Picture a tiny town straight out of Viking times, surrounded by tall mountains full of hiking trails topped off with clear skies, and you'll have any of the fishing villages in the Lofoten archipelago.
The Lofoten Islands are among the most beautiful places in the world. They are easy to reach and offer visitors the opportunity to snap wonderful pictures of the scenery. In addition, they can participate in a wide array of outdoor activities and admire the unique phenomenon of the northern lights.
If you're ready to plan your trip to the Lofoten Islands, please keep reading below because we have prepared the ultimate guide to Lofoten Islands for the best experience.
Where are the Lofoten Islands?
The Lofoten Islands are located on a privileged section of the Norwegian Sea, above the Arctic Circle. Although far north, the islands offer visitors charming villages with lots of activities to enjoy every aspect of this majestic landscape.
How to get to Lofoten Islands, Norway?
To incentivize tourism, the Norwegian government has made the Lofoten Islands more accessible to the public. You can get there by boat, plane, bus, or car.
If traveling by plane, two airports serve the Lofoten Islands: Svolvær Airport and Leknes Airport. They both have regular direct flights from several major Norwegian cities. You can connect to flights toward the smaller islands from any of those airports. Svolvaer Airport has flights to Bodø, Oslo, Røst, and Stokmarknes, while Leknes Airport offers flights to Bodø, Oslo, and Tromsø. Most flights are provided by a local Norwegian airline called Widerøe.
If traveling by car, you have two options. The first is taking a road trip to the islands on highway E10. This expressway opened in 2007 and connects the mainland with Svolvær and goes as far as Å I Lofoten. You can also skip the drive and instead hop on a ferry from Skutvik that reaches Svolvær. Both options have advantages. The drive to Lofoten takes you through stunning scenery along bridges and tunnels, but it can last around 6 hours from Tromsø. The ferry trip is shorter, only 2 hours and 24 minutes, and you get to enjoy the sight of the Norwegian Sea and the Lofoten Wall.
Finally, you can also catch a bus from Narvik to Svolvær. The trips last between 3h and 52 m and 4h and 12 m.
Lofoten Islands Weather
As you can expect for any location in northern Norway, the weather in the Lofoten archipelago is usually cold, even in the summer. In the warmer months, temperatures range between 10 °C - 15 °C (50 °F -59 °F), and thanks to the Midnight Sun, you can have endless outdoor adventures. The Midnight Sun occurs from May 26th to July 17th; the sun never sets during this time. Because of this phenomenon, “being late” is no longer possible. Hours just melt away in the constant sun.
During Spring and Autumn, you can experience colder temperatures, ranging between 1 °C and 8 °C (33 °F - 46 °F). There's also plenty of rain. If you're planning to go hiking around Lofoten, don't do it during Spring because rockfalls and avalanches are a common occurrence during this time.
Finally, long and cold nights are common during winter, with temperatures as low as -3 °C (26 °F). There's plenty of snow and rain, especially during November and December. Between December 9th and January 4th, you'll be able to enjoy the polar night, and between mid and end of January, you'll be able to see both sunrise and sunset within a 3-hour window. This is the perfect time of the year to capture the beautiful sunset light against the polar landscape!
Best Time to visit Lofoten Islands, Norway
The best time of the year to visit Lofoten depends on which activities you enjoy doing. There are plenty of offers for things to do in the Lofoten islands. There's hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, surfing, and golfing, to mention a few.
The summer is the busiest time of the year, especially among outdoor enthusiasts. The Lofoten archipelago is filled with visitors from all over the world who gather here to enjoy the midnight sun and endless fun. Go on a kayak trip and admire the seabirds, or get a rental car and go on a road trip around Lofoten Island. This time of the year, greenery is abundant all along the cliffs and dramatic mountains, so no matter where you look, you'll find a fantastic landscape. There are also plenty of camping spots all over Lofoten Island, so don't forget to bring your tent!
For those who prefer to stay indoors and enjoy the small villages, there are also many options for accommodation. Yet, make sure to book well in advance, as the island reaches its maximum capacity during the summer months. The beautiful beaches on the Norwegian and Barents seas are also very popular during the summer. Uttakleiv beach and Kvalvika beach are trendy among tourists. If you want to skip the summer crowds, visit towards the end of August. You will still enjoy long days and green landscapes with much more ease.
But if you're hunting for the northern lights, you should visit during the winter. This is the perfect time to enjoy snow activities like free skiing and snowboarding. After sunset, you'll be able to enjoy the polar night and the dancing lights of the aurora borealis.
Lofoten Islands Hiking
Hiking is a popular activity in the Lofoten Islands. There are trails for every level, from high peaks accessible only to advanced hikers to gentle and easy hikes along coastal paths.
