Previously I wrote about my Lapland adventure in Finland. I was so close to the Norwegian border that I couldn’t resist the urge to explore Northern Norway. As we all know, Norwegians have the most spectacular nature sites! I had travelled only to the capital town of Norway, Oslo, for a long weekend trip, so I was eager to explore this part of the world. In this post, I will tell you all about my visit to the Lofoten Islands.
My journey to the Lofoten Islands
I’m usually an enthusiast travel planner. This must be the first time that I didn’t really plan a trip if you don’t count a few hotel reservations beforehand. My only plan was that I wanted to explore Northern Norway and end up in Lofoten. This was a road trip I just had to take! The first thing you notice when you drive to Norway is the abundance of beautiful mountains. My first stop was from Kilpisjärvi, Finland to the city of Tromsø. This was a beautiful about two hour drive with nice stops on the way to enjoy snowcapped mountains.
Tromsø is a quite modern Artic city, but it still has a hint of that small fishing town charm. Many people visit here to enjoy the beauty of Northern Lights but this time I wasn’t lucky enough to see them (still on my bucket list though). When you enter Tromsø city center you have to cross a massive bridge which is kind of cool. Although I liked the cute harbor and colourful wooden houses, this city seemed to be a little too crowded for my taste.
Tips to Tromsø:
- Eat at Skirri: Kystens Mathus, Stortorget 1. This restaurant is right next to the harbor with nice views and they serve high quality food.
- Stay at Quality Hotel Saga: Richard Withs plass 2. Top location right in the city center with wide selection breakfast and parking.
- Enjoy coffee at Riso mat & kaffebar: Strandgata 32. I liked this place because it was full of locals and a relaxing coffee place to escape the rain.
My next destination was Harstad, which took just over four hours to drive from Tromsø. The driving time wasn’t so bad when you pass lovely traditional Norwegian wooden houses with grass on the roof. Harstad is a peaceful town with very friendly locals. For some reason, this town reminded me of Geneva, Switzerland. Harstad didn’t seem to be over crowded by tourist. Make sure to hike to Gangsåstoppen (Rikard Kaarboes gate 11) to enjoy panorama views of this city. It’s an easy 20 minute hike one way and a beautiful place to enjoy sunset.
Click pictures below!
About Lofoten Islands
Lofoten is a group of many islands in a remote location within the Arctic Circle. All the islands are surrounded by steep mountains and the sea and they are connected with beautiful bridges. This region in the North of Norway has a traditional Viking background. When you travel in Lofoten Islands, you will also notice that fishing is still a huge part of local’s everyday life.
It’s impossible to notice all the red fisherman’s houses (Rorbu), small fishing boats and outdoors wooden stands where fish are dried. Despite of the export of cod and stockfish as a main livelihood, tourism is getting more popular and brings another income source to the local communities. All of this traffic to these tiny fishing villages brings also some negative problems (for more information, read this Guardian article).
Lofoten Islands are actually dramatic in any season! The weather might change drastically during the day from sunshine to rain, but thanks to the Gulf Stream it’s never too cold even in winter. There are so many things to in Lofoten Islands. Climbing, fishing, kayaking, hiking and photography just to name a few. The main attraction is of course the nature. It’s surreal that there are snowcapped mountains and dreamy white sand beaches at the same time so far in the north. They even have a deep-water coral reef in Lofoten (Røst Reef).
My trip continued for 2.5 hours from Harstad to the town of Svolvaer in Lofoten archipelago. This was an exciting drive because you will pass long tunnels that go under the sea and through mountains. I even found a cool abandoned shipwreck! Svolvaer is a good base for all of your Lofoten adventures. You can easily make day trips from here as far as the town of Å in less than 2.5 hours one way. If you plan to drive the E10 main road to the end of town Å, I would recommend booking accommodation closer so that you won’t spend a lot of time driving. I was only few days in Lofoten, so it wasn’t enough time to drive all the way to the tip of Lofoten. I would estimate that you would need at least a week to fully enjoy all that Lofoten has to offer.
Tips to Svolvaer:
- Eat at Du Verden: Torget 15. Stylish restaurant with amazing local seafood.
- Stay at Scandic Svolvaer: Lamholmen 1 or in a budget friendlier Fast Hotel Lofoten: Austnesfjordgata 12.
- Enjoy coffee and tasty pastries in Kringla Bakeri & Konditori: Torget 21.
Viking Museum Lofotr
Svolvaer is a nice fishing town in Lofoten, but to experience the magic you have to go further. My first stop was a Viking Museum Lofotr. For a small admission you have a large area to explore. The most impressive is the 83 meters long longhouse where a whole tribe lived under a one roof with their animals. Our guide said that back in the day, Vikings were actually quite rich. It is fun to learn about the history of the mighty Vikings see how they used to live. Just a short walk from a longhouse to the near lake you can see a Viking ship and test your skills in archery.
My journey continued to the amazing Haukland beach. It’s a turquoise paradise beach only an hour away from Svolvaer. There are many beaches in Lofoten area, but Haukland has been said to be the most beautiful of them all. This place was definitely a highlight of my trip. I could feel the magic! There is parking right next to the beach and awesome hiking opportunities.
I made new friends with local sheep’s and hiked the near Mannen Mountain to get a bird’s eye view of this place. This was supposed to be an easy hike, but I forgot that Lofoten has its own scale. The problem wasn’t length but the steepness and the soggy soil which makes hiking slippery. Lofoten is all about hiking to see the most breathtaking views, but it’s going to be hard. The only time I really wish that I had a drone to do all the work for me. This hike was a little scary but relatively safe compared to the other popular but dangerous hikes like Reinebringen in Å. For more extensive information about hiking in Lofoten check out www.north68.com.
Click pictures below!
Henningsvaer was ultimately my favourite fishing town in Lofoten. It’s only 30 minutes from Svolvaer, located in Austvågöy Island. Just a short drive away from the E10 to here is a thrill. You will pass a small Rørvik beach and continue a narrow 816 road to Henningsvaer. This town has a very lively culture and was totally straight out of my Norway dreams. Can I move here permanently? They have the most beautiful football court, cool graffiti artist, cute little harbor, mountain views, colourful houses, lighthouse, amazing restaurants, charming shops, peace and quiet… I could continue this list forever. You’ll just instantly feel like home here.
If you are hungry, go to Fiskekrogen (Dreyers gate 29). I had a delicious meal everywhere in North Norway, but this place felt special for some reason. Maybe it was the love in the food. I even tried some whale. Not sure if it’s ethical, but it’s been a tradition in Norway for thousands of years. When in Norway, do as Norwegians do.
Click pictures below!
My travel tips to Lofoten
- Rent a car for a flexibility to explore
- Perfect itinerary is no itinerary for Lofoten road trip
- Keep in mind that you can fly, drive or even take a ferry to Lofoten Islands
- Pack good hiking shoes. Trust me you will need them!
- If possible, reserve accommodation before your trip
- Rain gear is a must in any season. Waterproof jacket and pants will keep you dry.
- Get lost and explore small roads outside the main road E10
- Try hiking at least once.
- Enjoy a local seafood cuisine
- Respect the nature and locals
Thanks for reading!