"A summer experience inside the Arctic Circle"
Highlights - Best Places to Visit in the Lofoten Islands
- Hike Reinebringen for unparalleled views of Lofoten.
- Drive the E10 to experience isolated beaches and dramatic scenery.
- Eat and drink in the lively fishing village of Svolvær.
- Relax in the ultimate postcard town of Reine.
Lofoten has some of Norway's and the world's most incredible and dramatic scenery. Lofoten is a group of islands located in the North of Norway within the Arctic circle. The islands are separated by numerous fjords and inlets; the mountains are as high as 1,260 metres and tower over the fjords below. The region has a strong Viking and fishing background and is famous for their stockfish and cod exports.
The Islands that make up the Lofoten Archipelago have one of the world's highest temperature relative to latitude variances thanks to the Gulf Stream which culminates in Lofoten. This makes the winters mild, for Arctic standards, and beautiful summers. Being in the Arctic Circle means that Lofoten experiences the amazing midnight sun phenomenon. The sun doesn't set from 25 May to 17 July; conversely, polar nights span from 9 December to 4 January.
Lofoten's islands are so close together that you feel like it is one long mountain range. The islands are nearly all linked by a plethora of amazing bridges; the infrastructure in Norway is very impressive.
Due to the mild winters Lofoten is one of the best places to watch the Northern Lights!
How to get to and around Lofoten
Due to its isolation it is best to fly to or near to Lofoten (otherwise you will be spending the majority of your holiday getting there). The nearest airports to Lofoten are:
- Leknes: You can fly from Oslo via Bodo to Leknes (in the heart of Lofoten) almost every day.
- Narvik Airport: There are daily flights between Oslo and Narvik with either Norwegian Air or SAS. From Narvik it is a 4.5hr drive to Leknes and 3 hours to Svolvaer.
- Bodo: There are daily flights between Oslo and Bodo where you can either take a helicopter, plane or ferry to Lofoten.
Getting around is easiest with a car as there is minimal public transport due to the small population size. There are car hire companies at the majority of airports. Roads are single lane country roads and can become busy in summer when there is an influx of motor homes.
We flew into Tromso and hired a car from there and drop the eight hours down to Svolvaer. Although long, the drive from Tromos gives you a great flavour of Northern Norway is like.
What to see and do
1. Drive the E10
The E10 from Svolvaer to the tiny fishing village of Å is one of the most amazing road you will come across. The E10 is a narrow, scenic road that connects you to all the main islands and through some of the most striking scenery you will see. The 2+ hour drive from Svolvaer to Å will give you access to crystal clear beaches on the northern side of the islands and the hundreds of stunning mountain peaks along the islands. You won't be able to stop enough to take in the sights.
The village of Reine is the ultimate postcard town with the most stunning scenery you could wish for. The village is located on the island of Moskensesoya and is a 2hr drive from Svolvaer or a 1 hr drive from Leknes. The village is simply breathtaking with white and red fishermen houses along the shoreline and the mountain peaks providing the perfect backdrop.
Reine is very quiet but it cannot be topped for natural beauty. It is the perfect base for hiking, kayaking and cycling the area.
Kayaking in the Reinefjord is another unique way to see Lofoten. Kayaking in the midnight sun and camping overnight on remote beaches are experiences you will not get anywhere
3. Hiking the Reinebringen Trail
No list of best places to visit in Lofoton would be complete without the Reinebringen hiking trail. Located just outside the picturesque town of Reine, the hike up Reinebringen Trail is the highlight of anyones trip to Lofoten. Reinebringen itself stands at a modest 450m but the panoramic views from the top are unparalleled. The hike is short but strenuous as it is up a very steep incline.
To get there park at the top of the turnoff to Reine on the E10 (in a small parking area). From Reine walk west on the E10 towards the town of Å. There is a paved path that goes around the first tunnel you meet, walk down there and just before you meet the E10 again there is a small trail which emerges from the tunnel.
4. More hiking
There is a long list of hiking options throughout Lofoten; both guided and unguided. The following website is a great source of hiking options for those who are happy to do unguided hikes: http://www.68north.com/outdoors/hiking-introduction/
5. The village of Å
The village of Å is about 10km from Reine, is the end of the E10 and the most westerly point in Lofoten. It is a picturesque little village and is worthy of a mention purely to ensure you drive the whole E10. You will see numerous drying racks all around Lofoten, in Å especially, which are used to dry stockfish/cod in the cooler months.
Svolvær is located on the island of Austvagoy and is the largest and most vibrant town in Lofoten. Svolvær is one of the most important fishing ports in Lofoten and is the best serviced by transport out of all the towns in the area. There are several peaks which can be climbed during the day as well several ferry/boat options to neighbouring islands such as to the picturesque Skrova Islands.
The town is a great place to set up base to explore all of Lofoten due to its central location and vibrancy. Relaxing in the evening at a waterfront restaurant is the ideal end to your day.
7. Other options:
There are so many other adventures that you can have throughout Lofoten in summer:
- Kayak through the many fjords in and around the Lofoten Islands.
- Diving and snorkelling.
- Horse riding.
- Rock climbing.
For more information about any of the above have a look at the following website: http://booking.lofoten.info/en/todo?filter=a%3D155-17
Eating + drinking
Stockfish is an absolute must when you are travelling through Norway. Stockfish is dried cod (bacalao) which has been dried on wooden racks (Hjell) in Northern Norway during the cooler months. The cold weather protects the fish from insects and bacteria and once the drying is completed 80% of the fishes water has disappeared. This was the traditional way to preserve the fish for the icy winter (this method preserves the fish for up to two years). Once the fish is ready to be cooked it is re-hydrated and salted. Stockfish accounted for nearly all of our best meals in Norway and there is no wonder Lofoten's economy is based on its trade to Spain, Italy and Portugal.
The best Stockfish in Lofoten can be found at Du Verden Restaurant in Svolvaer.
I am not going to get into the "is eating whale ethical?" debate here. Unlike in Iceland, eating whale is ingrained in Norwegian culture and has been a tradition for thousands of years. The primary reason to continue with this tradition is that the whale that they eat, the Minke Whale, is not endangered and less than 800 whales are caught each year. The whaling industry is almost entirely in Northern Norway with very few restaurants in the South of Norway having whale meat on their menus.
Surprisingly, most restaurants did not include whale in the seafood section of the menu rather in the red meat section along side beef, lamb and, occasionally, reindeer. We umm'ed and ahhh'ed whether to try whale but eventually decided to try it out of curiosity. Whale is an exceptionally dark meat - almost black. The meat itself was very lean, no bones (unsurprisingly considering the size of the animal) and did not have a seafoody taste. If I was to compare it to anything it would be similar to a buffalo steak with the slightest hint of the sea. Our Norwegian friends all suggested to eat it rare.