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Nusfjord Arctic Resort: My Unique Stay in a Norwegian Rorbu in Lofoten

Nusfjord Arctic Resort: My Unique Stay in a Norwegian Rorbu in Lofoten

Once I started researching unique places to stay in Lofoten for my Tromso to Lofoten road trip, one place stood out: Nusfjord Arctic Resort in Ramberg, high in the remote coastal north of Norway.

Keen to experience a stay in a traditional Norwegian red stilted fisherman rorbu (cabin), I decided that the tranquil fishing village of Nusfjord, open to day visitors and overnight guests, would be perfect

I booked a three-night stay in a harbour-view rorbu and a one-night stay in a sea-view cabin looking out into the fjord. In this post, I review Nusfjord’s accommodation, dining, activities, and the history of this ancient fishing village to help you decide if it is somewhere that you might like to stay in Lofoten.

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How To Get To Nusfjord

The ancient fishing village of Nusfjord in the Lofoten Islands is tucked away in a remote location, protected by mountains and a fjord, 100km above the Arctic Circle.

The nearest airport is Leknes Airport, which is approximately 30 minutes away by road. Flights to Leknes are made via a 2-hour, 30-minute flight from Oslo.

If you are flying into Svolvaer, the capital of the Lofoten Islands, it will take 40 minutes to reach Nusfjord.

Address: 8380 Ramberg, Norway.

view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Red stilted rorbuer nestled in the Nusfjord fjord.

What is the history of Nusfjord fishing village?

Nusfjord is one of Norway’s oldest and best-preserved fishing villages. It has been one of Lofoten’s most important fishing harbours for centuries and has a rich heritage. The earliest settlers date back 2000 years. In the 12th century, fishermen lived in Nusfjord’s rorbuers and worked at sea fishing for arctic cod (skrei). In the winter months, between January and March, cod from the Barent Sea spawned in Lofoten waters.

At the end of the 19th century, around 1500 fishermen worked out of Nusfjord during the fishing season to produce cod liver oil. The high-grade oil was used as a natural health tonic, while the lower-grade oil was used in paint and lubricant mixtures. Cod liver oil production was the village’s main export until the late 1980s when the fishing industry was on a downward slope and crude oil became the country’s main export commodity.

How did the fishermen live?

From the 1800s through the 1900s, fishermen lived here in stilted rorbuers, now guest accommodations. Twelve men slept and worked in each rorbu, mending nets, gutting fish, and socialising. It was cold, and the fishermen slept communally in the rorbu’s loft space, covered in sheepskin for warmth. When not at sea, they worked daily gutting and cleaning fish on the cabin’s floor. When at work, they fished the icy waters from rowing boats. It was not until the 20th century that motorised fishing vessels were introduced.

In the heritage cabins, you can see a hole in the wooden floor, which was used to push the fish waste out of the cabin into the sea below – the reason rorbu were built on stilts above water!

Today in Lofoten, using the world’s oldest known preservation method, cod is wind-dried on racks placed on rocks and left to cure naturally. You can see Nusfjord’s racks on the hill by the spa.

Stockfish is Lofoten’s main export. Unexpectedly, the cod heads are dried and sold to the African market for use in medicines and cooking. In contrast, Norwegians eat the body of the stockfish, like jerky, a South African snack. Stockfish can be seen on restaurant menus around the Lofoten Islands and can be bought in supermarkets.

row of dried fish heads on a wooden frame in view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Dried fish heads.
wooden fishing trawler moored in view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Nusfjord’s fishing trawler docked in the harbour.
wooden racks for drying fish stock in view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Drying racks for fish
row of red rorbuer in yellow buildings nestled beside the sea and the mountain in view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Glatt Brygge means slippery dock, so be careful where you walk.

Why are the buildings painted red in Nusfjord?

White paint was very expensive at the turn of the century, so the villagers would use something they had in abundant supplies – fish blood!

Over the years, the blood has been replaced by paint, and yellow paint has also been introduced to a few buildings in the village. These colours can be seen on heritage buildings throughout the Lofoten Islands and Norway, making the country easily recognisable worldwide purely from its coastal architecture.

Large red wooden reception building at view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Nusfjord Reception

How many rorbuers and cottages are at Nusfjord?

The accommodations in Nusfjord village are spread around the resort, and during our summer visit, new rorbuers were being built at the fjord mouth.

15 rorbu and cottages are positioned around the harbour (I stayed in one of these). Thirty bigger cottages are around the bay (I also stayed in one of these). Then there is a luxury 100sqm 2-bed villa with a hot tub in one bedroom. Four government-protected heritage cabins have remained unchanged since 1890. They have no running water and an outside toilet.

In addition to the fishermen’s cabins and rustic cottages available for rent, 16 private heritage homes house Nusfjord’s local people who live in harmony alongside tourists visiting and staying in their village.

