Situated in a windswept corner of the Canadian island of Newfoundland, L'Anse aux Meadows is the only recognized Viking location in North America and a truly stunning destination. 

Since its discovery in 1960, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has provided unparalleled insight into the adventures of Leif Erikson and his fellow Norsemen far beyond the confines of their known world. 

L'Anse aux Meadows provides conclusive proof that the Vikings made it to America nearly five centuries before Columbus

It also marks the point when, after first setting out from Africa some 50,000 years ago, the full circle of human migration was finally completed, making it arguably one of the most intriguing and evocative archeological sites on the planet. 

In 1960, the find of remains resembling Norse buildings at L'Anse aux Meadows revolutionized our understanding of Viking presence in North America, aligning with early 11th-century dates from the Vinland Sagas. Photo: Russ Heinl / Shutterstock

What exactly is it? 

L'Anse aux Meadows is a major archeological site and tourist attraction that presents the site of North America's only known Viking camp. Today, the site contains reconstructed dwellings and a visitor center that narrates the story of the Norse expedition. 

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1968 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. Photo: Russ Heinl / Shutterstock

What can you tell me about its history? 

Ever since the Icelandic Sagas narrated tales of epic voyages to Vinland – a quasi-mythical place beyond Greenland – it had long been suspected that the Vikings had once made it to the shores of North America. 

Conclusive physical evidence, however, was thin on the ground. 

That all changed in 1960, however, when a Norwegian couple, archeologist Anne Stine Ingstad and explorer Helge Ingstad, discovered what appeared to be the remains of Norse-style buildings. 

A series of archeological excavations and more recent carbon dating testing have confirmed that the site was settled by Vikings sometime in the early 11th century. 

This date coincides with the stories told in the Vinland Sagas: The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders

Experts believe that the camp at L'Anse aux Meadows functioned as a gateway to the new world – a secure base from which the Norse could make further expeditions. 

The original party, believed to have been led by Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, first departed from the Norse colony in Greenland to seek out a rumored land to the west that had been sighted by the merchant Bjarni Herjólfsson when lost at sea. 

The archeological and historical evidence suggests that the Norse would make a series of forays to explore the surrounding areas over the next few years, potentially reaching as far as New Brunswick and maybe even New England. 

Of course, the Vikings were not the first to inhabit Newfoundland, and the sagas report that they soon encountered local people – possibly the ancestors of the later Beothuk, an indigenous tribe. 

Though the two parties initially enjoyed friendly relations and were happy to trade, things soon turned hostile – possibly hastening the departure of the would-be colonists. 

Despite the unfortunate conclusion, this marked the first time that a group whose ancestors had migrated eastwards from Africa had met those who had traveled west. 

Ultimately, as the former director of the site Birgitta Wallace argues, the Viking population of Greenland was simply not large enough to support this additional colony. 

With little support, outnumbered, and intimidated by the local population, the Vikings appear to have abandoned their settlement and returned to Greenland. 

In all likelihood, they never fully comprehended the enormity of their achievements. 

This model, which can be found on the site, offers a detailed representation of the original structures in the settlement, including living spaces, workshops, and a forge. Photo: Torbenbrinker (CC BY-SA 3.0)

What will I find here? 

Today, the site at L'Anse aux Meadows contains recreated timber-framed turf structures based on the initial archeological findings. 

The original structures were built in the same style as those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland from the same period and consisted of three dwellings, a forge, and four workshops. 

Visitors will also find a visitor center that contains several exhibits detailing Norse culture and the scope of Viking activity in North America, as well as a film about the history of the settlement. 

Guided tours are also available (via the Parks Canada website), as well as demonstrations of Norse forge work, Viking storytelling, and even an escape room. 

Just a mile and a half from L'Anse aux Meadow is Norstead, a recreated Viking village and trading port. At Norstead, visitors can enjoy traditional Norse games, axe throwing, and pottery lessons. 

The site also contains Snorri, a 54-foot-long (around 16 meters) replica of the kind of Viking ship believed to have been used by the Norse adventurers. 

Nearby, visitors can explore Norstead, a recreated Viking village and trading port, where engaging in traditional Norse games, mastering axe throwing, and learning pottery crafts offer a hands-on journey into the past. Photo: Erik Mclean / Pexels

Tell me one thing I can find here and nowhere else in the world 

The chance to tread in the footsteps of the first-ever Europeans to set foot on the North American continent 500 years before Christopher Columbus. 

How much does it cost, and how do I get there? 

Address: L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, P.O. Box 70, St. Lunaire-Griquet NL A0K 2X0, Canada.
Admission: CAD 13.25 for adults, CAD 11.25 for seniors, free for children aged 17 and under.
Open: From June 1 to October 4, every day from 9 am to 5 pm.
Access: L'Anse aux Meadows is a 51-kilometer drive from St. Anthony Airport and a five-hour drive from Gros Morne National Park.

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