The sun was reflecting off buildings along the Farsund harbor, painting the water in patterns of pink and gold that looked like shimmering silk. It was our last day in Norway, and Herb and I were off the ship early, heading out on an excursion to Lista and Lindesnes, lighthouses on the country’s southern coast.
Although my curiosity about lighthouses had been more than fulfilled last fall after spending the night at East Brother Light Station on San Francisco Bay, I became intrigued all over again when I read about this excursion. Both Lista and Lindesnes are working lighthouses that date to the 1800s and 1600s. And as an added bonus, Lindesnes sits on the southernmost point in mainland Norway, a full-circle voyage from the northernmost point at Nordkapp.
It’s about a 20-minute drive west of Farsund through verdant farmlands and rural communities to Lista Lighthouse. Perched on the cape of Listafjorden, Lista’s unpainted granite tower overlooks the North Sea. The area exudes the forlorn, windswept feeling that seems to accompany the terrain surrounding a lighthouse, be it San Francisco or the South Cape of Norway.
We were invited to explore the lighthouse and grounds on our own, opting to first check out the views from the top. The 112-foot-tall lighthouse was built in 1836 and rebuilt seventeen years later. A foghorn operated from 1877 to 1987. In 2003, the Lista Lighthouse became automated, and the buildings are now run by the county.
Before returning to the bus, we stepped inside the museum and small shop. I was hoping to discover something of interest, but I had to admit that the visit to Lista Lighthouse was “just okay.” There wasn’t much to see, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a destination unless you were passing through the area. Our guide on the bus was also “just okay.” After having two weeks of extraordinary places to explore and guides brimming with interesting commentary, Herb and I were disappointed – and a little concerned about what we would find at Lindesnes, a hour’s ride away.
However, any worries we’d had about the rest of our tour quickly disappeared as soon as we arrived at Lindesnes, and it turned out that this was a very different lighthouse experience. A friendly guide directed us to the theater in the Visitor Center, a contemporary window-lined structure built into the side of the rock below the lighthouse. We watched a short film about the challenging weather conditions the lighthouse faces and learned that in 2005 a wave crashed onto the rock, completely covering the keeper’s house.
Our Lindesnes guide pointed out various buildings on a projected map and talked about the history of the lighthouse. It’s the southernmost lighthouse on mainland Norway and the only lighthouse that still has a keeper. Originally built in 1656, it has been rebuilt and improved over the centuries. In 1894 it was fitted with a Fresnel lens, which is still used today. The current cast iron tower was built in 1915, and in 1933 the lighthouse welcomed its first visitors, which now number about 100,000 a year.
A Final Thought
Before leaving the Visitor Center to explore the lighthouse grounds, we were treated to coffee and homemade rhubarb cake set up on tables in an area next to the theater. I couldn’t help but smile. It may not have been waffles this time, but here was that same lovely gesture of Norwegian hospitality we’d experienced so often these past two weeks. It was a perfect moment on our last day in Norway, and it’s this culture of welcoming warmth and kindness that I will remember most of all when I think about this beautiful northern land.