Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

I recently went to Denmark, my fourth Nordic country, and it’s made me all nostalgic for my other three Nordic adventures… and they really were adventures! 


My first adventure to a Nordic country was Norway in August 2010. It was the summer before I went to university and I spent most of the trip wearing my bright red school-leavers hoodie, displaying the CLASS OF 2010 names for all of a remote Norwegian island to see.

Naturally, all of these words will be based on my memory of events from nearly eight (what the…) years ago but there will still be a big collection of photos. I was just as snap happy at the age of 18 as I am now, although camera quality has definitely improved since then.

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

It took us 3 different flights to get to our first destination of the trip, the final plane being a tiny thing with propellers. The locals on the plane were wearing waterproofs and woolly hats making me reassess my choice of converse and jacket.

We’d arrived on the Lofoten Islands; known for fishing, connections to the Viking age and stunning scenery.

I think the first thing that struck me when we came out of the teeny tiny ‘airport’ (basically a shed), apart from those dramatic mountain peaks of course, was the colour. Glittering turquoise water, bright orange seaweed, pristine white beaches and deep, comforting greens. Even when the clouds hung low, those colours were still distinctive; although when the sun shone, they were absolutely glorious.

It was easy to forget we were within the arctic circle when the sun came to say hello but a cloudy day was equally as beautiful, creating an air of mystic about the place; I was fascinated with the way the clouds rolled low over the mountain tops.

We stayed in Svolvær, a small town and fishing harbour and in many ways the capital of the region. It was full of burgundy and white cabins, precariously balanced on stilts over the water. We’d hired a little white cabin on the water’s edge in the harbour area. I particularly remember looking out the bedroom window at the view of mountains and sea, as well as walking along the harbour on our first night. There were so many fish-drying racks, like the skeleton structure of buildings. There were no fish on them whilst we were there but we heard how thousands of fish would be hauled in from the sea and hung out to dry on them. Right at the end of the harbour was the statue of the Fisherman’s wife, waiting for her husband’s safe return from the sea.

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

There was no darkness in the entire time we were there, it was the first time I’d ever been in a restaurant with ‘whale’ and ‘reindeer’ on the menu and I’d never seen mountains like the ones I was surrounded by. It truly was an adventure – ‘close your eyes and hope for the best’ was our motto for the four days we spent on the islands.

I remember the ice bar, full of ice tunnels and sculptures, and drinking a (blue?) drink out of an ice glass. I remember the mini Viking festival with Viking boats, fire juggling and market stalls. I remember the village of Henningsvær, dubbed the ‘Venice of the Lofotens’ (‘they bigged that up’ – direct quote from my dad). I remember the beaches that looked like they would fit right in the Mediterranean.

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

A highlight of the trip was definitely our fjords boat trip. We geared up (I seem to spend a lot of my trips to Nordic countries wearing puffy boiler suits) and hopped (cough stumbled/wobbled) onto a speed boat. We then bounced on the water, weaving through the fjords at high speed. I honestly have no recollection as to what the guide was telling us, but I was stunned by the scenery; the pockets of snow dotted along the mountains, the tiny inaccessible beaches, the waterfalls cascading down the rock faces, the snake-like path of water curving in front of us. It was breath-taking.

The darker side to our adventure was driving across a bridge one evening and finding a young woman on the wrong side of the barrier, ready to jump into the water a long, long distance below. Thankfully, between my dad talking to her and a police woman intervening, she came back over to the safe side of the barrier but the image of her stood there is not something I will ever forget; it made me wonder what the realities of living in such a remote location are.

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo
Taken at midnight

After Lofoten, we flew to Oslo for our final two days. My memories of Oslo are much vaguer; I think because the Lofotens were such a unique experience. My diaries describe Oslo as central London, a seaside town and a French village all in one. Make of that what you will.

I do remember coming out of Oslo station and seeing a man injecting heroin. Needle, vein, everything. I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto. 

A slightly odd introduction to a city we otherwise enjoyed. My overwhelming memory is that of the opera house. I adored that building. It had gentle slopes, appearing to rise from the water and stretching all around the roof, giving you the opportunity to walk all over the building and take in the amazing 360-degree views. Inside, the lobby was made up of 15m high glass windows with timber ramps wrapping around the auditorium in the heart of the building. The sun beaming through the windows created lots of little rainbows dancing on the marble floor.

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

I also remember the genuine bemusement at seeing the sky get dark after being in continuous daylight for four days. I remember the Vigeland sculpture park; more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland and the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. And I remember some kind of festival on the waterfront; music and dancing against a back drop of the sea and mountains.

Fun fact: the novel that I have been writing on and off since I was 18 was profoundly influenced by my six-day trip to Norway; so in a way I have been writing about this place ever since.

Norway was my first introduction to the Nordic countries and it kick-started a dear love for them.

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

Norway: The Lofoten Islands & Oslo

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