The Lofoten Peninsula

How long do you think it takes to drive 118 km on Lofoten? That’s the distance we traveled yesterday to get to Svolvaer, the largest city (9,000 people) on this peninsula.

The weather forecast was for rain in the morning and then fine weather in the afternoon. We delayed our departure from Reines for as long as we could so that most of tour driving would be in fine weather. This strategy paid off, as whilst we had lots of low  cloud, the lack of rain gave us much more visibility and better photos.

The road followed the coast for a lot of the way with occasional meanderings through mountain valleys in the centre of the peninsula. The peninsula isn’t very wide and it only takes a  short time to cross from one side to the other. Most of the scenery was stunning – craggy mountains, quaint fishing villages and rugged coastlines. My photos do a better job of describing this area than any description that i can write.





At one place, we found another example of Norway’s excellence at bridge building when we crossed this bridge over the end of a fjord.


By mid afternoon, we were only 25kms from Svolvaer and we took another  little detour to the fishing village of Henningsvær. It is a beautiful village even though it is visited by many tourists. This little village is built on a number of islands and skerries using interconnecting piers. It is surrounded by sea on all sides and has adopted the name of ‘Venice of the North’. Before 1960, the only connection with the outside world was a boat trip to Kabelvåg and Svolvær. In 1960, Highway 816 (actually a one lane road with passing bays, except for Italian drivers) was built along the coast. 


Henningsvær was predominantly populated in the 1700s. It was privately owned and by 1842 it had a hospital, fishery, chapel and lighthouse. 1882 the village was bought by the county of Nordland to prevent the place from falling into foreign hands. In 1922, Henningsvær was connected to the electricity grid, and a few years later, a  freshwater supply from the mainland was connected. After WW2, several years of record fishing followed, and Henningsvær had about 1000 residents in the 1950s. Then there was a decline in catches, which eventually led to changes in fisheries management. As a result, fewer and larger boats were fishing here, and the population in Henningsvær fell as a result of this until the 1990s when it stabilised at today’s level.

We found our accommodation for the night at a large collection of fishermen’s cabins by the harbour in Svolvaer. It had taken us all day to get here. One thing missing in Norway are are any signs pointing to photo locations, as e have in Australia. I guess the whole place is just one big photo location – that’s why it takes so long to get anywhere. If you are ever touring in Norway, be prepared for a photo stop at least every kilometre!

Growing everywhere around this area is a bright yellow flower. It grows wild in big patches and looks great against the dark red colour of the buildings. Neither Jill or I knew what it was, but my iPhone App tells me that it is Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia Punctata)

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This morning, we backtracked a few kilometres down the road to the village of Kabelvåg to visit the large church that we passed yesterday.

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Vågan Church or Lofoten Cathedral was built in 1898. It seats 1200-seat people and is the largest church in northern Norway. King Øystein built the first church in Vågan in the early 12th century, at the same time as building cottages for fishermen. That established the close relationship between the Church and the annual Lofoten fishery. There have certainly been five, maybe six, different churches in Kabelvåg, and this is the  current one. Vågan Church has preserved the artefacts from the previous churches, including King Fredrik 1589 Bible, 17th-century chandeliers and candlesticks, and an 18th-century baptismal font.


A church of this size was needed  because of Lofoten’s fishing heritage. Visiting fishermen from around the Norwegian coast felt the need for spiritual support before they took to the Lofoten Sea in winter, and the church was always full during the Lofoten fishing season. For an ordination in 1929, there were 2000 people in the church — 800 of them stood, and Bishop Berggrav said from the pulpit that it felt like being in a cathedral. Thus the nickname “Lofoten Cathedral”, although Vågan Church is actually a normal parish church.

The church is built in the Gothic Revival style, and like many in Northern Norway, in wood. Pointed arches feature in the windows, in the arches between the tall, slender internal wooden columns, in the pulpit’s ornamentation and on the stately, pointed tower. The Swiss style can be seen in the carved details of the roof ridges and in the interior ornamentation. Architect Carl Julius Bergstrøm began using prefabricated elements from Trondheim that were put together on site. The altarpiece from 1860 was in the “old church” that was located across the road with a church yard. It was demolished in 1900.

Back in Svolvaer, we visited the very impressive war museum. Spread across six rooms, it tells the story of the German occupation of Norway in WW2 (especially in the far north). It has  a very large exhibition of rare uniforms and artefacts from the war. Seeing that today (August 18) is Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day at home, perhaps a visit to a war museum was an appropriate thing to do today. 


Just before it began raining again at 4.00 pm, I was able to find a place to launch my drone and take an aerial photo of the environment in which we are staying.

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