The Vega Archipelago
6,500 islands, islets and skerries and a distinctive bird with priceless feathers
The Vega archipelago in Nordland County, between the ports of call at Brønnøysund and Sandnessjøen, was first listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004. This rare honour makes sense when you get into your kayak and paddle rhythmically past countless islets, surrounded by towering mountains that drop sharply to the sea below. The sheer grandeur of the experience will probably overwhelm you.
You'll hear birdsong, a reminder that you are entering the realm of the eider duck, which breed naturally in large numbers here. For more than 1,500 years people have inhabited the islands, maintaining a living sustainably in this inhospitable landscape. In addition to fishing and farming, they produce eiderdown: feathers collected from the nests of the Eider ducks, which are practically farm livestock for the locals.
The Eider duck belongs to the Anatidae family, and its down is connected to long history involving, among other things, vendettas and royal tastes. According to the legend of Saint Olav, an argument about an outlying fishing village that was home to a colony of eider ducks led to one revenge killing after another. Much later, the 16th century proved to be the beginning of a bonanza for the sellers, as royalty across Europe first developed a taste for eiderdown. The feathers are improbably light and well suited to making warm, yet comfortable bedding. Naturally harvested and hand-processed, the supply of eiderdown is low and the prized feathers can cost as much as NOK 30,000 (about 3,500 Euro) per kilo.
On the Vega archipelago, Eider ducks supply people with down, and in turn, people keep the Eider ducks safe from predators. The Vega archipelago has also attained status as a sustainable tourism destination, and regardless of whether you arrive by kayak, boat or organised tour, there are many places that can offer you a room for the night.