Lofoten in January

Do you know quiet? The comforting, soothing quiet to calm all your thoughts and hush all your worries? The kind of quiet that bathes you in warmth and coziness, that makes you just want to sit by the window and look outside? I was lucky to experience such a quiet in the long harsh winter north of the arctic circle.

While I was still living in Norway’s capital Oslo, my friend Tina was visiting me for a long weekend trip to the Lofoten. The Lofoten are a group of islands along the coast of Norway. Their southernmost part lies at around the same latitude as Kiruna, starting point to the beautiful Kungsleden. Its one main road leads from Å – that’s the name of the village: “Å” or also “Å i Lofoten” – north all the way to Narvik.

It was the middle of January. We took an early morning flight from Oslo into Bodø where we planned to catch the ferry to Svolvær in the afternoon. Since we couldn’t check in yet for the ferry, we left our bags at the port and wandered off to explore the town.

The sun had almost completely disappeared by the time we finished a cozy restaurant meal and boarded the Hurtigruten ferry. We grabbed a couple of window lounge chairs to enjoy the scenery… and immediately fell asleep – at two in the afternoon.

The ship
January in Lofoten is especially dark on the water.

We woke up with a start to the ship’s horn declaring its departure. The darkness had completely messed with our internal body clock. To keep ourselves awake we drank coffee, attended a lecture on how aurora borealis occurs, witnessed the arctic circle baptism for the regular cruise guests and tried to spot little shreds of northern lights.

After a short stop in Stamsund, we arrived at Svolvær. Although the sky was dark, at ten o’clock in the evening, it was still easy to see. The snow around us reflected so much light that it didn’t feel that late yet. Winter up north is funny like that: It feels dark during the day, and bright during the night.

Our traditional Norwegian fishermen’s room in the rorbuer huts was cozy and looking right out into the little marina. Now it was finally time to really sleep.

A snow covered street in the center of the Lofoten town Svolvær at dawn.
Who said 10am was not a good time for a sunrise?

The next morning brought some surprises. The tourist information, technically closed but thankfully letting us in anyway, informed us that no tours or activities were happening this week, as it was considered too off-season. Only now did we begin to notice how empty everything was here. There were no cars driving around, no people on the street. Most shops were closed or posted opening hours from twelve to two.

So we got recommendations for a nice little walk and set off.

The quiet was incredible. The snow muffled every sound and only the creaking of our boots accompanied us. The sun had just started looking over the horizon again and was bathing the landscape in a colorful sunrise turning straight into a sunset.

 Wooden racks called hjell are used to dry fish.
Wooden racks called hjell are used to dry fish.

We walked past the traditional wooden hjell structures, holding thousands of fish to turn into tørrfisk – stockfish. We followed the snow-covered road out of town and along the fjord to the neighbouring village of Kabelvåg. If at all possible, it was even emptier than Svolvær.

At one point, it must have been the end of the school day, a drove of children crossed our way, packed in puffy snow clothes, pulling sleds behind them and up a small hill. They stirred up the fresh, light snow trailing clouds of the powder behind them.

A snow covered landscape. A figure in red pushing a bicycle down the snowed-in road.

We walked past boats, past trees, past wooden houses painted red, yellow, blue and orange with white rakes framing their gables. The mountains in the background reflecting the last of the light. And all the while it was just us, walking, and enjoying the absolute peace of this scene.

Nothing happened the entire day.

It was great.

Colorful fishing houses line the fjord in the snow-covered town of Svolvær in Lofoten
Svolvær, Lofoten
Rorbuer line the water at dusk
Rorbuer right by the water.

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