The Vesterålen are an archipelago on the Norwegian coast around 300 km north of the arctic circle. They connect to the north east of the famous Lofoten.
The main islands, which make up the Vesterålen, are Andøya, Langøya, Skogsøya, Hadselsøya, the western part of Hinnøya and the northern part of Austvågøya.
The total population counts about 35,000 inhabitants. The total area of the islands adds up to around 3,100 sqkm and from north to south, it is about 150 km long, as the crow flies.
The is archipelago offers a large variety of landscapes. From rugged mountains shooting high up out of the sea, to lonely white sand beaches commonly associated with southern regions. There are fjords, archipelagos, rivers and lakes, bogs, lonely mountain valleys and small plateaus. The highest peak of the Vesterålen is the Møysalen (1262m) on the island Hinnøya.
Though the latitude is the same as central Greenland and though we lay further north than Iceland, we have a very mild climate. We owe our weather to the Gulf stream. The summers are not very hot and the winters relatively mild. The coldest month, February, averages a temperature around -2 degrees Celsius, while July averages about 12 to 14 degrees. The highest temperature measured was 31 degrees.
Autumn is the wettest season, October being the climax. July, on the other side of the spectrum, brings the least percipitation. Snowfall can fall generously from January until March.
Because the Vesterålen lie north of the arctic circle, you can experience the polar night in December and January, a time when the sun does not rise. From mid May until late July, the sun will refuse to set.
The Vesterålen are well known for the diversity of bird species, because the fjords provide plenty of food to the sea birds. Rare species of birds include White-Tailed Eagles, Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags, Herons and Swans.
The islands of the Vesterålen are surrounded water rich in fish. Almost every specie around the Norwegian coast is at home here. Some species which might spark an interest amongst fishers, include Cod, Haddock, Saithe, Redfish, Catfish, Salmon, Herring, Tusk, Ling fish, Flounder, Halibut, Squid and Crab.
Year round, whale and dolphin safaris are organised around the coasts of these islands.
The Vesterålen are often mentioned right alongside the Lofoten. Most people visiting Lofoten will inevitably pass through the Vesterålen. Thereby the archipelagos are almost considered one and the same. Though they are noticably different, both scenicly and economically.
The most popular tourist attraction of the Vesterålen are the whale safaris departing from Andenes, making it a good meeting place for travellers. Another well loved destination is the old, picturesque fishing village of Nyksund, which has recently been restored to its full glory. Also interesting is the Hurtigruten museum in Stokmarknes, the home town of the only mail boat company.
The name “Lofoten” has been derived from “ló”, old Norwegian for Lynx, and “foten”, meaning foot. Lofot was the original name of the island Vestvågøy.