Lofoten, the untamed islands
January 1, 1970
A far away land of untamed beauty, the Lofoten islands rise on the western Norwegian coast, well above the Arctic Circle, offering a truly unforgettable experience to the nature loving traveler. From mountains to fjords and white sandy beaches, this archipelago has it all.
There are a few ways to reach the islands, by plane, ferry or car, since they are connected to the mainland and to each other by bridges. To fully experience the islands I recommend flying to Harstad-Narvik from Oslo and then renting a car there. The roads are in good condition and driving by car takes about 4 hours from the airport to the westernmost point, the village of Å, giving you the best views of the archipelago along the way.
Lofoten’s rugged coast is dotted by small fishing villages nestled in fjords that give this place its unique charm. The road mostly follows the line of these fjords so you are sure not to miss some of the most scenic ones.
What to visit?
In the north of Austvågøya island, there is a wide fjord known as Grunnfør. Take a detour from the main road to reach it and cross the bridge through the middle of the fjord.
On the island of Flakstadøya, near Ramberg, there is one of the most amazing beaches in the world, Rambergstranda. There is a small parking place just near the beach so you can leave the car there and enjoy a walk under the arctic sky, on a white sandy beach.
Shortly after leaving Ramberg behind, take a small detour from your road to Å and head north towards Fredvang. You will cross two arched bridges over the sea and enjoy the tropical-like colors of the water. Return to the main road and continue to Hamnøy and then Reine.
Stop for a picture in Hamnøy, the most iconic image when googling Lofoten. Also, this was our stop for the night since we wanted to stay close to the trail that leads to Reinebringen.
The highlight of the trip is definitely the Reinebringen hike. To reach the start of the hiking trail, there is a side road to the left when you exit Reine on the road to Å, where you can park the car. From there you should see road signs pointing you towards the trail. We are not particularly fit and we managed to make the climb in about two hours, equipped only with trekking shoes (no other hiking equipment). Be sure to bring a lot of water if you want to go on this hike and also start in the early morning, to catch the best light when you get to the top (otherwise, the mountains will cast their shadow over the villages below). The descent takes about 1.5 hours. The path is very steep but short so in my opinion anyone should at least attempt it. The view from the top is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Reine , a charming village nestled by abrupt peaks rising directly from the sea, is a great place to stop for a nice meal, enjoy a slow walk and take scenic photos.
Lofoten has a strong connection to the Viking Age so a must-see while visiting the islands is the Lofotr Viking Museum, on Vestvågøy island. Here you can visit traditional dwellings, eat Viking stew, learn to craft items as in the times of old and, my favorite, get to experience sailing in a traditional Viking ship.
Other activities in Lofoten, which we did not have time to experience during our short stay, are kayaking, going on a bike tour or the sea eagle safari in Trollfjord. Spectacular trekking and hiking routes can be found all over the islands.
Where to stay?
Lofoten is well known for the old red fishermen’s cabins called “rorbuer”. They have been beautifully restored and now offer modern accommodation for travelers. They can be found almost anywhere on the islands. I personally recommend the ones in Hamnøy, due to their proximity to the Reinebrigen hike and other attractions. The cabin was very accommodating for the two of us, offering a bedroom and a living room, bathroom and kitchen area.
Where and what to eat?
The specialty of this region is the dried cod and cod in general. If you travel during the summer you will notice a lot of cod left to dry on wooden structures along the road. I highly recommend the Krambua restaurant in Hamnøy where we had most of our meals. Every plate looks delicious and the deserts are to die for. Also, other good places to eat can be found in Reine or Å.
When to visit?
I recommend visiting Loften between 15 May and 15 September to avoid the cold weather. If you wish to see the northern lights, then your best bet will be September, since during the summer the sun never sets and you cannot see the aurora if the sky is not dark. We chose to visit the islands in June, to experience the midnight sun phenomenon. The weather was mostly fair and the air temperature between 10-15 degrees Celsius. Still, keep in mind that the Lofoten is a subarctic destination, so the weather may change fast and even in the summer it may become very cold.
What are the speed limits?
If you chose to visit Lofoten by car, then keep in mind the speed limits for Norway are:
>50 km/h in densely populated areas and 80 km/h in sparsely populated areas.
>on some roads, the speed limit is 90 km/h, and on the best motorways the limit is 110 km/h.
How are the prices?
Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Everything here costs so if you are travelling on a budget the best way to save some money would be to eat at gas stations. The food there offers great value for money. Also book all accommodations well in advance. The official currency is the Norwegian Krone (NOK). Be sure to have some cash with you, but know that you can mostly pay by credit/debit cards even in the most remote locations.
For more amazing places from our trip to Norway please follow my future posts.