Vesterålen is a district and archipelago in Nordland county, Norway. It is located just north of the Lofoten district and archipelago and west of the city of Harstad. It is the northernmost part of Nordland county.
The Old Norse forms of the name were Vestráll and Vestrálar (plural). The first element is vestr which means "west" and the last element is áll which means "(deep and narrow) sound" or "strait". The name describes the seaway west of the island of Hinnøya. The old name of the seaway east of Hinnøya (now called Tjeldsundet) might have been Austráll (meaning "the eastern sound/strait").
Vesterålen consists of the municipalities of Andøy, Bø, Hadsel, Sortland, and Øksnes. According to some definitions, Lødingen is also included. Vesterålen is made up of several islands: Langøya, Andøya, Hadseløya, the western part of Hinnøya, the northern part of Austvågøya and several smaller islands.
The landscape is mountainous, but the mountains have a more rounded shape compared to the mountains in Lofoten. The towns and villages are situated on the coastal brim (Strandflaten) between the mountains and the fjords. There are also several lakes, such as Alsvågvatnet. Møysalen National Park is partly located in Vesterålen (website). The climate in Vesterålen is maritime, with mild winters considering this archipelago is well north of the arctic circle. In Stokmarknes (Hadsel), January average is −1.8 °C (28.8 °F), July 24-hr average is 12.3 °C (54.1 °F), year average is 4.3 °C (39.7 °F) and precipitation is 1,220 millimetres (48 in) with autumn as the wettest season.
Vesterålen is connected to the mainland and Evenes airport by bridges. It is connected to Lofoten by ferry, although since the opening of the Lofast road in December 2007, Lofoten can also be reached by road.
The coastal steamer Hurtigruten calls at the ports of Stokmarknes, Sortland, and Risøyhamn in Vesterålen. There are two regional airports: Stokmarknes Airport, Skagen for small aircraft, and Andenes Airport on Andøya.
The population in Vesterålen as of 1 January 2004 was 30,648 (Statistisk Sentralbyrå). The largest town is Sortland, but the regional hospital is in nearby Stokmarknes in Hadsel municipality. The Royal Norwegian Air Force has based all its P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft at Andøya Air Station, and Andøya Rocket Range is also located at Andøya. The Norwegian Coast Guard has its northern base at Sortland (Kystvaktskvadron Nord).
Nyksund (1 August 2004)
View towards Ræka, Sortland
Aurora Borealis is visible in all of Vesterålen. Andøy, October 2007.
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