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Surfers have fun here in the four-degree cold water

In 2007, the Lofoten Islands got a shore connection: the archipelago in the Norwegian Sea was connected to the Norwegian mainland by tunneling and bridging.

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Surfers have fun here in the four-degree cold water

In 2007, the Lofoten Islands got a shore connection: the archipelago in the Norwegian Sea was connected to the Norwegian mainland by tunneling and bridging. Since then, the number of travelers arriving in campers and exploring the entire archipelago has been increasing year by year - a 160-kilometer panoramic road connects the seven largest of the 80 or so islands. In the year before the pandemic, Lofoten had one million visitors.

The flow of tourists dies down in autumn, but it doesn't come to a standstill in winter either. The Hurtigruten ships take care of that. Since 1893 they have been plying the coast, which remains ice-free because of the Gulf Stream.

Travelers can stop at 34 ports, including the Lofoten town of Svolvær. Like the other island towns, it lives mainly from fishing, which also stimulates tourism. Fisherman's huts have become rustic accommodations, warehouses have become fish restaurants and cutter captains have become guides for whale watching tours.

Animal watching, hiking, kayaking - from May to July, the midnight sun allows active holidays around the clock. At the end of November, the polar night plunges Lofoten into darkness for two months, while the northern lights dance in the sky. The shipping company Hurtigruten even gives its guests a Northern Lights promise: If there is no light on an eleven-day trip between September 26th and March 31st, a second trip is free.

The wetsuit worn by the Unstad surfers is six millimeters thick. A hood, gloves and boots are also essential in the four-degree cold water; if it's around eleven degrees in summer, four millimeters are enough to protect you from the cold.

In general, surfing on the Lofoten has only been possible since there were wetsuits. In 2003 the first surf shop opened in Unstad, in 2007 the Lofoten Masters started there; they now take place every year in September, when the waves are at their highest.

What the surfers also appreciate: there are no dangerous sharks, only orcas play in the bay. And they leave people alone, assure the beach boys from the Unstad Arctic Surf Camp, the world's northernmost surf school on the 68th parallel.

Whether in the glow of the midnight sun or on dark polar nights - Reine delivers iconic images at any time of the year and is considered the most photographed fishing port in Lofoten. The 1000-inhabitant town has everything that the island world stands for in abundance: deep blue fjords, red fishing huts and with the Reinebringen also a mighty, 442 meter towering local mountain.

Four years ago, Nepalese Sherpas cut 1,600 steps into the rock below the summit. Standing on the edge of the vertical rock face, you have a wide view of the water world garnished with jagged mountain peaks, as if from an airplane.

However, on cold, wet days or when it snows, the ascent is a risk. Then visitors should better take pictures with camera drones (since a new regulation in 2021, these may fly up to 120 meters high in Lofoten) or record the scenery from the water. Kayaking on Reinefjorden is also possible in winter – with special equipment and a guide.

"Excuse me, King! Can I give you a cormorant?” With this sentence, Hans Gjertsen wrote tourism history in Lofoten. The audacity of the blacksmith from Sund, who in 1963 at the inauguration of the Lofoten Road (today's E 10) called out so loudly from the crowd for King Olav V that he let him in, delighted the people of Norway.

And many also wanted a forged "King's Cormorant" like the one Gjersten had presented to the monarch. The idea made Gjersten famous - and Sund the first tourist attraction. The fact that the stream of visitors continues after Gjertsen's death in 2006 is thanks to his nephew, who also knows how to create shows.

83 meters long, nine meters wide and just as high – with these dimensions, the Viking house on the Lofoten island of Vestvågøy is the largest known Norse building. Up to 50 people lived in the ninth-century nave. Excavations at the former Borg settlement in 1983 unearthed the remains of buildings.

Based on the finds, a replica with a deep roof and windowless walls was reconstructed as an open-air museum. Furnishings, kitchen and handicraft tools complete the authentic scenery in which Viking actors carve, forge, weave and cook in front of visitors.

"The kitchen is a playroom for me"

So says Roy Magne Berglund, a renowned Norwegian seafood chef. At his tiny Lofoten Food Studio in Ballstad, he experiments with what the islands have to offer. His unusual creations include monkfish with rosehip, king crab in leek oil, halibut on seaweed. Every evening he cooks a multi-course tasting menu with changing products in front of just twelve guests, so that nobody knows in advance what exactly awaits them.

Bizarre, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

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