North of the arctic circle, among spectacular tall rugged mountains that rise directly from the sea, lies the Lofoten Islands like a string of pearls in the ocean.
Fishermen, explorers, climbers, poets, authors, and painters have been drawn to these remote islands for centuries for their rich natural resources, wild beauty, unspoiled wildlife, and unique coastal culture and history.
From Å, the village with the world’s shortest name, in the south, to Lofotens’s capital Svolvær in the north, you could spend weeks exploring the small villages, hiking in the mountains, surfing, or simply relaxing on Norway’s finest white sandy beaches.
Lofoten has something for everybody. Whether you prefer long mountain hikes or learning about the rich culture and history of the region through the many art galleries, museums, and craft shops you’ll meet along the way.
Important: None of the tours and hotels recommended here are paid placements or have sponsored this site in any way. We always pay for our own travel. If you book through any of our links, we earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep our site going – so thank you in advance for your support! ♥
We live just a few hours drive from Lofoten in Tromsø, and we love to explore the Lofoten Islands whenever we can. Creating this Lofoten travel guide has been a really fun project, and we hope you find it helpful when planning your trip to Lofoten!
- Experience traditional fishing villages
- Spectacular hiking routes
- Go kayaking, surfing, fishing, or join a boat trip
- Stay in your own Rorbu (Fishermen’s cabin)
- Unesco World Heritage Sites
- Cozy cafes, art galleries, and a Viking Museum
- Hauklandsstranda- Europe’s Best Beach (according to Lonely Planet)
- Tasty cinnamon rolls (Yes, really!)
Travel Guide To The Lofoten Islands – Norway
There is just so much to do and see in Lofoten. It’s not a very large place, in fact, you could drive through Lofoten from one end to the other in a few hours, but you could also spend weeks exploring it.
And don’t forget to sample the many local culinary specialties in Lofoten’s cafes and restaurants.
No Lofoten trip is complete without a visit to Svolvær, Lofotens Capital. Take a Trollfjord cruise, join a fishing trip or a sea eagle safari. Or perhaps try the local specialty of dried stockfish in one of Svolvær’s excellent restaurants.
Nearby Henningsvær is a must-see with its spectacular location, art galleries, charming cafes, cool shops, and well preserved classic Norwegian coastal architecture.
On the way stop by Kabelvåg town, see the Lofoten Aquarium and help feed the seals, and learn about Lofoten’s history at Lofoten Museum.
On Gimsøy you can have a go at one of the world’s northernmost golf courses. Or go horseback riding on the beach.
Take the coast way to Unstad, Norway’s most famous surf beach, and stop by the farm Lofoten Gardsysteri on your way for tasty locally produced cheese-platters.
Or save your appetite for Lofoten’s best cinnamon rolls at Unstad Surfing’s cafe.
Eggum or Utakleiv, where the ocean stretches as far as the eye can see, are perfect places to experience the midnight sun in the summer or the blazing northern lights in the winter.
Meet the Vikings at Lofotr Viking Museum. Explore the largest Viking house ever discovered anywhere in the world, and sail on a Viking ship.
På Moskenesøya, you’ll find idyllic Reine, perhaps the most photographed village in all of Lofoten.
Stay in one of the traditional fishermen’s cabins (rorbu), hike the spectacular Reinebringen mountain, or explore Å’s stockfish museum.
And along your way stop off at one of the many local artisans producing their arts and crafts.
Lofoten is packed with highlights, and if you’re anything like us you will constantly feel the need to stop to photography the spectacular landscape of fjords, mountains, and beaches.
Although Lofoten Islands is mostly known for its landscape, there are also plenty of other things to do and explore. Here is a list of our top 5 Lofoten highlights:
1. Lofotr Viking Museum
Lofoten has Norway’s biggest and most unique Viking museum. Here you get to visit an authentic Viking home, meet Vikings, go sailing on a real Viking ship, eat Viking food and drink mead, and try Viking activities like axe throwing and archery. It is a fantastic museum and a must-visit!
We’re huge fans of the Lofotr Viking Museum and have written a full guide to Lofotr.
2. Art & Glass Galleries
Lofoten has a surprising number of high-quality art and glass galleries. The best ones are (in our opinion): Kaviar Factory and Gallery Lofoten in Henningsvær, Lofoten Glass, Espolin Gallery, and Little Kabelvåg in Kabelvåg, and the Glass Hut in Vikten.
