Reine, Lofoten, seen from top of Reinebringen
Lofoten is located in Norway
location in Norway
Lofoten is located in Nordland
Lofoten (Nordland)
Coordinates68°20′N 14°40′E / 68.333°N 14.667°E / 68.333; 14.667
ArchipelagoLofoten archipelago
Major islandsAustvågøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy, Moskenesøy, Værøy, Røst
Area1,227 km2 (474 sq mi)
Additional information
Official websitelofoten.info/en

Lofoten (/ˈlftən, lˈftən/ LOH-foh-tən, loh-FOH-tən, Norwegian: [ˈlùːfuːtn̩]) is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Lofoten has distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands. There are two towns, Svolvær and Leknes – the latter is approximately 169 km (105 mi) north of the Arctic Circle and approximately 2,420 km (1,500 mi) away from the North Pole. The archipelago experiences one of the world's largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.


Lofoten (Old Norse: Lófótr) was the original 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 that of a lynx's foot. (The old name of the neighbouring island Flakstadøya was Vargfót, "wolf's foot", from vargr "wolf".) Alternatively it could derive from the word for light in reference to the presence of Aurora Borealis as the word for light itself is the root of the Old Norse word for lynx lóa, although the earliest evidence suggests Lófótr was first the name of the island of Vestvågøy and only later becoming the name of the chain of islands. Most parsimonious is the analogy with Aurora Borealis, as the word fótr is typically not used to describe the feet of beasts of prey, instead using the word hrammr (paw) or löpp (also paw) for animals such as cats or dogs. Fótr can be used to describe legs, and as such, light leg represents the most plausible etymology taking into account the geography of the archipelago, eventually morphing to describe only the island of Vestvågøy before once again describing the island chain from its main island.

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 kilometres (62 miles) long, and 800–1,000 metres (2,600–3,300 feet) high.


"Raftsund, Lofoten, Digermulen, Norway", c. 1890–1900.

According to Robert M. D'Anjou and others: "There is evidence of human settlement extending back at least 11,000 years in Lofoten, and the earliest archaeological sites ... are only about 5,500 years old, at the transition from the early to late Stone Age." Iron Age agriculture, livestock, and significant human habitation can be traced back to c. 250 BC.[1]

Svolvær in Lofoten, Norway. View from the ferry harbour

The town of 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. The Lofotr Viking Museum with the reconstructed 83-metre-long (272 ft) longhouse (the largest known) is located near Borg on 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 migrate south from the Barents Sea and gather in Lofoten to spawn. Bergen in southwestern Norway was for a long time the hub for further export of cod 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.

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

As of 2017, the islands attract one million tourists a year.[3]


Lofoten and Vesterålen

Lofoten is located at the 68th and 69th parallels north of the Arctic Circle in North Norway. Lofoten encompasses the municipalities of Vågan, Vestvågøy, Flakstad, Moskenes, Værøy, and Røst. The principal islands, running from north to south are:

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 square kilometres (474 square miles), 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 main islands are joined to each other and the mainland by road bridges.

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 metres (3,809 feet)) in Austvågøy; the Møysalen National Park just northeast of Lofoten has mountains reaching 1,262 metres (4,140 feet). The famous Moskstraumen (Malstrøm) system of tidal eddies is located in western Lofoten, and is indeed the root of the term maelstrom.


Geological map of Lofoten and Vesterålen

See also: Transscandinavian Igneous Belt

Lofoten is a horst ridge of bedrock.[4] The rocks of Lofoten belong to the wider Western Gneiss Region of Norway.[5] Some of the high relief and irregular surfaces of Lofoten has been attributed to etching that took place during the Mesozoic Era. Evidence of this would be the kaolinite found at some locations.[6] To the northwest the Lofoten archipelago is bounded by the NE–SW-trending West Lofoten Border Fault. This is a normal fault whose fault scarp has been eroded forming a strandflat.[7]

In Vestvågøya mountains have steep slopes towards the open sea in the northwest and southeast while slopes pointing towards the interior of the island are more gentle. This is the result of erosion acting on a landscape that has been uplifted along NE–SW-trending faults in the margins of Lofoten while the interior axis has remained more stable.[4] In tectonic terms mountains are half-grabens and faults are of the dip-slip type.[4]

The sea around Lofoten is known to host significant oil reserves: 1.3 bn barrels. Oil extraction in the Lofoten area is prohibited.[3]


The sea is rich with life, and the world's largest deep water coral reef, called the Røst Reef, is located west of Røst.[8] Approximately 70% of all fish caught in the Norwegian and Barents seas use its islands' waters as a breeding ground.[3] Otters are common, and there are elk 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. Hedlundia hybrida[9] and Malus sylvestris occur in Lofoten, but not further north.


