lanse aux meadows canadian vikings

This ancient Viking village in Canada predated Columbus by 500 years

The notorious, gruesome history of Viking explorers is often tied exclusively to Scandinavian nations (though, as the popular TV series Vikings aptly portrays, their excursions and resulting battles took place all over Europe).

Some Canadians may be surprised to find out, though, that our nation's history has been touched by the Norse — in fact, they had an entire settlement in the Maritimes. 

L'anse aux Meadows, near Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, was designated a national historic site in 1962 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Viking relics found in the area confirm it to be the sole Norse site in the continent, and the first location of any European presence in the Americas.

Visitors can explore the archeological remains and recreations of timber-and-sod buildings that existed on the land more than 1,000 years ago, as well as authentic renderings of what the Viking colony would have looked like.

There are also chances to take part in traditional Norse activities like weaving, yarn-spinning, blacksmithing, axe-throwing, pottery-making and storytelling in the area.

And, there are a number of reproductions of Viking tools and other artefacts to behold — even a replica Viking ship in the nearby port, Norstead, at which the Vikings were thought to have docked when they came from Greenland.

The historical site even has a newly-opened escape room called The Test of Tykir, in which guests need to use the information they've learned at L'Anse aux Meadows to crack a Viking puzzle.

There are also special events like movie nights and kid-focused activities to help guests learn about the history of the region and about the Norse in Canada.

With vast archeological and cultural significance, the gateway of L'Anse aux Meadows is a must-see for anyone planning a trip to Canada's east coast — it helps that the views (of the night sky in particular) are exceptional.

Lead photo by

Parks Canada

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This ancient Viking village in Canada predated Columbus by 500 years