Seeing what swims in the fjords

Visiting the northern islands of Lofoten includes the possibility to see a small but good aquarium; one of its highlights is be the feeding time for the seals and otters in their outdoor pools.

Storvågan is a little village west of Svolvær; established around 1800. It was one of Lofoten largest fishing villages. Now this little village hosts an aquarium that aims to show tourists the life hiding in the deep waters around Lofoten and the north of Norway. Oudoors there is a pool with 5 active seals: one male who was bought from another aquarium and four female, two of which were born in captivity. Everyday they are fed herring at noon. If you are lucky you can watch it and if you are really lucky you might be able to feed them a snack or two!

Finally blue skies

Uttakleiv is the most photographed beach on Lofoten. A 4km walk that took 11 years to build along the coast takes you to what is considered the most romantic beach in Lofoten: Haukland. Along the way sheep that climb hundreds of meters up the cliff to eat the best grass; a shelter where an otter hunter used to take refuge; and dramatic views of the Nordic coastline in a sunny 11°C summer day.

The Lofoten Hawaii

The small island of Skrova, in the middle of Vestfjord, is only accessible by boat and considered the Lofoten islands “Hawaii” for the most amount of sunlight and least amount of rainfall it gets through the year.

Being the most sheltered of a group of three islands, it is where the 220 residents of the area decide to live. The population lives mainly from salmon farming, fishing and whaling. In fact, according to my guide, this little island processes more than half of Norways whale hunting quota. There are two restaurants in the small island: one that serves whale meat and the one that doesn’t.

Tourism is nowadays also a source of income. Climbing up the 281 meters of the highest mountain in Skrova is the second most popular touristic information after kayaking. Every walk has a guest book at an important point of the walk where you can sign. Though not every one is blue.

The golden fish

A wonder of nature happens every winter when five ocean currents host the annual migration of the Norwegian-Arctic cod, or ‘Skrei’; these fish come down from the Barents Sea to the Lofoten Islands to spawn.

Eager fishermen catch this variety of fish, gut it, decapitate it, scale it, tie it in twos and hang it out to dry in order to preserve the fish. The fish does not freeze into pieces, but it doesn’t rot either. The fish simply dries in racks in the Nordic sun and wind from late winter until spring. Then, it is bone dry and easy to transport, but still retains its key nutrients; 1kg of this dried fish has the same nutritional value as 5kg of fresh fish!

The entire fish is consumed: the tails and body is exported to Spain, Italy, Portugal and the rest of Europe. The heads are sent to Nigeria to be cooked in soup. The livers are made into medicinal oil. And the tongues are kept as a Norwegian delicacy for tourists from near and far.

A 900 year old housing design for workers

Rorbu (singular) or rorbuer (plural) are still a traditional accommodation in Lofoten for eager fishermen today. Even if they are just fishermen for a day. The old cabins have been restored and turned into modern accommodation for the million travellers that come to the area each summer.

The first Rorbu cabins in Lofoten date from 1120 and were licensed by King Øystein as housing for the hardened fishermen who made the winter expedition to the world’s most fertile cod fishing grounds.

The cottages were simple structures, built on poles partly out in the water with two rooms: a storage room and a living room with beds. The “luxurious” cabins had a window -a hole in the wall with a skin made from the stomach of a halibut stretched across it.