Ireland has its fair share of rugged, wild landscapes, but you’ve got to admit that Norway has got us beat when it comes to nature at its very wildest! Colossal fjords, sprawling forests and rugged mountains… It’s definitely something that has to be seen to be believed. So that’s why I’m taking you north of the Arctic Circle to the small, peaceful Lofoten Islands, scattered along Norway’s northerly coast. Discover the unique landscapes and the incredible atmosphere – but just warning you now, you’ll be feeling that wanderlust right away!
Most of you will have definitely heard of Lofoten before. It’s the place with those pretty little fishing villages, surrounded by rugged mountains and deep-blue seas. This incredible archipelago is made up of around 80 islands and islets, and while it can be quite the trek to get there, it’s well worth the effort. Today I’ll be giving you a few tips on how to get there, things to see and do there and just how diverse all of these little individual islands are. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, this is the place for you!
The Lofoten Islands are serviced by a regional airports at Svolvær, Harstad/Narvik or Leknes. Since they’re regional airports, flights are operated by Widerøe, Norwegian or SAS – you will have to change at Oslo Gardermoen before continuing your journey northwards. From Oslo it’s just under two hours before you touch down again.
Personally if the stopover times are a little bit too ridiculous then definitely book the two halves of the journey separately! This means that you can give yourself some time in Oslo before setting off on your adventures – and I’m very fond of the city myself! Similarly you could also fly to Bodø or Tromsø if you’re interested in seeing other awesome places in North Norway.
Speaking of Widerøe – I’ve noticed that they’re doing an incredible offer for unlimited regional flights across Norway. Think of it like inter-railing, except you’ll be cruising above the clouds! These tickets are valid for 2 weeks at a time and cost €440 if you want to explore Lofoten and North Norway (Zone 2). Here’s a link if you’re curious!
Once you’re in Lofoten you’ve got plenty of options for getting around. Rental car is probably the most flexible (but most expensive) method, or you could even use public transport and local ferries to get around. Those travelling on 4 or 2 wheels will be pleased to know that there’s a good network of bridges and tunnels connecting Lofoten to the mainland, so you’ll hardly be stranded here!
Paradise for nature lovers
As soon as you start your approach to Lofoten you’ll soon realise just how stunning Norwegian nature really is. Rugged peaks stand shoulder to shoulder with the open sea and white sandy beaches. Tall cliffs and snow-decked mountains reaching up to 1,000 metres high tower above the Atlantic, interspersed by charming valleys and sheltered bays with calm waters. Lofoten’s contrasts make for a simply unique setting. Each village seems more idyllic than the next, and red fishing huts and colourful wooden houses give the islands a rather special charm. The picturesque beauty of Lofoten is simply a feast for the eyes!
For the outdoorsy types
The activities that await you here are just as diverse and contrasting as the islands’ landscapes. Outdoor activities in particular are especially popular, which isn’t surprising at all considering the terrain! Sporty nature lovers, hikers and cyclists in particular all flock to these islands not just to stay fit, but also to take advantage of the magnificent views of the mountains. If you think you’re fit enough for it, then hiking up on the mountains is something I really recommend! My tip – pack a Thermos flask, an orange and a Kvikk Lunsj chocolate bar. This is the typical Norwegian packed lunch when they head up for a trip up the mountain – or fjelltur as the locals call it – and there’s nothing better than just finding a nice quiet spot to sit down for a bit and let the views soak in as you nibble away!
If you want to hit the waves and get a little insight into the natives’ way of life, you should definitely get on a fishing boat, either to do a spot of fishing yourself, or to see the islands from a different perspective and see the fishermen do what they do best. A popular starting place for fishers is in the cute, compact fishing village of Kabelvåg, in the Vågan Commune. You could even combine a fishing trip with a kayak adventure if you’d like!
If you want things even more adventurous, then why not go surfing? The best place to do this is the bay by the village of Unstad. Next to this little village the water reaches depths of up to 500 metres, which means that the powerful Atlantic waves coming over from Greenland really come crashing down here. This area is a surfers’ paradise and professionals from all over the world come here even in the stormy autumn and winter months to make sure they don’t miss the big waves – and catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights while they’re at it! There’s no other surfing experience like this in the world and water temperatures will always be above zero degrees.
Speaking of winter – how about a skiing trip with a sea view, even outside of skiing season? When most skiing resorts in Europe hunker down for the warmer months, things in North Scandinavia really start to kick off. Since things are rather dark in December and January (we are in the Arctic Circle after all!), a good time to go is between April and May once things start brightening up. So, if you love skiing and you’re going to be in Lofoten during that time you’ve got a lot to look forward to! Just imagine hurtling down the slopes with views of the sea all around! A place that’s particularly popular for skiing is the 803 metre-tall peak called Rundtinden, which belongs to the island of Austvågøya. The islands of Vågan and Vestvågøy west of Svolvær are also popular due to good snow coverage and are quite easy to get to. If you’re looking for a ski lift you might be doing so in vain, as they generally don’t come as standard in many places. But then again, who could say no to a little hike through the snow when the views are this good?
Staying in Lofoten
Lofoten is made up of around 80 islands of different sizes. It would be impossible to recommend or visit just one of these islands, because once you’re there you’ll just want to see as much as you can. However when it comes to choosing a place to stay, your best bet is to choose one or two towns that will serve as a good base for your excursions and trips.
How about a cute little fishing hut (or rorbu as they’re known) in the capital of the Lofoten Islands, Svolvær? This little town is the perfect starting point for many activities and excursions in the region, such as the Viking Museum in Bøstad or even Lofotens Hus in Henningsvær, an art gallery in a former fish-processing factory.
If you’re curious about staying in Lofoten, then here’s some handy links:
I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that Lofoten is just one of those places that you have to see at least once in your lifetime. So much fascinating and beautiful nature in one spot… Mountains and seas that seamlessly blend into each other from east to west and landscapes that’ll take your breath away. Yep, I’m definitely feeling that wanderlust now!
If you’re in the middle of planning a trip here yourself, or are even just considering it, then there are two times of the year that I really recommend going. It’s definitely worth going to Lofoten at around May to mid July. This is when you get the legendary midnight sun. Even when when I was in Oslo during the summer solstice, a city that’s far down south in comparison, the nights there are already pretty bright, but just imagine what it’s like when you’re in Lofoten! It’s really quite the experience.
And of course the same goes for the Northern Lights too, which are at their strongest between September and April. You’ve also got the opposite of the midnight sun during December and January. The sun never truly rises – in fact it’s sort of stuck in a perpetual cycle of sunrise and sunset with just 2 ½ hours of sunlight a day. And while that may sound a bit dreary to some, the result of these really short days are super long “blue hours”, where the dusk and dawn paints the scenery in all sorts of shades of pinks, blues and violets. And when the Northern Lights are lighting up the night sky as this all goes on… This is something that’ll really knock your socks off!
Whenever I write about Norway I always get a little self-conscious about the fact that I keep on waffling on the beauty of it all, but I think after you’ve seen all the pictures you can see why I’m head over heels about this place! If you’ve ever been to Lofoten yourself, or even to Northern Norway in general, then I’d love to hear about your experiences! :)
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