Image source: Flickr - TravelingOtter
Long before most Europeans even dreamt of settling the New World, rugged seafarers battled the jagged waters of the Atlantic to set out for unknown lands. When they finally crashed upon the shore, the explorers dubbed their new discovery Vinland, and with it, became the forerunners of a long history of European expansion in North America.
This may sound like the beginning of a tall tale, but mere decades ago, archaeologists uncovered a cloak pin that would forever alter the history of North America. The site: L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, the gateway to Viking Vinland.
L'Anse aux Meadows is the definitive proof that the Icelandic sagas were not just works of fiction. From that single clothing artifact, the unique archaeological site has grown into an entire open-air museum showcasing the breadth of Viking culture and history in North America.
Wandering through the ruins at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site transports you to a bygone era of raiders, traders, and artisans. With a little imagination, it's not hard to envision yourself immersed in a bustling Norse village as you stroll among sod-covered longhouses and workshops. Be sure to snag a tour guide who can vividly recreate the history of Vinland and bring the old village to life.
If imagination doesn't cut it, from the main ruins it's just over a mile (2 kilometers) to Norstead, a recreated Viking seaport village. Although a little kitschy at times, Norstead is about as jazzed up as history gets without hopping into a DeLorean.
Touring Norstead is hardly your typical passive museum experience. Costumed actors retell tales of the Vinland Vikings while you walk through the mock village where residents go about their daily business as if the centuries hadn't past.
To unleash your inner Ericsson and glimpse into Norse seafaring life, hop onto "Snorri," a full-scale replica Viking ship that in 1998 bravely recreated the Vikings' first 1500-mile journey from Greenland to L'Anse aux Meadows.
Ever dreamt of battling your way to Valhalla or fancy yourself an ancient artisan? At Norstead, you'll get one step closer to both as you test your axe-throwing skills in the arena or learn long-lost arts from master potters, blacksmiths, and weavers while they perfect their skills before your eyes.
Without a car, getting to L'Anse aux Meadows can be a challenge. Sitting at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, the National Historic Site is 663 miles (1067 kilometers) from Newfoundland's capital of St. John's, 435 miles (700 kilometers) from the Newfoundland-Nova Scotia ferry crossing of Port-aux-Basques and 270 miles (434 kilometers) from Deer Lake, the closest town on the Trans-Canada Highway, along the Viking Trail (Route 430). The closest airport to L'Anse aux Meadows is in Saint Anthony, about 25 miles (40 kilometres) south. Have you evervisited a surprising historical site? Would you ever visit L'Anse aux Meadowsin Newfoundland? Tell us about it in the comments section below!