We have all seen the Instagram and Facebook pictures of northern lights on snowy beaches, steep mountains rising straight up from the ocean, and picturesque fishing villages . Can Lofoten really live up to all the hype?
In our opinion, yes it really can! In this guide, we will present you with our best tips to make your vacation in Lofoten a memorable one, and indeed make it live up to the hype. We will show you how to get to Lofoten, where you should stay, what you should do, and last but not least, show you some of our favorite hikes
WHAT MAKES LOFOTEN SO POPULAR?
There are a number of reasons why Lofoten has become so wildly popular in the last few years. To name a few; ocean fishing (Skreifiske), staggeringly beautiful scenery and mountains, picturesque fishing villages, amazing surfing conditions, long white beaches, midnight sun, and the last but not least, the aurora borealis (during the winter months). – And these are just a few of the wonderful experiences you can expect. In our opinion, there is also a special kind of mood, a tranquility that comes to us in the Lofoten islands. – Hiking beautiful mountains during the daytime, and enjoying the midnight sun in the summer together with good friends, or waiting for northern lights in the winter.
There is a lot to do and see in Lofoten. If you just want to cover the basics and see the places most frequented on Instagram and other social media, you can manage it in a long weekend. However, if you wish to really discover Lofoten and all its wonders, you should at least stay a week.
Reading on, you will find our favorite things to do and see in Lofoten, and suggestions on what you should do based on the length of your stay, as well as our suggestions for means of transportation and where to stay.
Depending on where you arrive from, there are several possibilities. Perhaps the most popular way to reach Lofoten, is to arrive by plane in Bodø, and then rent a car there. Then you board the ferry to Moskenes, which takes about three hours. By using this alternative, you will arrive at the southern end of Lofoten, and can drive your way to the northern end, experiencing all the sights along the way. This is our favorite way to reach and experience Lofoten.
Another alternative is to arrive by plane in Svolvær, Leknes, or Røst, and hire a car from one of these places.
HOW DO I GET AROUND IN LOFOTEN?
There several alternatives of how to get around in Lofoten. The most popular is to hire or bring a car and drive around on your own. We recommend booking a car in advance, as Lofoten is a popular destination, especially during the summer time. You can also hire or bring a caravan, as there are many nice places to park and spend the night.
There are other ways to get around as well, and you don’t always need to rent a car if you don’t have one. You can stay in one of the bigger fishing villages and get around by bus. By packing lightly, it is also possible to bike, paddle or even walk huge parts of Lofoten.
Want to know where the picture above is taken?
We made a guide called 11 must see places on the road in Lofoten. It features pictures and detailed GPS coordinates to some of the most famous places to visit in Lofoten. They are all easily accessible from the road.
Get our PDF guide [thrive_2step id=’5576′]11 must see places on the road in Lofoten[/thrive_2step].
TOWNS OF LOFOTEN – WHERE TO STAY
Lofoten consists of seven bigger islands; Austvågøya, Vestvågøya, Gimsøya, Flakstadøya, Moskenesøya, Værøy and Røst, all with their own unique charm. Most of the towns have fishing lodges (“rorbuer”) available for rent.
The small city of Å on Moskenesøy is the southernmost city of Lofoten. Å is the furthest south you get in Lofoten by car, and is a historic fishing community with charming red fishing lodges, and a crazy amount of seagulls. Be ware in the hatching season, they can be a bit aggressive if you get too close 😉 In Å you will find museums, and some parts of the season, lots of stockfish hanging to dry.
Reine is a spectacular village, also situated on Moskenesøya. Reine is famous for the mountain Reinebringen, and you might have seen some pictures from the bridge overlooking the city. We recommend hiking to the top of Reinebringen, for an amazing view of Reine from above. It is not a very difficult hike, but some parts of the trail are very steep, and can be slippery after heavy rain, or periods of drought (as it gets quite sandy). In Reine you will also find an art museum, a tourist information, and some restaurants and cafés worth a visit, such as Bringen café. Reine is also known to be a photographers wonderland, with postcard sceneries around every corner, and walking distances to places such as Sakrisøy and Hamnøy. If you want to stay at Sakrisøy or Hamnøy you should try the famous fishing lodges. If you are stationary, and only want to stay in one places, this is it! The the red fishing lodges in Reine are also very popular to stay in. Be sure to book early, as they get sold out quickly.
