy, Gimsøya, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøya, Moskenesøya, Væroy and Røst, the archipelago of the Lofoten is a nature lover’s paradise. A land of jagged mountain peaks, sheltered bays, a coastline dotted with picture-postcard wooden houses (the fishing villages of Henningsvær and Reine are among the prettiest) and large areas of virgin territory with beaches and fjords in the north and sea bird colonies in the south. Hiking, cycling, fishing and sea-kayaking are all available.

In 2007, National Geographic magazine commissioned 522 experts to study the impacts of tourism on islands worldwide. The islands of Lofoten were considered the third best-preserved destination and a historic and geological masterpiece. This study alone should give you an idea of why the archipelago of the Lofoten is worth visiting.

Because the Earth is tilted on its axis, polar regions are constantly facing the sun at their respective summer solstices and are tilted away from it in the winter. The Arctic and Antarctic circles, at 66° 33’ north and south latitude respectively, are the southern and northern limits of constant daylight on their longest day of the year.

Norway: come for the sun, stay for the light show

There are few sights as mesmerising as an undulating aurora. Although these appear in many forms – pillars, streaks, wisps and haloes of vibrating light – they’re most memorable when taking the form of pale curtains wafting on a gentle breeze. Most often, the Arctic aurora appears as a faint green or light rose but, in periods of extreme activity, can change to yellow or crimson.

The visible aurora borealis, or northern lights, are caused by streams of charged particles from the sun, called the solar wind, which are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field towards the polar regions. Because the field curves downward in a halo surrounding the magnetic poles, the charged particles are drawn earthward. Their interaction with electrons in nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere releases the energy creating the visible aurora. During periods of high activity, a single auroral storm can produce a trillion watts of electricity with a current of one million amps.

The Inuit (Eskimos) call the lights arsarnerit (‘to play with a ball’), as they were thought to be ancestors playing ball with a walrus skull. The Inuit also attach spiritual significance to the lights, and some believe that they represent the capering of unborn children; some consider them gifts from the dead to light the long polar nights and others see them as a storehouse of events, past and future. Norwegian folklore attributes the lights to old maids or dead maidens dancing and weaving. The lights were seen as a bad omen and a sign that God was angry, and people who mocked the superstition risked incurring the ire of God.

The best time of year to catch the northern lights in Norway is from October to March, although you may also see them as early as August. Oddly enough, Svalbard is actually too far north to catch the greatest activity.

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