Lofoten: Wikis


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Location of Lofoten in Norway

Lofoten is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world's largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.



Henningsvær in Lofoten during fishing season (April, 2001).

Lofoten (Norse Lófót f) was originally the old name of the island Vestvågøya. The first element is 'lynx', the last element is derived from Norse fótr m 'foot'. The shape of the island must have been compared with a foot of a lynx. (The old name of the neighbouring island Flakstadøya was Vargfót 'the foot of a wolf', from vargr m 'wolf'. See also Ofoten.)


Stockfish has been exported from Lofoten for at least 1,000 years.

Vågan (Norse Vágar) is the first known town formation in northern Norway. It existed in the early Viking Age, maybe earlier, and was located on the southern coast on eastern Lofoten, near today's village Kabelvåg in Vågan municipality. However, the Lofotr museum with the reconstructed 83 m long longhouse (the largest known) is located near Borg on Vestvågøy, which have many archeological finds from the Iron Age and Viking Age.[1]

The islands have for more than 1,000 years been the centre of great cod fisheries, especially in winter, when the cod migrates south from the Barents Sea and gathers in Lofoten to spawn. Bergen in southwestern Norway was for a long time the hub for further export south to large parts of Europe,

The Lofotr Viking Museum; Borg in Vestvågøy

particularly so when trade was controlled by the Hanseatic League. In the lowland areas, particularly Vestvågøy, agriculture plays a significant role, as it has done since the Bronze Age.

Lofotr was originally the name of the island of Vestvågøy only. Later it became the name of the chain of islands. The chain of islands with its pointed peaks looks like a lynx foot from the mainland. In Norwegian, it is always a singular. Another name one might come across, is "Lofotveggen" or the Lofoten wall. The archipelago looks like a closed wall when seen from elevated points around Bodø or when arriving from the sea, some 100 km. long, and 800-1,000 m. high.

During 1941, the islands were raided by British Combined Operations commandos during Operation Claymore in March and a subsequent diversionary attack to support the Vaagso raid in December.

Geography and nature

Reine, Lofoten, seen from top of Reinebringen (June, 2003).

Lofoten is located at the 67th and 68th 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 principal islands, running from north to south, are

whilst further to the south are the small and isolated islands of Værøy (67°40′N 12°40′E / 67.667°N 12.667°E / 67.667; 12.667) and Røst (67°37′N 12°7′E / 67.617°N 12.117°E / 67.617; 12.117). The total land area amounts to 1,227 km², and the population totals 24,500.

Lofoten and Vesterålen

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 Vestfjord, 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 m / 3,800 ft) in Austvågøy; the Møysalen National Park just northeast of Lofoten has mountains reaching 1,262 m. The famous Moskstraumen (Malstrøm) system of tidal eddies is located in western Lofoten, and is indeed the root of the term maelstrom. The sea is rich with life, and the world's largest deep water coral reef[2] is located west of Røst. Lofoten has a very high density of sea eagles and cormorants, and millions of other sea birds, among them the colourful puffin. Otters are common, and there are moose on the largest islands. There are some woodlands with Downy birch and Rowan. There are no native conifer forests in Lofoten, but some small areas with private spruce plantations. Sorbus hybrida ("Rowan whitebeam") and Malus sylvestris occur in Lofoten, but not further north.


Winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild considering their location north of the Arctic Circle; this is the largest positive temperature anomaly in the world relative to latitude. This is due to 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[3][4][5].

Ramberg beach in Flakstad.

Winters are slightly colder in the northeastern part of Lofoten; Svolvær has a January average of -1.5°C (30°F), but summers are a bit warmer, with both July and August 24-hr averages of 13°C (56°F). May and June are the driest months, while October has three times as much precipitation [6][7]. Typical daytime temperature in May is 9°C (48°F), in July 15°C (60°F) and in September 11°C (52°F). The warmest recording in Svolvær is 30.4°C (87°F). Strong winds can occur in late autumn and winter, but are rare late March - mid-October. 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.

In Svolvær, the sun (midnight sun) is above the horizon from May 25 to July 17, and in winter the sun does not rise from December 4 to January 7. In Leknes, the sun is above the horizon from May 26 to July 17, and in winter the sun does not rise from December 9 to January 4. The temperature in the sea has been recorded since 1935. At 1 m depth in the sea near Skrova, water temperatures varies from a low of 3°C in March to 14°C in August; some years peaking above 17°C; November is around 7-8°C. At a depth of 200 m the temperature is near 8°C all year [8].

Mountaineering and rock climbing


Lofoten offers many rock climbing and mountaineering opportunities. It has 24 hours of daylight in the summer and has Alpine-style ridges, summits and glaciers, but at a height of less than 1,200 metres. The main centre for rock climbing is Henningsvær on Austvågøya.

