The Vega Archipelago was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2004 for its outstanding natural and cultural environment.
It is especially the unique practice of keeping the wild eider ducks as livestock that has given the islands the world heritage status. This is a several hundreds of years old tradition that still is held alive. The Islanders take care of the birds, they build nesting places for them and protect them during the nesting time. In return the birds come back year after year and give up down and eggs.
A tribute to the women
Eider farming has been a central industry path driven by women, and the entry on the World Heritage Site is to be considered a tribute to these women. Whilst the men were away fishing the women took care of the nesting eider ducks. After the ducks left their nests, the women took care of the down, cleaned it and it became a unique and expensive export item from Norway to Europe.
Cleansing of the down
There is no duvet filling which is so light and gives off so much heat as the eider down. In general, the down is machine-cleaned, but the bird keepers in Helgeland still practice cleansing by hand. This is a time-consuming job, the down must be cleaned, dried, shaken, harped and collected. It takes about 2 weeks to cleans one kilo down.
Meeting with the World Heritage Site
As most of the World Heritage Site is lying out in the sea, a World Heritage Centre has been built at Gardsøy on the main island Vega. The centre opened in June 2019 and contains several exhibitions which communicate the world heritage through films, installations, images and documentation.
The exhibition also conveys the history of eider farming, including the island Lånan, the largest producer of eiderdown in the Vega Archipelago. The World Heritage Centre has a good selection of eider duck products from the area, as well as books and handicraft products.
There is also an eider museum at Nes at Vega, called the E-huset Museum. Here is documented the unique tradition of having eiders as livestock. The museum is housed in an old sea house and offers local crafts, literature and pictures from Vega. The museum is open daily in July 2020, from 12:00 - 16:00, and otherwise on request.
Vega World Heritage Centre
The new World Heritage Centre at Vega opened in 2019. The Centre is located at Gardsøy on Vega. In addition to the World Heritage Exhibition, the Centre will be a competence, conveying and visitor Centre for the natural and cultural values of the Vega Archipelago World Heritage Site.
Boat trips from Vega to Lånan – Norway's largest producer of eiderdown
Lånan is an archipelago in Vega municipality where the old eider tradition is still practiced. Every year, bird keepers return to protect the eiders when lying on their nests. In return, they get valuable eider downs.
During the summer season, tourists can visit Lånan by boat from Gardsøy on Vega. The tours take place in small groups that must be pre booked. In 2020 we want to have control over how many people are coming, both for our guests and for our safety. When you arrive at Lånan, you are greeted by the bird keepers who take you on a history walk in the realm of the eider. The walk ends in the barn where food and drinks are served, and you can visit Lånan’s own Eider Museum.
Traffic on nature's premises
Visitors in their own boat are asked to pay special attention during the breeding season 15. April to 31. July and keep low speed close to land and in the straits between the islands. Animal and bird life, including nesting sites, is protected from damage, destruction and unnecessary disturbances. Dog owners are not allowed to take their dogs ashore in the bird's nesting conditions in the Vega Islands during the breeding season.
Attention - dogs must be held at leash from 1 April - 1. October