Whenever I’ve mentioned Lofoten to anyone who has been there, they get this wistful look in their eyes and tell me how great it is. Now having been there myself, I get it…
My parents made their European debut earlier this month. They spent a few days here in Trondheim and then we set off to explore. My mom saw pictures of the Lofoten Islands in a guidebook and was set on visiting. I couldn’t argue with her. We took an overnight train from Trondheim to Bodø. It left around 11:30pm and we essentially chased the sunset as we headed north across the Arctic Circle, arriving just after 9am. Our first glimpses of Lofoten from the ferry didn’t disappoint.
The Lofoten Islands are a chain of islands off the coast of Norway, just north of the Arctic Circle. And they are beautiful.
Random fact from wikipedia: Lofoten has the largest positive temperature anomaly in the world relative to latitude... Røst andVærøy are the most northerly locations in the world where average temperatures are above freezing all year.
Fishing, specifically cod, has been the major industry (and the way of life) in the Lofoten Islands for 1000s of years. Then, and now, fish are decapitated, paired by size, tied together in pairs and hung out to dry, before being sent off to Italy, Spain, or Portugal. I’ve read that one reason Norway won’t join the EU is to avoid having to open their fishing waters to other nations.
Tourism in Lofoten doesn’t stray far from the islands’ fishing roots. You can visit the Fishery Museum, the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum, and/or the Lofoten Stockfish Museum during your visit. We chose the latter. And who would want to stay in an ordinary hotel when you could stay in a rorbu or sjøhus instead? Rurbuene (the plural of rorbu…) are small red shacks alongside/extending over the water. Traditionally these shacks housed fisherman during the fishing season, but these days they are rented out to tourists. Similarly, sjøhusene are warehouses were fish were processed and stored, and often also contained bunkhouses for fisherman. Nowadays they operate as guesthouses. We stayed in both a rorbu (in the tiny town of Å) and a sjøhus (in the still tiny, but slightly bigger town of Svolvær).
We drove the length of the islands, from Å to Lødingen, before crossing back over to the mainland (via ferry) and returning to Bodø. The small fishing villages were surrounded by towering mountains and calm fjords. The villages were connected by some of the narrowest and windiest roads I have ever driven! It was easy to tell who was a tourist and who was a local, just by the speed at which they were driving…
On the Atlantic side of the islands we encountered white(ish) sand beaches and waves. If it weren’t for the snow capped mountains in the distance, you would have never of guessed you were so far north!
Lofoten by car was lovely, but when I come back again it will be with hiking boots. As we got ready to settle in for the night in our cozy rorbu, I couldn’t help but wish I was climbing into a sleeping bag after a long day of climbing mountains. I’m pretty sure Yellow Tent would be a fan of Lofoten. My skis probably would be too… Someday…
But regardless of your preferred mode of travel – if you find yourself in Norway, you should head north. You won’t regret it!
More pictures here (or on facebook).