A Long Wander on Norway's Lofoten Islands
Lonely hiking in the 24 hour daylight of the Arctic Circle
I’m not sure if Norway is a hiking destination. I know that people visit the Lofoten Islands archipelago to hike and climb mountains, but I question if they do so where I recently found myself, in Unstad. Unstad is barely a town of a dozen or so houses and is known as a surfing beach. The problem I encountered was that there were no waves during my visit—at all. None. The beach looked like a lakeshore, and with that, there were no other surfers there to at least commiserate with. Aside from the handful of locals in Unstad, the place was empty. And without waves, there was nothing to do. So, with a few days of 24 hour daylight to burn before leaving the islands and in an effort to fend off cabin fever, I decided to do some hiking.
I am not a hiker. I don’t own hiking boots and have little-to-no experience in navigating trails. That being said, I’m relatively fit, and was quite bored and up for a challenge, so I decided to take to the hills.
I am not a hiker. But I’m relatively fit, quite bored and up for a challenge.
The Lofoten Islands are a long and slender chain of dramatic peaks, looming above the ocean’s surface and extending into the North Atlantic. As a cod-fishing haven that’s been inhabited for thousands of years (by Vikings!), it still feels like almost nobody lives there. Tundra grass covers the dark granites, giving the mountains an ominous feeling of solitude. I hiked up and down a bunch of peaks that run along the coastline. The changes in elevation weren’t substantial, but enough to transition from lush green valleys to snow-covered ridgelines. I talked to myself a lot, seeing nobody else—save for the locals in the valleys, stringing cod heads to wooden racks, to hang-dry in the endless sun.
By the time I left Lofoten, there were still no waves, but I had a newfound respect for and interest in hiking—man vs. mountain, if you will. Once home in New York, I even decided to have a look around for some proper hiking boots and start researching some trails. Because when you find yourself in a place where there’s nothing to do, you can always go for a hike.