Swimming in Arctic Norway

The dramatic cliffs and remote fishing villages of the Lofoten Islands provide the backdrop for an unforgettable and unique swimming holiday.

For those looking for a challenge with serious bragging rights - taking a trip to swim around a few of the islands in the Arctic Circle should do the trick. Open-water swimming enthusiast Alice Todd describes what's on offer.

For something completely different, how about a week spent swimming in the seas around the stunning Lofoten Islands in Norway? This is a place of postcard-perfect fishing villages nestled in deep green fjords, mountains thrusting high above the sea, all illuminated by round-the-clock daylight in the summer months. The sea isn't particularly cold, either!
 
Setting out from Svolvaer harbour

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The Lofoten islands are undoubtedly one of the world’s most spectacular archipelagos, a chain of mountainous outposts off the Arctic coast of Norway, their jagged cliffs rising sheer from the foaming seas. Although situated within the Arctic Circle, temperatures are not as numbing as you might expect. The sea surface ranges from 11 to 15°C due to the effects of the Gulf Stream, creating a challenging but accessible environment for some unique swim courses.

Off the coast of Lyngvaeret Island

Renowned for an abundance of wildlife, including sea eagles, puffins, otters, seals and whales - these far-flung islands are ideal for anyone looking for a challenging but truly inspiring week of swimming. Lofoten's underwater world is fascinating: floating above glossy, peaceful kelp will undoubtedly make you feel at one with nature - and with the sun on the water, it's easy to fall in love with the landscape as you swim amongst shoals of fish.

On an organised trip lasting one week, most swimmers can expect to complete approximately 5km of swimming per day. Swims are usually split into two sessions, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, providing the group with the opportunity to spend some time with their head above water, too. A week's swimming is excellent training for a triathlon, or for general fitness gain.

Lofoten is reached by air, and the best aiport to fly into is Svolvaer (via Oslo and Bodø). The town is located on Austvågøya, the largest and closest island to the mainland, and its picturesque harbour the most popular point for open-water swims; typically these will involve crossing the channel to Kabelvåg (5km), with its handsome wooden church.

NB: Open-water swimming can be a dangerous activity and should not be undertaken alone. Companies such as Coningham-rolls.com offer fully guided swim tours complete with RIB / boat escort and qualified swim guides.

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

1. Stay in a traditional Norwegian cabin at Kalle

A visit to the Lofotens would not be complete without a stay in a traditional fisherman's cabin. Set in picturesque surroundings by a sea inlet, the small harbour fishery of Kalle (a few km along the coast from Svolvaer) provides an excellent swimming base.

2. Swim from Svolvaer Harbour to Kabelvåg Harbour (5km)

This is a fantastic day's swimming - a memorable introduction to the great natural beauty of Norway and allows swimmers to really soak up Svolvaer’s dramatic coastline.

3. Swim to uninhabited islands and inlets around Lyngværet (2½ Km)

Starting from the sheltered eastern side of Lyngværet Island, this is an other-worldly swim around a myriad of small-uninhabited islands in crystal clear shallow waters (often only 15m deep).

4. Swim from Grundstadvelen to Kleivan Harbour (6.5km)

Starting off by the bridge to Grundstadvelen and swimming with the tide, this swim will take you through Lofoten's wonderful rocky outcrops and small islands out into the Norwegian Sea. This open section of the swim allows you stunning, panoramic views of the landscape, finally passing Rødholmen Island and reaching Sineset Bay. A short coastal swim then takes you back to the sandy beach in Kleivan Harbour on the northern coast of Vestvagøy Island.

5. Experience Lofoten's fish restaurants

With over 1,000 years of history, the islands are inextricably linked to the vast quantities of winter cod that migrate from the Barents Sea to spawn. When visiting any local town, you will often see the racked cod and stockfish on large A-frames that dry in the sun. Consequently there are some excellent local fish restaurants which provide a wonderfully well deserved feast for hungry swimmers!

WHEN TO VISIT

Best times to go:

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Swimming tours operate in June, July and August, when the sea temperature is between 11 and 15°C and therefore accessible to swimmers. From May 25 until around mid-July, the sun remains constantly above the horizon (midnight sun).


 

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