To visit Lofoten islands is on many people’s bucket list – and rightfully so. Lofoten is a series of islands that offer some of Norway’s most beautiful landscape, with tall mountains, deep fjords, tiny islands, picture-perfect fishing villages and turquoise water. The beautiful archipelago makes a perfect Norwegian road trip. In this travel guide I have written down my best tips for a perfect first-time visit to Lofoten.
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Map of the Lofoten islands
Lofoten is a small group of islands in northern Norway, way above the arctic circle. This Google map points out places you should not miss during your visit.
Best time to visit Lofoten islands
You can visit Lofoten islands all year round and your experience will differ depending on the season you’re visiting. I recommend visiting during summer when you have the chance to go on beautiful hikes, swim at the beaches and experience the midnight sun. This travel guide tells you about the perfect summer activities on Lofoten.
Note: If you want to witness the northern lights you have to visit Lofoten during winter.
How to get to Lofoten islands?
There are several ways to get to Lofoten islands.
You can drive to Lofoten from any part of Norway and Sweden. It takes time, but gives you the opportunity to experience places along the way. Here are three alternative routes if you are coming from Oslo:
- Oslo to Lofoten with ferry from Bodø (19 h): This is the fastest route to Lofoten from Oslo. You are driving along route E6 and to be honest, it’s a pretty monotonous road. It also includes a lot of road tolls. You drive to Bodø where you take the ferry to the southern tip of Lofoten – which according to me is the most beautiful part of Lofoten.
- Oslo to Lofoten via Sweden (20 h): If you want to skip the road tolls you can drive via Sweden instead, and cross the border a bit north of Mo i Rana. This route also includes the ferry from Bodø to the southern tip of Lofoten.
- Oslo to Lofoten via Kiruna (Sweden) and Narvik (Norway) (22 h): This road goes almost exclusively through Sweden and lets you see many of northern Sweden’s gems, including Kiruna, Torneälven, Torneträsk and Abisko. The road between Kiruna and Narvik is said to be fantastically beautiful. If I’m ever going to drive to Lofoten again, this is the road I would choose.
Tips! Norway is at the forefront when it comes to electric cars and charging stations. This means that you can easily drive through Norway with an electric car.
You can take the train from Oslo to Bodø with a change in Trondheim (18 h) and then take the ferry (4 h) to Lofoten. If you depart from Sweden there’s a direct train from Stockholm to Narvik (19 h). You can see the timetable and book tickets for both departures at vy.no. If you plan to only visit Lofoten, I would recommend going by train. It’s easy, relatively cheap, you can combine it with a good night’s sleep and it’s the best option from an environmental point of view.
You can also fly to the Lofoten islands. There are four good options here: Bodø (with additional ferry ride), Leknes, Svolvær or Narvik. All airports connect through Oslo Airport. To reduce my carbon footprint I prefer to stay on the ground, so I’d rather take the car or train.
Regardless of how you get to the Lofoten islands you will need your own car. There’s no public transportation at Lofoten, and half the fun is enjoying the scenery from your car! There are several car rental options in both Bodø and Narvik, as well as at Lofoten islands (for example in Reine and Svolvær). Here’s a good site to compare and book cars online.
Where to stay in Lofoten
Deciding on where to stay in Lofoten can be tricky. You want to be within driving distance of the most photogenic spots, but at the same time avoid the crowds. Most sights are located between Å and Svolvær, which is a 2 h drive. You can either choose to stay at one accommodation the entire time, and make day trips around the islands, or you can book different accommodations depending on your itinerary.
Here are some recommendations on Lofoten accommodation:
- Eliassen Rorbuer (near Reine): Lofoten is filled with classic red rorbuer (fishermen’s cabins) and staying in one while you’re visiting can be a fun experience.
- Nusfjord Arctic Resort (in Nusfjord): A luxury accommodation in Nusfjord with a spa and the reputable restaurant Karoline.
- Rorbu Tind (near Reine): Another rorbu which is rented out via Airbnb by the sweetest host.
- Henningsvær Guesthouse (in Henningvær): A guesthouse at the best location in Henningsvær.
- Lofoten Vandrerhjem Kabelvåg (near Svolvær): A cheaper option near Svolvær.
Camper van in Lofoten
A common way to get around Lofoten is with a camper van or caravan. Thanks to the Norwegian right to roam you can camp at many places in Lofoten. This is how we got around Lofoten on our holiday. Like the rest of Norway, Lofoten is expensive to travel in and a camper van is therefore a great option. Be sure to double check that the place you have chosen to park at is a permitted campsite.
Two great camping spots in Lofoten:
- In Reine: This spot has morning sun and a great view of Reine.
- Uttakleiv camping: At the northern shore of Lofoten you’ll find Uttakleiv beach and camping. It costs 250 NOK for a smaller camper van to park here overnight, but in return you get toilets, a beach, sunset view and cute sheeps wandering around your car.
How long do I need at the Lofoten islands?
The length of your stay in Lofoten depends on how many hikes you want to do. We spent 4 days and 3 nights in Lofoten, and had time to do 3 hikes. The good thing about visiting Lofoten during summer is that the sun never sets, so you can easily explore until bedtime if you have the energy.
Things to do and places to visit on Lofoten islands
Lofoten is a true road trip destination, meaning that the main thing to do is to drive around and experience the breathtaking views. We stayed at new places each day as we made our way from the southwestern tip of Lofoten all the way to the mainland and Narvik. The activities and towns recommended below follow the itinerary we had, starting with the southwesternmost town called Å.
