With its sparkling Northern Lights, dramatic fjords, and glaciers spilling down to the sea, it’s no surprise that Lofoten, Norway is an outdoor-lover’s paradise. You can do most every kind of adventure here, from hiking to biking to kayaking in the summer to skiing and dogsledding in the winter.
Norway has done a fantastic job of preserving its natural treasures. The country has a whopping 44 national parks, placing roughly a fifth of all of Norway’s land within a national park boundary. Celebrated as a leader in environmental initiatives, Norway harnesses all of its power from renewable resources and recycles nearly two-thirds of its waste. By 2025, they’re striving to sell only electric cars.
The Lofoten Islands
The national parks aren’t the only place to experience the beauty of Norway, however. On the Lofoten Islands, where Ryder-Walker’s trip is based, craggy peaks plunge to the sea and charming fishing villages dot the shoreline. One of the best examples of this is Hennigsvaer, which is the first destination on this hiking tour. Nicknamed the “Venice of Lofoten,” this brightly colored town has fabulous places to sea-kayak right along its shoreline. Another example of local beauty is Nusfjord, the second stop on the trip. This tiny coastal town (population, 50) has been made famous by the technicolor photographs and paintings of its harbor and its fire-engine red houses and buildings.
Hiking the Islands of Lofoten
After checking in Svolvær, the trip will travel to Nusfjord, one of the prettiest fishing villages in Lofoten. You will spend two days doing beautiful hikes in the region. From there, it’s on to Nesland. Nesland is a deserted village that features incomparable views of the sea as you travel along its coastal trails. After a short transfer to Ytresand, you’ll hike up to a stunning mountain plateau with vast views across the Atlantic. You will then descent to a secluded beach for a picnic lunch. In the morning, after a short transfer by boat to Kjerkefjorden, you’ll hike over a small saddle to the stunning and vast beach of Horseidvika. Depending on weather conditions, you’ll continue over another saddle to a set of hidden fjords.
The final few days are some of the best as you’ll summit a number of peaks with gorgeous views of the ocean, before descending to a delightful beach in Hell for a celebratory dip in the sea. Throughout this trip, you’ll stay in refurbished nineteenth century seaside cottages and charming inns.
A hallmark in many Norwegian towns is the Stave church. Looking like something out of a children’s storybook, these fanciful wooden churches are some of the oldest, surviving wooden buildings on earth (with a little bit of bonus restoration). They were originally built during the Viking era. They’re decorated with the same carved designs and dragon-head gables. You would likely find these on the prow of a Viking ship.
Norway’s abundant natural beauty make it a haven for wildlife. Musk oxen, elk, arctic foxes, and reindeer populate large portions of Norway’s sub-arctic tundra and woodlands. In the arctic zones, polar bears (yes, polar bears!) roam the ice around Svalbard, while walruses dot the shorelines. Its icy waters are populated with seals and sperm whales alike.
Norway’s prolific birdlife make it a popular spot with ornithologists. Over 473 species has been documented here, mostly along the coast. The most common birds include puffins, terns, gannets, and razorbills.
Meat and potatoes are the standard bill of fare in Norway. Not surprisingly, its seafood is excellent, with salmon, trout, cod, and shrimp rising to the top of the list. Reindeer is the preferred meat for a celebration. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Sami wedding (one of the longest surviving indigenous groups in the country), you’ll invariably be served bidos, a kind of reindeer stew. Wild fruit is also common in the summer, with blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and currants crowding roadsides. A specialty is the cloudberry, which is served as a jam over ice cream.
Henrik Ibsen, a playwright who is credited with being the “Father of Modernist Drama,” is one of Norway’s best-known artists. The author of plays such as “A Doll’s House,” “Hedda Gabler,” and “Peer Gynt,” wrote about both women’s empowerment and the modern condition with surprising dexterity.
There’s a certain quality of light in the Arctic, one that has inspired artists for centuries. One of the most prominent painters is Edvard Munch. A hundred years after it was painted, his world-renowned “Scream” makes a comment on life today, .
In the music world, Norway still celebrates its traditional folk and Sami music. Jazz is immensely popular, with festivals held year-round.
Norway’s Viking history set the stage for its love affair with the sea today. Armed with metal tools and axes left by the Roman Empire in its wake, Vikings built ships strong enough to dominate European and Middle Eastern coastlines for two centuries. Fearless navigators and conquerors, they captured cities as close as those in Britain and as far as Baghdad. Others at last caught up to their ship technology and the Vikings declined, Norway was subsumed first by England with Sweden following. It would be close to a thousand years later that it would regain its independence.
Unfortunately, only a century later, both World Wars ripped through the country. The second war’s bombs destroying much of Norway’s cities. Down and out, Norway was struggling to rebuild its economy. Oil was discovered up north, propelling it into the wealthy nation it is today. As of 2016, the Ekofisk, located on the North Sea, is the 15th largest producing oilfield in the world.
Norway’s Stave churches and history of the arts, its natural beauty and charming fishing villages, its National Parks and its abundant wildlife make it a natural choice for travelers who love the outdoors. Indeed, its network of over 20,000 kilometers of trails, combined with its spectacular coastline and nearly 18 hours of sunlight in the summer, ensure it as a top spot on the list of spectacular Ryder-Walker hiking trips.