Manshausen, Norway

Photo: Manshausen
Photo: Manshausen

It happens every winter. One minute you’re complaining about the shorter days and the end of the warm weather. The next, you’re trying to plan a trip to an even colder, darker place. It’s all because of the northern lights. As soon as you hear that colorful streaks are filling the sky, you instantly forget how much you dreaded the change of the seasons. This year, you aren’t even waiting for winter.

The aurora borealis are a magical and mystifying event. Technically they occur when electrons collide with Earth’s upper atmosphere. But there’s no true rhyme or reason for their appearance. Sure, it must be dark—the darker the better—and the sky must be clear of clouds. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess as to when they’ll be spotted. Manshausen is the perfect place to wait for them, though.

Manshausen is an island and a small lodge off the west coast of Nordland in Northern Norway. It sits above the Arctic Circle, among the Steigen archipelago, and in between mountains and the Barents Sea. The island was once an important trading post for fishermen. A home from the 1800s was turned into the lodge’s main house. You wouldn’t guess its age, though. The interior, with an open kitchen and a second-floor library, is completely modern. While its four cabins—three on an old stone jetty and one higher on a natural ledge—keep winning design awards.

Photo: Manshausen
Photo: Manshausen

Manshausen is remote, to say the least. From Bodø, the capital of Nordland, it’s an hour-and-a-half ferry or a three-and-a-half-hour car ride to Nordskot. The coastal town has a regional museum, a small supermarket, and a single bar that’s only open on the weekends during the summer. There’s also a marina, where a boat from Manshausen will pick you up. Then it’s a quick trip to the island and a first glimpse at its beautiful surroundings.

With only about five hours of sunshine each day right now, you don’t have much time to explore. So you can start hiking, rock climbing, and caving on nearby islands tomorrow. Water activities—like sea kayaking, snorkeling, and even fishing—can wait, too. You want to see the beach first. On the north side of the island, there’s a beach whose sand is pure white due to the coral reefs that lie off the West Fjords. If it weren’t for the chilly wind and the snow-capped mountains in the background, the island wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Mediterranean.

You stay on the beach until after the sun sets . . . at 2:30 in the afternoon. You now have plenty of time to warm up with a cup of coffee, unpack, and eat perfectly cooked cod for dinner before watching the moon rise from your cabin’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Then it’s a waiting game. Fingers crossed that green streaks keep you up late tonight.

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