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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSituated just within the Arctic Circle, the islands of Lofoten feature spectacular mountain peaks, rugged landscapes and secluded bays. Covering an area of 762 miles², the archipelago is home to 24,500 inhabitants and a relatively mild climate as a result of the Gulf Stream . It comprises of four main islands - Austvågøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy and Moskenesøy – and countless other smaller landmasses and craggy islets – both inhabited and uninhabited. Lofoten is within Nordland Fylke county, also home to the spectacular Ørnes coastline to the south.
HistoryThe name ‘Lofoten’ was originally that of the island Vestvågøya, translating as ‘foot of a lynx’ due to the shape of the chain of islands. There is evidence of human habitation dating back at least 11,000 years who etched out an existence through agriculture and livestock farming.
GeographyThe exact geographical boundaries of Lofoten have changed over time with islands included and excluded from its territory. Vestfjorden separates the archipelago from Norway’s mainland and the principal towns are Leknes in Vestvågøy and Svolvær in Vågan .
The islands have large tracts of untouched forest and wilderness to explore. The highest mountain is Higravstinden at 3,809 feet (or 3,800 feet) in Austvågøy, and in the west of the archipelago a unique system of tidal eddies known as Moskstraumen can be found. In addition, it is home to the world’s largest deep-water coral reef known as the Røst Reef which lies just west of Røst.
WeatherTemperatures are mild in the summer, reaching around 59 °F and drop to around 28 °F in winter – considering their latitude, a decidedly warm winter! Islands in the north of the archipelago experience the ‘midnight sun’ (24 hour daylight) between late May and mid July while the sun does not rise above the horizon for most of the month of December.
The best time to visit is summer or spring when temperatures are at their highest and outdoor pursuits readily available, however autumn and winter both offer unique landscapes to visit in terms of light and color and can offer excellent photographic opportunities. Be aware that heavy rain can be expected in October and strong winds throughout autumn and winter.
WildlifeWhile moose are found on some islands, the real wildlife drawn on Lofoten is the bird life with seabirds such as eagles and cormorants abundant.
In the winter, cod migrate south from the Barents Sea and spawn throughout the archipelago which is now home to a significant cod fishery, an industry whose economic potential rivals that of tourism, despite a recent decline in stock. You can see cod hanging up to dry along wooden racks outside the brightly colored cabins that mushroom throughout the islands.
ActivitiesLofoten is a rock climbing and mountaineering wonderland with glaciers, summits and jagged ridges to explore, particularly on Austvågøya and Moskenesøya. Summer conditions and long daylight hours make this the best time when you can hike around the clock with 24 hour a day sunlight!
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the island with coast-hugging flat roads and some more challenging mountain climbs. A popular route goes from Å in the south up to Fiskebøl in the north along a combination of public roads and cycle paths. There is the option to travel between islands through tunnels or using public ferries.
If you are interested in Viking folklore and lifestyle, on Vestvågøy there is the largest known reconstructed long house at the Lofotr Viking Museum where archaeological finds from both the Iron Age and Viking Age are on display.
Getting ThereThe E10, a designated National Tourist Route, connects the major islands of Lofoten through a series of tunnels and bridges and also connects the archipelago with the Norwegian mainland. Bodø on the mainland is a hub for transport to Lofoten as it can be reached from the south of the country by train and has a ferry that crosses to Moskenes, while another ferry connects Svolvær to Skutvik in the north.
The Hurtigruten ship that ploughs north and south along the Norwegian coastline stops at Stamsund and Svolvær also.
For flights there are a number of small airports throughout the archipelago with services to the Norwegian mainland.
There are a number of hotels and apartments available for rent throughout Lofoten, as well as campgrounds, but perhaps renting a sea cabin is one of the most charming and characteristic options available, offering an insight into the history and fishing lifestyle unique to the islands. Most allow you to cater for yourself and start around $ 60 USD per night.
Lofoten’s picturesque villages, expansive sheep pastures and cod fishing industry, together with its unique Arctic light, make it a stunning destination.
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Author: Pip23. Last updated: Apr 02, 2015