Lofoten (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈluːfuːtn̩]) is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Lofoten is known for a distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelagoexperiences one of the world's largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.
"There is evidence of human settlement extending back at least 11,000 years in Lofoten, and the earliest archaeological sites ... are only about 5,500 years old, at the transition from the early to late Stone Age." Iron Age agriculture, livestock, and significant human habitation can be traced back to c. 250 BCE.
The town of Vågan (Norse Vágar) is the first known town formation in northern Norway. It existed in the early Viking Age, maybe earlier, and was located on the southern coast on eastern Lofoten, near today's village Kabelvåg in Våganmunicipality. However, the Lofotr Viking Museum with the reconstructed 83-meter-long longhouse (the largest known) is located near Borg on Vestvågøy, which has many archeological finds from the Iron Age and Viking Age.
The islands have for more than 1,000 years been the centre of great cod fisheries, especially in winter, when the cod migrates south from the Barents Sea and gathers in Lofoten to spawn. Bergen in southwestern Norway was for a long time the hub for further export south to different parts of Europe, particularly so when trade was controlled by the Hanseatic League.
In the lowland areas, particularly Vestvågøy, agriculture plays a significant role, as it has done since the Bronze Age.
Lofotr was originally the name of the island of Vestvågøy only. Later it became the name of the chain of islands. The chain of islands with its pointed peaks looks like a lynx foot from the mainland. In Norwegian, it is always a singular.
Another name one might come across, is "Lofotveggen" or the Lofoten wall. The archipelago looks like a closed wall when seen from elevated points around Bodø or when arriving from the sea, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) long, and 800–1,000 metres (2,600–3,300 feet) high.
In 1941, the islands were raided by British Commandos during Operation Claymore in March and a subsequent diversionary attack to support the Vaagso raid in December.
As of 2017, the islands attract one million tourists a year.
"Raftsund, Lofoten, Digermulen, Norway", c. 1890–1900.