Even if most of us are currently in some or the other way restricted with traveling and moving around, I’d love to look back to my latest adventure in the far North of Norway. While the memories of deep winter and snowstorms are still present (even though here it is summer already…) I’d like to share useful tips on accommodation, route, must-see spots and activities.
The whole trip was literally a rather spontaneous decision and in hindsight, some things could have been done differently (especially considering the quarantine rules due to Covid19). Nonetheless, if you want to see some of Norway’s most beautiful landscape, Lofoten is the destination to visit. I’ve never thought to spend holidays in the deepest winter and enjoy it so much! Yes, skip sunny beaches and palm trees for your next adventure! Whether you’re a person who likes to have incredible views right outside your window or a person who likes to hike for incredible views, Lofoten is for you.
Disclaimer: The weather is going to be crazy! (get some impressions in my Instagram Highlights)
The good news is, if the weather looks bad you can probably just wait 10 minutes and it will change.
And so the bad news is, that lovely sunny weather you’re enjoying probably won’t last long. Then again, Lofoten’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, so maybe it will surprise you with some consistent sunshine or nonstop series of snowstorms!
So regardless of what the weather forecast is saying, in winter you must bring many warm, waterproof layers (snowshoes and multiple gloves will save your life ;)). And if you’re planning on doing lots of walking or hiking, definitely bring some really good winter hiking boots, spikes and probably also snowshoes.
HOW TO GET TO AND AROUND LOFOTEN
There are many ways to get to Lofoten, but being that it is a series of islands, travel in general takes longer than expected. And especially since in the winter the roads get covered in snow super quickly. Here are a few options:
- Fly into Tromsø: This is the best option regarding international flight connections. Since we planned to hunt for the Aurora / Northern lights, in Tromso you’ll have the biggest chance since it is in the arctic circle. However, be aware that it takes up to a 11 hours’ drive to the South of Lofoten.
- Fly into the Harstad-Narvik airport which is situated in the north of Lofoten. This is an airport also used by the Royal Norwegian Airforce and military however still serving national and international flights for civilians.
- Fly into Bodø and then take the ferry to Moskenes. This is a common route in the summer season, but not so common in the winter as the ferry schedule is quite limited and in our case not available at all.
- Fly into Svolvær Airport or Leknes Airport. They are both in a more central area of Lofoten. Flying into these airports will cut down on driving but flights and rental cars may be more expensive. Probably next time I’d do that for convenience 😉
Renting a Car in the Lofoten Islands
- The best way to navigate the stunning Lofoten Islands is via a rental car. While we wish that public transportation options were better for this part of Norway, with the sparse population, it just isn’t practical. Rental cars, on the other hand, allow travelers a chance to experience Lofoten in their own way and giving them the chance to stop whenever they want.
- Do be sure you are comfortable with driving in the winter and a lot of snow. However, don’t be scared it’s different than in Switzerland. The cars have spikes in the tires which make them not slide anywhere and it’s safer. But still, it’s dangerous especially as oftentimes icy roads are hidden underneath the fresh snow!
WHERE TO STAY
The best way to book your accommodation is definitely airbnb or booking.com. Many of the beautiful cabins are owned or managed by locals and you can expect superb hospitality!
In Tromso we stayed at a very lovely apartment outside the city (where we hoped to see Northern Lights) since it would be pitch dark at night.
After the first long drive we arrived at Hattvika Lodge. We were so warmly welcomed and truly felt home in the cute fisherman village. Kristian, the lovely owner, has rebuilt fisherman cottages to host guests from around the world. The rustic cottages with the fisherman boats outside the window and an incredible sauna to use is something unique on Lofoten! Their property is a perfect spot for any and every adventure. Check out the Hattvika Lodge when you’re planning a trip here—you won’t be disappointed. (Book early enough, we were just lucky enough to get the last available night)
Our Lofoten base then was probably the most amazing and charming seaview cabin in Reine. Waking up every day and having the haven and a view on “The Horn” was literally surreal! Modern, and newly built with a huge balcony you can spend sunny days there but also the heavy snowstorms aren’t as bad when you can sit cuddled in a blanket in front of the oven 🙂 The cabin is also just a short walk from Hamnøy and Sakrisøya away which makes it the best home base for your photography or hiking adventures.
