The geographical range of Viking exploration between the 9th and 12th centuries AD was amazing. From their Northern European homelands in today’s Norway, Denmark and Sweden they used the Norwegian and Baltic Seas to engage with the world as looters, traders, colonists and mercenaries.
Their descendants in their North Atlantic colonies make up the modern populations of Great Britain, Ireland, France and Iceland. In Eastern Europe they gave their name to the lands of Russia and Belarus and in Western Europe to Normandy.
Their advanced seafaring skills and longships extended their reach to Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and helped establish settlements as far west as Greenland and North America.
They sailed Europe and Asia’s seas and river systems to reach the great cities of London, Paris, Rome, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Constantinople, the glittering capital of the Byzantine Empire.
To the Anglo-Saxons they were the Nordmenn or Dene (Norwegians or Danes), to the Irish they were Dubgaill and Finngaill (dark and fair foreigners). To the Franks they were Nortmann (north men) and to the Germans they were Ascomanni (ashmen, from the ash wood of their boats). The Slavs knew them as the Rus (the men who row) and to the Byzantines who employed them as mercenaries they were the Varangians (sworn men). To the Arabs they were the Madjus (pagans) and to the Inuit of Greenland they were the Kavdlunait (foreigners).
The names the Vikings gave to the places they reached or were aware of, as well as the people they encountered, from the Skraelings of North America to the Blamenn (blue men) of North Africa, are recorded in their sagas, chronicles and rune stones. These Old Norse exonyms are plotted on the map below (although historians have differing views on some locations). To help your orientation, the second map has modern or historical place names in English.
**Click on the maps to view at higher resolution on your desk top**