A trip to the Lofoten islands is always a good idea, for me they deservedly enter in the top three of the best places I’ve ever visited. They’re still quite far from touristic invasion but they’re quickly gaining a huge fame so… go and explore them while they’re unspoiled!
Clear blue sea, high mountains overlooking the ocean, fishing villages, white sandy beaches, traditional red wooden houses (called rorbuer) and scenic trekking routes scattered everywhere. The Lofoten islands are the places where nature has painted one of its best works of art. And visiting the Lofoten islands is actually one of the best ideas that could come to your mind!
Where are the Lofoten islands?
At the beginning of my guide about what to see in the Lofoten islands, I think it’s very important to give an accurate idea of where the Lofoten islands are. So, let’s have a look:
- The Lofoten islands are 200 kilometres within the Arctic Circle. The latitude of the capital town of Lofoten islands, Svolvær, is 68°14’03’’N, while the Arctic Circle is 66°33’39’’.
- If you imagine a straight line linking Oslo to North Cape, the Lofoten islands would be at a height of about two-thirds of the line. This position of the Lofoten islands allows them to be one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights in Winter and the midnight sun in Summer.
- The Lofoten islands are located just west of the Norwegian crinkled shoreline, across the water of the Norwegian Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. Together with the Vesterålen islands, they form the north-western border of the Norwegian county of Nordland. Their characteristic pointed mountains, hidden valleys and snow-capped peaks lead to a morphology which is more varied than the one of the neighbouring Vesterålen.
A trip to the Lofoten islands should start from the comprehension of their geography. Islands and islets queue up in quite a regular row, from south-west to north-east. Their names are:
- Moskenesøya, the southernmost one, where you can find the villages of Å, Moskenes and Reine.
- Flakstadøya, where you can find the village of Nusfjord and some spectacular sheltered shores.
- Vestvagøya, where you can find the town of Leknes and the surfers’ heaven Unstad.
- Gimsøya, the smallest one.
- Austvågøya, where you can find the capital town Svolvær, the tiny Kabelvåg and Henningsvær, the Venice of the Lofoten islands.
The very small isolated islands of Værøy and Røst are located further in the South. You can reach both of them by ferry, helicopter or plane (there’s an airport on Røst!).
The E10 connects all the five main islands and is called the National Scenic Route through Lofoten. It’s one of the 18 breathtaking National Scenic Routes of Norway.
How can I get to the Lofoten islands? The Lofoten islands are suspended in the Norwegian sea, but they’re also inextricably bound to Norway. Thus, arriving to the Lofoten islands by car from the mainland is easy and comfortable, thanks to the National Scenic Route E10, which runs through some of the most dramatic landscapes of Lofoten.
You can also get to the Lofoten islands by sea, using the ferry from Bodø or choosing a coastal cruise along the fjords on the Hurtigruten.
If you have the time to arrive to the Lofoten islands by train from Oslo, apart the fact that you’re very lucky to have the possibility to experience such an unforgettable journey, you’ll come across eye-popping sceneries!
If you choose to get to the Lofoten islands by bus, the extensive bus routes go along the main road and then branch out even to the smallest fishing villages along the coastline.
If you need some extra information, you can go to my article about how to reach the Lofoten islands.
The characteristic images you have probably seen about Lofoten are the ones of the shoreline dotted with the rorbuer. They are the traditional red-wooden fishermen’s cabins, with one end on stilts to allow easy access to the fishing boats. Thus, one of the must-do’s while in Lofoten islands is sleeping in a rorbu.
The name rorbu (rorbuer is the plural in Norwegian) means “the house of the oarsmen”, and they are normally one-floored.
They are different from the sjøhus, that literally means “the maritime building”, which are made of wood, often not painted, have more than one floor, and were used as storage for tools. Today, most of them are rented to tourists, so you can either sleep in a rorbu or in a sjøhus.
You can also choose to sleep in hotels, B&B and apartments. If you’re an outdoor lover, you can also book your place in a campsite or in the luxurious glamping on Skrova islet, just in front of Svolvær.
