The Lofoten Islands are a fairly large region in Norway. They consist of dozens of small towns and villages. You can spend a day in some of these places, in others you have enough with a few hours. In order to not make it too confusing, I decided to focus in this guide in the region of the Lofoten. Under the title “must do’s” you can read more about the cities or villages that you can’t miss.
Stay – The Lofoten Islands are wonderful, but for a holiday on the islands you’ll have to dig deep in your wallet. Norway is indeed an expensive country!
If you rent a car you can easily drive to cheap accommodations. For example, you can arrange a budget accommodation in Å for “only” $80 per night. Throughout the islands the lowest prices are anything between $80 and $115 per night. For a luxurious overnight stay you’ll at least pay $230 per night.
For a list of accommodations, I recommend to look at Booking.
Eat – When you stay in a rorbu at the Lofoten (typical Norwegian house) then chances are that you have your own (shared) kitchen to prepare food in. If you don’t want to spend too much money on eating out, I recommend to use these facilities. In the supermarket you can buy easy meals for 35 NOK.
In a restaurant you’ll certainly pay 200 NOK per person and then you haven’t even gotten your drinks yet… For a sandwich for lunch, you pay at least 95 NOK and a tasty cake or pie sets you back another 75 NOK.
Transport – Public transport in and around the Lofoten is excellent, but very expensive. In addition, many areas aren’t very accessible by bus and you would thus miss out on a lot of the natural beauty of the Lofoten. For a single ticket, you pay between 42 and 112 NOK. If you are traveling with several people or if you’re planning to visit many villages and natural phenomena, the public transport quickly becomes too expensive.
You can hire a car starting from 575 NOK (€65) per day. In addition, you also have the advantage that you are not bound by timetables and during the evenings you can even try searching the northern lights on your own. Don’t be afraid of driving around here. The roads are in excellent condition and in winter you don’t even feel that you are driving on snow and ice.
Cook yourself – Find an accommodation with kitchen. Every day at a restaurant will cost you a leg! Spend that money rather on something else and cook your own food. Meals that you can heat up aren’t that expensive. For 35 to 50 NOK you can already get a lasagne, Thai curry or tikka masala. You just have to heat it up and it’s ready. Delicious and cheap.
Drink tap water – Drink tap water or directly drink it from the stream. I’m not kidding! Norway probably has the cleanest water in the world. Tap water in your hotel or restaurant tastes just as good as bottled water, and it also saves you some drinking money.
Rent a car – Renting a car in the Lofoten Islands is a good idea for several reasons. You miss nothing (Buses travel long distances just a few times a day), you don’t need to rush, if you are traveling with several people, it’s actually cheaper and you can plan your own trips (an excursion to a beautiful village or a northern lights safari at least costs 120 NOK per person).
Book in advance – Don’t wait too long to book accommodation, cars and excursions. The Lofoten Islands are a beloved holiday destination and the cheapest and / or best opportunities are quickly snatched. The price of my property had rissen with $45 in just one day!
Reine – The small fishing village of Reine was corwned by various travel magazine’s as the most beautiful place in Norway. That shouldn’t sound strange, because this small town is definitely worth some of your time. Reine is located in the south of the Lofoten islands. Once you’ve circled half of a big lake, you arrive at a wonderful viewpoint over the small town. The red-colored fishermen’s cabins fit perfectly in the rugged mountain landscapes. Try to stay until the sun sets. Then the whole landscape lightens up with a magical glow.
Å – Less than ten minutes from Reine you will also find Å. Another village that you must see if you travel to the Lofoten. The beautiful rorbu’s standing on stilts, partly in water and partly on rocks are amazing to see. In the tiny village cars are not allowed. You can therefore enjoy all the beautiful and romantic landscapes in silence. The rushing air, sloshing waves and the loud screaming gulls are incredibly relaxing. Make sure to take a look at the Stockfish Museum of Å. So you’ll finally learn all about the fish you see hanging pretty much everywhere.
Trollfjorden – In the north of the Lofoten lies the mythical Troll Fjord. The two-kilometer natural wonder is barely a hundred meters wide and became a battlefield between small fishermen and modern fisheries in 1880. In addition to a rich history, this fjord is also a magnificent spectacle of nature. Beautiful scenery and a lot of eagles will make your trip picture perfect!