Some 27,000 ha of marine waters along the north-western coasts and fjords of the Lofoten Islands has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International (BLI) because it supports overwintering populations of common eiders and yellow-billed loons. The IBA contains or overlaps with the Seløya, Morfjorden, Laukvikøyene, Eggum and Borgværet nature reserves, as well as the Laukvikøyene Ramsar site.[10] Lofoten has a high density of sea eagles and cormorants, and millions of other sea birds, among them the colourful puffin. It has mainland Europe's largest seabird colony.[3] The birds once mistaken for 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.[11]


Lofoten features a mostly subpolar oceanic climate (Cfc) under the Köppen climate classification, although some parts like Skrova feature a temperate oceanic climate (Cfb). Winter temperatures in Lofoten are extremely mild considering its location north of the Arctic Circle – possibly the largest positive temperature anomaly in the world relative to latitude. The mild winters are a result of the temperate waters of the Norwegian Sea, which is warmed by the North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current. The mild air (Lows) from the Atlantic having a free path northwards even in winter is also very significant.

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 avalanches may come down from the steep slopes.

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 metre (3 feet 3 inches) depth in the sea near Skrova, water temperatures vary from a low of 3 °C (37 °F) in March to 14 °C (57 °F) in August, some years peaking above 17 °C (63 °F). November is around 7–8 °C (45–46 °F). At a depth of 200 metres (660 feet), the temperature is near 8 °C (46 °F) all year.[12] Skrova lighthouse on an island near Svolvær has the longest recording of air temperature in Lofoten. The warmest temperature recorded is 30.4 °C (86.7 °F) in June 1972. The coldest temperature recorded is −15.1 °C (4.8 °F) in February 1966. Last overnight freeze in June was in 1962, and last freeze in September was in 1986. Skrova and nearby Svolvær are among those places in North Norway which can record what Norwegians know as "tropical nights" when the overnight low does not go below 20 °C (68 °F). The warmest night recorded in Lofoten was July 1 1972 at Skrova with low 23.8 °C (74.8 °F),[13] and the earliest in summer was June 10th 2011 with low 21.5 °C (70.7 °F).[14] The wettest month recorded is December 1936 with 227 mm, and the driest is January 2014 with 0.9 mm.

Climate data for Skrova 1991-2020 (14 m, precipitation days 1961-90, extremes 1934-2022)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 10.6
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 2.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.9
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −1
Record low °C (°F) −12.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 89
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 14 11 11 10 9 9 11 10 15 17 15 15 147
Source 1: Norwegian Meteorological Institute[15]
Source 2: Noaa WMO averages 91-2020 Norway [16]

Even if the islands are not that large, there are climatic differences. Værøy and Røst furthest west have the warmest winters, but summer highs are cooler. Vestvågøy with the town Leknes has lowland in the interior of the island with mountains nearby; winters here are slightly colder and much wetter than at Skrova, while summers are drier and comparable.

Climate data for Leknes Airport 1991–2020
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 1
Daily mean °C (°F) 0
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 203
Source 1: Norwegian Meteorological Institute[15]
Source 2: Weatheronline climate robot (avg highs/lows) [17]


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 (3,900 feet). The main centre for rock climbing is Henningsvær on Austvågøya.

The main areas for mountaineering and climbing are on Austvågøy and Moskenesøya. Moskenesøya features remote and serious mountaineering whereas Austvågøy is very popular area for rock climbing.[citation needed]


Lofoten has one of the world's most noteworthy football pitches. Located in the village of Henningsvaer, the pitch at Henningsvaer Stadium rests on a rocky islet and has no actual seats.[18]


Unstad is one of its better known locations for surfing. Every September surfers from around the world visit to compete in the Lofoten Masters.[19]



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 300–400-metre (980–1,310-foot) climbs.[citation needed]

The Lofoten Insomnia Cycling Race[20][full citation needed] takes place every year around midsummer, possible in the midnight sun, but certainly in 24-hour daylight, along the whole Lofoten archipelago.

