Wednesday, 20 March 2013

PHOTO DIARY: Lofoten Islands (Norway)

E10, Lofoten Islands (Norway) Photo © Chris Raven
Touring Scandinavia by car, the Raven brothers photograph the stunning E10 highway in summer which crosses the Lofoten Islands in north east Norway.

Photography by Chris Raven & Simon Raven

Brightly painted wooden fishing villages, dramatic rocky mountain peaks and a connection to the ocean that will have you wishing you never had to return to the nine to five, there are few places in the world more naturally spectacular and unspoilt than the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway

Jagged mountains of Lofoten. Photo © Simon Raven 
The spectacular jagged mountains of Lofoten jut out of the Arctic north east coast of Norway, and draw tourists from across the world with their stunning landscape and quaint harbour towns. A major winter breeding ground for fish, cod caught here in their millions are dried out on enormous racks across the islands. Some come here to photograph the stunning landscape, others to fish. Free road bridges and tunnels connect the islands along the awesomely scenic E10 highway, and provide easy access and a spectacular drive for road trippers in camper vans, cars and motorcycles. Extreme sports fanatics flock here in the summer to climb some of the hundreds of mountain peaks and rock faces that soar out of the sea. The harbours here draw yachts from across Scandinavia and Europe, and the port in the character fuelled capital of Svolvær is a major stop on most Arctic cruises.

Cod racks, Lofoten Islands (Norway) Photo © Chris Raven 
If you’re planning on staying on the Lofoten islands for a few days, accommodation options range from sleeping in one of the many fishing community’s rorbuer (winter shanties) and sjohus (fisherman’s bunkhouses) that have been converted into luxurious tourist accommodation. There are also hostels and campsites in many of the towns across the islands, and the option to pitch your tent anywhere (wilderness camping) is common practise here for the many budget minded cyclists and hikers who make there way here every summer.

Taking into consideration that Norway can be costly, visitors with a decent size budget will be greatly rewarded with restaurants here serving some of the most delicious seafood you’re ever likely to taste. If you’re camping, why not head to the local fish market or supermarket and buy fresh fish and seafood at a very economical price and cook it yourself.

Svolvær harbour, Lofoten Islands (Norway) Photo © Simon Raven 

The capital of the Lofoten islands, Svolvær is a large town with a beautiful harbour, which combines an excellent blend of old and modern. Arctic cruise ships dock here, giving the town a lively atmosphere, and boat trips and Orca (Killer Whale) watching tours set sail throughout the summer. An old fishing town, there are some excellent authentic sjohus (fishermen’s bunkhouses) in old brightly painted wooden buildings that offer luxury accommodation. A thriving restaurant and bar scene caters to visitors, serving fresh seafood and often hosting live traditional music. The town itself is a major port for trawlers and whaling ships, and throughout the winter it is a busy industrial fishing port as cod from the Barrents sea head to warmer waters aided by the Gulf Stream to spawn. If you’re feeling brave, be sure to check out the Svolvær (the Svolvær Goat), a distinctive, two pronged peak visible from the harbour, where local daredevils jump the 1.5m gap from one horn to the other.

A few kilometers outside Svolvær drop by the beautiful wooden Vågan Church, also known as Lofoten Cathedral. Built in 1898 it seats 1,200 people and used to be filled to the last seat during the Lofoten fishing season in the winter. Close to the quaint little harbour village of Kabelvåg, it’s possible to walk along a track from Svolvær to the circular cobbled torget (town square).

Vågan Church in Kabelvåg on the E10, Lofoten Islands (Norway) Photo © Simon Raven 

A channel of water lined with fishing boats divides this beautiful town that’s crammed full of cafés  restaurants and art and antique shops. There’s a real holiday vibe to this quiet backwater, with kid’s selling waffles outside their houses and pavement cafés rowded with day trippers. Cod dries on racks in the sun in the windows of brightly painted wooden houses. Turning off the E10, the road leading here is one of the most spectacular routes in the Lofoten islands as the road winds beneath towering cliff faces. There is some excellent climbing in this area, and many hikers and cyclists pitch up tent along here and watch the sky turn purple over the ocean from the rocks in the midnight sun.

Brightly painted wooden fishing villages in Henningvaer . Photo © Simon Raven 

All of the Lofoten Islands is a scenic paradise, but the tiny settlement of Reine has more than its fair share of beauty. Situated on a calm bay backed by towering mountains and cliffs with a small village green at its centre, you can catch a boat or rent a bicycle here and explore the jaw droopingly beautiful countryside.

Boats in the fishing village of Reine, Lofoten Islands (Norway) Photo © Chris Raven 

At the very end of the E10 highway that runs the length of the Lofoten Islands, is a very special place that feels like the end of the world. The cute fishing village of Ã is connected by a network of footbridges perched over rocks, sea gulls cry overhead as the smell of fish and ocean fills the air. Empty and eerie in winter, tourists liven up the place in the summer as speed boats bring in their catch of the day.

So, for a journey of a lifetime we recommend that you hire a car and drive the awesome E10 scenic highway, which crosses this beautiful chain of islands all the way to the tiny fishing village of Ã.

Catch of the day in Ã. Photo © Chris Raven

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