Lofoten is a series of islands (or an archipelago) in Norway. It has started to explode in popularity over the past few years, especially with photographers and outdoor lovers. I’ve always wanted to go to Lofoten, but I never thought my first time would be in the middle of the winter season. Well, this snowy January, I spent three wonderful weeks exploring the area. In this blog post, you’ll find some tips, takeaways, and my favorite spots I visited. Whether you’re a person who likes to have incredible views right outside your window or a person who likes to hike to see epic landscapes, Lofoten is for you.
HOW TO GET TO 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. Here are a few options:
- Fly into the Harstad-Narvik airport which is situated in the north of Lofoten. The airport is the cheaper option, but requires a long drive to get to central Lofoten. For me, it took about 5 hours to drive to the Hattvika Lodge which is an hour longer than expected. I had to drive cautiously as the roads are very curvy, the weather was all over the place and I was looking out for elk! If you choose to fly into this airport, try to plan for the drive to be in the daylight. It would be the best option as it’s safer and there are incredible views to see along the way. I chose this option and recommend it for winter travel.
- 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.
- 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.
WHERE TO STAY IN LOFOTEN
My home base on this trip was the Hattvika Lodge. Let me tell you right off the bat that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced better hospitality than I did at the Hattvika Lodge. Kristian, the lovely owner, has rebuilt fisherman cottages to host guests from around the world. I truly felt as though he provided me with a true Lofoten experience—which included staying in rustic cottages which were right on the water with fisherman boats outside the window, an incredible sauna to use every night, sharing local food with us, and even offering samples of Norwegian fish oil. 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.
The Hamnoy Bridge viewpoint has got to be one of the most iconic Norwegian scenes. My suggestion? Find a safe spot to pull over and park, then explore by foot. Snap a few photos and take it all in.
This is another quintessential fishing village in Lofoten and another great stop on your road trip.
Reine is quite possibly the most popular village in Lofoten—and for good reason. There are beautiful scenes every way you look. I spent an entire afternoon driving around, hopping in and out of the car to enjoy the views.
The quant village of Nusfjord is often talked about as one of the oldest and best preserved fishing villages in Norway. It is worth the stop!
If you’re looking to stretch your legs a bit, this hike is perfect for you! It’s only about 2km total with 150m elevation gain (or 1.2 miles and 500ft). In the winter, every hike takes longer than expected and I believe this hike took me about 2 hours.
There seems to be a certain amount of luck needed when it comes to seeing the magical Northern Lights. A few things need to line up—you need a clear sky or low amount of clouds, a strong Aurora, and complete darkness. If you check the weather and it looks like it will be clear any time between 11pm-3am, head to a spot with no light pollution. In Lofoten, Uttakleiv and Haukland Beach are great options. Make sure you bundle up as it gets very cold shooting at night, always bring a headlamp and remember to be patient as the Northern Lights move around the sky regularly. From what I’ve researched, the best time to see them in Lofoten is August, October, February, and March. I took the below photo in Hamnoy, but wouldn’t recommend it as there was a bit too much light pollution for my liking.
This spot was a random beach that I had never heard of (and frankly, was shocked that it wasn’t more popular). There were huge mountains all around the beach, the water was an incredible blue color and not many people around. That said, it was very windy so remember to bundle up!
This is another hike that is a must-do in Lofoten! It’s important to note that this one will take 3-5 hours depending on the weather, which trailhead you start at and how much snow there is. It was crazy windy when I was up here so remember that Norwegian weather is no joke. In terms of trailheads, there are two ways to get to the summit—one is from Kvalvika Beach (shown earlier in this post) and the other is from a separate trailhead. I did this hike twice and hiked both trails during my trip so I recommend hiking from the second option. It’s much more gradual and enjoyable! Check out this blog post for details on the trailheads and routes.
Reinebringen is definitely the most popular hike in Lofoten. While it’s only 3km round trip with 500m of elevation gain (2 miles and 1700 feet), this trail can be very dangerous—especially in the winter season. When I went, the stairs that go up the trail were covered with snow so I had to make a new trail the entire way up. I had friends with me who were knowledgeable, wore microspikes on my boots, and still wished I had an ice ax to help. This hike is incredible, and I can’t recommend it enough, but I urge you to ask locals/reach out to others who have done the hike to find out the current conditions and if it’s safe to do. If it is, I’d head there early in the morning as parking is limited.
The Hattvika Lodge was my beautiful home for a week and I couldn’t of asked for a better experience. Our days usually went like this… waking up before sunrise, driving around Lofoten to different spots to take photos or hike, coming back to the cabin after dark, making dinner, crushing a home workout, hitting the sauna, shower and sleeping for a few hours. It was a life I could easily get used to!
Photo shot by Justin Kauffman
- 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. Some businesses were closed for the winter, but these closures did not affect me at all.
- During the summer months, many of the Airbnbs, hotels and hostels are fully booked up. In the winter season, a trip doesn’t require as much planning as not as many people visit which allows for more accommodation options.
- 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. When I was in Lofoten, I went out to explore and take photos everyday even if the weather was predicted to be bad. This is all part of the adventure!
- Rental cars (which are pretty much necessary in my opinion) and flights seem to be a bit cheaper in the winter season.
- The days from late November-early January are very short with little daylight. I’d say a good time to go to Lofoten for the winter is late January-March. The days become longer, there are more sunny days and less precipitation.
- Parking in Lofoten is very limited. With fewer cars on the road in the winter, I was able to pull over (safely) and explore at almost anytime. I’m not so sure I could’ve done this as easily in the summer.
- I experienced very heavy winds while hiking so please be careful and know your limits. Always pack extra layers, water, snacks, gloves, sunglasses (they help if the wind picked up and snow is getting tossed in your eyes), waterproof jacket and a GPS. I recommend letting your host know where you’re hiking and asking them their thoughts on it as conditions change daily.
- While I could spend months in solely Lofoten, I suggest also exploring different areas of Norway such as Senja or Tromsø.