When Is the Best Time
Lofoten Islands in Norway – our complete guide! We visited Lofoten Islands multiple times during different seasons, talked to dozens of local experts, and reviewed hundreds of trip reports to provide you with the best tips and details for each season and month.
The best time to visit the Lofoten Islands is in the summer months from July to August. During this time the weather is pleasant with the most sunshine. The best time to view the Northern Lights in the Lofoten is from late August until mid-April.
However, it’s possible to visit the Lofoten year-round. Every season has its own beauty and charm. There are common patterns that can help you to plan out your trip to Lofoten based on what you wish to see and do. This guide will help you to narrow that down.
- Season Guide: Winter – Spring – Summer – Fall
- Spotting Northern Lights
- Lofoten Weather
- Hotel Deals and Tips
- 5 Amazing Activities
- 8 Must-Visit Places
Winter (November, December, February, March)
- Weather: It’s cold – but not unbearable (average lows around -5°C, average high 2°C). Unpredictable in November/December with either rain or snow. January – March provide more predictable winter conditions.
- Crowds: Quiet season, but February and March became slightly more popular recently.
- Highlights: Polar Night (24 hours of darkness) from December 9 – January 4 and Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) throughout the winter. Fishing: Historical seasonal cod fishing in February/March.
For many, the quintessential landscape of Lofoten is a wintery one, with white-capped mountains and regular snowfall. However, in November and December, the weather is usually very unsteady. Besides snow, a lot of rain is also possible during both months. That’s why those who seek this famous winter wonderland view, should visit between mid-January and March, when there is less rain and more snow. However, keep in mind that even in February it may rain for a full week. By mid-January, the days are also slightly longer, with the sun at least peering over the horizon for a few hours each day to give you some exploring time. You should still expect long periods of darkness, however. But the lack of light is usually worth it: Because at night, you may see the Northern Lights (possible during the whole winter season).
In March, you can expect the sun to hang around for long enough to make wintery adventure activities a possibility in Lofoten Islands. For those who seek fun in the snow, March is a great time to enjoy things like skiing and snowboarding, all against Lofoten’s stunning backdrop. Lofoten’s ski slopes cater to all ages and abilities, and the resorts are beautiful to see even if you aren’t quite ready to brave the slopes.
Of course, this all assumes that you want some time in the daylight during your visit. There are many arguments in favour of visiting during the Polar Night (December 9 – January 4), where the sun does not rise at all. For those who have never experienced this phenomenon, it is a unique experience that is an attraction in itself. Plus, the pitch-black conditions mean that this is a great time to seek out the elusive Northern Lights in Lofoten, which are jaw-dropping in their beauty.
Tourism usually is at its lowest in November, so if you wish to experience a bit of peace and quiet amongst the striking environment, this may suit you well. Many tourists avoid this time as it does tend to be quite rainy and dark, but for others, this only adds to the atmosphere. The chance to miss the crowds makes it an appealing time to visit Lofoten as you will have plenty of time and space to really embrace all it has to offer.
Main ski season is February – April. If you’re not into winter sports: It’s the perfect time for visiting those small but very unique museums (see below). You definitely need a car to get around. Taking photos along E10 and exploring the must-see places. The best time to photograph the Northern Lights with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop is from mid-January until late March. Also, check out the offered tours in winter like the Trollfjord Cruise or Lofoten Lights Tours (Winter Orca Whale & Safari or Northern Lights Tour). While the warmer months are perfect for hiking, winter is definitely not. Darkness, rain and snow make a hike on your own very difficult and even dangerous. Exceptions are guided hikes/walks like this a Snowshoe Walk or a Guided Lofoten Winter Hike. In general November and December are probably the worst month for longer outdoor activities, as it’s usually very rainy, windy and icy. A traditional and memorable activity is the famous historical cod fishing every winter in February and March.
Road conditions depend on the weather and you need to drive carefully in the winter. However roads are cleared on a regular basis and are usually open to traffic and drivable. Experienced Lofoten visitors and locals say a 4×4 is not necessary if you stay on the main roads.
