Norway is a country of many spectacular landscapes. From the gentle rolling green hills surrounding Oslo, to the harsh snowy tundra of the Arctic and the towering mountains, cut by deep dark fjords, it is a land of breathtaking contrasts and beauty. Even amongst such natural splendour, however, one region stands out. The Lofoten Islands lie deep within the Arctic Circle and offer a wild beauty that can best be described as humbling; their majestic mountains rising vertically out of an inky-blue sea, leaving room for only a threadlike shore. This is the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’, a place of dramatic landscapes, idyllic summers and abundant wildlife; a source of inspiration for many and the soul of northern Norway.
Jutting out from the mainland, the Lofoten archipelago extends westwards far out into the Atlantic Ocean and it is this unique location that attracts such a wealth of wildlife. The open sea, the influence of the Gulf Stream and the proximity of the continental shelf offer a rare opportunity to experience the atmosphere and the excitement of an Arctic whale-watch with a difference. We hope to witness the natural phenomenon of Sperm Whales gathering on the edge on the continental shelf, where the warmer Atlantic currents and cold Arctic waters merge to create rich feeding grounds for some of the largest creatures on the planet. On land we will explore the spectacular birdlife in one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine archipelagos — travelling on the quiet roads that snake around beautiful fjords and through some dramatic countryside, where breathtaking views present themselves at every corner.
Our 6-day holiday begins with a flight to Bodø via Oslo, from where we transfer by ferry to Moskenes on the southern tip of the Lofoten islands. The scenery here is magnificent: dominated by mountains whose peaks form a jagged ridge across the skyline and which trap a string of tiny fishing villages tight against the shore. Our time exploring this spectacular region will be split between two nights at Moskenes on the southern tip of the Lofoten archipelago, and three nights on the island of Andøya, on the northern Vesterlån Islands.
Moskenes is a spectacular region that has been sculpted over the millennia by glaciers and other elemental forces, creating one of the wildest and most fascinating places in Norway. The area is characterised by sheer-faced mountains and some of the oldest rocks in Europe: approximately 3 billion years old. Here, rising to an altitude of 1,029 metres, Mount Hermannsdalstind dominates the western Lofotens and is one of the highest mountains in the archipelago. We will also embrace the rich cultural heritage of the Lofotens and during our time in the south of the islands we will observe the processing of the area’s most important export, ‘Stockfish’ (air-dried cod). Naturally, we will also be making frequent stops for birdwatching en route as we explore the region, including a visit to the wetlands at Leknes. During our stay in Moskenes, we may expect to see such species as Red and Black-throated Divers, Willow Ptarmigan, Rough-legged Buzzard, Merlin, Goosander, Golden Plover, Curlew, Ruff, Redpoll and Brambling.
Next we move north to Andøya, and on one day we will travel to the picturesque fishing village of Andenes for a day’s whale-watching, the undoubted highlight of the tour. On our way out to the whales’ feeding grounds we will visit seal and seabird colonies, where we will look for Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Common and Black Guillemots and Arctic Skuas, as well as lots of comical Puffins; we’ll also keep a look-out for the majestic White-tailed Eagles which are frequently seen here. By spending a whole morning out at sea we hope to optimise our chances of seeing several different species of cetacean. Although Sperm Whale, the largest of the toothed whales, is the most frequently observed species, we will also look out for Minke, Humpback and Long-finned Pilot Whales, as well as White-beaked Dolphins, and the distinctive tall dorsal fins that signal a patrolling pod of Orcas. While Andøya is not strictly part of the Lofotens, it is one of the most productive regions for birds, having a diverse avifauna representative of a wide range of habitats that includes mountains, moorlands, bogs, lakes and woodlands.
The magnificent scenery, wealth of bird and marine-life together with fresh Arctic air will surely combine into a unique and unforgettable experience, but the greatest experience of all is, perhaps, just being in the Lofoten Islands themselves. While nothing in nature is guaranteed, one thing is certain on this tour: enduring memories of awe-inspiring landscapes quite unlike any other in Europe!