If you don’t mind the cold so much and you love checking out island paradises, the Lofoten Islands Norway just might be heaven on earth for you.
There are few places in Europe that could possibly rival the sheer magnificent beauty of this amazing archipelago. By this, I mean majestic mountains and peaks, deep fjords, colorful fishing villages, open sea and sheltered bays, squawking seabird colonies, fabulous arctic-fresh air and long, surf-swept beaches.
When describing the Lofoten Islands, Lonely Planet stated: “The beauty of this place is simply staggering”.
Here I want to share with you some of what I experienced and photographed on a recent trip I made with my fiancé, James.
Where are the Lofoten Islands Norway?
Located within the Arctic Circle at the 68th and 69th parallels north, the Lofoten Islands are just off the coast of Northern Norway in the county of Nordland.
The total land area of the islands amounts to 1,227 square kilometres (474 square miles), and the local residents number around 24,500, making Lofoten one of the world’s northernmost populated regions.
While still cold, due to the warm Gulf Stream, Lofoten actually has a much milder climate than other parts of the world at the same latitude. Between late May and mid-July (which is when we visited) you can experience the midnight sun here, whilst the northern lights can be viewed from September to mid-April.
Although perhaps not the easiest destination to get to in the world, the Lofoten Islands Norway are still pretty accessible all year round. As of 2017, there were over 1 million annual visitors finding their way here as word of the beauty of this place continues to grow.
As you might imagine, there are many ferries carrying locals, holiday-makers, cargo and vehicles out from the mainland every day. You can also reach most of the islands by road. This is because all of the main islands in this archipelago are connected by a series of roads and bridges, making it possible to access this region from the mainland by car, motorhome, caravan or bus.
The closest mainland airports to the islands are at Bodø and Narvik. If arriving at Bodø you can take another flight to Lofoten, landing at Svolvær, Leknes or Røst. If coming from Narvik, you are able to take a bus that takes around 3 or so hours.
Once you get there, there is really not very much in the way of regular public transport, so my tip to get the most out of seeing these islands is to rent a car so you can get anywhere you want at any time.
We had reached the Arctic Circle within Norway by taking a road trip along the country’s west coast beginning in Bergen. Originally, we had planned to continue up to Narvik and head over to the archipelago from there.
However, when we reached the city of Bodø, friends that we had met there suggested we instead book ourselves and our car on one of the Hurtigruten ferries that travel directly to Lofoten. We could then drive through the islands to Narvik before heading south again later. Luckily, we were able to get tickets at short notice and so we drove up to the wharf, checked in and looked forward to a lovely cruise out to the islands.
We had heard that this particular passage could be very rough. Well, we must have been very lucky again as the cruise was so smooth and tranquil. Lasting around 4 hours, the cruise wasn’t a long one by any means but it was certainly relaxing and the views on board were just fabulous.
Arriving at Lofoten
We docked at Stamsund, a traditional trawl fishing village at around 5.00 pm. After driving the car off the ship, we then had a leisurely look around before heading to Svolvær, where we had booked a hotel room. It was just as well the road getting there wasn’t that busy as both James and I were just in awe of the surrounding scenery as we made our way there.
Having enjoyed the drive from Stamsund to Svolvær and checked into our hotel, we were heading out for a bit of a walk and right outside our hotel we could see the Hurtigruten ship we had just cruised on, coming into the harbour where we were staying. You might think that it would have been better if we had stayed on board and disembarked then – but of course, if we had done that, we would not have enjoyed seeing the previous sights from within the islands by road.
Svolvær might be the largest city on Lofoten but it remains tiny by international standards with a population of less than 5,000. Nevertheless, it is such a lovely and clean place to stay with such friendly and engaging people.
Driving through the archipelago to the mainland
We drove through the E10 National Scenic Route that runs the length of the main islands of the archipelago, heading toward Narvik. On the way, everything we saw in relation to the environment was pristine, showing just how well Norwegians maintain the beauty of their natural surrounds. It is also worth mentioning the 10 points of the Lofoten Code of Conduct that is widely promoted and it obviously works well.
And so here again we were in for a feast for the eyes as Lofoten lived up to its reputation of being among the most naturally beautiful places in existence.
Quite apart from photography, fishing and exploring there are a number of other things to do while spending time in these islands. Especially during the summer when there is light all the time this gives visitors ample time to try a host of exciting activities, such as kayaking, hiking, midnight golf and—for adventurous types—even surfing!
Key places of Interest
Lofotodden National Park is Norway’s latest National Park and takes up an area of more than 100km in the western part of the archipelago and is definitely worth exploring.
Henningsvær is a village built on several tiny islands seemingly dropped into the water from the mighty Vågakallen mountain and is one of Lofoten’s best-known places. It is home to a couple of art galleries and stunning waterside views from pretty much every spot as well as home to one of the most picturesque football pitches in the world!
The approach by car to the island village of Reine is said to be nothing short of breathtaking and is well equipped for visitors. Overlooking the village, the Reinebringen mountain is a top destination for experienced hikers. Just five miles on from Reine is the end of the E10 highway and the village of Å, the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet. The small village serves a dual purpose as a fishing village museum.
Lofotr Viking Museum is built on what is believed to have been a site of great importance during the Viking era. The reconstructed longhouse atop a hill is the highlight, especially as archaeological digs indicated a chieftain’s home once stood there.
Heading on our way
There is no doubt that we would have liked to have stayed longer here and explored so much more. However, our itinerary to reach other places meant that we needed to keep moving to see so much more of this wonderful country. So, we headed off in our car to our next stop in Narvik before turning south again toward Bergen. It was a special time we will always remember and will look to come back in the future when in this region again.
Do you share the attraction for exploring these beautiful islands within the arctic circle? Please share any thoughts you might have on the Lofoten Islands Norway in the comments section below.