Lofoten through the lens

Lofoten in the winter shows a (darker) side of Norway not often seen by tourists, but one that’s just as awe-inspiring and majestic as the high summer months.


The Lofoten islands on the west coast of northern Norway are a popular tourist destination in the spring and summer with thousands of international visitors pouring off of cruise ships to explore the towns and the area’s unique history. When the fall storms blow in and the last piece of luggage is dragged away the area slowly shuts down and for five months of the year Lofoten seems to go into a sort of hibernation as residents get some much needed respite from the crowds and life goes back to its traditional quiet normalcy.

But winter tourism in the Arctic Circle is becoming more popular and soon Lofoten may find itself open for business year-round – backpackers hitch rides along the winding roads, while other tourists take the Hurtigruten north to see the aurora borealis.

Finding open businesses can be tricky, though. The owner of a boat-and-breakfast in Å, on the island of Muskenes, tries to give us directions to a restaurant.

“There’s a restaurant 10 kilometers down the road, in Reine,” she says, although she can’t be sure if it’s still open. “It was open in October.”

This November, outside of the major centres, many windows had “on holiday” signs hanging in them, museum websites indicated opening hours were only between March and September and the fishing racks stood bare in the icy winds. There were, however, glimmers of activity and upon closer inspection Lofoten’s oft unseen winter face became clear.

Visit Lofoten this winter and you will likely have to get all your meals from grocery stores and, if you want anything hot, better seek out a rorbuer  (traditional fishermen’s cabins) wtih a stove. But you will also see a side not yet picked over and ransacked by tourists and one that offers a rare and unfiltered view into the history of Arctic Norway.