Inlet in the sea with snow and wooden hut
Culture & tradition,  Landscape,  Norway

A brief look at the Lofoten Islands

I had heard a lot about the stunning landscapes of the Lofoten Islands. They promised dramatic mountains, pretty fishing villages and a beautiful coastline.

So when an evening excursion to see a little of the islands was offered on the Hurtigruten ship, I was quick to sign up, as were several of my friends. There are eight main islands in the archipelago and countless rocky islets. Our bus tour was to visit two of them, Vestvågøy and Austvågøy. While we travelled from Stamsund to Svolvær the ship would make its way (with the majority of passengers remaining on board) around the coast to meet us there.

As we left the boat to board the bus in Stamsund there were a few flakes of snow in the air. It had been cold that morning in Bodø, now it was even colder. And this was on the last day of May, the eve of meteorological summer!

On Vestvågøy

As we drove across Vestvågøy snow continued to fall. The scenery was bleak but lovely, hard though to photograph from the bus.

And when we stopped at a viewpoint, clouds soon descended to hide that view. I managed just one shot before the mountains disappeared completely!

Panorama with grey skies, water and islands
Vestvågøya panorama

We crossed by bridge briefly on to Gimsøy (a small island with, to my surprise, a golf course) and on to Austvågøy, the snow still falling.

Bridge over water with snow falling
The bridge to Gimsøy Island
Green sea and stormy sky
View from the bridge to Austvagoy Island

On Austvågøy

We drove across the southern part of Austvagoy Island, the snow starting fall a little heavier. The landscape here was more mountainous, or rather perhaps, the mountains were closer to the road.

Rocky mountain with snow and low cloud
On Austvagoy Island

Our main stop was by an art gallery and museum. The former, the Espolin Gallery, displays the work of a local artist, Kaare Espolin Johnson, illustrating mainly the tough lives of local fishermen. The paintings were dark but quite haunting.

Painting of men in small boats at sea
My favourite of the paintings displayed

We then walked over to the open-air Lofoten Museum with its fishermen’s huts on the shore below the former home of the local landowner. Our guide told us how the latter lived a privileged life at the fishermen’s expense. He not only owned and charged rent for the small huts. He also demanded that the fish caught here were sold only to him and of course therefore set the price they could get for their catches!

Despite the snow the setting was lovely and I enjoyed taking photos there.

White house and bare tree
The Manor House

According to the Museum Nord website:

The impressive manor house was completed in 1815, when Caspar Lorch was the owner of the fishing village. Here he traded and exported fish, as well as renting out cabins to many of those who came to join the Lofoten fisheries in the harsh winter season.

Museum Nord

That website also has a great photo of the complex in much brighter weather than we enjoyed!

On the drive back to pick up the ship in Svolvær the snow got heavier, settling even on the road.

Snowy tracks on a road and rear lights of vehicle ahead
The road to Svolvær

Back on board we watched as the ship pulled out of Svolvær’s harbour, its jetties and surrounding rocks full of fish-drying racks. Although the fishing traditions documented in the museum may belong in the past, this is still (with tourism) the mainstay of the islands’ economy.

Wooden frames on rocks by the sea
Fish drying racks, Svolvær
Harbour with industrial buildings and monument on a pillar
Leaving Svolvær harbour

I visited the Lofoten Islands in May 2023


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much, I’m pleased to have transported you there 🙂 It’s definitely worth a visit and you could be luckier with weather than we were – a friend who was there a couple of weeks ago had warm sunshine much of the time!

  • leightontravels

    The Lofoten Islands look so moody and mysterious through your lens. Beauty, hardship and somehow a distinct sense of loneliness comes off the page for me. I also love that painting, what a masterpiece. Though I must concede that I wouldn’t want a replica in my home, it is rather terrifying. The Manor House is a fine looking building and wow, those fish racks…

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Leighton, I guess I did something right if you get ‘moody and mysterious’ from these images as that reflects what I felt there. There’s something about a place this remote that both intrigues and slightly frightens me. Certainly life here is still tough for the fishermen in particular, though not so much so as in that painting!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      True, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to drive in that weather! But we had to get out of the bus to visit the gallery and museum, and fortunately they were well worth braving the snow for 😀

  • Anonymous

    Sarah these are beautiful shots thank you so much for sharing. I love snow and reading about your tour and looking at these pictures on a Sunday morning make my heart smile, a lot. I like that you find the place beautiful despite the bleak skies.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 😊 I’m not sure who you are as this has appeared as ‘anonymous’, but I have a feeling you must be a VT friend? Glad you enjoyed the snow!

  • Anita

    Of course I’ve heard about Lofoten’s amazing landscape! I’ve never been there but now I got to join you on your visit. Neither likes the dark nor the cold, but you seem to be hardy 😁 But that’s probably a prerequisite for experiencing what the rest of us only dream about. Thanks for sharing all this Sarah.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Anita 🙂 Of course I would have preferred better weather but it was only really as bad as a typical winter day in England and I’d come prepared for that with winter jacket, boots, gloves etc.!


    My God that looks bleak. No wonder the artist depicted the scenes in such dark tones, it must be like that for a considerable chunk of the year. It’s a harsh climate to live in but I guess it’s what you’re used to.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Bleak indeed, and imagine what it must be like in winter, in the Polar Night! Yes, I guess if you’re born to it you may not find it quite as much so as we would but still a tough life even today.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, very beautiful, if cold! And I agree about landowners everywhere – even as the guide told us about this practice I was thinking, ‘I’ve heard this sort of thing elsewhere’ …

  • Nemorino

    Too bad you couldn’t see the midnight sun.
    I have fond memories of visiting the Lofoten Islands in mid-summer 54 years ago.

  • margaret21

    This looks an interesting expedition. And I think an expedition may be enough of an experience of these islands. It all looks pretty tough, even grim. Your beautiful photos don’t tempt me.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Anne 🙂 I’d have got more from the bus if I’d been sitting on the other side, but the snow and rain on the windows made it difficult in any case.

  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Though it was a gray day, I think these are some of the most enchanting photos I’ve ever seen. The black and white effect with just a few touches of color are exceptionally beautiful. My favorites are the fishing hut (?) with the mossy roof, the fish drying racks, and the tree in front of the manor house, although they are all fabulous.

  • Alison

    Gosh it does look bleak Sarah, almost no colour in those photos, very Nordic noir. Beautiful though and would be great to get back in the warm

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Very bleak because of the poor weather in particular, and it was quite late in the day too, although they were into Midnight Sun season by then (sun? what sun?!)

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