Europe > Nordic countries > Norway > Northern Norway > Nordland > Lofoten
Lofoten is a group of islands in the northern part of Norway. With its postcard looking small fishing villages nestled in fjords, dotting a very rugged coast with abrupt peaks rising directly from the ocean, the archipelago is often described as one of the most scenic parts of Norway.
- 1 Svolvær — 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.
- 2 Leknes — a compulsory stopover when traveling by bus in the Lofoten
- 3 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. There are bikes for hire at the Youth Hostel and at Lofoten Bed and Boat (150 kr a day) and some hiking paths are dotted around the surrounding area. Nice walks include going around the Ågvatnet lake, crossing the island towards the North-West and the Stokkvikvatnet lake, or going further on the main road (e.g., to Reine). Several ferries a day from the mainland (Bodø) arrive at Moskenes. From Moskenes, you can either walk following the road (4.8 kilometers, an hour) or take a bus (several times a day, kr 40). It is best to book accommodation well ahead of your travel in Å, as everything may be fully booked during the peak season. (PS: There is no ATM in Å. However, major credit cards are accepted virtually anywhere, including on the bus.)
- 4 Reine — this fishing village is known for its incredible scenery.
- 5 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.
- 6 Henningsvaer - a very pleasant village reached by a short bus ride or long painful walk from Svolvær.
- 7 Kabelvaag - 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.
- 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...
- Trollfjord - banned to navigation in spring because of falling rock but otherwise visited on the southbound voyage of the Hurtigruten. Otherwise take a boat trip from Svolvær. It is so narrow that the Hurtigrute boats, except for the very newest, have to do a three point turn.
- Hinnøya (southwestern part)
- Austvågøy (southern part)
- Vestvågøy - Vestvågøy is a municipality and island in the county of Nordland in northern Norway. It has a population of 10,764 people, making it the most populated area in the regions of Lofoten and Vesterålen.
- Værøy is a small island around six hours from Bodø by ferry (via Moskenes) and around 2 hours by ferry from Moskenes. The island has a mountainous ridge running through the centre and flat farmland below the mountains. It is famous both for its scenery and the abundance of puffins who nest here over the summer.
At 68°N, the Lofoten archipelago is well above the Arctic Circle, and at the same latitude as Greenland or the northern parts of Alaska. However, it enjoys a relatively mild climate due to the circulation of the Gulf Stream, and temperatures up to 23°C in the summer are not uncommon. Still, it remains a subarctic destination, the weather changes fast, and even in the summer it may get cold. When the sun is not shining a sweater is recommended.
Reciprocally the winter is cold, but remains bearable. Remember, at this extreme latitude - the same as northern Siberia and northern Alaska - winters ought to be very cold, but instead of 40 below, Lofoten temperatures hover around freezing in winter, and starts to climb in April.
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. Still today the stockfish is exported to Italy, Croatia, Nigeria and Sweden (the similar dry-salted cod, the klippfisk, is particularly exported Portugal and Spain).
Dry cod is recorded as an important business from the Viking age, but may be older. Long before Tromsø and Bodø existed as towns, Vågar (Kabelvåg) in Lofotr (today Vestvågøy island) was a major trading post and for centuries the only town north of Trondheim. Bergen, Trondheim and Lofoten were the 3 business centres on Norway's rich coast. For centuries dry cod was Norway's main export, up to 80 % of the trade (as measured in currency) was cod. Vågar may have been Norway's most important town until the Black Death around 1400 and the Hansa in Bergen seized monopoly in cod export. The original town or trading post was abandoned and turned in to farmland, while nearby Kabelvåg became the new town.
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").
Norwegian... but as usual for touristic destinations in Scandinavia, English should get you everywhere.
You can arrive (from Bodø) by air to Røst, Værøy, Leknes or Svolvær (20 - 30 min. flight time). The former airport at Værøy was closed following a plane crash in 1990. However, a helicopter company is now (2008) servicing the route Bodø-Værøy, offering several flights per day. If you arrive from the Vesterålen archipelago (located North of Lofoten), a ferry still services the sea route between Melbu and Fiskebøl, the latter located along highway E10 (see above).
Note that for getting out via Bodo Airport, your special baggage must not exceed a certain measure, which means removing the front wheel of most bikes!
- 1 Leknes Airport (LKN IATA).
- 2 Svolvær Airport, Helle (SVJ IATA).
- 3 Røst Airport (RET IATA).
- 4 Stokmarknes Airport, Skagen (SKN IATA).
- 5 Harstad/Narvik Airport, Evenes (EVE IATA).
A new section of highway E10 was opened in 2007, giving Lofoten ferry-free road connection with the mainland for the first time.
The journey takes about 3½ hours.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 (just over 2 hours by car), crossing through a very rugged and scenic terrain and bordering the Møysalen National Park.
There are several buses a day from Narvik (mainland Norway) to Moskenes. The main bus stop is right in front of the ferry waiting room. There is scheduled bus to/from Narvik (stops at Evenes Airport; no ferry on the new road).
