Na­ture’s best in Nor­way

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Eleanor Steafel

IF YOU EVER find your­self on a boat in the mid­dle of the Vest­fjor­den – the body of wa­ter off the coast of north Nor­way, which at some point, vis­i­ble only to sea­far­ing folk, be­comes the Arc­tic Ocean – do not be alarmed when what looks like the crest of a tsunami seems to rise out of the wa­ter. If your des­ti­na­tion is the Lo­foten Is­lands, you are in ex­actly the right place.

From the main­land, Lo­foten appears like an enor­mous, im­pos­ing bank of cloud; up close, the is­lands re­sem­ble a wall of bar­ren-look­ing moun­tains. But this skinny ar­chi­pel­ago, which juts out of the coun­try’s north-west tip, is in fact the most ex­quis­ite, tran­quil strip of land, which teems with sea ea­gles, puffins and the odd surfer, and marks the thresh­old to the Arc­tic Cir­cle.

It’s worth tak­ing a week at least to visit Lo­foten, partly be­cause get­ting on and off the is­lands can be some­thing of an expedition. Fly to Bodø on the main­land (eas­i­est via Tromsø or Trond­heim), hire a car and drive north on the long, wind­ing ocean road to the sleepy vil­lage of Nord­skot. From there, you could hop on a boat straight over to Lo­foten, or stay a night at Man­shausen, a tiny pri­vate is­land in be­tween the two.

Leave your car at Man­shausen’s har­bour, where you’ll be picked up and taken over to the rocky north­ern side of the is­land. There, seven im­mac­u­late sea cab­ins hover over the wa­ter. Each one has an en­tirely glass front, so that from your bed all you can see is sea and sky.

In the evening, me­an­der over to the barn to en­joy a hearty din­ner made from in­gre­di­ents picked or caught on and around the is­land. Though it’s tempt­ing to head straight back to your cabin, you can’t pass up the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the true Scan­di­na­vian tri­fecta: ice dam, salt­wa­ter hot tub and wood-fired sauna. De­pend­ing on the time of year, you could find your­self (as we did in early Septem­ber) sit­ting in a hot tub while the North­ern Lights dance above you.

Af­ter a short stay at Man­shausen has made you ques­tion why you don’t up sticks and move to a re­mote Nor­we­gian is­land for ever, re­trieve your car and catch the ferry to Svolvaer.

For more than 1,000 years, the Lo­foten Is­lands have been the cen­tre of great cod fish­eries, as ev­ery year huge num­bers of fish mi­grate south from the Bar­ents Sea and gather around Lo­foten to spawn – much to the de­light of the or­cas and hump­backs that crowd the fjords in the win­ter.

Though many peo­ple choose to wild camp in the sum­mer (thanks to the right to roam law in Nor­way), a more com­fort­able op­tion might be a tra­di­tional fish­er­man’s cabin, like the ones at Eliassen Ror­buer, to the west of the ar­chi­pel­ago. From there, you can hire bikes, take long hikes to se­cluded coves, or hop on a sea-kayak­ing tour or a whale­watch­ing trip (though if you’re lucky, you may well catch sight of a tail from the shore).

It sounds like a dread­ful cliché to say it feels like the end of the earth up here. But when you are stand­ing on an empty beach that you have hiked for four hours to reach, in or­der to catch the sun­set, know­ing the next body of land that lies ahead con­tains more po­lar bears than hu­man be­ings, it truly does feel that way. Get­ting here isn’t easy, but it’s even harder to drag your­self away.

A view to re­mem­ber from the sea cab­ins at Man­shausen 1. MAN­SHAUSEN From £335 per night for two, Septem­ber to June. (man­

2. ELIASSEN ROR­BUER From £117 per night for a cabin for two (cool­

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