PLACES TO VISIT
If you want to see the Northern lights, Tromsø is the best way to be. Obviously you need to be lucky enough that the sky is clear and the aurora activity high enough 🙂 Unfortunately, we did not have the necessary conditions. Nonetheless, I loved the panoramic view from mount Storsteinen on the city. A bit futher outside you can also experience a traditional reindeer sledding and feeding while listening to the traditional stories of the Sami culture.
HAUKLAND BEACH & UNSTAD BEACH
Haukland Beach and Unstad Beach are located in northern Lofoten, and we stopped by on our long drive from Tromsø. They are both very closeby and you can hike from one to the other beach or drive through the tunnel. Haukland Beach is spectacular, with a long stretch of white sand and picturesque mountains. Unstad Beach is apparently the most northern surfing beach and if it wouldn’t have been snowing I could have imagined being somewhere on a tropical beach.
This quintessential Lofoten town is a must-see. The photo below is taken from the bridge en route to Sakrisøy, looking back at Hamnøy with Festhelltinden mountain behind. I guess this is one of the most famous spots from Lofoten and to be honest, I could have come there every day. It’s just so breathtakingly beautiful. Imagine living in one of these tiny red cabins 😀
To be honest there are so many pretty and cute houses but the view of the yellow houses against the mountain is just another level. The little village lays in between Reine and Hamnøy and we crossed a couple of times because I just wanted to get the photo without the cars in front… One thing to keep in mind, not only when the winds are strong, but generally around this area the smell of fish is extremely strong. But not dampening the beauty.
Reine is another famous town that is often shown in photos of Lofoten. A great stop along a road trip and here we had our home base for most of the days. Our sweet seaview cabin offered us an amazing view on famous “Horn”. Furthermore, we had also a grocery shop right next to our home and if you fancy a lovely dinner experience trying some local specialty Gammelbua Restaurant is great (they have also vegan options next to all the fish! Hurray!)
Fredvang is not exactly a town, but it’s a destination for the road itself. It’s often been photographed from above, as the highway connects small islands and looks completely surreal. We crossed it when driving towards our hike towards Kvalvika beach.
KVALVIKA BEACH & REINEBRINGEN
As you might know from all the photos, Lofoten is a dream for any hiking enthusiast. However, in winter don’t be too adventurous and a locals about the weather conditions. Even if there are some amazing spots to visit you saw on Instagram – no photo is worth risking your own life. With this in mind we had to stop our hike to Kvalvika beach and also Reinebringen was impossible due to dangerous ice layers. But also as the weather is incredibly unpredictable, snowstorms could set in suddenly and leave you in an emergency. If your main aim in Lofoten is to go hiking, try to visit in the summer (June onwards). And these two hikes/ destinations just have to be on your list!
Å (Å I Lofoten)
This is the most Southern village of Lofoten and literally the end of the Island. For us it somehow also felt extremely quiet and died out, what was mainly thanks to the lockdown already in place in Norway. Nonetheless, the little cafés and restaurants just gave an idea how lively and inviting the village must be under normal circumstances or in summer. If you are coming to Lofoten, it’s worth driving until the very end of the road 🙂
- The entire area of Lofoten is much less busy in the winter season. Apart from some groups of photographers, there are not that many tourists.
- You’ll find snow, a lot of snow and snowstorms. Keep in mind that the weather is very unpredictable during the winter in Lofoten. The weather changes quick so even if there is a storm, it may not be like that all day.
- Rental cars (which are pretty much necessary in my opinion) and flights seem to be a bit cheaper in the winter season.
- You’re going to smell a lot of fish. So might be nice smell or literally the opposite effect like for me.
- You’re never going to want to leave. Lofoten is one of those places that is so beautiful it almost doesn’t seem fair. Even Switzerland doesn’t beat that beautiful Northern landscape.
- I’ve documented our trip in my Instagram stories and that makes me want to go back asap!
Have you ever been to Lofoten? Or somewhere else in Norway?