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.


Lofoten (Norse Lófót) was originally the old name of the island Vestvågøya. The first element is 'lynx', the last element is fót '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'.)

Geography and nature

Lofoten is located at the 67th and 68th degree parallels North of the Arctic Circle in North Norway. It is well known for its exceptional 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 and Røst (). The total land area amounts to 1,227 km², and the population totals 24,500.

Many will argue that Hinnøya 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 (Røst Reef, 40 km long, ) 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 woodland with Downy birch and Rowan. There are no native conifer forest 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 (1 2 3). 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 (4, 5). 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.

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 (


Vågar 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 (necklace). The islands have for more than 1,000 years been the center 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, 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. It has later become 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.

Mountaineering and rock climbing

Lofoten offers unique 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 are on Austvågøya and Moskenesøya. 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 takes place every midsummer eve.


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.

See also


External links

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