At the end of this article, you’ll find the description of the places where I’ve slept during my trip; if you decide to book one of them, please use the links below, to give me a little help to develop my blog. Thanks!
The Lofoten islands are a real paradise for anyone who loves an active outdoor lifestyle, in contact with nature and its beauty.
The trekking routes are almost infinite and I’ll tell you about it in the next paragraph. Cyclists are sincerely welcomed, since the roads are well maintained and car drivers are generally very respectful towards cyclists and backpackers.
You can also choose to go by boat and enjoy the Lofoten coastline from the sea. You might be lucky enough to see seals, eagles and a great variety of bird life. E.g. the safari to the Trollfjord sails from the harbour of Svolvær and explores dramatic fjords, sandy beaches and wild green woods.
Or you can choose a kayak tour, for example in the sea around the islet of Skrova I’ve already mentioned about the glamping.
Another option is the surf: go and ask for a lesson in Unstad or, if you’re already a good surfer, simply enjoy one of the most impressive places in the world to ride the best waves.
If you’re feeling extra competitive, the Lofoten islands have something else to offer you: Lofoten Skimo, Lofoten Ultra-Trail and Lofoten Triathlon Extreme (The Arctic Triple) are ready to push you to your limits.
For something more relaxing, Gimsøy island has an amazing golf course in stunning surroundings, where you can play golf until midnight under the midnight sun.
In Winter, don’t miss out on the chance to experience the Aurora Borealis riding an Icelandic horse through the Lofoten countryside at night. They’re renowned for their calm and their patience, and one of the most emotional ways to get fantastic views over the snowy fields. The weather in the Lofoten islands gives valid support to Winter activities: the temperatures are normally milder than most places at the same latitude, thanks to the Gulf Stream.
You can learn more about the Lofoten history visiting the small village of Å, at the very south of Moskenesøya, and its fishing museum. Or go to Nusfjord, nested at the end of its enchanting fjord: a well-preserved fishing village which has its traditional architecture protected by UNESCO. And don’t forget to take a visit to the Lofotr Viking Museum in Borg, to travel back in time and meet the Vikings!
Hiking in the Lofoten islands is one of the most incredible experiences an outdoor lover could do. In my opinion, you can find the best of Norway, which is more than 2000 kilometres long, concentrated within just 100 kilometres.
Beautiful paths through enchanting valleys, surrounded by unspoiled nature and snow-topped peaks which run into the ocean. Tucked away beaches, mountain lakes, fishing villages and shy flocks of sheep. Most of the time, the sheep are the ones responsible for creating the Lofoten hiking trails!
Stay on the trail and respect the environment: in such an untouched place as Lofoten, it should come naturally, but it’s always a good idea to mention it.
Bear in mind that you are in a vulnerable ecosystem, for example peat only grows one millimetre a year, so let it live peacefully and try not to step on it.
You will also need to know that, during your trekking trips, you will often enter private properties. In general people don’t stop trekkers from walking through their land, on the contrary welcome them with a bright smile and a kind “Morgen!”.
The hiking trails I walked on are some of the best-known, such as:
- the one from Nesland to Nusfjord, into a thick forest overlooking the ocean
- the one from Unstad to Eggum, that runs along a rough cliff, among solitary lighthouses, strips of land between waters and bewildering valleys so similar to the ones you see in fantasy movies.
If you’re looking for some extra details and maps, go to the dedicated site about day trips and long treks in Lofoten islands.
- Sunday: flight from Milan to Oslo and from Oslo to Bodø. On foot from the airport to Bodø downtown (about 4 kilometres). Visited the centre and had dinner. 1 night at Clarion Collection Hotel Gran Bodø, in Storgata street.
- Monday: On foot to Bodø harbour. Taken Landegode, one of the ferries sailing to the Lofoten islands. Landegode sails at 10am and arrives in Moskenes at about 13:20. On foot from Moskenes to Å (about 5 kilometres), with a stop at the supermarket in Sørvågen along the E10, to get some supplies for the following days. Visited the village and the neighbouring mountains, typically full of hung stockfish drying on racks. 1 night in Å Brygge rorbuer.