Some restaurants are closed in the winter. However, in towns like Svolvær or Leknes you’ll have no problem finding open restaurants, even in deep winter. Shops are usually open regardless if they’re in ‘smaller’ or bigger town. Which means that self catering is an option in the small towns.
Spring (April – May)
- Weather: Still chilly, snow can continue until May. April feels and looks like winter. More sunshine than in winter, however!
- Crowds: Quite reasonable, although they begin to pick up a bit as the days get longer and warmer.
- Highlights: Northern Lights are still visible until mid-April. Midnight sun begins May 26.
The months of April and May are usually still fairly chilly, while snowfall is quite common in early April in Lofoten Islands. It may also snow throughout May. Those who visit Lofoten should bring warm clothing to keep warm on crisp days and nights. Many consider this a great time to visit, as the conditions are more accessible yet you avoid the heavy crowds of the summer months.
Due to the ongoing snowfall and the added bonus of much longer days, those seeking wintery activities will not be disappointed if visiting Lofoten. You may also notice a change in the scenery, as the white snow gives way to lush green foliage in many places.
Spring also brings a welcome relief from the short days of winter, you can expect to have long days with plenty of light to make exploring Lofoten much more accessible. Lofoten’s waterways and waterfalls will be at their powerful best due to the melting snow.
The main ski season is still in full swing in April, and many resorts stay open through May. Other outdoor activities include hiking, fishing, and kayaking. While April is too difficult for self-guided hikes, in May hiking tours are more likely. However, you need to be careful, as rockfalls and avalanches can present a danger as much of the ice melts quickly and causes the terrain to be unstable in some parts. Museums are a must-visit in spring and of course, you need a rental car to get around on your own. Check with the operators for available tours in the spring-like kayaking along the Lofoten islands coast or other Lofoten Tours. Tip: Although the Northern Lights can still be spotted until mid-April, this phenomenon shouldn’t be the main reason to travel here in April. There are definitely better months for the Northern Lights.
Summer (June, July, August)
- Weather: The best chance of good weather during July and August. Average degrees about 15°C. On sunny days max temp of 25C° is not uncommon. Most sunshine, although rain and especially many cloudy days in a row can happen.
- Crowds: The most popular time of year, Lofoten is very busy with local and international tourists. Many hotels and attractions will be at full capacity.
- Highlights: Midnight sun from May 26 – July 17 (24 hours of daylight). Northern lights are back by the end of August
Although it is only in more recent years that international tourists have flocked to Lofoten, it has long been a beloved summer destination for Norwegians. Thanks to its beautiful scenery and up to 24 hours of sunshine per day, summer is peak tourist season in Lofoten as locals and international travellers flock to this outdoor paradise. Expect these months to be lively and busy.
By the time June rolls around, almost all of the snow has melted away and been replaced by lush green plant life, completing transforming the look of the islands. By early July you can spot hillsides covered flowerbeds. Although the weather remains somewhat unpredictable, it sometimes even reaches highs of 25 degrees Celsius. Blue skies are common, although so too are many cloudy overcast days and rain.
Unique is the midnight sun, which means all-day and all-night sunshine. It occurs between late May and mid-July. For those who have never experienced this, it is incredibly surreal to be able to hike in full sunshine at 2am. Even for those who experience it regularly, there is a certain charm that comes with such abundant sunshine and all it allows you to do.
Given all the benefits of summer in Lofoten, it is unsurprising that this is peak tourist time, with many accommodation places and restaurants completely booking out, even months in advance. While its popularity means that Lofoten in summer is a lively, exciting place, it is recommended to book well ahead of time so as to avoid any disappointments. While the whole summer is busy, the peak month is definitely July. Then all the famous areas like Reine or for example the parking lot to popular Kvalvika beach will be overcrowded. Especially when cruise ships arrive, the well-known places will be packed. Read our tips in the section below on how to dodge the crowds. By mid-August, the crowds have died down a fair bit, although so too has the sunshine. For many, a visit between mid-August and late August is the best of both worlds – allowing you to experience summer in Lofoten, but without the intense crowds.