Angie sitting on steps outside a red wooden rorbuer in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Red wooden rorbuers around the harbour with a speed boat anchored in front of them.
Red wooden rorbuer fishing cabins beside the sea in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
red wooden rorbuer beside the water with a mountain behind them at Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

What’s it like staying in a Harbour Cabin Suite in Nusfjord?

In one word – fantastic! As soon as you walk into your luxury stilted rorbu, it is evident how much thought has been put into its design. The cabin has been styled with a nod to its heritage roots but with the addition of a modern twist. The result is an interior that blends the two seamlessly, allowing guests to stay in unique, luxurious surroundings.

Red wooden stilted fisherman cabin in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

A neutral colour palette with pops of forest greens is in keeping with the rorbu’s surroundings. Floor and table lamps add a warm glow to the interior.

Bedroom in Nusfjord.

The rorbu has a cosy sitting room (with no TV because who needs that in a place like this!) with seating that looks out to the harbour. You will notice that much of the furniture in the rorbu is either original wood from Nusfjord or is a repurposed item, such as the cable reel made into a coffee table. It all adds to create a Nordic vibe.

There’s also a small dining table and a kitchenette with a fridge and kettle to make drinks and snacks.

View of the living area in a cabin in Nusfjord Arctic Resort with sofa and table and chairs.

Outside the cabin is a decked area with a table and chairs to sit and enjoy your morning coffee (or evening wine) before or after the tour buses arrive. When the village has visitors, it feels quite decadent to stroll out of your rorbu into this historic open-air museum while day trippers look on.

What’s it like staying in a Sea-View Village Suite in Nusfjord?

The Village Suite is larger than the Harbour Cabin Suite, so it is a good option if you are travelling with friends or family. Standing directly on stilts above the water, it is fun to listen to the sea gently lapping the steel legs of the cabin as you relax inside or on the outdoor sea-view decking.

The interior decor is once again in keeping with the Scandinavian Hygge movement. Muted colours and natural elements give the rorbu a homely feel.

Red wooden rorbuer on stilts above the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
sofa beneath a window with views of a red rorbuer and the sea at Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

What are the historic features of the Nusfjord Arctic Resort?

What sets Nusfjord apart from other Lofoten enclaves is that the whole village is a holiday resort, and all its buildings are historically important.

Yellow wooden warehouses and buildings beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
View of Landhandel store and Karoline Restaurant.

Landhandel was built in 1907 and remains the resort’s cafe and grocery store. Inside this mustard-coloured frontage is a shop that resembles a museum rather than a working grocery store and cafe. The till and weighing scales are originals and fantastic to see (and still used).

The metal advertising signs show popular products from the 1900s alongside old tins, pots, and glass jars on shelves and display cabinets. It’s fascinating looking around, and you may forget you went in to pick up some eggs, milk, or one of Nusfjord’s famous cinnamon rolls.

Upstairs, there are plenty of seating areas where you can enjoy a morning coffee or lunch. A Scandic 1950s style runs through these areas with armchairs that wouldn’t look out of place in your grandma’s house.

Remember, Landhandel is open to daily coach tours and gets busy, so it’s great to wake up early and go there before they arrive.

Karoline Restaurant

One of Nusfjord’s old warehouses is now the resort’s fine-dining restaurant and bar. Reservations are required, as Karoline is also open to outside guests. Our food was delicious, fresh from the ocean, and straight to the table.

When booking, ask to be seated at a window table as these have beautiful views of the fjord. There are only about five window tables, so be sure you are at one of them!

We ate at Karoline Restaurant twice during our stay and found all the dishes we tried to be delicious. Cod cheeks and deep-fried cod tongue were on the menu, which we tried and enjoyed! Be prepared also to see Minke whale on the menu, a controversial dish in some places but, in Norway, not something out of the ordinary.

Oriana Kro

The pizza restaurant was once the whisky and potato storeroom. It’s a tiny area, so make sure you make a reservation if you want to sit inside. If it’s a cold day, that’s where you will want to be; otherwise, you will be seated at a table outside.

The pizza we had was fresh and accompanied by a crisp wine. Of course, you can also get the pizza as a takeaway and enjoy it in the comfort of your cosy rorbu.

White wooden buildings in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

Trandamperi

The weathered beams inside the trandamperi have sheltered fishermen over the centuries as they worked inside the cod liver factory at the turn of the 20th century. Hundreds of tonnes of cod would have been brought straight off the trawlers and into the warehouse where it would have been processed.

Entering the factory today gives you some idea of what life must have been like for the fishermen. Remember that the days would have been short, dark and cold, with snow on the ground and ice on the water. Life would have been extremely hard. Historical photographs on the walls depict the men mending fishing nets and working together in harsh Lofoten winter conditions.

Salteriat

The Salteriat Nusfjord Gallery is housed in an original building once used to salt and store fish roe to produce caviar. When you step inside, you can now see ever-changing displays and exhibitions highlighting the works of Norwegian and international artists.

