If you're looking to retreat from the world, we can't think of a more hauntingly beautiful place than Norway's Lofoten Islands. These spectacular islands lie 600 mi/965 km from Oslo off the northern coast, near the stunning Trollfjord. Bird-watchers and anglers will think they've found paradise. The islands are surrounded by the richest fishing waters off the coast of Norway, and fishing has formed the focus of village life.
Vestvagoy Island and the beautiful town of Stamsund are a good base for hiking and biking, and the town of Svolvaer on Austvagoy Island has an artists' colony (if time permits, visit the Lofoten Island Museum in nearby Kabelvag).
In the village of A (yes, that's its entire name; pronounced awwww), the Fishing Village Museum re-creates the traditional life of the region. Orca, minke and sperm whales pass near the islands in summer. A popular option for visitors is renting a rorbu, a renovated fisherman's cabin that sleeps four to six people. Be aware that Lofoten is hardly undiscovered—in July and August, the islands are so crowded with tourists that you may not meet any Norwegians there.
Trollfjord is a dramatic sight on the fourth day of the coastal-steamer trip. Only about a mile/kilometer long, this fjord has a breathtaking approach: The coastal steamer squeezes into a strait between two islands as mountains tower hundreds of feet above the ship; then the ship turns, and just as it seems it will crash into one of the islands, the narrowest possible waterway appears, and there's the fjord. The huge mountains seem almost within reach from the deck of the ship, and a half-dozen waterfalls spray down from both sides—it's absolutely spectacular. http://www.lofoten-info.no.
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