Reine, Norway

Photo: Sakrisøy Rorbuer AS
Photo: Sakrisøy Rorbuer AS

You’re off to Norway to fulfill a promise. A few years ago, you traveled above the Arctic Circle for the first time. Under the midnight sun, you explored the cool city of Tromsø, drove around beautiful fjords, hiked mountains for amazing views of islands dotting the Norwegian Sea, and kayaked by small fishing villages. Before leaving, you promised yourself you’d return during the winter to see the Northern Lights one day. That day has arrived.

To see—or at least try to see—the Northern Lights, head to Lofoten. Though south of where you visited last time, the string of islands still sits above the Arctic Circle. Moskenesøya, at the southern end of the archipelago, is full of glaciated hills. Small villages lie on the east side of the island; west coast settlements were abandoned after severe storms. One of those villages, Reine, is home to rorbuer cabins that have been turned into guesthouses.

Reine, an old fishing village, sits in a tranquil sapphire lagoon. It’s home to the wooden Reine Church from 1890 and a toy museum featuring dolls collected all over Norway. Ochre-colored timber cabins stand side by side on poles. For centuries, fishermen baited their long lines, mended their nets, and cooked fish in the small cabins. A group of them were transformed into Sakrisøy Rorbuer.

Photo: Sakrisøy Rorbuer AS
Photo: Sakrisøy Rorbuer AS

You’re staying in Berøybua, one of the small cabins, near the floating landing station. Inside, you find a kitchenette and a log railing leading to a loft bedroom. Traditional food, including salmon and warm waffles, are served at Underhuset. Wooden tables, mismatched chairs, and strong beams fill the interior of the restaurant; picnic tables offer outdoor seating when it’s warmish. Bikes, boats, kayaks, and fishing gear are available to rent during the summer months. Hiking trails, beaches, and caves filled with Stone Age paintings are nearby. But right now, the focus is on the dark sky.

It’s been dark for much of the day in Reine. This time of year, there are only about four-and-a-half hours of daylight each day. That number will continue to decrease as the polar night—almost a full month of complete darkness—approaches. During the few hours of daylight, hike Reinebringen for stunning views of the hotel, the island, and the surrounding islets. Walk along Bunes Beach, where, if not for the close-to-freezing temperatures, you would think you were in the Caribbean. Bike along the winding coastal roads for breathtaking views of jagged peaks, deep fjords, and the open ocean. Stop at Coop Marked to stock up on snacks. Then return to Sakrisøy Rorbuer and wait for the sky to clear.

The clouds finally part on your third night on the island. First, a faint glow appears in the distance. You grab binoculars and try not to get your hopes up. Green lines start to streak over the mountains. They dance in ribbon-like patterns. Soon, you don’t even need the binoculars. Green swirls are circling above you. They give the lagoon a florescent glare. They’re joined by red and pink lines that look like lasers, as well. For the next few hours, you’re enraptured. This natural phenomenon is more captivating than any movie or performance you’ve ever seen. Good thing you keep your promises.

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