At Sund, you can watch as the blacksmith hammers out his famous cormorant made of black iron in the fiery pit.
Did you know that Lofoten has the best beach in Europe (ranked no. 1 by Lonely Planet)? Haukland Beach might not have the warmest bathing temperature, but it sure is a fantastic white-sandy beach.
As you drive around the Lofoten Islands, you will see that it is packed with beautiful beaches – Ramberg Beach, Unstad Beach, Uttakleiv Beach, Horseid Beach, Bunes Beach, Gimsøy Beach, Rørvika Beach, and Kvalvika Beach just to name a few. Let us know in the comments which one became your favorite 🙂
4. Fishing Villages
Lofoten is famous for its many unique and well-preserved old fishing villages. Some of them do not have a fishing industry anymore and have been transformed into lovely folk museums where you can learn all about the thriving fishing community Lofoten was in the 1800s.
5. Seafood Restaurants, Cozy Cafes & Cinnamon Rolls
Seafood is a Lofoten specialty and is served in lots of cozy restaurants all over the island. From the grilled stockfish at Børsen restaurant on Svinøya to the famous fishburger at Anita’s seafood in Reine, there is just so much to try.
And perhaps to make up for the often cold weather Lofoten is packed with cozy cafes and bakeries like Klatrekafeen, Trevarefabrikken, and Lysstøperiet in Henningsvær, the pastries at Hansines Bakery in Nusfjord, to the mouth-watering cinnamon rolls at Arctic Surf Cafe in Unstad.
Must Do Activities in Lofoten
Lofoten is all about being outside and enjoying nature. I would say that you haven’t really experienced Lofoten without having taken a fjord trip, and the cruise to the scenic Trollfjord is our favorite.
The top 5 Lofoten activities (in our opinion):
1. Fjord Cruise
A fjord cruise is an excellent way to experience the Lofoten Islands, after all, it is the sea and the fishing that has made Lofoten what it is today. From a boat, you’ll experience the rugged coastline and the wildlife up close. These tours run from spring to fall, but not during the winter months.
The most spectacular fjord in Lofoten is the narrow Trollfjord, only 100 meters (300 ft) wide at its entrance and surrounded by tall steep mountains.
We did a fjord cruise to the famous Trollfjorden (3,5 hours) on a silent electric ship and it was a fantastic experience.
Sea Eagle Safari To Trollfjorden
You can also go to Trollfjorden on a sea eagle safari on board a Rib boat (a 2 hours tour). It’s a fast and fun experience, and in addition to visiting Trollfjorden, you’ll also get to see some of the majestic sea eagles that call this area their home.
One of the most popular activities is going on a fishing trip in a traditional Norwegian fishing boat.
The ultimate fishing trip is the one in Svolvær where you get to go fishing with the traditional wooden fishing boat MS Symra (a 4-hour tour). You get to borrow everything you need – a fishing kit, safety equipment like a thermal suite and a floating vest, and a professional English-speaking guide who will teach you how to fish.
Most of the fjord cruises start at Svolvær harbor (fishing trips are also available from Ballstad), and you can read more about Svolvær, including tours, where to stay, and restaurants tips in our complete Svolvær travel guide.
2. Northern Lights Tour
If you’re in Lofoten in the winter season between September to April you should definitively take a northern lights tour.
The magical spectacle of the northern lights flashing above you combined with Lofoten’s unique landscape and architecture makes Lofoten perhaps the most spectacular place on earth to witness the northern lights.
Tours typically start from Svolvær and an experienced guide will take you to the best places to see the northern lights. Some tours include an experienced photographer that will give you tips on how to photograph the Northern Lights. No previous photo experience is needed. Along the trip, you will be served warm drinks. You will drive around in a mini-van, and it is a small-group tour (max 8 people).
Kayaking is a popular activity in Lofoten and tours run most of the year. You can join kayaking tours in many places around Lofoten.
The coastline outside of Svolvær is a popular place for kayaking with its many small islands and inlets.
