The rugged archipelago of Vesterålen is set north of Lofoten above the Arctic Circle, extending west from mainland Norway into the Atlantic Ocean. This is a land of powerful contrasts, ranging from tiny islets to some of the largest islands in Norway, from idyllic beaches to lush farmland, and from rugged mountains to dramatic fjords.
The name of the place draws from the Old Norse: Vestráll. The first element is vestr, which means “west” and the last is áll, which means “deep and narrow sound".
This region offers great outdoor activities. There´s the once in a lifetime chance to meet sperm whales in an especially nutrient-rich area near Andenes. You can also scout for minke, pilot and killer whales. And wonderful local kayaking tours are available throughout the archipelago.
On land, you can take advantage of great opportunities for hikers, such as the Dronningsruta (Queen´s Route) in Øksnes and the guided trek to the summit of
Møysalen through the Møysalen National Park. Cyclists can pedal under the Midnight Sun on the many fine bike paths, without concern for nightfall. For a scenic drive, it´s hard to beat the National Tourist Route on Andøya.
In the winter, Versterålen offers great cross-country skiing and ice-fishing, often under the Northern Lights.
Visitors to the area can choose from a range of lodging, from full-service hotels, to modern rorbu cabins and well-equipped campsites for hire in and around the quaint fishing villages that dot the area.
The sea has long provided locals a livelihood. Cod, haddock, coalfish, redfish, wolf fish, salmon, herring, ling, flounder, halibut and prawns are important exports.
The History Vesterålen
Vesterålen´s human history traces back to the hunter and gatherer era before the establishment of agriculture. During the early Middle Ages, farming was the main industry, but eventually fishing became the primary source of livelihood for locals, with stockfish being bartered for grain and other necessities. Trade with fish merchants in Bergen led to the development of a class of property owners, or «local rural gentry».
By the end of the 1800s, the stockfish bonanza and lucrative herring fisheries led to more investment in fishing and cargo freighting. Several shipping companies were founded, including Vesterålen's Steamship Company, which established the first coastal express in 1893.
Visit Vesterålen on the expedition sailings