Lofoten Islands

Travel Guide Europe Norway Lofoten Islands

edit

Introduction

Lofoten islands

Lofoten islands

© leopard

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.

The Lofoten, before becoming a popular tourist retreat, was and still is a very important fishing center, especially for the special type of cod (skrei in Norwegian), attracted by the rich food brought by the Gulf Stream. At the end of the spring, thousands of tons of cod are hung to dry on wooden racks. For at least a thousand years the very rich Lofoten cod fisheries was a key factors in the Norwegian economy. Thousands gathered from all along the coast to take part in the winter-spring fisheries. Key to Lofoten’s fishery economy was the natural outdoor drying without the use of salt. Low temperatures and constant wind is necessary for this process to be successful, further north it is too cold and further south too warm/humid, while the Lofoten island have the right conditions. This slow drying process creates the characteristic stockfish (Norwegian: tørrfisk, literally dry fish). The dry cod was transported to and traded at the Bergen harbour thousand kilometers down the coast, the cod trade effectively created Bergen as Norway's (and partly Scandinavia's) largest and most important city. The famous waterfront warehouses in Bergen were mostly used to store dry cod.

The light varies very much over the seasons. From 24 hours of daylight from May to early August to just a bluish twilight lasting three hours around noon in December and January. In March and September, there is normal daylight hours - 12h day and 12h night.

In 1432 the venetian merchant Pietro Querini and his crew shipwrecked at Røst island after drifting for several weeks from the English Channel. Querini supposedly introduced stockfish to the Italian cuisine. The venetians spent 3 months with the locals and then returned to Venice where Querini produced a report for the senate there. Querini's unique and legendary written report was called The first circuit of paradise. Despite the cold and dark winter, he described life in Lofoten as paradise ("we spent 3 months in the first circuit of paradise, to the shame and disgrace of Italy").

Top

edit

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.

Top

edit

Cities

  • Svolvaer - a town of 4,500 citizens, and is the largest settlement in the Lofoten archipelago off the coast of northern Norway. The town is of little touristic interest. However, it makes a good basis (or at least a transit point) to explore the Lofoten archipelago.
  • Henningsvaer - a beautiful fishing village reacehed on an idyllic bus journey from Svolvaer.
  • Stamsund
  • Leknes - the secret capital of Lofoten is providing everything you need. The city have more then 3.000 inhabitants and the city is widespread between the costal mountains. Leknes also have the only hospital on the Lofoten Islands.
  • Ramberg - fishing village on the Flakstad Island. Very cosey town with shops and a big fishing harbor.
  • Reine - administrative centre of the southern islands. This fishing village is known for its incredible scenery and has been voted most beautiful town in Norway in the past.
  • Å - pronounced "Oh", this is the southernmost town on the island of Moskenesøya in the Lofoten archipelago of Norway. The name means simply "river" or "stream", and the town is also known as Å i Lofoten to distinguish it from other places called Å. A ferry to the Moskenesoya maelstrom (a swirling circular current off the coast of the island), and the fishing museum are the two main attractions of the village, which sits between a picturesque lake and the North Sea, with many of the wooden buildings being built over water on stilts.
  • Moskenes - a small fishing village on the island, with no tourist information or a supermarket; however, there is a camping location and a car rental option near the ferry terminal.
  • Kabelvåg - Lofoten's oldest fishing village. Great food and small shops. It lies a little to the south-west of Svolvær, the administrative center of Vågan municipality. The village was founded as Vågan in the early 12th century by King Øystein Magnusson, who built a church and a fishermen's hostel there. According to Heimskringla, there was something resembling a town there several centuries earlier - the first known town in North Norway, known as Vågar. The Lofoten Museum, as well as the Lofoten Aquarium and the Espolin Gallery, are all in Kabelvåg.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

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

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

© hammarn

The main attraction of the archipelago is its majestic scenery. The coastline is dominated by high mountains cut by fjords, as well as sandy white beaches. Apart from the scenery, the fishing history of the archipelago is visible in several little villages all around the coast. Nusfjord and the lovely Å are prime examples. The Lofoten has many traditional fishermen red cabins built on the sea shore or over stilts (the rorbu), and it is even possible to stay in one.

In the summer, you can enjoy the midnight sun. In Leknes, the sun remains above the horizon from May 26 to July 17. The midnight sun is best viewed from the western beaches, such as the Vestvågøy Island beaches Utakleiv and Eggum. When there is midnight sun, there is a polar night, and in winter the sun does not rise from December 9 to January 4. The archipelago is at a good latitude to admire the Northern lights, but from the end of April to September, the nights might be a little too bright.

The beaches of Lofoten are also quite renowned. Utakleiv was ranked as the number one most romantic beach in Europe by the British newspaper The Times, and the neighbouring Hauklandsstranden is ranked by the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet as the best beach in Norway. Eggum was chosen to be the millennial spot in Vestvågøy and in 2007 an amphitheater was created here (designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, designers of the library in Alexandria).

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.

In the spring time, you will be able to see Orca familys visiting the fjords of Lofoten. Especially in the western parts of the Iislands you have great chances to see the whales from the coast. No boat ride or guide needed.

