Fishing hut in the Hamnoy - Reine, Lofoten islands, Norway.; Shutterstock ID 1071224996; Invoice Number: -
Grey silhouette of a person's head and shoulders

Nick Boulos


Deep in the Lofoten Islands, where the wind whistles around the mountains and icy glaciers, and the quaint red-painted wooden cabins quietly creak, there’s something rather fishy going on.


Truth be told, that’s nothing new. Fish have been the lifeblood of this hardy-but-heavenly corner of far-flung Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, for thousands of years.


"We have found evidence of people living here more than 6,000 years ago," says local historian Kristine Moltu. "They subsisted on fishing, with hooks made from bones and horn."

Stretching for 175 splendid kilometers, with peaks that tickle the clouds at heights of more than 1,000 meters, this is a land of fjords and glaciers, of whales and swooping eagles, and of ancient ways and quiet traditions.


At the heart of it all is the port of Leknes, the perfect jumping-off point to explore the region's rich history in a little more detail.

The Lofoten Museum in Kabelvag offers an in-depth look at the traditional fisheries, while the Lofotr Viking Museum occupies a reconstruction of the largest Viking house in Northern Europe, measuring 83 meters in length. Take the opportunity to try authentic Viking far, singing and dancing.


The real fun is to be found in the great outdoors. A staggering collection of fjords and rocky islets made from volcanic granite are now home to just 24,500 people, who live in small fishing villages sprinkled far and wide, such as charming Nusfjord and Henningsvaer.


In these little communities, you'll be sure to spot the thousands of stockfish suspended on towering wooden frames. The unsalted fish, often cod, are dried by the cold air and are the main product of the Lofoten Islands. "The drying process has been unchanged for 1,000 years," says Kristine.

 This cultural backbone has also been underpinned, it seems, by a fascinating raft of superstitions which were once adhered to with unstinting reverence. Where fishing was concerned, a firm separation of land and sea was insisted on at all times. "All equipment and references relating to the land were banned on board boats – as was even the mention of words like cow or horse," explains Kristine. 


While such beliefs and superstitions have long been laid to rest, here on these unspoilt islands it isn’t difficult to imagine how generations of its hardy people would have existed in days gone by. Dressed for all weathers in wool and hide, life would have been hard.

Reine fishing village on Lofoten islands, Norway; Shutterstock ID 209912017; Invoice Number: -

Up until the 18th century, small communities lived in simple wooden-framed houses clad in bark and peat. Recycling was common because of the scarcity of building materials and lack of money, and dwellings were often dismantled so their components could be reused to create new homes elsewhere.


There were also rorbus – small two-roomed fishermen’s cabins, the like of which still stand today. They were rented by visiting fishermen who arrived on boats, and went on to stay for the season.


That historical nugget is surely an indication that seafaring visitors were readily welcomed into the local communities: just as those who arrive here are welcomed today.

On a Norway cruise to this region, our guests can enjoy a rich variety of tours and excursions to get to know these intriguing islands better: the Lofoten Heritage Trail, for instance, takes in a scenic drive along the Flakstad Bay to the charming 13th-century red church and then on to the Sund Museum with its fascinating collection of fishermen’s boats, utensils and artefacts from the last century.


Or you can take the Leknes Tour, which makes the most of the islands’ breathtaking views, and includes a visit to Nusfjord fishing village – one of the most idyllic and best-preserved hamlets in the Lofoten Islands.

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