The Insider’s Guide to Norway’s Quite Possibly Actually Magical Lofoten Islands

Rent a car and wind through this far-flung archipelago's picturesque roads

lofoten
The islands where cod is king.Michelle Heimerman

Best Watering Hole

In the charming village of Henningsvær, the Climbers Café is the after-hours spot for local rock climbers. Stop in to drink a beer with an adventurous cross-section of travelers and scaling legends. nordnorskklatreskole.no/climbers-cafe

Stash This in Your Suitcase

At Engelskmannsbrygga, a one-time cod liver oil factory in Henningsvær, Cecilie Haaland has been making ceramics for 20 years. Many pieces feature images imprinted from fish she has caught herself. Take home a rough-hewn mug or a fish-tail emblazoned vase. engelskmannsbrygga.no

Off-Road Adventure

A rare and wild fruit, cloudberries are near impossible to cultivate commercially. Ask locals where to find this soft, yellow, raspberry-like beauty, but beware: Some foragers are territorial about their cloudberry patches.

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The Lofoten islandsSaveur

Best Road Food

In Sakrisøy, a miniscule town, Anita's Sjømat sells fried cod sandwiches topped with shrimp or salmon. This roadside stand doubles as a gourmet general store stocked with local chocolates and cheeses, cod paté, and stockfish jerky. sakrisoy.no/sjomat

Where to Lay Your Weary Head

There is no shortage of lodging in Lofoten, where every town is outfitted with rorbuer, or fishermen's cabins. One of the most charming, Sakrisøy Rorbuer, is outfitted with wood-burning ovens and original log walls still patterned with carvings and graffiti from seafaring residents past. sakrisoyrorbuer.no

Where to Socialize

A self-declared "social shelter," Trevarefabrikken is a creative center where like-minded travelers and locals can sleep, work, eat, and hang out in a revamped cod liver oil warehouse. lofotenislands.no

The New Norwegian

Fiskekrogen, an ambitious restaurant in Henningsvær, is headed by chef Johan Petrini, and serves a mix of updated classics (fish soup and cod tongues) and refined new Norwegian (whale carpaccio and perfectly grilled lamb). Stop into its new bar, Nord, next door for waterfront cocktails. fiskekrogen.no

Set Your Watch By…

The light. Because it's so far north, Lofoten experiences wild fluctuations in solar exposure. Visit in June for midnight sun, in December for nearly 24 hours of darkness, and all winter for eerie, indigo afternoon twilight plus dramatic displays of the aurora borealis.