The Arctic Race of Norway, the world's northernmost professional stage race on road bike which takes place every year in Northern Norway, crossed the Lofoten islands during its first edition in August 2013. As of 2015, the race was planned to be back in 2019 from Thursday 15 August to Sunday 18 August. The first two stages will cross the Lofoten archipelago from west to east.[21][full citation needed]


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 1 December 2007. There are several daily bus services between the islands of Lofoten and between Lofoten and the mainland along E10. The Lofoten Islands are not serviced by any trains. However, the city of Narvik is connected to Stockholm and Oslo by train, and connects directly to the Lofoten bus line.[22]

Bodø is often used as a hub for travel to Lofoten. In addition to air travel there is a ferry connecting Bodø to Moskenes[23], and a speedboat connection to Svolvær. Bodø is connected by train to Trondheim and Oslo. There is also a ferry connecting Svolvær to Skutvik in Hamarøy, with road connection east to E6. Hurtigruten calls at Stamsund and Svolvær.

Lofoten is also served by a number of small airports:


Visual arts

Lofoten International Art Festival [no] (Lofoten internasjonale kunstfestival, LIAF) is a contemporary art biennale with no set venue or location on the archipelago.[24] Artists who have participated include Kjersti Andvig, Michel Auder, A K Dolven, Ida Ekblad, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Lawrence Weiner.[25][26][27][28]

The North Norwegian Art Centre [no] (Nordnorsk Kunstnersenter, NNKS) was established in Svolvær in 1979.[29]

KaviarFactory [no] is a privately-owned contemporary art space in Henningsvær.[30]

The Nordland School of Art and Film [no] (Nordland kunst- og filmhøgskole, NKFS) was established in Kabelvåg in 1997.[31]

In popular culture





Norwegian painter Gunnar Berg was known for his paintings of his native Lofoten. He principally painted 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, Lev Lagorio,[32] Ernst Wilhelm Nay and Ingo Kühl.


In 2004, Nurse with Wound broadcast 24 unexpected radio transmissions from the Lofoten Islands,[citation needed] whose sounds were sourced from the environment and objects found in Lofoten. These recordings are included on their three releases entitled Shipwreck Radio.[33]

