Earlier this month I made my third visit to the magical Lofoten archipelago in the north west corner of Norway. This amazing area is one of my favourite places to visit and I have had the idea to try and visit at a different time of year each time I go there to try and see the spectacular views in all their different disguises. My previous visits were in March and October of last year so following this trip I only need to visit nine more times to cover every month of the year.
Why should you visit Lofoten? The small fishing villages lining the fjords, framed by snow covered mountains, make for some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.
As with my two previous visits, I made my home in the village of Reine at the lovely red fishing huts of Reine Rorbuer. These red huts maintain their classic external appearance but inside they are maintained to a very high standard, providing a perfect place to stay right in the heart of the most beautiful part of Lofoten.
These colourful cabins, or Rorbuer, are a feature of the area and in many villages the predominance of a certain colour or a certain mixture of colours really adds to their character. In Reine and Hamnøy red is the dominant colour, in Sakrisøy yellow takes centre stage while in Nusfjord there is a colourful red, white and yellow mixture.
Although Reine is spectacular in itself, it has some very tough competition for the "best village within 5km" title. The villages of Sakrisøy and Hamnøy are both close enough to reach with a 10 minute drive or within an hour on foot.
Sakrisøy, perfectly situated in the fjord with its yellow cabins, has fascinated me since the first time I saw it. It has such a hold on me that it starts to be an impediment to progress on my trips as I cannot easily drive past it without stopping for an hour... and it is on the way from Reine to almost everything else.
When I manage to drag myself past Sakrisøy there is only a few hundred metres before it is imperative to stop again for the world famous view of Hamnøy sheltering under its mountain guardian.
The main road which runs through Lofoten is the E10 highway, this 850km long highway runs from Luleå in eastern Sweden all the way to the end of the line at the village of Å in Lofoten. After Å there are many kilometres of mountainous terrain, but there are not many people and no roads.
Lofoten is also are great location for beach photography, providing everything that you might usually want to photograph at a beach, but with the added bonus of a mountainous backdrop.
The most imposing of Lofoten's beaches (in my opinion) is Uttakleiv, rather a violent place on the more exposed side of the surrounding mountains with a rocky shore and a mountain backdrop. The feeling of the place is enhanced by the warning signs predicting dire consequences for anyone caught in a rockfall.
When you pass under the mountains through a short tunnel to reach Haukland beach you are suddenly in an oasis of comparative calm. Haukland is a massive flat sandy beach gently curving around a large bay. It is a wonderful place for a walk along the sand, observing the oystercatchers as they forage in the surf.
Although Uttakleiv is the most wild and Haukland is the most peaceful, Skagsanden beach is simply my favourite. Skagsanden is a gently sloping sandy beach with a nicely shaped mountainous background. The bay is shaped in such a way that it is both sufficiently interesting and sufficiently safe to attract intrepid arctic circle surfers to test their skills.
On this particular afternoon I would say that the surfer might have been having more fun but the Oystercatchers were having more success as the tide revealed a number of tasty snacks.
A few kilometres along the road from Skagsanden beach there is a turn off which takes you to the village of Nusfjord. It may not be a total surprise to hear that Nusfjord is a small fishing village surrounded by mountain peaks.
Nusfjord is also home to a good selection of seabirds, with the black-legged kittiwake being by far the most noisy of all the villages residents. Its difficult to imagine what meaning their seemingly constant screaming must have but I can only suppose that their communications must rely on the meaning of infrequent silences rather than the meaning of shouting the same words again and again... unless their culture is based on an avian variant of Kabaddi.
A more welcome sight from my point of view was a single European Shag swimming around near the harbour, a cormorant-like species that I had not seen or photographed before.
Driving back from Nusfjord to Reine should be a relatively simple 40 minute drive, but that theory never holds because you have to pass Skagsanden...
... and Hamnøy....
... and Sakrisøy...
... before you finally get to Reine. For some reason Google maps does not take this into account when calculating the driving time. Even when you get to Reine there can be many photographic temptations in the way before you finally get to your cabin.
The early mornings and late nights needed to catch the sunrise and sunset at this time of year soon take their toll, and that makes good coffee extremely important. Fortunately the Bringen cafe provides these lifesaving services with their friendly and welcoming staff, excellent coffee and delicious home baking. Looking at the morning photos with a double latte is a great day to recharge the batteries for the day ahead.
Walking around in the villages of Lofoten there is one feature which is immediately obvious to more than one of your senses. The stockfish racks, filled with thousands and thousands of cod drying in the arctic air, provide an authentic addition to all of your photographs from these villages while also ensuring that you, your clothes, your car and everything else smells faintly of fish for the following few weeks.
This local delicacy is a significant business with Lofoten stockfish being sold all over the world, the temperature and humidity being exactly right for this process thanks to the high Arctic latitude being tempered by the influence of the warming gulfstream currents.
These villages are also home to large numbers of birds, with different gulls and other seabirds being the most numerous of these along with ducks such as the common eider. I saw white tailed eagles flying overhead at least once per day during my visit. There were also a number of smaller birds such as house sparrows, rock pipits, bohemian waxwings and snow buntings.
All too soon, it was time to leave Reine and head back towards my home in southern Finland. I decided this time to drive the whole way (previously I have allowed ferries or trains to do part of the work) in order to see how easy it was to make the journey in that way. Doing this also allowed me to make many stops on the way...
In order to get back to the mainland, you first have to drive north along the whole length of Lofoten. I took the scenic route rather than the direct route, hoping to check out the area around Gimsøy... which took me past this view near to Valberg - a welcome surprise.
As my journey continued, I started to look out for a place where I had encountered a white-tailed eagle sitting on an electricity pylon 13 months earlier. These birds will often have favourite perches within their territory so I thought there might be a chance... and sure enough I was in luck.
The final shots from this trip came on the outskirts of Svolvaer, I stopped to try and find a good composition of a row of houses only to find that they had been obscuring a single house on an island which I liked even more.
Once again, it was a huge pleasure to spend time in Lofoten. I enjoyed every minute of it. Mostly the weather was not quite optimal for photography, oscillating between too good (cloudless skies and harsh light) and too bad (low visibility and featureless cloud) with a shortage of dramatic sunrises and sunsets , but that is just how it goes, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't.
Now that this blog is published its time to plan the next trip... lets see where the next blog comes from!
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