Leknes (Lofoten), Norway

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The fishing life used to be harsh and brutal on Norway’s wind-whipped Lofoten archipelago. Boats would head out from the town of Leknes in search of cod and risk never returning, but today visitors follow a well-paved road that skirts small farms below craggy, snowcapped peaks and twists around bogs and lakes and over precipitous bridges that link one rocky islet after another. In summer, fish hang on wooden drying racks at every turn.  With its airport and cruise terminal, Leknes, on Vestvågøya in the middle of the archipelago, is the gateway to a series of sheltered fishing hamlets with traditional houses perched on the rocky seafront. Just minutes down the road at the tip of the island, Skottinden is a 671-meter-high (2,200-foot) sort of mini-Matterhorn—an iconic landmark that sets the tone for countless peaks to come. With their art galleries and cafés, Henningsvær and larger Svolvær are two destinations from which Zodiacs launch to get visitors closer to orcas and sea eagles. Surprisingly for such a rugged realm, even beachcombers will find places to enjoy here: The coastal temperatures are remarkably mild despite the location north of the Arctic Circle.
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