The Moskstraumen, popularly known as the Maelstrom is a very powerful tidal current forming twice a day between Vaeroy and Meskenesoy. It has been featured in many works, usually in a exaggerated form (for instance Edgar Allan Poe's Descent into the Maelstrom). Captain Ahab in Hermann Melville's famous Moby-Dick mentions the maelstrom. In Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea the submarine encounters the whirlpool. It is unusual because it occurs in open sea. Simply do not go there and expect giant whirlpools.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

  • International Photo Festival Lofoten (23 Feb 2017 - 26 Feb 2017) - The photography festival have been up and running now for several years and the crowd of visitors are growing. International artist are showing their for in several galleries and also workshops can be visited.
  • 1st May (Labour day) is treated very seriously here. Importantly the buses only provide a Sunday service - which in the Lofotens means no service.

Top

edit

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.

Top

edit

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.

Top

edit

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. Renting a car is expensive in Norway, if you rent a camper you combine rental car and accommodation. You are allowed stay everywhere for the night in Norway with a camper.

By Bus

The official website of the local bus company is 177Nordland. Be aware that the bus routes are closed by heavy winds and snow fall.

By Bicycle

There are (fairly expensive) bikes for hire at various points around the islands and the E10, as a usually relatively unpopulated highway makes a good cycle path for short trips. In addition there are occasional cycle lanes, usually on bridges or around the outside of the many tunnels.

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.

Top

edit

Eat

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. The stockfish of Lofoten is a prime source of revenue for the islands, it is exported to several southern European countries (especially Italy and Spain) where it is known as Baccalao or Stoccafisso. Several restaurants in Lofoten have Baccalao on the menu. Due to the limited choice and the high prices, particularly on Værøy, you should bring your own food.

8 Blomster bringen. Nice café located just near the harbour of Reine. Good pastries and relatively cheap coffee and tea. Free Wi-Fi. 22 NOK for an espresso, 29 NOK for a tea.

  • Bakery (A). morning only. Sells home-made bread. Better come in the morning, as the shop closes early.
  • Du Verden (Svolvær). Expensive prices. Free Wi-Fi.
  • Borsen Spiseri - this is the restaurant at Svinoya Rorbuer but it is open to non-residents. Very atmospheric and delicious food.

Top

edit

Drink

If you like to explore the night life in Lofoten you should give Lofoten Surfer the Bar in Leknes a try. Here you will meet the local youth and also international surfer legends which are visiting Lofoten to surf the Arctic.

  • Cafe & Bar Nicolina (Kabelvåg). Cozy Italian cafe and bar with coffee and homemade food, along with wine, beer, and drinks.
  • Kringla Bakeri & Konditori (Svolvær). Coffee, tea and pastries.
  • Magic Ice, Svolvær (quayside in Svolvær). June 15 - August 25: from 12.00 to 23.00, August 26 - June 14: from 18.00 to 22.00. A bar in an old fish-freezing plant that features ice sculptures. Adult 95 kr.

Top

edit

Sleep

There's lots of different kinds of accommodation. There are hotels, camping options, or you can even get a rorbu (a traditional fisherman's cabin). Sleeping outside is possible as it is quiet, but the temperatures can be near freezing even in the summer and the cold wind from the sea doesn't help at all. Several accommodations are available in Reine. Be sure to book in advance if you come during the peak season (winter and summer).

  • Lofoten Hostel Å (Lofoten Vandrerhjem Å), ☏ +47 76 09 12 11, ✉ a@hihostels.no. From 250 kr.
  • Brygga hotel and restaurant. Serve breakfast, lunch and dinner for guests and non-guests.
  • Lofoten bed and boat (right in front of the Å Nord bus stop), ☏ +47 957 26 729. Four rooms (from 1 to 4 persons) with a common bathroom and a common kitchen. Rooms have no view, but a nice terrace has a view towards the sea. Free Wi-Fi. From 450 kr to 1250 kr. (updated Aug 2015 | edit)*3 Moskenesstraumen camping (at the South-most end of Å).
  • Moskenes camping, ☏ +47 994 89 405, ✉ info@moskenescamping.no. There is a café in the Moskenes camping, and a pub in the Moskenes camping is open every day of the week during the summer.
  • Kabelvåg Hotell. Rooms and breakfast.
  • Kabelvåg Feriehus & Camping.
  • Lofoten Rorbusuiter. Fantastic sea view and view of Lofoten’s mightiest mountain, Vågakallen (942 m asl) together with the historical site of Storvågan.
  • Lofoten Summerhotell. We are centrally located in the Lofoten Islands, a short distance to all the delights. We have activities that take advantage of our unique area to the fullest, with very pleasant and competent guides.
  • Thon Hotel Svolvær. O. J. Kaalbøes gate 5. The hotel is in Svolvær, near the coastal steamer docks, in the heart of the spectacular area of Lofoten.
  • Svinøya Rorbuer (Svolvær). Excellent rorbuer and restaurant on a separate island connected by a long bridge.
  • Kabelvåg Youth Hostel. There is no YHA hostel in Svolvær, but Kabelvåg, the next town west on the E10 has a great one. Beds or rooms, breakfast is included in the price. It takes about an hour walk from Svolvær city centre, or a 10 minutes bus ride.

Top

Contributors

as well as hajohansen (8%), davidx (7%), Peter (1%)

Lofoten Islands Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Lofoten Islands

This is version 24. Last edited at 8:22 on Aug 9, 19 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License