Artwork hanging from the beams in a warehouse in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

Bakeri

The original village bakery is located at the water’s edge. A few benches outside allow you to grab a pastry and hot drink and eat them while immersed in your surroundings. As with Landhandel, you will see old memorabilia inside the bakery.

Small white wooden building with stairs on the outside leading to the roof Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
view of a row of red cabins beside the water in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

There is also a 150-year-old preserved blacksmith’s workshop you can visit and an ice store that housed the lake ice, which was used for preserving fish.

Is the outdoor spa in Nusfjord worth visiting?

Finding an outdoor spa in an Arctic resort might not be what you expected; however, it is a wonderful place to chill out in the shadow of the rugged mountains and distant sea. This architecturally designed spa area is on the opposite side of the main grocery store and tourist hub, and it is for guests only, so you should be guaranteed privacy. However, during our stay, some nosey tourists seemed to manage to catch a glimpse of the spa from the rocks above.

There are two wood-fired hot tubs, each seating six people, and a sauna. If you are lucky, you may be alone in this idyllic spot; otherwise, you will share it with fellow resort guests. Remember to reserve a time to use the spa area.

two yellow wooden cabins and a elaborate design of wooden steps and seating at the spa in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
view of the mountains and sea from the spa at Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

What activities are on offer during a stay at the resort?

Unsurprisingly, all activities at Nusfjord are water-based and run throughout the year (snow and ice permitting!).

You can join a fishing trip aboard Nusfjord’s historic wooden fishing trawler, Elltor, and see what you can catch from the Norwegian Sea. If fishing isn’t your thing, hop aboard a kayak or an SUP and paddle around the inner fjord that protects Nusfjord Arctic Resort. Wild swimming is available for hardened guests and is an experience not to be forgotten in a hurry, especially in winter.

There are mountain treks for hikers that wind through unspoilt mountain landscapes, and nature lovers should keep a watch for sea eagles and migrating whales. Several lakes are nearby; you can fish them with a permit and your rod. More details on all these activities are available from the reception area.

Hire a motorboat

We hired one of Nusfjord’s motor boats for four hours and took it along the coastline. At first, I was apprehensive and almost cancelled the trip due to fears of being out on the rough and cold waters, but I am so glad I didn’t because it was such an enjoyable activity.

Once we had dressed in thick waterproofs and boots, we took turns driving the boat, and it was so much fun. We were blessed with beautiful weather in July, and as the sun kissed our faces, we cruised along, admiring the scenery. We went as far as the village of Reine (one of the most photographed places in Lofoten) and entered its harbour before switching off the engine and just sitting in silence, immersed in the magnificent sights around us.

Nusfjord Arctic Resort with red, yellow wooden cabins and buildings and several fishing boats.
yellow kayaks in the harbour at Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

Cruising along the coastline in Lofoten was a bucket list experience. Seeing all the red fishermen’s robuer scattered along the water’s edge is fabulous.

hull of a boat on the open sea in Nusfjord, Norway.
small fishing village with a large mountain above it in Nusfjord.

We were two pretty smug sailors sitting in Reine’s harbour with the sun beating down on us. I was so glad I hadn’t chickened out of this experience!

We couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the calm waters around Nusfjord. I had imagined waves engulfing us as they hit the side of the boat. It was quite the opposite!

still water with a small hill rising out of it.
Red wooden cabins beside the waters edge with a mountain behind with some snow on the top of it.

Nusfjord is the perfect base for discovering other interesting places nearby, including the remote fishing village of Å, the picturesque village of Reine, and Henningsvær, famous for its Arctic football pitch!

What is the best time of year to visit Nusfjord Arctic Resort?

I visited in July, and the weather was generally warm and sunny, with only a few days of rain. I also got to experience the Midnight Sun, when the skies never go completely dark at night. This phenomenon happens between June and the end of August.

At the other end of the year, Lofoten is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). So, if you want to hunker down for a few days in winter in a cosy location, Nusfjord Arctic Resort is the perfect place.

Is it worth staying at Nusfjord Arctic Resort?

Yes. If you are exploring Northern Norway, Nusfjord Arctic Resort is the best place to stay for a few days to immerse yourself in the living history of one of Lofoten’s most interesting and beautiful fishing villages.

The photographs speak for themselves about Nusfjord’s beauty; it is definitely one of the world’s most unique places to stay. If you spend time in Nusfjord, you will leave with magical memories that will be near impossible to recreate anywhere else.

But don’t just take my word for it. To experience Nusfjord yourself, please click on this link to check the Nusfjord Arctic Resort luxury rorbu accommodation availability and pricing.

If you want to stay in one of the rustic cottages or even the heritage cottage with no mod cons, click this link to Lofoten Cottages.

Red wooden rorbuer on stilts in Nusfjord Arctic Resort.

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