Another alternative is to arrive by sea, e.g. using the 'Hurtigruten', the coastal steamer, or a common ferry, from Bodø to Svolvær (6 hours), Stamsund, Moskenes, Værøy and Røst. The ferry to Svolvær operates on all days except Sundays. There is no ferry terminal as such in Svolvær, but only a very small waiting room, and free toilets outside.
- 1 Moskenes ferry arrival.
In addition, the coastal steamer Hurtigruten arrives at 19h (southbound) and departs at 22h (northbound) daily.
The main islands are easily covered by car. The E10 route links Hanøy in the extreme Northeast of Austvagøy island and Å at the Southwestern tip of Moskenesøy through a series of bridges. Although the archipelago may look small on the map, the full crossing is a good 180 km along the E10 on a very windy road, with the usual Norwegian speed limits. However due to the state of the roads don't expect to average much more than 50 kph. 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.
Also note, that petrol is available only in the larger towns, so make sure you fill up when you get a chance.
Most places can be reached by bus. Students get a 50% discount on long trips. Most buses from the South (Å, Reine) stop at Lofoten, and you should change to another bus to go further North (Svolvær).
If you plan to visit the southernmost islands of Lofoten, i.e. Værøy or Røst, you will need to take a ferry from Moskenes. Værøy is an around 1.5 hours sailing trip from Moskenes, and another approx. 2 hours to Røst.
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.
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).
- Lofotr Viking Museum, Prestegårdsveien 59, N-8360 Bøstad. On the green and fertile island Vestvågøy in the middle of Lofoten. Airport and Hurtigruten piers are close by. The main road E 10 runs just a few meters from the museum.
- 1 Reine Fishing village (At the back (North) of Reine). A charming group of traditional fishing houses. Free.
- 2 Reine Kultursenter (Cultural center).
- Galleri Espolin (Kabelvåg).
- 3 Svolvær tourist information. 9h-18h (Monday-Wednesday), 9h-15h30 (Wednesday-Thursday), 9h30-14h30 (Saturday), closed on Sunday.
- [dead link] Lofoten War Memorial Museum, Svolvær (old post office building by the coastal-liner dock in Svolvær centrum). Word War II Museum with its incredible collection of uniforms and its original chilling, Gestapo interrogation room.
Activities include whale safari, mountain climbing, mountain hiking, diving, fishing, and sleeping in traditional fisherman cabins called "rorbu".
- 1 Reinebringen (at the West of Reine). A trip to Reine is not complete without a climb to Reinebringen. Be aware that the path is not easy though, and very steep most of the way. Even worse, it was very much damaged after heavy rains in 2015, and the climb is now fairly dangerous (a warning has been issued at the beginning of the path). Count about 2h (one way) considering the current state of the path. Of course, once on top (almost 400 meters above sea level), the view is really amazing. Free.
- Galleri Lille Kabelvåg. Paintings, pictures and other exciting exhibitions.
- Lofotakvariet (Kabelvåg). At the Lofoten Aquarium you have the chance to study marine life, with fish and sea mammals from Lofoten and the North Norwegian coastline.
- Lofotmuseet (Kabelvåg). At the Lofotmuseum you can explore authentic environments from the 1800s, in a beautiful scenic setting.
Outtt maintains a list of hiking trails in Lofoten with descriptions in English.
It's not so easy to keep to the budget here. In Svolvær, Narvesen kiosk is a good place to buy things such as drink, and there's a bookshop in the town; art is sold in the town and overpriced souvenirs are easy to find. All of Svolvær's supermarkets are in the same part of town.
- 1 Rema 1000 Svolvær. 7h-23h Monday-Saturday. Rather large supermarket with decent prices.
- Fru Soleng (Kabelvåg). Knitting and decorations.
- Mettes Rom (Kabelvåg). Clothing, gifts and decorations.
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.
- 1 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.
- 2 Bakery (A). morning only. Sells home-made bread. Better come in the morning, as the shop closes early.
- 3 Du Verden (Svolvær). Expensive prices. Free Wi-Fi.
- Cafe & Bar Nicolina (Kabelvåg). Cozy Italian cafe and bar with coffee and homemade food, along with wine, beer, and drinks.
- 1 Kringla Bakeri & Konditori (Svolvær). Coffee, tea and pastries.
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), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. From 250 kr.
- 1 Brygga hotel and restaurant. Serve breakfast, lunch and dinner for guests and non-guests.
- 2 Lofoten bed and boat (right in front of the Å Nord bus stop), ☎ . 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.
- 3 Moskenesstraumen camping (at the South-most end of Å).
- 4 Moskenes camping, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
- [dead link] 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.
- 5 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.
There are churches in the Moskenes, Reine, and Kabelvåg villages. (The church in Kabelvåg is known as Lofotkatedralen.)
Lofoten has little crime and island hopping by hitch-hiking is safe and not unusual. The most likely undesired event is to fall while hiking, or to catch a cold due to the bad weather. Other than that, you should be perfectly safe.