Summer time has the most opportunities to try every outdoorsy activity like fishing tours, canoeing and of course hiking. From mid-June the trails are usually snow-free and you can do almost everything from short 1-3 hour walks at the coast to full day hikes or even longer. Be careful until mid-June, as some routes are still snow covered in early June, especially on Austvågøy. Besides hiking every other activity, except skiing of course, is available in the summer: From amazing day tours, like a midnight sun walk to kayaking or fishing trips. For more flexibility getting around in a rental car is recommended. The museums can be a bit crowded in summer. Visit them early in the morning.
Not only is the summer weather perfect for outdoor activities, but it also makes camping a great option. Norway famously gives everyone “the right to roam”, and camping in the mountains and countryside is permitted anywhere by anyone as long as you are at least 150m from any inhabited houses or cabins.
Autumn (September – October)
- Weather: Days are getting shorter and more rainfall. It gets worse in October with storms, even more rain and first snowfall.
- Crowds: A quiet time to visit Lofoten, as the summer crowds are gone.
- Highlights: Northern lights are visible in September and October
The autumnal months of September and October bring even more unpredictability to the weather on Lofoten, discouraging the crowds and leaving much more room for visitors to breathe and relax. While autumn’s reputation for being extremely unpredictable discourages many visitors, others enjoy seeing this side of the islands. Lofoten is a nature lover’s paradise and it is so beloved due to its dramatic landscapes. In many ways, autumn is the best time to experience this, as it is when mother nature shows her true power on Lofoten and the weather becomes the most volatile. This allows visitors to experience the many faces of Lofoten, whether in the midst of a rainstorm or on a crystal-clear day. Another advantage are the lower accommodation rates and the possibility to book last-minute.
September: An interesting month, since the crowds thin out even more. The one downside is falling temperatures together with even more unpredictable weather. However, it doesn’t get too cold in September and besides rain and strong breezes it can be sunny and warm as well. Additionally, September is bringing many beautiful colours to the landscape. Visitors can see diverse landscapes where leaves are a startling red-orange. Many outdoor tours from summer are usually still being offered till the end of September.
October: This is the time when it gets ‘worse’. Visitors may experience heavy rainfall, storms, dark days, falling temperatures and the first snow. That’s why at the beginning of October many ‘part time locals’ pack their things and leave. Of course, there are often still nice days in October, but the odds are getting lower.
However, autumn sees the return of the Northern Lights to Lofoten, so those looking to experience this unique and enigmatic phenomena may wish to consider September or October. This is a big plus, regardless of the weather conditions.
Most summer tours are still available till the end of September. Thus, you can do all kinds great day tours, like kayaking or even a Summer Photography Tour in September. Even self-guided hiking is still an option. However, you need to be careful as the rain can be responsible for a very slippery terrain. No tourist crowds, hiking tours, wide range of outdoor activities and the chance to spot northern lights make September a very interesting month. Later in October the downside is fewer tours offered by operators. Due to first snowfall hiking tours along with longer outdoor activities are no longer a good idea. But still, even in October you can admire the scenery from inside your car, stop at beaches or fjords, get out for taking photos, get back in warm up and drive to the next spot.
Season Summary | Best Time to Visit
Clearly, each of the four seasons brings its own charms and perspective to Lofoten. For those seeking a striking, snow-capped view, winter may be the best option, although the darkness can be imposing. Spring retains much of winter’s charm, but with more sunshine and therefore more accessibility. With summer comes flocks of tourists, who come to enjoy the spectacular conditions and seemingly endless outdoor activities. Finally, autumn, while unpredictable, offers an escape from the crowds an opportunity to experience the diversity of conditions on Lofoten. Whenever you visit, prepare to be amazed by this stunning place. There is undoubtedly no “very bad” time to visit Lofoten. However, if we’d pick a time we’d say don’t go in October or November: High chance of bad weather and no highlight like midnight sun or polar night. On the other hand it’s a great time to chase northern lights and enjoy the popular spots without other tourists.