On this kayaking trip from Eggum in Lofoten (a 4,5 hours kayaking tour) you get to experience the Arctic sea and the stunning coastline of Lofoten. You get to borrow everything you need to have a fun and comfortable kayaking trip, and no previous kayaking experience is needed. The guide will take you to a beautiful place where you will have a campfire. This kayaking tour is run all year round.
4. Hiking / Skiing
Lofoten is widely considered to be a mountain hikers paradise. With rugged sharp mountains that stretch towards the heavens, there are hikes here for any level from beginner to advanced. Many of the hikes have become Instagram famous, like Reinebringen Mountain in Reine, Mannen Mountain in Haukland, Festvågtinden Mountain in Henningsvær, and Fløya Mountain in Svolvær.
The mountains can be dangerous, especially in bad weather. So if you are new to mountain hiking make sure to choose easier hikes, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and the views are just as spectacular.
In the winter (from February until April) Lofoten turns into a skiing mecca for mountain skiing. I would recommend that you go with a local guide, from for instance North Norwegian Climbing School in Henningsvær or Lofoten Ski lodge.
Some great mountains for skiing are Geitgalljene (demanding, for experienced skiers), Torskmannen (medium), Blåtinden (medium), and Småtindan (easy, for all levels).
Who would have thought that Lofoten and surfing would go together! When you think of surfing you might think of Hawaii but Lofoten is actually one of Norway’s most famous surf spots.
Most of the action is centered around Unstad Beach. The best surf is during the fall and winter but if you’re a beginner then the small waves during the summer might be just perfect. You can rent a board or stay at Unstad Surf Camp and join a surf class.
More Lofoten Activities
And this is just the start! Lofoten has so much to offer adventurous travelers. If you’re into climbing, Henningsvær is world-famous for its bouldering, and Henningsvær’s Klatrekafeen is the center for climbing in Lofoten.
If you are a diver and brave enough to try the arctic waters, you will be rewarded by some of the clearest water anywhere.
And for the golf enthusiasts, Lofoten Links has an 18 hole golf course spectacularly located on Gimsøy Island. Lofoten Links is Norway’s best golf course, and Golf World Magazine just ranked it as the 6th best golf course in Europe!
If you prefer less physically strenuous activities then perhaps a guided photography tour of Lofoten might be just the thing. In short here is something to do for everyone in Lofoten!
Preparing For Lofoten
When To Go
Lofoten sees most visitors during the summer months from May to September. The peak season for tourism in Lofoten is during July when Norwegians generally take their holidays, and August/ September when central Europe has their holiday season.
Summer – Midnight Sun
From early June to mid-July you can experience the midnight sun when the sun never sets below the horizon and shines all day and night.
Winter – Northern Lights
In recent years winter has also become a more popular time to visit Lofoten. Many people come to experience the Northern Lights/ Aurora Borealis, the spectacular light show that can light up the dark winter sky on a clear night.
From early December to early January is what we refer to as the “dark season”, when the sun never rises above the horizon and night basically lasts for 24-hours a day.
If you want to experience the Northern Lights I would recommend February and March when it is still winter and dark enough to see the northern lights at night but the sun shines during the day.
How to Get There
Lofoten has two airports, one outside Svolvær and one in Leknes.
The easiest and fastest way is to fly to Svolvær (SVJ). Widerø has flights directly from Oslo (OSL) or by way of Bodø (BOO). You can also fly to Leknes (LKN) located roughly in the center of Lofoten.
Another and often cheaper option is to fly to Evenes. Evenes is better connected than Svolvær and there are direct flights from Stockholm (ARN) and Oslo (OSL) among others. From Evenes you can either rent a car or take the bus to Svolvær (a 3-hour drive).
You can take a ferry from Bodø to Lofoten. There are two ferries routes:
- Hurtigbåten – Bodø to Svolvær. Takes about 3,5 hours.
- Moskenes Ferry – Bodø to Moskenes, at the southern tip of Lofoten. Takes about 3 hours.
Check the ferry schedules at ReisNordland
Another option is to take Hurtigruten. Hurtigruten sails along the entire Norwegian coast and docks in Svolvær. This means you could take Hurtigruten from for instance Bergen north to Lofoten, or from Tromsø and go south.
How to Travel Around
Lofoten is best explored by having your own car. You can rent a car in Svolvær or Leknes.