See also


  1. ^ D'Anjou, Robert M.; Bradley, Raymond S.; Balascio, Nicholas L.; Finkelstein, David B. (2012). "Climate impacts on human settlement and agricultural activities in northern Norway revealed through sediment biogeochemistry". PNAS. 109 (50): 20332–20337. Bibcode:2012PNAS..10920332D. doi:10.1073/pnas.1212730109. PMC 3528558. PMID 23185025.
  2. ^ "Norway – Vestvågøy – Vendalsjord". www.travels-in-time.net. Archived from the original on 2021-01-22. Retrieved 2021-02-25.
  3. ^ a b c d M.F. (29 Aug 2017). "Why Norway may leave $65bn worth of oil in the ground". The Economist.
  4. ^ a b c Bergh, Steffen G.; Liland, Kristian H.; Corner, Geoffred D.; Henningsen, Tormod; Lundekvam, Petter A. (2018). "Fault-controlled asymmetric landscapes and low-relief surfaces on Vestvågøya, Lofoten, North Norway: inherited Mesozoic rift-margin structures?" (PDF). Norwegian Journal of Geology. 98 (4). doi:10.17850/njg98-3-06. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  5. ^ Steltenpohl, Mark G.; Hames, Willis E.; Andresen, Arild (2004). "The Silurian to Permian history of a metamorphic core complex in Lofoten, northern Scandinavian Caledonides". Tectonics. 23 (1): n/a. Bibcode:2004Tecto..23.1002S. doi:10.1029/2003TC001522.
  6. ^ Lidmar-Bergström, K.; Näslund, J.O. (2002). "Landforms and uplift in Scandinavia". In Doré, A.G.; Cartwright, J.A.; Stoker, M.S.; Turner, J.P.; White, N. (eds.). Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration. Geological Society, London, Special Publications. The Geological Society of London. pp. 103–116.
  7. ^ Osmundsen, P.T.; Redfield, T.F.; Hendriks, B.H.W.; Bergh, S.; Hansen, J.-A.; Henderson, I.H.C.; Dehls, J.; Lauknes, T.R.; Larsen, Y.; Anda, E.; Davidsen, B. (2010). "Fault-controlled alpine topography in Norway". Journal of the Geological Society, London. 167 (1): 83–98. Bibcode:2010JGSoc.167...83O. doi:10.1144/0016-76492009-019. S2CID 129912355.
  8. ^ "Røst Reef, 40 km long". Archived from the original on February 8, 2007.
  9. ^ "Rødlista 2021 – Hedlundia hybrida: Ekspertenes oppsummering" [Redlist for 2021 – Hedlundia hybrida: Expert summary]. Artsdatabanken (in Norwegian). Retrieved 15 December 2023. Rognasal Hedlundia hybrida (tidligere Sorbus hybrida) vurderes som livskraftig (LC). Dette er en vidt utbredt art i låglandet og kyststrøk nord til ytre Lofoten. [The rowan-whitebeam Hedlundia hybrida (formerly Sorbus hybrida) is assessed as viable (LC). This is a widely distributed species in the lowlands and coastal areas north to outer Lofoten.]
  10. ^ "Lofoten". BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International. 2021. Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  11. ^ Martin, Stephen. Penguin. Reaktion Books Ltd., 2009, p. 22.
  12. ^ "Faste stasjoner". www.imr.no.
  13. ^ "Vær og Vind - NORGE – Alle tropenetter - Powered by Proweb". www.verogvind.net.
  14. ^ Nordland, Avisa (2011). "Varmerekord og tropenatt". www.an.no (in Norwegian).
  15. ^ a b "EKlima". sharki.oslo.dnmi.no. Archived from the original on 2021-01-28. Retrieved 2021-01-27.
  16. ^ "NOAA WMO normals Norway 1991-2020". www.nodc.noaa.gov.
  17. ^ "Weatheronline climate robot Leknes Airport". Weather online. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Amusing Planet: Stadium in Henningsvær". Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Ekstremsurferne Inntar Lofoten". nrk.no. Opphavsrett NRK. 4 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Zalaris Lofoten Insomnia". www.lofoteninsomnia.no.
  21. ^ "Official route of Arctic Race of Norway 2021". www.arctic-race-of-norway.com.
  22. ^ "How to Get to the Lofoten Islands in Norway - Around The World With Me". aroundtheworldwithme.com. 2023-06-11. Retrieved 2023-07-09.
  23. ^ "Torghatten Nord AS". www.torghatten-nord.no. Retrieved 2023-07-09.
  24. ^ "Lofoten International Art Festival LIAF (Norway)". Biennial Foundation. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  25. ^ Yazdani, Sara R. (2016-09-02). "Eloquent Materials". Kunstkritikk. ISSN 1504-0925. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  26. ^ Tangen, Leif Magn e (2006-03-10). "LIAF 06". Kunstkritikk (in Norwegian Bokmål). ISSN 1504-0925. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  27. ^ Hammer, Erlend (2011-05-23). "LIAF 2011: Mindre snakk, mer handling!". Kunstkritikk (in Norwegian Bokmål). ISSN 1504-0925. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  28. ^ Sutton, Kate (2013-09-18). "Diary – Winter Is Coming". Artforum. ISSN 0004-3532. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  29. ^ "Forsiden". NNKS. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  30. ^ Bomsdorf, Clemens (2010-07-12). "Art space to open in Norwegian caviar factory". The Art Newspaper. ISSN 0960-6556. Archived from the original on 2010-07-17.
  31. ^ "Nordland kunst- og filmhøgskole". NKFS (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  32. ^ "The Northern Lights Route – Lofoten in Paintings". www.ub.uit.no.
  33. ^ "Lofoten Northern Light - Experience the Aurora borealis in Norway". lofotennorthernlight.com.

Further reading