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Lofoten Islands

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Travel Guide Europe Norway Lofoten Islands

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Introduction

Lofoten islands

Lofoten islands

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The Lofoten Islands are a chain of islands along the northwest coast of Norway and are one of the highlights of the country. In fact of all of Scandinavia. It's a region of fantastic landscapes, small villages hugging the mountains and the sea and some great outdoor adventures, like whalewatching. After leaving Bodø on their northern voyage, the Norwegian Coastal Voyage ships do their one major passage through open ocean. About four hours later they reach Stamsund in the Lofoten islands. These lie technically within the province of Norland. The first sight of them is what has been described as the Lofoten Wall, rising up from the sea. In fact it is a long range of mountains stretching right through all the biggest islands.

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Geography

Lofoten is located at the 68th and 69th parallels north of the Arctic Circle in North Norway. It is well known for its natural beauty within Norway. Lofoten encompasses the municipalities of Vågan, Vestvågøy, Flakstad, Moskenes, Værøy, and Røst. The total land area amounts to 1,227 km², and the population totals 24,500. Many will argue that Hinnøya, the northern part of Austvågøy and several hundred smaller islands, skerries and rocks to the east of Austvågøy are also part of the Lofoten complex. Historically the territorial definition of Lofoten has changed significantly. Between the mainland and the Lofoten archipelago lies the vast, open Vestfjorden, and to the north is Vesterålen. The principal towns in Lofoten are Leknes in Vestvågøy and Svolvær in Vågan. The Lofoten Islands are characterised by their mountains and peaks, sheltered inlets, stretches of seashore and large virgin areas. The highest mountain in Lofoten is Higravstinden (1,161 metres) in Austvågøy; the Møysalen National Park just northeast of Lofoten has mountains reaching 1,262 metres. The famous Moskstraumen (Malstrøm) system of tidal eddies is located in western Lofoten, and is indeed the root of the term maelstrom.

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Cities

  • Svolvaer - the island capital.
  • Henningsvaer - a beautiful fishing village reacehed on an idyllic bus journey from Svolvaer.
  • Stamsund
  • Leknes
  • Reine - administrative centre of the southern islands.
  • Å (this is the name of a village.)
  • Moskenes
  • Kabelvåg - between Svolvaer and Henningsvaer

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Sights and Activities

Bjørntinden (802 m) and Stjerntinden (934 m) above Storvatnet

Bjørntinden (802 m) and Stjerntinden (934 m) above Storvatnet

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It seems almost preposterous to pick out sights in such a fabulously beautiful area but the inhabitants plug the Trollsfjord. This is very steep sided and is so narrow that the Hurtigruten (Coastal Voyage) boats mostly have to do a three point turn to get out! Apparently their very newest boats can turn normally. Navigation is banned in the spring because of rock falls. Boat trips go from Svolvaer.

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Events and Festivals

1st May (Labour day) is treated very seriously here. Importantly the buses only provide a Sunday service - which in the Lofotens means no service.

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Weather

Winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild considering their location north of the Arctic Circle - Lofoten has the largest positive temperature anomaly in the world relative to latitude. This is a result of the Gulf Stream and its extensions: the North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current. Røst and Værøy are the most northerly locations in the world where average temperatures are above freezing all year. May and June are the driest months, while October has three times as much precipitation. The warmest recording in Svolvær is 30.4 °C.
Strong winds can occur in late autumn and winter. Snow and sleet are not uncommon in winter, the mountains can have substantial amounts of snow, and in some winters, avalanches might come down from steep mountain slopes. Two of the top ten deadliest rainstorms ever recorded passed through Lofoten.

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Getting There

Check the Lofoten website for more information.

By Plane

There is an airport at Leknes and at Svolvaer. The latter has flights to Bodø.

By Train

The nearest station is at Bodø, where you can connect with the Hurtigruten or the ferry for Moskvenes. From the station of Fauske (on the same line) a bus connects with Skutvik, where there is a ferry to Svolvaer.

By Car

A new section of highway E10 was opened on December 1 2007, giving Lofoten ferry-free road connections with the mainland.

By Bus

The bus ride from Narvik to Svolvær takes 4 hours 15 minutes, with two daily services in each direction. The bus ride from Harstad/Narvik Airport Evenes to Svolvær takes about 3 hours.

By Boat

  • Hurtigruten from Bodø to Stamsund and Svolvaer.
  • Skutvik to Svolvaer car ferry. Check Fotobrygga Website for details on schedules and prices.
  • Bodø - ferry to Moskenes, Vaeroy and Rust.

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Getting Around

By Car

The main islands are easily covered by car. The E10 route links Hanoy in the extreme Northeast of Austvagoy island and Å at the southwestern tip of Moskenesoy through a series of bridges. Although the archipelago may look small on the map, the full crossing is a good 180 kilometres along the E10 on a very windy road. At the southeastern tip, around Reine, the road furthermore becomes very narrow, so take your time along the way. All the other secondary roads radiate from the E10, but note that some are even windier and narrower.

By Bus

The Lofoten will enable you to download time-tables.

By Boat

The Hurtigruten travels between Stamsund and Svolvaer.
If you plan to visit the southernmost islands of Lofoten, Værøy or Røst, you will need to take a ferry from Moskenes. Værøy is around 1.5 hours sailing trip from Moskenes, and another approximately 2 hours to Røst.

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Eat

  • Borsen Spiseri - this is the restaurant at Svinoya Rorbuer (below) but it is open to non-residents. Very atmospheric and delicious food.

Lofoten being a traditional cod fishing area, local delicacies are as one would expect taken from the sea. If you appreciate dried stockfish or cod, you will probably love the food.

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Sleep

On the Lofoten Islands it is a good idea to rent a rorbu (plural - rorbuer). The rorbuer proper were huts used by fisherfolk during the season and ahve been converted for tourist use. Of course some have been erected simply for tourists. Sizes vary. One place for true rorbuers, where you can see photos in reception of their former use is at Svinoya, an island in Svolvaer.

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This is version 6. Last edited at 8:07 on Jun 6, 13 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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