Leknes Lofoten Islands, Norway cruises
Your guide to Leknes.
The Lofoten Islands can be found north of the Arctic Circle, a region famed for dramatic landscapes and Viking ancestry. Of the six prominent islands that occupy the Lofotens, Leknes lies in the municipality of Vestvågøy, and it’s here, against the backdrop of soaring mountains and salt-white beaches, that voyages with Cunard call. Visit the Sund Museum to learn about local life and observe blacksmiths at work. Discover the Ice Bar and Gallery in Svolvær, and explore picturesque fishing hamlets such as Nusfjord and Henningsvær. Arrival by boat is the most enchanting way to approach Leknes, and the journey delivers on its promise of spectacular scenery.
Those who seek out the Lofoten Islands often do so for its outdoor lifestyle. Sea kayaking, mountaineering and surfing are popular pursuits, and the world’s largest deep coral reef is located in Rost. Sea eagles, wild puffin and otters are native to this part of Norway, and a sighting is always possible. Bikes can be hired locally, and cycling offers an ideal way to explore the town. A picturesque wooden church, built in 1905, can be found near the Fjord, while the Vestvågøy Museum on Leknes’s outskirts offers historical exhibits documenting the region’s fishing heritage. A second branch is located at Skaftnes, a small fishing community just southeast of Leknes.
Eating and drinking.
Seafood features strongly in Leknes. The area is known for stockfish - an unsalted fish hung out to air-dry in the cold - and you may well catch sight of the filets around town. The Koldtbord (a Norwegian smörgåsbord) is popular at lunchtime and includes a wide selection of hot and cold dishes, from fish to roast meat and pâte to salad. Another lunchtime favorite is a smørbrød, a large open sandwich, and each of these two Scandinavian specialties is quite substantial. Norwegian lagers are world-famous, and quality beers are brewed in Bodø and Tromso. However, for something different, try wine made from blueberries and mountain fruits.
Shopping opportunities are few and far between in Leknes. The Lofotens, in general, have a limited number of shops and many cater to local needs above gifts and mementos. Of the shops that do exist, most are open on weekdays and Saturdays. It is possible to purchase Norwegian sweaters, knitted from local wool, and other hand-spun textile products, including scarves. One such shop is an approximately 15-minute drive from Leknes, on the banks of the Fjord. Woodcarvings, paintings by local artists and crafts imported from Norway can also be found on the outskirts of town.
The Viking Museum at Borg is one of the most important places in the Lofotens, with excavations placing the building from around AD 600. The pretty coastal village of Ballstad, 6 miles south of Gravdal, is charming and offers great harbor views, while Vågan Kirke, the largest wooden church north of Trondheim, has a huge interior accommodating up to 1,200 worshipers. The Lofoten Aquarium at Storvågan displays all kinds of marine life, and the seal pool is particularly popular. The Lofoten Museum is also at Storvågan and gives a vivid impression of life in the old days.
While evidence points to life in Lofoten for over eleven centuries, only since 2002 has Leknes been formally recognized as a town. Large by island standards, at 620 acres, the town pales in comparison to other major municipalities (London, by contrast, occupies 75,000 acres). Even so, roughly 1.5 thousand townsfolk inhabit Leknes per square mile, while its harbor is one of the most-visited in all of the Lofoten Islands.
Arrival by boat is one of the easiest ways of accessing Leknes. The nearest airport is serviced by only a handful of indirect flights, solidifying the feeling of remoteness that contributes to the islands’ appeal. Those who make the journey are rewarded with spectacular scenery. There are strict rules about what is and isn’t permissible in Lofoten, all in the name of preserving the area’s outstanding natural beauty.
In addition to the moderate climate, one of the biggest surprises upon arriving on the Lofoten Islands is the extreme contrast in its landscape. The luminous white sand beaches that cling to the coastline easily rival those of the Caribbean – as does the azure and inviting water that laps onto the shore.
Then there’s the mountains. Splaying out in all directions, 160 km of ragged mountain ranges make up the Lofoten Islands, intermittently piercing the sea’s surface and enveloping each town in a protective embrace. Sometimes snow-covered, at other times abundantly green with wild foliage, each summit rises and falls like peaks in a whipped meringue.
In Leknes town, small cafes, independent shops, a handful of restaurants and a couple of churches provide signs of everyday life. The area is known for a local delicacy called Stockfish - unsalted fish, hung out to air-dry in the cold climate. It’s common in this part of Norway, and you may well catch sight of the tell-tale cod fillets hanging on wooden racks as you voyage around town.
The waters surrounding the Lofoten Islands are abundant with aquatic life, while the largest of the world’s deep coral reefs is located just south in Rost. Sea eagles, wild puffin and otters are a common sight in this part of the world, while moose are also known to inhabit the largest of the archipelago’s big six.
Those who seek out the Lofoten Islands often do so for its outdoor lifestyle. The region is a mecca for adventurers, with everything from sea kayaking and mountaineering to surfing and cycling among the pastimes practiced here.
Those content to stay on dry land may prefer to visit the Fygle museum, 2 km from Leknes’ center. The museum offers a school, dating from the late 1890s, as well as a fisherman’s cabin from 1834, providing a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Vestvagoy’s former residents. Entry is by pre-arranged appointment, with a minimum of three days’ advance notice, so be sure to call ahead if a stop here is on your Leknes itinerary.