Because Lofoten Islands is such a unique ecosystem, the Norwegian government has taken steps to protect it from aggressive tourism. The company Lofoten Kajakk is the first “Certified Norwegian Ecotourism.” They offer daily hiking adventures that start at 10 am. Each guide takes care of only with a small group of around 15 hikers. The groups are smaller for more advanced hikes. You can get more details about these tours at the Tourist information center at the town square in Svolvær.
Lofoten Islands Hotels
There are plenty of options for accommodation in Lofoten to suit every traveler.
If you're looking to stay in downtown Svolvær and have quick access to most activities and sights in this charming village, then the Fast Hotel Lofoten is the right choice. Located only 500 m from the town's central square, Fast Hotel Lofoten offers visitors comfortable rooms with a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.
For business travelers, we recommend staying at Thon Hotel Lofoten in Svolvær. The hotel has the most scenic view of the harbor, the Lofoten sea, and the Lofoten Wall. The hotel also has a conference room that can host up to 1100 attendees and foyers for breaks and activities.
For those visitors who want to skip the hotel and spend 100% of their time outdoors, there are plenty of camping sites all over the archipelago. Bring your tent or caravan and find a spot to enjoy the natural scenery.
Little Lighthouse Lofoten Islands
This spot is one of the many accommodation options, but it is so singular that it deserves its own section.
The Little Lighthouse is located on the island of Litløy, in the Nordland region, and can only be reached by boat. The lighthouse also doubles as a hotel (Littleisland Lighthouse) and has only two guest rooms. Each room has a fantastic view of the sea from the sitting area.
The hotel serves local dishes for its guests, and although there usually aren't planned activities in the hotel itinerary, you could be lucky and spot killer whales offshore.
This is the finest spot for those who enjoy solitude and uninterrupted time in nature.
Northern Lights in Lofoten Islands
If you're visiting the Lofoten Islands between early fall and mid-April, you cannot miss the opportunity to join a northern lights hunt. Lofoten is one of the premier places in the world to enjoy nature's most spectacular light show.
If you decide to hire a tour, your guide will tell you all you need to know about the aurora borealis before starting the hunt and give you some recommendations to get the highest quality photographs. Because the weather in the Lofoten Islands can change rapidly, tour operators carefully monitor the forecast and choose the perfect sight to get the best view of the aurora borealis.
However, you can also take advantage of the northern lights forecast and embark on a solo adventure to catch the show. Make sure to find a spot as far from light pollution as possible.
Festival and Events in Lofoten Islands
Music is an essential element in Lofoten, and two festivals celebrate Lofoten's musical culture: Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival and Lofoten Piano Festival. Both festivals attract large audiences and high-level international performers. Lofoten does not have great music halls, so celebrations usually occur outdoors or in several of Lofoten's many churches. This adds extra charm to an experience you won't have anywhere else.
Food festivals are also common in Lofoten. Locals enjoy sharing their traditional dishes, including fresh fish and whale meat, local cheese, and Lofoten lamb. The Matfestivalen in Lofoten occurs between the end of September and the beginning of October.
Finally, the festival of the year, the Lofotr Viking festival! Hundreds of Vikings head north from all over Norway to participate in this fantastic affair. At the festival, you can learn about Viking history and culture and even try to be a Viking for a day. The festival lasts five days and takes place at the Viking Ship Harbour. Here, you can find contemporary buildings like the boathouse, the smithy, and many Viking tents.
If you don't come during the Viking festival, then don't miss a visit to the Lofotr Viking Museum to get the Viking experience!
Lofoten Islands Photo Tourism
Photo tourism is among the favorite activities in Lofoten. The islands offer a variety of landscapes that change dramatically from season to season.
Come in January, and you'll have a few hours to capture the winter landscapes under the sunrise and sunset lights within a 3-5 hours window. Then, after a refreshing nap, enjoy the northern lights through the lens of the camera or snap a wide-angle shot of the Milky Way.
Another great season in Lofoten for photographers is Autumn. At this time of the year, the grass turns into a beautiful golden color, and the birch trees shine under the Autumn light. Autumn is probably the most enjoyable season on the island. However, during this time, bad weather can be challenging to predict. A clear day can soon turn gray with nonstop rain. You can take this downturn as an opportunity to photograph local fishermen in the fishing village or glassblowing artisans.
Finally, the summer is ideal for those who want to capture Lofoten's green scenery. But because all locations get crowded, it's better to travel at the end of August. You will miss the Midnight Sun but also have the opportunity to photograph the colorful foliage under the twilight.
One in a lifetime adventure!
Lofoten Islands are one of those places that we should all have on our bucket lists. There's so much to do and see in such a small patch of land and sea.
Snap the most beautiful photos and enjoy this one-in-a-lifetime adventure in Lofoten, Norway.