- Tuesday: Woke up early to take the 6:30 bus to Reine (line 18-772). Got to the enchanting little village of Reine at 6:50, at this time everything is still closed, the silence is pretty unreal and no one is around: perfect to take some photos, but… wrap up really well! Took the 9:20 bus to Leknes (line 18-742) and got off the bus at Skjellfjord X at 9:52. On foot along the Skjellfjord until the ocean, to the village of Nesland (10 kilometres from the bus stop). The hiking route to Nusfjord starts just outside of Nesland and is one of the most panoramic paths I’ve ever walked on (around 5 kilometres). Once there, I lost myself among the old houses and the astonishing view on the fjord. A good panoramic view is from the little hill behind the old fish factory. 1 night at Nusfjord Rorbuer.
- Wednesday: On foot from Nusfjord to Kilan (around 8 kilometres) along the Fv807 road, that runs between beautiful snow-covered mountains which reflect their huge image on a clear blue lake. Once back on the E10, went eastward for about 1 kilometre to the next bus stop. Took the 10:09am bus (line 18-742) to Leknes. Changed in Leknes with the 10:45 bus to Svolvær (line 18-741). Got off the bus at the Viking Museum in Borg. Back on the E10 for about 2 kilometres and took Vikingveien street to Unstad. Along the way, needed to go up the mountains twice, to avoid two not-very-well-lit-up tunnels. The walk is more or less 12 kilometres long from the museum. 1 night at Unstad Arctic Surf. Under an amazing sunlight until midnight, it’s probably the place I’ve loved the most of the whole trip. Amazing night by the beach.
- Thursday: On foot on the impressive path from Unstad to Eggum (around 9 kilometres), and then from Eggum to Bøstad on the Fv831 road (9 kilometres again). At the crossroads between Fv831 and the E10, found the bus stop. Took the 15:30 bus (line 18-741) to Svolvær and left the bus in Marithaugen, Kabelvåg at 16:30. Visited the village. 2 nights at Tyskhella Rorbuferie.
- Friday: First bus to Svolvær, where I wanted to rent a bike to visit the northern part of the island (Sildpollnes kapell, Laukvik, Fiskebøl and back to Svolvær). But I couldn’t find an open rental and I was a bit tired, so I decided to take a bus to Gimsøya, the only island I hadn’t been to yet. Relaxing walk along the east coast of Gimsøya, upon rocks with myriads of candid seashells. Back to Kabelvåg.
- Saturday: First bus to Svolvær again, stored the backpack at the hotel where I slept the following night. Had breakfast at the bakery in the main square (so tasty!) and did a quick freezing stop at the icebar. Then, took the boat tour to the Trollfjord, so narrow that its wooded sides seem to touch in some points. Some waterfalls drop from the top and a few iridescent jellyfish swim in the water beside the boat. Suddenly, a massive sea eagle appeared in the sky, her nest is probably hidden inside the forest. Back to the harbour after 2.5 hours, dinner at Du Verden. 1 night at Best Western Svolvær.
- Sunday: Time to go back home. Took the 9:50am bus (line 23-760) to Narvik, got to Svolvær airport at 9:56. Explored the surrounding areas to take some beautiful photos and then begun my series of returning flights. Svolvær- Bodø, Bodø-Oslo and Oslo-Milan. In my blog post about how to get to the Lofoten islands, I tell you about Svolvær airport and its staff.
Ciao! Sono Claudia, la fondatrice di getgoingirl.it, lo spazio web dove unisco le mie più grandi passioni: i viaggi e la scrittura. É sempre il momento buono per un’avventura zaino in spalla, per un trekking al ritmo che senti tuo, per una visuale insolita e alternativa da scovare in giro per il mondo. Naviga per argomento, destinazione o tipo di viaggio e lasciati ispirare!
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