Lonely Planet Writer

Vacation like a Viking: best places to recreate epic TV series

The History Channel’s epic TV series ‘Vikings’ returns to screens tonight and the pan-European adventure follows the legendary hero Ragnar Lothbrok’s  rise to power and his driving need to explore (and pillage!) the world.

Ragnar and crew go for a jaunty stroll while on holidays.
Ragnar and crew go for a jaunty stroll while on holidays. Image by History Channel.

The result is plenty of action and politics set against a backdrop of brooding and dramatic landscapes. With excitement mounting for season four, here’s the lowdown on where to go to recreate your own Viking vacation.

Wicklow, Ireland

Lough Tay, Luggala, Co Wicklow.
Lough Tay, Luggala, Co Wicklow. Image by murielle29 / CC BY-SA 2.0

Almost all the filming takes place in the stunning Irish county of Wicklow. While the indoor shots are filmed in Ashford Studios, the crew make use of the picturesque scenery to transform Luggala into the fictional Norwegian village of Kattegat with just a touch of CGI.

Much of the cast have praised the location with actor George Blagden, who plays Saxon monk Athelstan, saying: “Every time we all go down there to film, we always just go ‘wow’.”

Rogaland, Norway

Jøssang, Rogaland.
Jøssang, Rogaland. Image by Dave Beazer/Lonely Planet

 There’s been much discussion amongst fans about where in Scandinavia the town of Kattegat is supposed to be based. While the story sometimes suggests Denmark, the dramatic mountain ranges place the town firmly in Norway, with the tie-in book confirming this.

Some outside shots were filmed in the western Norwegian region of Rogaland and with its stunning fjords and plunging cliffs, you can see why. A visit to Jøssang and Preikestolen will soon have you communing with Odin.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, England

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island.
Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island. Image by loufrances / CC BY 2.0

In 793, the Vikings invaded the isolated monastery on Lindisfarne, kicking off the Viking Age with a vicious bang. It also marks the start of one of the TV series’ main story arcs as the famous raid brings hero Ragnar Lothbrok to his soon-to-be-best-friend Athelstan.

The ruins of the monastery are still standing for visitors to explore and the island is as remote as ever; there’s only road to get to the island and it’s covered twice a day by the North Sea. Just try and restrain yourself from attacking the 16th century castle that stands there now.

But perhaps you fancy yourself more of an action hero and want to immerse yourself in Viking culture? There’s plenty of opportunities for you to do so but you will, naturally, need to turn your longboat towards the north.

Ribe, Denmark

Winter at the Ribe Vikingcenter.
Winter at the Ribe Vikingcenter. Image by Ribe Vikingcenter

In Denmark, the Ribe Vikingecenter offer visitors a chance to live the life of a Viking, for a short while at least. Visitors can visit master craftsmen and buy their wares in the market. The more domestically inclined can grind their own flour and bake bread or for warriors young and old there’s archery and warrior skills. The centre hosts the biggest Viking market in Denmark every May.

Established early in the Viking age, the town of Ribe itself holds the title of oldest town in Denmark with immaculately preserved buildings. The entire old town is protected and its fascinating history reveals what appears to be a peaceful co-existence between Christians and Vikings in the 9th century.

 Reykjavík, Iceland

The Sun Voyager, Reykjavík.
The Sun Voyager, Reykjavík. Image by Tijl Vercaemer

Today’s Icelandic language remains much the same as it did 800 years ago, largely down to a policy of ‘linguistic purism’, meaning scholars create new words for modern concepts using the existing language. The result is the closest you’ll get to speaking like a Viking.

The University of Iceland in Reykjavík offers 3 different courses from Icelandic basics to a full BA programme for those who’d like to learn it as a second language. If you’re not quite ready to make the move, they also offer an online course. Just be sure to make the trip eventually to explore the otherworldly landscape of a country bursting with Viking history and culture.

‘Vikings’ returns to the History Channel Thursday, 18 February at 10pm ET.

Feeling inspired? Check out:

Viking Denmark: following the footsteps of ancient explorers

The best Viking sites for travellers

Skol! Oslo experts recreate Viking beer from 1000 years ago