Nes, Vega, Norway
Vegaøyan or the Vega archipelago lies just south of the Arctic Circle in Norway’s Nordland county. The chain — which comprises more than 6,500 islands, islets, reefs and rocky outcrops — is home to 1,200 or so hardy souls, most living on the main island of Vega. Despite its rather inhospitable landscape, Vegaøyan has been inhabited since the Stone Age; for the past 1,500 years, generations of farming and fisherfolk have settled into a simple, sustainable lifestyle centered on the harvesting of eider down. Local farmers — and women in particular — tend to the wild eider ducks, fashioning nests from dried seaweed and building cozy “houses” out of driftwood and stone; in turn, the ducks’ warm, soft down accounts for around a third of the islanders’ income. UNESCO designated the Vega archipelago as a World Heritage site in recognition of their unique way of living in and interacting with nature.