In the summer you can also take the Lofoten Sightseeing and Shuttle boat, from Svolvær to Å with several stops along the way.
Camper van rentals are also available and a popular option is the classic VW campers from Lofoten Van Life.
While you can travel around Lofoten by local bus, you would need to plan extremely well since routes are limited and buses do not run very frequently. Check the timetables and routes carefully.
A good deal is the Travel Pass Nordland – 995 Nkr (adults)/ 495 NKr (children) for 7 days of unlimited travel by bus and ferry.
Where To Stay
In Lofoten, you will find a wide range of accommodation options, from modern hotels and hostels to privately owned apartments. Lofoten is also the perfect place to stay in traditional fishermen’s cabins, called rorbuer in Norwegian.
Lofoten Islands is well known for its many charming red-painted rorbuer which are scattered along the shoreline in every little fishing village.
These fishermen’s cabins have been modernized and renovated to modern standards and most have a living room with a kitchen, bedrooms, a private bathroom, and a patio or balcony, and also free parking right outside.
The following are our personal favorite places to stay in Lofoten:
- Hattvika Lodge in Ballstad
Stylish rorbu accommodation in the middle of Lofoten (excellent for day-trips around Lofoten)
- Nusfjord Arctic Resort
Luxury rorbu accommodation in idyllic Nusfjord
- Eliassen Rorbuer in Reine
Lofoten’s most photographed and Instagram famous rorbu
- Reine Rorbuer in Reine
Idyllic traditional rorbuer in the hear of scenic Reine
- Henningsvær Bryggehotell
A small cozy hotel in the middle of Lofotens most vibrant fishing village
- Lofoten Links Lodges
Modern cabins by the sea, perfect for watching the Northern Lights
- Svinøya Rorbuer in Svolvær
Charming rorbuer in Lofoten’s capital city, with Lofoten’s best restaurant Børsen
- Anker Brygge in Svolvær
Traditional rorbuer right in the middle of Lofoten’s capital city
Money & Costs
Like the rest of Norway, Lofoten is fairly expensive. Most of the costs will be accommodation, food, and transportation.
You can, however, help minimize your expenses by sleeping in a tent or a camper van (which you can rent in Lofoten), shopping for your food at the grocery store, and doing some of your own cooking.
Staying in a traditional rorbu for a night or two is an amazing experience. The cost per night for a one-bedroom rorbu (sleeps two people) in Lofoten is approximately US$ 180 (price depends on the season and location). A two-bedroom rorbu will cost a little more.
As for transport, bear in mind that gasoline is expensive in Norway. Gasoline prices are approximately NOK 20 = US$ 2 per liter (or US$7,5 per gallon).
Eating at restaurants in Lofoten is quite expensive. I would say that you should budget for US$80 and up per day. Obviously, it will depend on what kind of restaurants you eat at, what kind of food you order, and if you eat all your meals out or do some cooking yourself.
Approximately daily costs
- Budget: below 160 Euro (dorm bed in hostel 35 Euro per night, a double room in B&B from 80 Euro, cheap lunch and dinner (shop at a grocery store and cook yourself).
- Mid-range: 160-240 Euro (double room in a mid-range hotel 80-150 Euro per night, lunch or dinner in a local restaurant 14-22 Euro, car rental from 90 Euro per day
- Top-End: Over 240 Euro (top-end hotel or rorbu from 150 Euro per night, lunch or dinner in a decent restaurant from 22 Euro per person,
Safety & Insurance
Lofoten is a safe area to travel in with very little crime. However, accidents do happen and it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance.
Lofoten has some of the best hikes in Norway, and some of the mountains have become very popular since they became Instagram famous (like the mountains Reinebringen and Mannen).
Although these are fantastic hikes, be aware that the Lofotens mountains are steep and the trails can be slippery especially after a rainfall.
Not all hiking routes are suitable all year round and always remember that the weather can change in an instant so always bring warm clothes and something to drink and eat. If you want to do some winter hikes, talk to the locals for recommendations, or join a guided tour.
What To Pack
So, to be honest, the weather in Lofoten is extremely unpredictable and changes often and irregularly. Check the website or app Yr a lot (although it is often wrong….).
Always dress in layers so that you can easily take off some clothes if the weather clears up and the sun pops out, or add more layers if the temperature drops.