Avoiding the Crowds
Lofoten islands became even more popular in the last few years. Everybody wants be to there when it’s warm and hopefully sunny. Also, the midnight sun is a huge tourist magnet. However, there are two main options to avoid the crowds. Read our tips below:
Visit in Shoulder Months:
Avoiding the busy summer months is the easiest way. Excellent sweet spot times with a decent chance of sunshine are May and mid-August until late September. In September you can even spot the Northern Lights and experience gorgeous fall colors.
Be Early/Remote Places/Hike:
If summer is your preferred time, then you have to deal with tens of thousands visitors who got the same idea. Places like Reine and the fisherman cabins will be overflown, popular beaches like Bunes beach and its ferry will be crowded. If you’d like to visit those places and the museums for example: Get there early. Get up early and be there first thing in the morning. Also check the timetables from the cruise ships to avoid hordes of passengers. Another great way to dodge the crowds is to hike or getting to more remote place by car. Just get in your car and drive to Utakleiv beach for example.
The most important thing to know is when to spot the northern lights, under which conditions and where:
- Months: From late August until mid-April. Usually late September and October as well as March are the months with the highest occurrences.
- Weather: The sky needs to be clear. You can’t spot them when there is heavy cloud cover.
- Time of Day: It needs to be dark. Theoretically that means anytime after sunset until sunrise. However, they typically do not appear before 8 p.m. The prime time is between 9 p.m. and midnight.
- Location: General rule is: No light pollution! That means no artificial lights from houses etc. should be close. In general the best spots to see and photograph them are along the coast. Popular areas to photograph the Northern Lights are from Reine and the beaches of Flakstadøy or Vestvågø.
The Gulf Stream influences the climate on Lofoten islands. This means it’s milder compared to other regions at the same latitude like Greenland or Alaska. The winters aren’t too harsh, at the same time it doesn’t get too hot in the summer months. Weather conditions in Lofoten are highly unpredictable even during the more pleasant summer months. While summer one year can be bitingly warm, the next it may be mild, with overcast skies and regular drizzle. Geographically speaking the north experiences often better weather than the southwest with the fjords. However, it doesn’t make any sense to worry about the weather in Lofoten. Also, weather can typically change very quickly at any time within an hour. Be prepared! Some people also tend to say it’s raining all the time. We’d like to quote a local here: ‘Contrary to all the rumors, it does not rain constantly in the Lofoten Islands!’
While Sunset/Sunset Times are important to know for most visitors, there are two very special phenomena that can be experienced on Lofoten islands:
- Polar Night: December 9 – January 4. No sunlight at all. 24 hours of complete darkness.
- Midnight Sun: May 26 – July 17. The opposite of polar night. No darkness, instead 24 hours of sunlight.
Season Hotel Deals (Saving Money)
Lofoten hotels and lodges can be expensive! Especially in peak season. That’s why we add deals for hotels for Lofoten each week below. Change the dates to your liking. If you don’t see our hotel deals, check all Lofote Hotels here:
Lofoten Islands Hotels via booking.com | Price Guarantee | Bookmark the link to check price rates later
Tip: Also bookmark the results page you get from the deals finder below in case you don’t want to book right now.
Lofoten, an archipelago of islands off the coast of Norway, is world renowned for its striking landscapes – with craggy, mountainous coastlines that jut out of the sea and call out to be explored, and picturesque villages that look pulled from a storybook.
Located in the Norwegian sea to the north of the country, Lofoten is an archipelago made up of four main islands (Austvågøy, Vestvågøy, Moskenesøy and Flakstadøy) as well as many smaller islands.
The total length of the archipelago is about 175 km, however the islands are located so close together that from afar they can be mistaken for a continuous mountain range. The largest of the islands, Austvågøy, lies the furthest East and is surrounded by other, smaller islands that can be reached by boat.