At the very end of the road you’ll find Å – a cute little fishing town tucked away in between dramatic mountains. This town is often photographed, and I can see why. You walk through the town in a 5-10 minute walk.
➳ Don’t miss: Walk along the dock for a picturesque view + visit the viewpoint at the southwest side for a view of the outermost islands of Lofoten.
Sørvågen is another cute town in Lofoten. Lofoten is famous for their classic red rorbuer (fishermen’s cabins) and Sørvågen is filled with them. Stop here for a quick view at the small harbour with its rorbuer.
➳ Don’t miss: The view of the harbour.
Reine is one of the most famous towns in Lofoten. The town itself is located on a small island filled with rorbuer and is surrounded by majestic mountains. There are several parking options in Reine, so I suggest you leave your car and explore Reine by foot.
Hike up to Reinebringen
Reinebringen is probably the most famous hike in Lofoten, and that’s understandable. The view from the top is magnificent! The trail is made of stairs (1600 of them, if I remember correctly!) which makes the hike relatively easy to walk. Make sure you’ve done your squats though – it’s still mountain climbing we’re talking about, and you’re about to ascend almost 500 meters. Set aside 3 hours for the whole hike (both ways). Bring water, enough clothes for the top and of course your camera.
➳ Don’t miss: The view – it’s magnificent.
Sakrisøy is a small island that consists of a dock and only a few yellow houses – but that’s enough to make it insanely picturesque. The water is Maldives-turquoise all over Lofoten, but appears to be extra turquoise around Sakrisøy. You can’t rent kayaks here to explore the surrounding islands, although it’s only for experienced kayakers with a certificate or with a guide. If you’re hungry I suggest you visit Anita’s Seafood.
➳ Don’t miss: Take a walk along the dock and admire the turquoise water + take a photo of the yellow houses from the bridge that connects Sarisøya with Olenilsøya.
Another picturesque island worth a stop. Wander the roads around the red houses, take a photo of the impressive mountain nearby – or eat at the Italian restaurant Gadus.
➳ Don’t miss: The impressive view from the bridge connecting Hamnøya and Toppøya.
Fredvang is an area mostly known for its spectacular bridge. Several islands are connected with a bridge, and the steep mountain backdrop makes the view almost surreal. This place is best photographed with a drone. Unfortunately, fog had come in the day we visited, and the bridge was not visible. Click here to see a photo that will make you want to go there.
➳ Don’t miss: Driving over the bridge, or flying over it with a drone. Make sure to check the drone regulations for Norway before you fly.
Hiking to Kvalvika beach
Kvalvika beach was the most spectacular beach we visited in Lofoten. The white sandy beach with its turquoise water is surrounded by steep mountains. It takes around 1 hour to hike to the beach, and it’s best visited during midday or in the afternoon, otherwise the mountain shadows the beach.
It can be hard to find a parking space near the starting point, so you might have to park a bit further away and walk for a bit to get there.
If you want to get a view of Kvalvika beach from above you should continue your hike up to Ryten mountain top. It’s a more difficult hike, but is probably worth it if you have the leg strength.
➳ Don’t miss: Walk a few minutes up towards Ryten mountain top to get a better view of the beach.
Nusfjord is a small and authentic fishing village tucked away in a fjord. Nowadays they charge an entrance fee (not if you’re staying at Nusfjord Arctic Resort). Because of the entrance fee, Nusfjord is a more quiet and less touristy village, which can be a reason for visiting. We heard that Nusfjord is quite similar to the other smaller towns in Lofoten, so we skipped it. However, the small road to Nusfjord is worth a little detour – just to admire the mountains.
➳ Don’t miss: The straight road from road E10 towards Nusfjord. It has a spectacular mountain backdrop! If you want a fine dining experience I’ve heard great things about Restaurant Karoline at Nusfjord Arctic Resort.
Now to some more beach recommendations. Haukland beach is known to be a good surf spot, and it’s easily accessible by car. It’s a beautiful beach well worth a visit.
If you drive past the Haukland, and drive through the tunnel, you’ll come to Uttakleiv beach. This beach is a perfect sunset spot, and if you’re camping you can check in at Uttakleiv camping for a small fee.
➳ Don’t miss: The sunset!
Another beach famous for its surfing. We went here to taste what we heard was the world’s best cinnamon bun at Unstad Arctic Café – and the rumor was true! At least it was the best cinnamon I’ve ever tasted. Even if you’re not a fan of cinnamon buns, the relaxed surf atmosphere (that I previously only experienced in Sri Lanka) is worth a visit in itself.
➳ Don’t miss: The cinnamon bun at Unstad Arctic Café
Rørviksstranda beach is a smaller beach tucked away between dramatic mountains. It’s a perfect little beach with insanely clear and turquoise water. You pass it along road E10, so you might as well stop
Henningsvær is probably the most famous town in Lofoten. The town is a bit larger and has several shops, galleries and restaurants. If you’re going on a sea safari the boat will probably depart from Henningsvær. This is also the location of the soccer stadium that has been widely famous on Instagram.
➳ Don’t miss: Walk around the town center and visit the famous Henningsvær soccer stadium. I can also recommend this Midnight sun safari.
Hike to Festvågtind
Another reason to visit Henningsvær is to hike to Festvågtind – a mountain top located close to Henningsvær town. This hike is slightly harder than both Reinebringen and Kvalvika. It’s longer (1,5 h), steeper and some parts require jumping between rocks. But it’s well worth the effort. From the top you have a 360 degree view of the surrounding islands and mountains.
➳ Don’t miss: The 360 degree view from the top!
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