This bustling modern port town lies on the island of Austvågøy, the northernmost in the archipelago. Most of the Lofoten cultural attractions are within an easy reach if you decide to base here. Svolvær attracts the most visitors and has some of the area's best hotels and restaurants. The most adventurous readers will view it merely as a place to pass through and stock up on supplies before heading out to some more remote destination.
Seeing the Sights
Lofoten Krigsminnemuseum, Fiskergata 12 (tel. 91-73-03-28), is the finest museum in the north devoted to the tragic World War II era. There's a little-known collection of 1940s photographs, some of which document the 1941 commando raid on the islands. Also on display is a collection of military uniforms. Admission is NOK40 ($8/£4) for adults and NOK40 ($8/£4) for children. It's open only from mid-May to mid-August daily 11am to 4pm. The rest of the year it's open daily from 6 to 10pm.
Daredevils are lured to Svolvær in an attempt to conquer the most daring (and dangerous) climb in the Lofotens. They surmount the Svolværgeita (Svolværur goat), at 40m (131 ft.). This stone column is perched on a hill behind the port and is known for its two pinnacles, which locals have labeled the horn or the horns of a goat. There's a 1.5m (5-ft.) jump between the two "horns"; if you don't make it, you're as good as dead.
One of the most dramatic boat rides in the Lofotens is the short trip into the impossibly narrow Trollfjord, stretching for 2km (1 1/4 miles). This is part of the channel that separates the Lofoten island of Austvågøy from the Vesterålen island of Hinnøya. Coastal steamers can barely navigate this narrow passage without scraping the rock walls on either side. One of the most visited sites in the Lofotens, this fjord cuts its way westward from the Straits of Raftsundet, opening onto an idyllic Lofoten landscape, famed as the subject of many paintings.
Trollfjord is the easternmost island in Lofoten and was the scene of the "Battle of the Trollfjord," as related by Johan Bojer in his novel The Last Viking. The battle, which took place more than a century ago between fishermen in small vessels and those in larger steamships, was first recorded on canvas by one of its witnesses, the artist Gunnar Berg (1863-93). His painting is on view at the Svolvær Town Hall. Ask at the tourist office about linking up with a boat tour of Trollfjord. Departures are from June 10 to August 20, costing NOK350 ($70/£35) per adult, NOK150 ($30/£15) children.
For the best and most scenic walks in the area, take the ferry ride over to the islet of Skrova. Here you can stroll around and leisurely take in the seascapes. Before heading over, pick up the makings of a picnic at one of the shops in Svolvær and prepare to enjoy it in splendid isolation. Ferries leave from Svolvær port every 2 hours, taking only half an hour to reach Skrova and costing NOK70 ($14/£7) per person.
Another good walk from Svolvær is to the north, heading to the Lille and Store Kongsvatn lakes, on whose banks you might want to have a picnic. You will know you've reached the end of the trail when you come to a power station. If you wish, you can take a path to Kabelvåg, following the shoreline for most of the way. Or you can return to Svolvær on the same trail you came up on.
Artists have long been drawn to the archipelago because of the particular quality of its Northern Lights. The leading gallery is Nordnorsk Kunstnersentrum (tel. 76-06-67-70), on the island of Svinøya, lying 1km (1/2 mile) from the center of Svolvær. This North Norwegian Artist's Center is run by the artists themselves, offering a wide range of paintings, plus handicrafts, posters, and other items. From June 19 to August 20, it is open daily 10am to 6pm. Off-season hours are Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 3pm. Entrance to the permanent museum collection costs NOK40 ($8/£4) for adults and NOK30 ($6/£3) for students and seniors. It's free for children 14 and under.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.