The area’s astonishing natural beauty is a big part of the reason for its popularity – countless inlets and fjords snake through the craggy landscape, with towering rock walls and imposing snow-capped mountains punctuating the view. The steep-sided summits also provide refuge for many species of birds and other wildlife, while the seas are home to marine life including migrating orcas.
It is the type of landscape that has inspired painters, writers and photographers for decades. It has been popular too amongst fishermen, since at least 1120 but up until the modern day. Many of Norway’s fishing hotspots, including Henningsvær, Laukvik, Skrova and Svolvær, are located in Lofoten.
Despite the sometimes harsh conditions in Lofoten, especially in winter, there are many species of wildlife who have thrived on the islands. Of the four-legged variety, moose are common and a favourite amongst tourists. It is mostly the bird life that draws wildlife enthusiasts, as the beautiful landscapes and abundance of birds means it’s a bird watching paradise. Many different species of bird such as eagles and cormorants can be found around the waters and inland on the Lofoten islands.
Up until the turn of the 19th Century when tourism suddenly came to Lofoten, the main (and really, only) industry on the islands was fishing, especially of cod. Cod remains the main catch in Lofoten and a big industry for the area. Between February and April, cod spawn off of Lofoten, drawing industry that catch and process the fish. Typically, the fish are dried in a traditional way, and cod liver oil is also extracted for its health benefits.
Of course, if you prefer to observe your marine life rather than eat it, there are many whale watching opportunities. Many companies operate whale watching safaris, where visitors can observe these gorgeous creatures playing in the water. Orcas – or killer whales – are a big drawcard, especially between December and March.
Activities in Lofoten
Norway’s official tourism slogan is ‘powered by nature’, and so it is no surprise that Lofoten is an outdoor paradise. This is especially true in the summer months, when there can be sunshine for up to 24 hours, providing endless opportunity for outdoor activities. A sunny hike in the middle of the night is sure to be a thrill for those who have not experienced all-day sunshine.
Given the islands’ mountainous landscape, mountaineers, rock climbers and canyoners will be stunned by the opportunities on the islands of Lofoten. Some of the most popular spots include Austvågøya and Moskenesøya, and local companies offer excursions that suit all abilities. Experienced climbers can do so independently, but it is important to take all usual safety precautions, as you would anywhere in the world.
Do you prefer it hassle free and comfortable? Find five exciting guided tours and activities you should try below.
Spectacular Panoramic Tour
- Pick-Up Service: At your hotel in Svolvær
- Duration: 5 hours
- Guide: Native, knowledgable
- Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5
- Details/Booking: Panoramic Lofoten Tour
Discover the stunning northern side of the islands on a unique guided tour. Taking you to the historic fishing villages, soaring cliffs as well as striking seascapes and mesmerizing cliffs. You’ll also visit fascinating archaeological sites and learn the story of the Viking population. Finally walk amongst the old fishermen’s houses in the colorful villages of Lofoten island.
Searching for the Northern Lights
Pick-Up Service: At your hotel in Svolvær
Duration: 3 hours
Guide/Group: Native, knowledgable / Small Group (max. 8)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5
Details/Booking: Searching for Northern Lights
Stunning tour to view the dramatic northern lights, starting in Svolvær. You’ll explore the remote Lofoten archipelago after-dark and spot the lights from the best lookout points. Also learn the the secrets and mysteries of the Northern Lights from an extremely knowledgable guide. Including a warm up in a typical Norwegian pub in Kabelvåg.
More Tours and Activities
- Winter Full-Day Guided Tour: Explore the landscape of Lofoten islands in the winter. An action packed trip where you visit both sides of the mountains.
- Midnight Sun Safari: A hour night-adventure to experience the unique midnight-sun feeling. You’ll explore soaring cliffs, fishing villages und silvery sands.
- Kayaking Adventure (for beginners): An unforgetable kayaking trip. Three options are possible: Midnight sun, half day or even a full day adventure. You’ll experience Lofoten’s mesmerizing landscape including beaches, glooming lagoons and majestic peaks.
- Other must-do activities include visiting the museums, driving to the amazing spots (see below: Must-Visit Places) and self-guided walks and hikes.