Nusfjord is a small picturesque fishing community, with two large fishing boats still using it as their harbor.In the summertime, a small fee applies to enter Nusfjord. We really recommend spending a night in a rorbu in Nusfjord.
Henningsvær is a fantastic mix of small city living, combined with amazing nature experiences. Especially if you are into climbing. Eat a meal of bacalao at Klatrecaféen (the climbing café), and enjoy the cosy surroundings. Henningsvær also offers souvenirs from the many local shops, such as locally made glass items or knitted garments. In Henningsvær you will also find local restaurants serving fish based meals, gourmet style and a lot of alternative places to spend the night.
The city of Svolvær is famous for its Svolværgeita (The Svolvær goat). – A mountain peak that looks like a goat with horns. You can climb the goat by using a local guide and climbing equipment, or you can hike to the close by Djevelporten, which we really recommend. Svolvær is a bigger city, and we feel that when you reach Svolvær you start to loose the feeling og being in Lofoten, and start moving towards more regular Norwegian cities. – But it is still worth a visit! The view from the fishing lodges is still great.
LONG WHITE BEACHES
White sand and turquoise water; the long beaches are one of the many good reasons to visit Lofoten. Beach vacation in Norway? Why not! Even though the temperature does not always permit swimming, the surroundings and scenery make up for the cold water. – And many beaches permit surfing or other water based activities all year round.
The West side of Lofoten is perhaps the most beautiful if you wish to explore some beaches. One of the more hidden gems there, is Kvalvika beach. Kvalvika requires a short hike to reach the final destination, but boy is it worth it. Kvalvika is a peaceful beach, with tall mountains rising all around it. Close by, you can also find the popular Ryten mountain, where the picture below is taken. Makes for some creative shots 😉 Check out our article about hiking to Kvalvika Beach.
A bit further north, you will find Ramberg beach – a long and shallow beach with many small rivers that flow across the beach. They are really fun to explore, especially in the winter, as they form lots of little crystals in the sand. In the winter, the ice forms intriguing formations because of the rivers, and because of the tide, so bring your camera! Ramberg is also a great place to stay, and there are several hiking and kayak adventures available.
Even further north on Flakstadøya, Vikten is situated. Explore the long beautiful beach, and sit on the rock that looks like a meamaid’s tail. At Vikten we’ve enjoyed many spectacular sunsets, and we can only image what it’s like living here, seeing these sunsets every day.
Further north, at Vestvågøy, you will find the Haukland Beach, with camping possibilities. Haukland beach is one of the most visited beaches in Lofoten, as it is beautiful, accessible, family friendly and has toilet facilities during the summertime. Because it is so popular, you will most likely find a lot of tourists and photographers at Haukland, all year around.
Utakleiv – a magnificent place to capture the northern lights, is situated even further north at Vestvågøy. Utakleiv is a nice place to spend the night (a small fee applies), or eat your lunch at one of the many artisanal benches and tables installed close by the beach, while you hear the roar of the waves.
Unstad – the surfers paradise with camping possibilities, is situated further north. Unstad beach is perhaps the most popular surfing beach in Lofoten, with people playing in the surf all year round. At Unstad you can also spend the night for a small fee, in a tent or a camper van, or you can rent a cabin. During the summer months, the camping area at Unstad is filled up with surfing or nature enthusiasts, and you can easily find a group of like minded people to hang out with. We spent some time at Unstad this summer together with some of our friends, and it was truly an amazing time.