The main areas for mountaineering and climbing are on Austvågøya and Moskenesøya. Moskenesøya is the most complete area for climbing. For more information, see the books by Dyer and Webster (see references).


There is a well marked cycling route that goes from Å in the south and continues past Fiskebøl in the north. The route is part public road, part cycle-path with the option to bypass all of the tunnels by either cycle-path (tunnels through mountains) or boat. Traffic is generally light, although in July there may be a lot of camper vans. Some of the more remote sections are on gravel roads. There is a dedicated cycling ferry which sails between Ballstad and Nusfjord, allowing cyclists to avoid the long, steep Nappstraum tunnel. The route hugs the coastline for most of its length where it is generally flat. As it turns inland through the mountain passes there are a couple of 3-400 meter climbs.

The Lofoten Insomnia Cycling Race [9] takes place every year around midsummer, possible in the midnight sun, but surely in 24-hr daylight, along the whole Lofoten archipelago.


The E10 road follows the archipelago southwest to Å. Late August near Eggum, Vestvågøy

Lofoten is served by three small airports: Leknes Airport (84 215 passengers in 2006), Svolvær Airport, Helle (63 787 passengers in 2006), and Røst Airport (7 755 passengers in 2006), which mainly offers flights to Bodø. There is a heliport at Værøy (7 923 passengers in 2006). Stokmarknes Airport, Skagen is located in Vesterålen. Harstad/Narvik Airport, Evenes has direct flights to Oslo and Trondheim. Bodø is often used as a hub for travel to Lofoten; in addition to air travel there is a ferry connecting Bodø to Moskenes. There is also a ferry connecting Svolvær to Skutvik in Hamarøy, with road connection east to E6. Hurtigruten calls at Stamsund and Svolvær.

The European road E10 connects the larger islands of Lofoten with bridges and undersea tunnels. The E10 road also connects Lofoten to the mainland of Norway through the Lofast road connection, which was officially opened on December 1 2007. There are several daily bus services between the islands of Lofoten and between Lofoten and the mainland along E10.

In Popular Culture

In the film Maelstrom, Lofoten is where the ashes of Annstein Karson are distributed.

See also

External links



Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Reine, a village in the Lofoten Islands
Reine, a village in the Lofoten Islands

Lofoten [1] is a group of islands in the northern part of Norway. With its postal card looking small fishing villages nested in fjords, dotting a very rugged coast with abrubt peaks rising directly from the ocean, the archipelago is often considered one of the most scenic parts of Norway.


The Lofoten archipelago consists of many islands:

plus several other smaller islands.

  • Svolvær
  • Stamsund
  • Leknes
  • Å
  • Henningsvaer - a very pleasant village reached by a short bus ride from Svolvaer.
  • 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 very exaggerated form (for instance Edgar Allan Poe's Descent into the Maelstrom). 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 Hurtigrute. Otherwise take a boat trip from Svolvaer. It is so narrow that the Hurtigrute boat has to do a three point turn.
entrance to Trollfjord
entrance to Trollfjord


At 68N, 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 milder climate due to the circulation of the Gulf Stream, and temperatures up to 23C in the summer are not uncommon. Still, it remains a subarctic destination, the weather changes fast, and even in the summer it may become cold, and when the sun is not shining a warm sweater is not a luxury.

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, is a very important fishing center, especially for the cod (skrei in Norwegian), attracted by the rich food brought by the Gulf Stream. At the end of the spring, thousands of tons of cods are hanged to dry on wooden racks.

The light varies very much over the seasons. From 24 hr 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.


Norwegian... but as usual for touristic destinations in Scandinavia, English should get you everywhere.

Get in

A new section of highway E10 was opened on December 1 2007, giving Lofoten ferry-free road connection with the mainland for the first time. 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 if going by own car), crossing through a very rugged and scenic terrain and bordering the Møysalen National Park.

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. One may also 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).

Get 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 km along the E10 on a very windy road, with the usual Norwegian speed limits. 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

Most places can be reached by bus. Students get a 50% discount on long trips.

By boat

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.

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.

Harbor of Moskenes
Harbor of Moskenes

The main attractions of the archipelago is its majestic scenery. The coastline is dominated by high mountains cutted by fjords, as well as sandy white beaches.

Apart of the scenery, the fishing history of the archipelago is palpable in several little villages all around the coast. Nusfjord and the lovely A are prime examples. The Lofoten has many traditionnal 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 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 clear.

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).

The recent Lofotr Viking Museum [2] located in Borg on the Vestvagoy island offers plenty of live exhibits on the Vikings (expect handicraft demonstration) in a very nicely recontrusted viking chieftain house, and is well worth a visit.

Cod drying near Å
Cod drying near Å

Lofoten being a traditionnal 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.

Stay safe

Lofoten has little crime and island hopping by hitch-hiking is safe and not unusual.

Routes through Lofoten
END  W noframe E  LeknesNarvik
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