How do most visitors get around? Given the island’s appeal is to get back in touch with your natural surroundings, many people prefer to forego the car and use a bicycle as their main form of transportation. There are many popular trails, which range from long flat sections to more challenging uphill climbs that will put your legs to work! A popular ride begins in Fiskebøl, to the south, and meanders north along designated cycle paths and well as public roads.
What about historic places? There are indeed many cultural and historical attractions in the islands of Lofoten, which make a great respite from the more heartrate-raising activities described above! The added benefit is that they are also open year-round, no matter what the weather. The islands have a long and varied history, and so there are several interesting museums including the War Museum and the Viking Museum. There are also numerous art galleries, which mostly focus on Norwegian art and have some very famous paintings.
8 Must-Visit Places
With ten different islands in total, there is so much to see on the islands of Lofoten – not to mention they change drastically by the season. However, here are our top “Must Visits” for your trip to Lofoten: Svolvaer, Trollfjord, Kabelvåg, Å, Røst, Vestvågøy, Reine, Rorbuer. Scroll down (swipe down) for the best tips for each place:
Svolvær (Island: Austvågøy)
‘Wherever I stood in Svolvær and whichever way I looked, the view was just magnificent!’ Most visits to Lofoten begin in its largest town, Svolvaer, which is located along the south coast of Austvågøy. For centuries, the town served as an important port for Lofoten’s only main industry of fishing. Today, it is still used for that, but it is equally important for bringing in visitors and tourists.
While the town has a modest permanent population of just 5,000, it can feel much bigger due to the many tourists. Its population also swells during the cod season, when many people from all over the west coast of Norway descend on the town. As a result, there are plenty of hotels and other accommodation options in Svolvaer. Due to its many visitors, plenty of infrastructure and attractions are available at Svolvaer. Despite its size, there is an incredible selection of restaurants, bars and cafes, which cater to both tourists and locals. You will certainly have no difficulty finding a place for a snack or a drink in Svolvaer. There are also other amenities, such as a shopping centre, grocery store, and movie theatre.
- WW2 Museum: One of the most popular attractions with Svolvaer is the World War 2 museum. This museum may be small, however the level of detail and effort that has been put into ensuring that it is presented in an accurate and engaging way makes it an absolute must-visit. The museum has over 5,000 artefacts from the Second World War, nearly all having come from the private collection of a Norwegian man named William Hakvaag. The artefacts are displayed in such a way to really bring home the human aspect of this terrible period in the world’s history: uniforms are displayed on mannequins, making it easy to imagine how they must have looked on the young men who fought in the conflict. The variety of items also gives a fascinating and different look into the Second World War. Some of the more unusual items include the purse of Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife, and some paintings by Hitler himself. It surely brings the conflict to life in a fascinating – if slightly unsettling – way. Enthusiasts in particular will be impressed by the meticulous presentation. While most of the attractions have English translations, William Hakvaag is also often there to add extra information. He will happily explain to visitors the background to his collection, as well as point out particularly interesting artefacts and pieces. Definitely unmissable when in Svolvaer.
Departing from Svolvaer, a trip through the breath-taking Trollfjorden is one of the most popular activities, departing in both winter and summer. Trollfjorden is a narrow corridor located off the straits of Raftsunden, and located between two imposing mountains. Popular tours through the area include whale watching, fishing trips, and sea eagle safaris.
Boat trips to this area offer jaw-dropping views as you pass through the corridor, with mountains so close on either side that you think you might just reach out and touch them. At the entrance, Trollfjord is just 100m wide. Trolls have always had an important part in Norse mythology, and are the namesake of this area. Rumour has it that the huge mountains to either side are trolls that have turned to stone after being caught in the sunlight. Maybe it is better not to touch them after all!
Kabelvåg (Island: Austvågøy)
As described above, for centuries fishing was the most important activity on Lofoten – it was how most residents made their livelihood. Even today, it remains important, although tourism has helped to diversify industry on the islands. One of the most famous fishing villages is picturesque Kabelvåg on the island of Austvågøy. It has become a popular tourist destination and has a number of attractions for visitors of all ages. Visiting its attractions can also help you to learn more about the importance and history of fishing in Lofoten.
