Haukland beach in Lofoten

10 things you may not know about the Lofoten Islands

Serpentine roads, wild fjords, colourful cottage houses, sparkling blue waters and jutting mountaintops. You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to the beauty of the Lofoten islands (your Instagram will thank you).

The Arctic Norway archipelago is known for its breathtaking beautiful vistas. But how much do you really know about this ancient, untamed place? Below we compiled a list of 10 things you may not know about the Lofoten Islands, so that you can make the most out of your visit to these beautiful islands in Northern Norway.

The islands got their name from a lynx

From a lynx’s foot, to be exact. Vestvågøy island, which has been the heart of the archipelago since ancient times, was originally named Lófót, because its shape looked like a lynx’s foot (“ló” translates to “lynx” and “fót” derives from the word for “foot”). 

Soon, it gave its name to the whole area — and that’s why the islands are now called Lofoten.

Norwegian Lynx in the woods
Photo: Roger Johansen | nordnorge.com

There’s something very weird (but good weird) about Lofoten’s climate

The Lofoten islands are well within the Arctic Circle. So for all intents and purposes, the climate should be really cold, right? And yet, although obviously it’s not warm, the climate in the Lofoten islands is much milder than it should be. 

In fact, Lofoten has one of the world’s largest higher temperature anomalies that have been observed in such high latitude. This is because of the Gulf Stream, which brings warmer waters and prevents the sea around the archipelago from freezing fully during the winter.

Fishing trip with MS Symra during the traditional Lofoten fishery
Photo: Carl Filip Olsson

You can actually surf in Lofoten

Remember that warmer climate we mentioned earlier? Because of it, the Lofoten islands are home to some of the best beaches in Norway. 

Unstad beach in particular, is a meeting point for surfers all year long due to its high waves and strong winds, with the Unstad Arctic Surf Resort growing in following each year. Don’t forget to pack your wetsuit!

Surfing at Unstad beach in Lofoten

It’s all about the cod

But the warmer climate is not just good for surfing: it’s great for fishing as well — particularly cod fishing. The islands have a tradition of cod fishing that dates back a thousand years!  

This is because cod migrates here in the winter, due to the warmer waters. This made it possible for the Norwegians of old to build communities and villages, slowly creating a stable economy around cod fishing and trading. And this continues very much so to this day: dried cod is being exported from the Lofoten islands to all of Europe. 

Girl holding up a large cod
Photo: XXLofoten

There may be fish hanging over your head

Which brings us to our next point: you may often find yourself with fish hanging over your head when visiting the Lofoten islands. This would be the famous stockfish, aka cod that’s been drying with the help of the wind in triangular wooden racks near the waterfront. 

This method of drying fish is truly an ancient one; the traditional racks are tall enough that you can walk underneath them.

Two people standing under huge fishing racks with drying cod
Photo: CH | Visit Norway

In Lofoten you’ll find the real Vikings

Like we mentioned before, people have been living in the Lofoten islands for more than a thousand years. And by people, we mean Vikings of course! Lofoten islands have a very strong connection to the Viking Age, with many significant archaeological finds in the area. 

For example, in the small village of Borg, near Bøstad, the largest Viking longhouse ever found was discovered — and it is now reconstructed as the Lofotr Viking Museum. You should definitely pay a visit to see how real Vikings lived.

Lofotr Viking museum in Lofoten
Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik | Museum Nord | Destination Lofoten

Lofoten is the real life, Disney movie setting

No, it’s not your idea. Many of the landscapes in Frozen, the Disney hit movie, were actually inspired by the small fishing villages with the colorful houses and the craggy mountaintops found here in the Lofoten islands. 

In fact, ever since the movie was first released in 2013, more and more people travel here to experience the unique vistas… that are even better in real life.

Green northern lights dancing over some red fishing huts in Lofoten

Hollywood loves Lofoten as well

It’s not just Disney that was inspired by the Lofoten islands though. Hollywood followed suit, with Academy Award-winner Matt Damon filming some key scenes for his 2017 sci-fi dramedy, Downsizing, here in the Lofoten islands. Can’t really blame him! The beauty of these islands is totally cinematic.

Panoramic views of Trollfjorden and the surrounding mountain tops
Photo: XXLofoten

You’ll be able to enjoy Lofoten in the future, as well

Lofoten is working towards becoming a certified Sustainable Destination. This means that steps are taken so that the breathtaking beauty and culture of this place will be preserved for future generations to also enjoy. 

Taking in mind the fact that Lofoten is also home to the world’s largest deep water coral reef, the Røst Reef west of Røst island, preserving the nature and biodiversity of the area is crucial.

Sightseeing to Røst bird Island
Photo: Kristin Folsland Olsen | nordnorge.com

You can see the northern lights

Lofoten is situated beneath a belt of light encircling the geomagnetic poles of the Earth, called the “Aurora oval”. This belt provides some of the best chances of catching a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights at night

Just imagine how magical the Northern Lights will look reflected in the waters surrounding the archipelago… During the summer they also have the magical midnight sun.

Great ways to experience Lofoten

Northern lights dancing on the sky in Lofoten

Lofoten Northern Lights Photo Tour

Witness the Aurora Borealis in Lofoten – one of the world’s most fantastic natural phenomena
From NOK 1650
RIB boat in the Trollfjord

Sea Eagle Rib Safari Trollfjord

Sea eagle RIB boat safari from Svolvær in Lofoten
From NOK 1095