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Reine, Lofoten, seen from top of Reinebringen.
Lofoten is located in Norway
Archipelago Lofoten archipelago
Major islands Austvågøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy, Moskenesøy, Værøy, Røst
Area 1,227 km2 (474 sq mi)
Population 24,500
Additional information
Official website /en.infolofoten

Lofoten (Norwegian pronunciation: ) is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Lofoten is known for a distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world's largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Geography 3
    • Geology 3.1
    • Wildlife 3.2
    • Climate 3.3
  • Sports 4
    • Mountaineering and rock climbing 4.1
    • Surfing 4.2
    • Cycling 4.3
  • Transportation 5
  • In popular culture 6
    • Literature 6.1
    • Films 6.2
    • Paintings 6.3
    • Music 6.4
    • Video Games 6.5
  • Gallery 7
    • Photographs 7.1
    • Lofoten in art 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Lofoten (Norse Lófót) was originally the old name of the island Vestvågøya. The first element is (i.e., "lynx") and the last element is derived from Norse fótr (i.e., "foot"), as 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 "wolf". See also Ofoten.)


"There is evidence of human settlement extending back at least 11,000 yrs in Lofoten, and the earliest archaeological sites ... are only about 5,500 yrs old, at the transition from the early to late Stone Age." Iron Age agriculture, livestock, and significant human habitation can be traced back to ~250 BCE.[1]

Svolvær in Lofoten, Norway. View from the ferry harbour.

The town of Vågan (Vestvågøy, which has many archeological finds from the Iron Age and Viking Age.[2]

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 different parts of Europe, 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.

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


Lofoten and Vesterålen.

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 principal islands, running from north to south are:

Geological map of Lofoten and Vesterålen.

Further to the south are the small and isolated islands of 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 m / 3,800 ft) in Austvågøy; the Møysalen National Park just northeast of Lofoten has mountains reaching 1,262 meters. 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, called the Røst Reef, is located west of Røst.[3] 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.

The animals mistaken as the extinct great auk turned out to be some of the nine king penguins released around Norway’s Lofoten Islands in August 1936, there until at least 1944.[4]

Large whales seemingly have disappeared from these waters for long, however in 2014, Heiko the minke whale swam into a shallow fjord of Lofoten to flee from whaling boats drew international interests and caused rises in public opinions to question and oppose to domestic whaling industries.[5] As she might be pregnant, careful monitoring was conducted and Heiko was immediately beloved by locals to provide chances to witness whales at close ranges that have been a long-lost attraction in the area.


Skrova/Svolvær (1961-90)
Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm

Lofoten features a subpolar oceanic climate under the Köppen climate classification. Winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild considering its 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.[6][7][8]

May and June are the driest months, while October has three times as much precipitation.[9][10] The warmest recording in Svolvær is 30.4 °C (87 °F).

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.

In Svolvær, the sun is above the horizon continuously ("midnight sun") from 25 May to 17 July, and in winter the sun does not rise from 4 December to 7 January. In Leknes, the sun is above the horizon from 26 May to 17 July, and in winter the sun does not rise from 9 December to 4 January.

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.[11]


Mountaineering and rock climbing

A mountain massif of Flakstadøya island backgrounding the road to Nusfjord village.

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).


Unstad is one of its better known locations for surfing.[12]


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 campervans. 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 [13] 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.

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.

Lofoten is also served by a number of small airports:

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.

In popular culture



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


The islands of the Lofoten archipelago are well known for their natural beauty. The area offers both rugged landscape and unique lighting. Consequently, the islands have long served as an inspiration for artist. Norwegian painter, Gunnar Berg was especially known for his paintings of his native Lofoten. He principally painted memorable scenes of the everyday life of the local fishermen. Other artists whose work has been associated with Lofoten include Adelsteen Normann, Otto Sinding, Christian Krohg, Theodor Kittelsen, and Lev Lagorio.[14]


In 2004, Nurse with Wound broadcast 24 unexpected radio transmissions from the Lofoten Islands, whose sounds were sourced from the environment and objects found in Lofoten. These recordings are included on their three releases entitled Shipwreck Radio.

Video Games

In the 2015 video game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, a village is named Lofoten within the Norse/Celtic inspired archipelago, Skellige.



Lofoten in art

See also


  1. ^ Robert M. D’Anjou, Raymond S. Bradley, Nicholas L. Balascio, and David B. Finkelstein. Climate impacts on human settlement and agricultural activities in northern Norway revealed through sediment biogeochemistry. PNAS, November 26, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1212730109
  2. ^ Viking necklace
  3. ^ Røst Reef, 40 km long
  4. ^ Martin, Stephen. Penguin. Reaktion Books Ltd., 2009, p. 22.
  5. ^ McEnally C. (2014). "After Escaping Whaling Ships, One Whale is Changing Norwegian Attitudes on Whale Meat". The One Green Planet. Retrieved 2015-01-15. 
  6. ^ Temperature scale in Lofoten
  7. ^ 24h Temperature scale in Rost II
  8. ^ Temperature scale in Værøy
  9. ^ Temperature scale for Vågan
  10. ^ Geography of Norway
  11. ^ Skrova hydrographic station
  12. ^ "Ekstremsurferne Inntar Lofoten". Opphavsrett NRK. 
  13. ^ The Lofoten Insomnia Cycling Race
  14. ^ (The Northern Light)Lofoten in Paintings

Further reading

 Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Lofoten".

  • The official website for Lofoten
  • Lofoten Islands group on Flickr
  • The first Lofoten website (1996) with special emphasis on the islands of Moskenes and Flakstad.
  • Unesco World Heritage - Lofoten archipelago on the tentative list
  • Great pictures from Michael Voeller
  • Photo gallery on M. Klüber Photography
  • Stockfish exported to Europe, Britain 1,100 years ago

External links

  • A. Dyer et al. Walks and Scrambles in Norway ISBN 1-904466-25-7.
  • Ed Webster Climbing in the Magic Islands ISBN 82-993199-0-0.


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