- Aquarium: Both the young and the young and heart are likely to enjoy this aquarium, which also features a café and a gift shop. The aquarium shows many types of marine life that are commonly found off the waters of Lofoten, including cod, salmon and prawns. There’s also the bizarrely prehistoric looking Atlantic Wolf Fish. The most popular attraction here, however, are the sea mammals. Outside, adorable seals delight visitors, as do the cheeky and playful otters. They are best viewed at feeding time, when their vibrant personalities are on full display!
- Lofoten Museum: Easy walking distance away from the aquarium is the Lofoten Museum, which has displays of traditional Norwegian houses and gives information about life on the islands of Lofoten. As well as the houses, there are some photographs and also a video about life on Lofoten in the past. There are also demonstrations of traditional crafts and activities, such as a blacksmithing. Be sure to grab an English language brochure because not all of the attractions have English translations and it can be a tad disorientating. Well worth a short visit, however, especially if it is too rainy to enjoy the outdoor activities!
- Vagan Church: This beautiful and picturesque church is the largest wooden church north of Tronheim. The church is incredibly photogenic, especially in winter when it arises from a blanket of snow. The church is still in use today, so be respectful when visiting. The area that surrounds the church is also beautiful – keep an eye out for “Troll’s Rock” which is nearby. It’s easy to spot as it has a large Christian cross on it.
Å (Island: Moskenesøy)
The most westerly point in Lofoten, this unusually named village boasts exceptional views which really must be seen to be believed. It also has a number of tourist attractions, and is a great launching off point for a cycling tour of the island.
- Lofoten Stockfish Museum: It may sound like an unusual thing to have a museum for, however stockfish has been Lofoten’s most important export for centuries. For over a thousand years, fisherman have made stockfish by catching and then naturally curing the fish on drying racks over the winter months. Much of the stockfish is then exported, although plenty of it remains in Lofoten and is used in numerous traditional dishes. The stockfish museum is set out like a working fish factory – with all the sights and smells you would expect! On display are many pieces of equipment used to make stockfish, each with explanations in multiple languages. If that’s not enough, the owner of the museum is extremely enthusiastic, and wanders around giving more information in an impressive variety of languages. Upstairs, there’s also a great café to stop and also watch a short film about how to process stockfish. Although it might seem like an unusual topic for a museum, it is well worth a visit.
- Norwegian Fishing Village Museum: Learn even more about life as a fisherman over the last 250 years at the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum. Here, you can learn about how difficult life was for those who made their living through fishing in years gone by – inspect a typical fisherman’s hut, and tour a produce storeroom. While it is possible to self-guide through the museum, it is recommended to go on the official tour to really understand the exhibits, as not all of them are in English. The tours are 15 to 60 minutes in duration. Year round, they are held in Norwegian, English and Spanish, but they do offer additional languages. There are also some interactive exhibits, such as a demonstration on how to extract cod liver oil. There is also a bakery which sells delicious goods – the cinnamon rolls are a particular favourite!
The furthest flung of the Lofoten islands and located some 100km from the mainland, towards the southernmost part of Lofoten, Røst is made up of hundreds of islands, islets and reefs. Although it does have some permanent residents, they are few and far between – just 600 in total, although the number does climb in fishing season, when as many as 1,500 fishermen arrive. Although the population is modest, there are a selection of good bars and restaurants to enjoy.
In the winter months, you may also catch the beautiful Northern Lights. Perhaps the best place to see them is Røstlandet, which is the highest point on the island and has amazing panoramic views. The islands also have many interesting festivals, including The Puffin Festival (Lundefestival) in June, the music festival Querinidagene in August and “In the Name of Cod” each March.