Lofotr Viking Museum – Near to Leknes (a major city in the Lofoten) and about an hour’s drive from Svolvaer (the capital of the Lofoten) you’ll find the Viking Museum. Parts of an archaeological excavation from a little further were recreated here. The sights include the chieftain’s house, some functioning viking ships and lifelike performances by actors.
Visiting a stockfish company – The further south you go in the Lofoten, the more stockfish you’ll encounter. Stockfish is a Norwegian delicacy. It’s made by hanging fish for days or even weeks onto wooden structures. Once the fish is completely dried, they are sold as white strips of smelly stockfish.
Park your car to the side and go take a look at this strange spectacle. The smell is overwhelming! Try not to walk under the fish, as otherwise there might be some blood spatters falling onto your clothes (I speak from experience)!
Northern Lights Safari – With a little bit of luck you can see the magical Northern Lights dancing on the Lofoten Islands! The Aurora Borealis is a natural spectacle in which lines of light transform the sky into a breathtaking spectacle. To see this phenomenon, you have to be above the Arctic Circle. And coincidentally, the Lofoten are actually located there!
If you want to see the aurora with your own eyes, it is important that you go during winter (September to March) because the sky must be very dark. Definitely take the weather forecasts into account. In misty or cloudy weather it’s very difficult to see the Aurora Borealis. And as if that’s not hard enough, you also have to get lucky. The northern lights aren’t called the difficult lady for nothing!
Whale watching – This archipelago is surrounded by water and these nutrient-rich oceans happen to be the favorite spot for many whales and orcas! Almost all year round there are whales around the Lofoten islands. From Andenes (in the far north) you can go whale watching. In a comfortable boat or a smaller RIB boat you set sail to look for the giants of the sea.
Snorkelling with orcas – From Andenes you can even jump into the water and swim face to face with the killer whales! Equipped with a snorkel, a warm wetsuit and a pair of flippers, this is definitely an item for your bucket list. Rest assured, the killer whales only feed on herring and other fish around this region.
Mountain Climbing – The Lofoten Islands are known for their dramatic landscapes. You’ll get the best views from the many mountains and hilltops. During the winter months it quickly becomes dark, and as climbing a hill may easily take several hours it’s better to return during the summer months. The never setting sun gives you non-stop light in order to see all that beauty from above. You’ll get the best views from Himmeltinden, Reinebringen, Værøy and Djvelporten.
Visiting the beaches – The landscape of the Lofoten are surprisingly diverse. The beautiful beaches run from north to south, all around the Lofoten archipelago. Surrounded by rock formations and beautiful landscapes, these are no ordinary beaches! In some parts of the Lofoten you can even see people surfing!
Beautiful beaches are among others Kvalvika, Bunes, Uttakleiv, Haukland and Horseid.
For surfing lessons or to see the daredevils at work you can drive to Unstad Arctic Surf.
Renting a kayak – Rent a kayak and slog through narrow fjords or head out to the open seas. From the water you will see incredibly beautiful landscapes. During the summer months this is the most fun. Unlimited daylight and warm weather!
Driving without purpose – It may sound like a strange tip, but I actually really recommend this to everyone! Rent a car in the Lofoten and just drive around. Don’t look on your GPS too much and just head on straight with the occasional side road. The Lofoten landscapes never seem to get boring and change every mile or so. The coasts, mountain landscapes or urban areas are all very nice to see.
Staying too far in the north – the whole Lofoten archipelago is beautiful, but the most beautiful countryside and villages are found in the south. To get from the north to the south you’ll have to drive for at least several hours. Book your accommodation somewhere south of Svolvaer. Here, the distances to most sights aren’t that far and you can still decide on planning a day trip to the north.
Appropriate clothing – The weather in the Lofoten is very fickle. One minute the sun is shining, the next moment you get rained on. Winter or summer: always take a few layers of clothing with you.
Don’t just go for the Northern Lights – During my stay in the Lofoten I thought the Aurora Borealis would appear every day. Of the five days I was there, I could only see the lights dancing for one day! Enjoy the beautiful scenery and see the aurora as an unexpected desert. When you see it you really are in luck!