When I first saw my first photos of Norwegian rorbu I was fascinated. These little red houses on stilts over a rugged shoreline with granite peaks on the backdrop was very captivating. It wasn’t long until I developed the desire to visit the Lofoten Archipelago and see it all for myself.
These red cabins are hotels or other accommodations catering to tourist in Lofoten. Historically, however, the word rorbuer was used to describe houses in the Lofoten Islands. It comes from the Norwegian word “ro” which is to row (your boat) and “bu” meaning storage or house. The rorbu was used as a seasonal house when fishermen came out to fish in the winter.
What’s fascinating about these little red cabins is that they’ve been in use since the Viking era, circa 11th century. The rich bounty in the Lofoten Archipelago drew a lot of fishing activity in the area, and the fishermen needed a place to stay during the season. The rorbu is very basic, typically with only a bedroom and a storage room used to store equipment for fishing.
Cabins on Stilts
The red cabins are usually built on stilts and poles to keep them upright over the sea. The color red was used because it’s the cheapest paint color to purchase during the era. The rorbuer has been in functional use as a fishing cabin until modern times when most have been converted into tourist accommodation and attraction.
Today, the rorbuer is synonymous with Lofoten. Most of these cabins are available for rent, and some are indeed authentic. Some are even renovated to fit today’s modern standards of living, complete with running water, kitchen, and electricity. However, some are still very basic and even look like they did centuries ago.
The most notable rorbuer and one that you’ll like see in postcards are the Eliassen Rorbuer. Located in Hamnøy by the Reinfjorden and surrounded by magnificent peaks. A classic view of this from above is hiking the Reinbringen trail where you can see it all from a ridge towards the summit.
Notable Reine/Hamnøy Rorbuer
The fishing village of Å also contains a good concentration of rorbuer. Here you’ll see rorbuer still in use by fourth generation fishermen, which offer a real authentic feel of the Lofoten. I stayed at the HI Hostel in Å which consist of ten 100-year-old “rorbu” cabins. One could argue that Å one of the most beautiful fishing villages in the Lofoten Islands. If you want cheap accommodation with an authentic rorbu feel, then I recommend you stay at the Å Hosteling International.
Notable Å Rorbuer
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Not far from Å is the village of Tind, another great place to see little red cabins standing on poles over the ocean. Here you can still see fishing boats on the docks in front of the rorbu as they return from a fishing voyage from the sea. It might even come as a surprise to you if the rorbuer you rented come equipped with a flat screen HDTV. Most of these cabins are available on Airbnb by enterprising owners.
Notable Tind Rorbuer
Another famed fishing village offering rorbuer accommodations is Nusfjord. Tucked away in a bay surrounded by rugged granite cliffs. The village is an open-air museum complete with traditional rorbu that you can stay at. It’s a toss-up which one of these villages offer better views, but I recommend you visit all of them and see for yourselves.
Notable Nusfjord Rorbuer
The Loften Archipelago gets a lot of weather so expect clouds in the sky if not overcast. The only thing that would ruin your shot is wind which does come often. Overcast and muted colors surprisingly work well as seen with the Eliassen shot above. Use a polarizer to make the skies blue and give your shot a little shot of color.
Other Useful Resources
Here’s a map of the Roruer in Reine area – MAP
More information – WIKI
Weather forecast for the Lofoten Islands – LOCAL WEATHER
Research the Best Flight Available – Google Flight Matrix