Røst’s geography is perfect for exploring by bicycle, as it is very flat – the highest point in the whole municipality is just 11m about sea level. Covering an area of approximately 11.2km, one of the biggest drawcards of Røst is its seabirds, and especially the beloved puffins. Here, you will find over 3 million puffins, many near the beautiful Skomvær Lighthouse. The Skomvær Lighthouse was built in 1887 and stands an impressive 30 metres tall. Considered one of the first Atlantic outposts, it is now under the protection of the Norwegian Coastal Association.
This island has wide open spaces, making it a favourite for those who come to get away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland, and even some of the more crowded parts of Lofoten. Although it is fairly quiet, there are still many nice shops, restaurants and bars. Interestingly, this island was once called “Lofotr”, and it was this that eventually became Lofoten, the name for the whole area.
One of the main industries on Vestvågøy is farming, so there is a lot of fresh local produce that can be bought and enjoyed. Food lovers may also enjoy touring the farms, to actually see how traditional produce is made. Vestvågøy’s geography is also well suited to cycling, so one suggestion is to spend a day cycling around, perhaps with some local produce in your backpack to have a makeshift picnic. There are many, small picturesque villages on the island, and cycling between them is a great way to see them (although a car works too, particularly in bad weather!). Another group popular on the islands are surfers – Vestvågøy boasts some of the best surf beaches, not just in Norway, but in all of Europe! Surfers from all over the world come to Vestvågøy to surf the breaks on the main surfing beach, Unstad. Even if you are not much of a surfer, you’re bound to enjoy the beautiful beaches and fresh sea air. There are many great walks around here, or you can just relax on the beach – perhaps with a book in hand!
- Lofotr Viking Museum: Once of the most popular attractions on the island is located in Bøstad. In approximately 500AD, a Viking chieftain built an impressive home on the spot – today, the original house is no more, but the museum has reconstructed it. The Museum is set up as a Viking adventure, and is great for kids and also kids-at-heart. The adventure begins with an introduction to the life of the chieftain and his family via video. From there, visitors can tour around the house, learning about what life would have been like in historical times. The museum is quite interactive, which adds to the fun – visitors can try Viking activities such as weaving. There are a few artefacts that were discovered in the dig of the site, but it tends to focus more on interactive exhibits and activities. There are also outside activities, although some of them close in summer. These activities include rowing a viking boat, and shooting a bow and arrow. Kids in particular are sure to have a lot of fun here, where the emphasis is on learning through doing.
Reine (Island: Moskenesøy)
With the very impressive title of “most beautiful village in Norway”, it is no wonder that Reine has attracted creative types, such as painters and poets, for centuries. They have been inspired by the stunning views of mountains and fjords – just as modern visitors are, too. There are only 300 permanent residents, but there is a good selection of amenities like shops and cafes.
One of the most impressive sights near Reine is that of Moskenesstrømmen. From the elevated places near Reine, it is possible to get an impressive view of this incredible phenomenon, where various strong currents clash, causing a super powerful whirlpool that is both impressive and terrifying. No wonder it inspired the dark genius Edgar Allen Poe. For a closer look, it is possible to take a boat ride through Moskenstraumen – don’t worry, your expert guides will make sure you don’t get too close to the whirlpool!
Rorbuer – Fishermen Huts
One of the most recognisable sights in all of Lofoten is the beautiful wooden red fishing huts, which are strikingly beautiful against the natural environment. Originally built to offer humble lodgings to the fishermen who lived modest lives in Lofoten, today they are one of the most premiere tourist attractions.
The buildings are typically two or three stories high, and are dotted around the islands of Lofoten, up above the waters where the fishermen would cathc their livelihood. Today, many of them have been converted to offer accommodation for those staying on Lofoten. These restored huts cater for all interests and budgets – they range from the rustic basics with a bunk bed and gas stove, through to the ultra luxurious. There is possibly no better place to make your “home base” for exploring the attractions on the Lofoten islands – staying in one of these quintessentially Lofoten huts will surely be one of the highlights of your trip. Even if you don’t stay in them, be sure to snap some photographs, as they make for beautiful, and recognisable, souvenirs of your time on the Lofoten islands.