Lofoten is honestly one of the best places in Norway to hike, as there are so many mountains to choose from, and in many different categories of difficulty. If you are of the adventurous kind and not afraid of heights, we recommend Vågakallen in Kabelvåg as an absolute must. Other hikes we really enjoy are Reinebringen in Reine, and Fløyfjellet in Svolvær. At Fløyfjellet you can climb the famous Svolværgeita in the company of a local guide, or you can hike a different route to Djevelporten (The devils gate), where you can get some awesome shots, if you dare. Detailed hiking guides to Lofoten are coming soon. Here is our preliminary top 10 list of highly recommended hikes in Lofoten: (Difficulty 1-3)
- Reinebringen 442m, 2 hours (dif 2)
- Helvetestind 602m, 4 hours (dif 2)
- Ryten 543m, 3 hours (dif 1)
- Moltinden 696m, 3 hours (dif 2)
- Hustinden 691m, 3 hours (dif 1)
- Skottinden 671m, 4 hours (dif 2)
- Veggen 489m, 2 hours (dif 1)
- Vågakallen 943m, 8 hours (dif 3)
- Festvågtind 541m, 2 hours (dif 1)
- Djevelporten 561m, 3 hours (dif 2)
Kari Schibevaag is a several time world champion in kiting. She lives in a container house at Ramberg beach, and really know here way around the best kite spots in Lofoten. According to Kari, the best beaches to kite is Ramberg, Yttersand and Flakstad. Ramberg is best when the wind blows north-west, Yttersand when it blows north to north-east, and Flakstad is good on both north and south direction. Lars and Kari made a video together about Kari kiting close to her home at Ramberg. Check it out below.
KAYAK IN LOFOTEN
Because of Lofoten’s archipelago and clear turquoise water, it is a dream to kayak in Lofoten. You can for example rent a kayak in Svolvær, and paddle your way to Henningsvær and back in the course of a day. We really recommend this trip. Paddling in Reine and Trollfjorden should also rank high on your list. Kayaks are available for hire a number of places, but most of them require that you have a license (in Norwegian called a “våtkort”) or that you must be accompanied by a guide.
DIVING IN LOFOTEN
Diving in the cold waters of Norway might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it should! The colder the water, the better the visibility often is. In Lofoten, diving accommodations be found at Ballestad.
As previously mentioned, there are some awesome surfing possibilities in Lofoten, for instance at Unstad. At Unstad, several surfing companies are stationed, and you can rent equipment and surf on your own, or you can join a course. Flakstad is also a very decent surfing beach. It often has somewhat smaller and easier waves then Unstad which makes it perfect for beginners. Kari Schibevaag at Schibevaag Adventure has a lot of water-sports equipment available for rent.
Lofoten has a rich historic culture, and if often called mini- Norway. In Lofoten you will find many old traditional fishing villages, such as Nusfjord. In Lofoten they still dry fish they way it has been have done for hundreds of years, using outdoors wooden stands to hang the fish to dry. During the winter to spring period, Lofoten is dominated by the smell of fish being dried from these stands, it is really a sight to be seen (and smelled).
We recommend stopping by previously mentioned Nusfjord if you are interested in seeing what a traditional fishing community looked like. In the summer time, they charge a visitors fee to enter, but in the winter it is free.
If you are interested in old norse and viking culture, we recommend stopping by the Lofoten viking museum in Vestvågøy.
ONLY GOT TIME FOR A LONG WEEK END IN LOFOTEN?
If you have a week or so in Lofoten, you are welcome to follow the previously mentioned suggestions. If you only have time for a long weekend, no worries, you can still manage the see many of the famous sights. If this is the case, we have made a fast track guide for you.
Start by taking the three hour ferry from Bodø to Moskenes. From Moskenes, you can drive south west, until you get to Å. Å is the furthest south you get in Lofoten by car. Head north towards Reine, and be sure to stop at in Reine, Sakrisøy and Hamnes on your way.
After enjoying Reine, we recommend driving north- west towards Ramberg, and enjoy the beautiful Ramberg beach. After Ramberg, you should head north- east, towards Nusfjord and Storavatnet. After Nusfjord, continue north towards Haukland and Utakleiv beach, for wild and sandy beaches.
After visiting Utakleiv, we recommend that you also consider going to Unstad beach. If you’re into surfing, you should really suit up and try the waves. If not, it is a lot of fun to watch others measure their strengths against the ocean.
From Unstad, we recommend heading east, towards Henningsvær. Henningsvær also offers souvenirs from the many local shops, such as locally made glass items or knitted garments. After visiting Henningsvær, the last stop on your journey should be Svolvær.