A wind and waterproof jacket and trousers should always be in your backpack (especially if you plan on doing any hiking), as well as gloves and a beanie.
Read more in-depth tips on what to pack for a trip to northern Norway
Reader Comments On Norway
Lovely interactive site Maria. I want to cover Senja & Lofoten but cannot extend my trip beyond 6 days. Can you suggest which city would be the most economical to…
Maria, Thank you – this is the most comprehensive summary I have seen online! That said, I have 2 questions: 1. Could you provide an average cost/night? Given the possible price range,…
Hi Maria. This looks great! When do you say is the best time of year to visit? I’d love to plan a trip there.
We did four of these hikes in two days in June. The directions and descriptions were perfect. We are fit, but elderly and we had a lovely time. Thanks, Maria!
Further Reading / Guidebooks
If you missed our Lofoten Itinerary then I think that is a great place to start planning a trip to Lofoten. It has all the highlights organized into a 10-day road trip itinerary included tips on what to see, where to stay for each area, attractions, and more.
As for guidebooks there sadly aren’t that many great ones on Lofoten, especially in English. The Lonely Planet guide to Norway has a chapter on Lofoten, and there are a couple of books available on hiking in Lofoten.
FAQ About Lofoten
We’ve included answers to some frequently asked questions about the Lofoten Islands. If you have further questions please comment below or send us an email. Click the question to reveal the answer.
Yes, definitively. The Lofoten Islands, with its jagged steep peaks going straight down into the fjords, shoreline dotted with red fishermen’s cabins, and stunning white-sandy beaches is one of Norway’s most scenic and popular areas to visit. It is an excellent place for outdoor activities like hiking, climbing, fishing, surfing, kayaking, and skiing. Lofoten Islands also has many excellent museums, restaurants & cafes, art galleries, and crafts shops. In short, Lofoten Islands has something for everyone.
The native language in Lofoten Islands is Norwegian, but almost everyone speaks excellent English. Some tour guides often also speak German, French, and Spanish.
Lofoten Islands is historically famous for its rich fishing and especially the Arctic cod and stockfish. In recent years Lofoten has become a major tourist destination famous for its spectacular landscape and outdoor activities attracting adventure seekers from all over the world. In the winter, the Northern Lights dance across the sky, and in the summer the Midnight Sun shines day and night.
Lofoten Islands is a fantastic place to see the Northern Lights, from mid-September to mid-April. But you need a clear sky and a bit of luck since it doesn’t appear every night.
Latest Lofoten Articles
Are you planning a trip to Lofoten and are wondering where to stay in the Lofoten Islands? Here we give you a complete guide to what we think are the best places to stay in Lofoten, with our 10 favorite Lofoten hotels and rorbuer. We hope this where-to-stay guide to Lofoten can help you plan your Lofoten trip.
We have made a list of what we consider to be 41 of the best things to do in the Lofoten Islands no matter whether you are visiting during the summer or the winter.
Lofoten Islands in Norway is one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. It has a spectacular nature with peaky mountains going straight down into the fjords lined with white-sandy beaches and shoreline dotted with red fishermen’s cabins. Here is everything you should see when heading on an epic roadtrip through the Lofoten Islands.
On a cape stretching out into the sea of Vestfjorden, lies the village Å, a fascinating and unique end-point on the southern tip of the Lofoten islands. Å is Northern Norway’s best-preserved traditional fishing village with roots dating back to the early 1800s. Walking among these old houses and fishermen’s cabins you get a sense of the life and hardship of the generations of fishermen that lived and worked here. Here we give you all the things to do, see, and where to stay in Å in Lofoten.
Lofoten’s most picturesque fishing village Reine, with its scenic landscape of Reinefjord and the small islands, is dotted with red fishermen’s cottages and hugged in between steep mountains that rise straight up from the sea. It is one of Norway’s most photographed villages, and you have probably seen photos from Reine on Instagram.
Lofotr is hands down one of our favorite museums! We’re not really huge fans of museums in general, they honestly tend to be kind of boring, but Lofotr is different. They have managed to make the past come alive in a fun and entertaining way while still being educational. And the fact that you can participate in activities like sailing on a real Viking ship makes all the difference and is a pretty unique and fantastic experience that you will never forget.