Awaken your muse in Lofoten

Far from the bustle of Oslo, Lofoten teems with creativity


Photo: David Nikel
In the Lofoten islands, picturesque villages like Reine are attracting growing numbers of photographers.

Not every traveler wants to cruise the western fjords or check out the bustling cities of Oslo or Bergen. Some simply want to take advantage of Norway’s serenity and spend the time to draw, paint, write, and create.

David Nikel
Trondheim, Norway

Recently I came across an article explaining how Finland had successfully rebranded itself as a destination using silence as a key selling point. The funny thing was that the goal of the marketing experts had been to rid the country of its reputation as a quiet place. After much discussion, they realized that such a reputation was no bad thing. “Silence is a resource,” claimed the report. “In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.”

A perfect place to disconnect
As we live in an ever more connected existence and many of us struggle to truly disconnect from a world of distraction, I think silence is a truly valuable experience. But this isn’t unique to Finland. During my research travels for the Moon Norway guidebook, I found many stunning locations that I was able to enjoy entirely on my own.

My favorite of them all was Lofoten. While I don’t recommend a visit in the Norwegian holiday month of July, Lofoten is a quiet yet stunning location in which to relax. There are so many secluded beaches, hiking trails, and remote cabins that it’s always possible to find your own quiet corner. It’s no coincidence that the islands have drawn artists from around the world for many years. While taking a stroll along a beach that could have been in the Caribbean were it not for the snow-capped mountains in the distance, my mind wandered, and I found myself filling in the plot holes in the novel I’d long planned to write. On returning to Henningsvær and touring one of the art galleries, suddenly it all made sense. Lofoten is a place to come and relax, sure, but also to recharge your creative batteries.


Photo: David Nikel
Lofoten’s scenery has been an inspiration to artists for decades

A home for visiting artists
Several artist retreats are well established on the islands. On a small island in Svolvær, the main city of the islands, Kunstnerhuset is designed as a residence for artists, but rooms are also available to budget-conscious travelers. Art studios and a large lounge are available as creative spaces. If that’s not quiet enough, Villa Lofoten in remote Bøstad welcomes visiting visual artists (principally female) of different ages and from different cultures to its artist-in-residence program.

Of course, you don’t need to apply to such a program to enjoy the landscape and be inspired by the magnificent surroundings of northern Norway. Fishermen’s cabins are available on every corner of the islands for rock-bottom rates, with many available on AirBnB as well as regular hotel booking sites and campgrounds.


Photo: David Nikel
Stay in a classic deep red Rorbu for a quiet experience in Lofoten

An inspiration for photographers
While the islands are known for all sorts of sports activities—mountaineering, kayaking, cycling, hiking, fishing, and surfing—it’s photography tourism that is really taking off these days. I recently interviewed American photographer Cody Duncan on my podcast. He moved to Lofoten from California and makes his living selling landscape photography and running multi-day tours for enthusiastic photographers. “It’s the light,” he said, when asked what makes the islands such a draw for photography, “Beyond having the midnight sun in the summertime and the northern lights in the winter, the sun moves really slowly since we’re so far north. The sunset lasts an hour or more. There’s also almost no airplanes in the sky here, which makes the sky really clear.”

Lofoten galllery

Photo: David Nikel
Galleri Lofotens Hus is packed with locally-inspired artwork.

The galleries of Henningsvær
Although it has a population of just a few hundred people, Henninsgsvær is a hotspot for art galleries, so much so that it hosted the biennial Lofoten International Art Festival for the first time last year. Although the next one isn’t scheduled until 2019 (location TBD), Henningsvær is still worth a visit for artists seeking inspiration. Galleri Lofotens Hus is a museum and gallery that highlights the diverse wildlife of the region along with locally inspired artworks and memorabilia from the village’s proud fishing history. Engelskmannsbrygga is home to traditional glassblowing and pottery while the Kaviar Factory houses a private international contemporary art collection.

Lofoten beaches

Photo: David Nikel
The beaches of Lofoten are a popular spot for creative inspiration.

The artistic sights of Svolvær
Nearby Svolvær, Lofoten’s biggest urban area, also has a couple of galleries of interest. The North Norwegian Art Center (Nordnorsk Kunstnersenter) is an artist-run institution that presents contemporary visual art to a wide audience and sells an impressive range of art supplies. While mainly aimed at tourists, the ice sculptures of the Magic Ice bar are an impressive sight. Time your visit before or after the Hurtigruten ships are in port, and you’ll have the place all to yourself.

Wherever you choose to base yourself in Lofoten, I’m confident you’ll refresh those creative juices, or perhaps even discover the creative muse you never knew you had. Regardless of your reason for visiting, take a notebook and pen, at the very least. You won’t regret it!

David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.

This article originally appeared in the April 20, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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David Nikel

David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.

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