Located well north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, The Lofoten Islands are a stunning archipelago of islands consisting of dramatic soaring mountains, deep fjords and beautiful beaches. Here you’ll see some of the best and most dramatic scenery Europe or even the world has to offer. I spent a week driving between islands here, staying in some lovely small villages and taking in some breathtaking hikes.
A week was an ideal amount of time to check out what the area had to offer, with only moderate driving times and distances leaving plenty of free time to get out of the car and explore.
Renting a car in Norway
There’s no need to rent anything more than a regular 2WD or standard budget car. The islands are all well connected by bridges and the roads all paved and easily navigable.
I rented my car from Harstad Evenes airport via Hertz. Being Norway, prices were higher than I’ve paid in many other locations in Europe, but I saved as much as I could by renting a small economy car and cutting back on how much luggage I needed.
I would recommend visiting discovercars.com to view the best deals.
Flights to the Lofoten Islands
Harstad Evenes airport is the closest international airport to the Lofoten Islands. From here it’s only a short drive to start your road trip. There are any airlines that offer flights here, but we chose to book with Norwegian Airlines as they offered some great deals for our flight from London Gatwick via Oslo. A return flight cost in the region of £200 return.
There are two smaller airports located on the archipelago itself at Leknes and Svolvaer, and from here a few small airlines offer domestic flights within Norway.
Visit trip.com to search from the good range of flights available.
What is the best time of year to visit Lofoten?
If like me you want to explore the outdoors then summer is the best time to visit. You’ll experience long days and short nights, and if visiting in June or July then you’ll even experience 24 hours daylight. The weather at this time of year is particularly mild as it’s influenced by the Gulf Stream which boosts temperatures. During July I was lucky enough to see some days over 20 °C and plenty of blue skies and sunshine. However be prepared for rainy days which are frequent.
If winter is more your thing then the Lofoten Islands are a great place to try and see the northern lights. You may want to avoid December and January as the sun won’t rise at all so it will essentially be 24 hours of darkness. Expect temperatures well below zero and plenty of snow at this time of year.
Day 1 – Arrive at Harstad / Narvik Evenes airport, drive to Sortland (3 hours driving)
After arriving at the small airport of Harstad / Narvik Evenes it was a 2 hour drive to our first overnight destination in the village of Sortland on the island of Langøya. Whilst not technically located in the Lofoten Islands, Sortland is situated on the Vesterålen archipelago which offers equally stunning mountainous scenery that is worth seeing.
A short drive from Sortland is the small fishing village of Nyksund which is definitely worth visiting. The village was abandoned by 1970 and essentially became a ghost town. However since the 80s and 90s things have started to turn things around and the place has been transformed. People are now living there all year around, and it is open for tourists both during winter and summer. You’ll also find accommodation and restaurants serving local dishes. If you have the time there is a great 5 to 8 hours round trip hike called the Queens Route which winds around the coastline.
There are a small selection of accommodation options in Sortland and I would recommend visiting booking.com to see what is on offer
Day 2 – Kabelvag (2 hours driving)
From Sortland we chose to drive to the wonderfully located village of Kabelvag on the southern coast of the island of Austvågøya. The village has a few shops and cafes on offer, but we chose to base ourselves for a one night to be able to get out and about and take in the scenery and do some hiking in the area.
The Varden and Stortinden hike is one that is worth considering. It was a 12km out and back trail which is moderately difficult, taking in some impressive mountainous scenery and offering stunning views from the peak across the various islands and back towards Kabelvag. We took a short drive and parked our car near Vågan Church to start the hike. Make sure you’re properly kitted out with water and hiking shoes as some of the terrain was quite difficult at times.
Booking.com has a small range of accommodation options to choose from in Kabelvag including campsites if you’re looking to keep your budget down.
Day 3 to 4 – Stamsund (1.5 hours driving)
Stamsund is a charming fishing village on the island Vestvågøy, about 1 and a half hours driving from Kabelvag. One of the main reasons we chose to stay here was the stories we’d heard about how great the local hostel was and how the village would give us an authentic Lofoten village experience.
The Hostelling International hostel in Stamsund consists of old authentic fisherman cabins, located on the pier in Stamsund, Lofoten. Booking is only made via phone which is unusual these days, but it was certainly worth the extra effort making a reservation here. Whilst staying there we were offered free use of a small rowing boat and fishing equipment and headed out into the harbour and beyond to try our luck. Equipped with just a hand reel and hook we were surprised how easily we managed to hook and catch some huge Cod! This made a tasty meal which we cooked outside on the barbecue later that evening, after some help from the locals to work out how to gut the fish…
If the hostel isn’t your thing then there are various other accommodation options available on booking.com.
A hike worth taking is the Steinetinden og Stamsundheia rundt hike. It’s an 8km loop trail from Stamsund although is a moderate to difficult route.
Day 5 to 6 – Reine (2 hours driving)
The fishing village of Reine is located on the island of Moskenesøya. With traditional fishing huts along the shoreline and the surrounding mountains of granite shooting out of the Reinefjorden, the village has earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Visiting Reine in my opinion is a must on your list of things to do in Lofoten. We stayed for 2 nights after a 2 hour drive from Stamsund, taking various pauses to check out viewpoints or stroll along some of the beautiful beaches.
One of the best things to do whist in this area is to explore the fjords by kayak. I was a novice kayaker with limited experience, but had a great time on a 3 hour guided sea kayaking tour. During the trip we covered many kilometres in the fjords, and it was an amazing way to appreciate the landscape around you. You’ll be provided with all the gear and food you need, but I would recommend taking a dry bag for a few of your essentials in case the seas are a little choppy. Fortunately for us the weather was perfect and the sea completely calm.
Another must do here is to take in the Munkan hike. Starting in the village of Sorvagen a short drive from Reine, it’s a spectacular 13km and approximately 7 hour hike. The views from the peak are truely some of the best I’ve ever experienced, and if you find a good weather day then all the better.
Located at the end of the main road is the small fishing village that goes imply by the name of Å. It’s another stunningly located village, and has a few attractions which are worth checking out. These being the Lofoten Stockfish Museum and the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum.
Booking.com has a small selection of options for places to stay in Reine. Whilst we had intentions of staying in the village itself, due to a mix up we ended up staying in a fantastic old fishing cabin in the harbour in Sorvagen, Lofoten Rorbuhotell.
Day 7 – Svolvaer (2 hours driving)
Heading back east on our final day of the trip we drove for about 2 hours to the main town in Lofoten of Svolvaer. Being the regional centre of Lofoten you’ll find shopping malls, clothing stores, supermarkets, a cinema, and a range of hotels, restaurants, and art galleries. My recommendation to sample some traditional Norwegian seafood would be Restaurant Kjokkenet. As with all the towns and villages in Lofoten the surrounding scenery is stunning.
Svolvær is the starting point for tours to the Trollfjord, one of Norway’s most dramatic fjords. The Trollfjord is 2km long and extremely narrow. When large cruise pass through they are almost touching the sides.
Day 8 – Depart
From Svolvaer it was roughly a 2 and half hour drive back to Harstad / Narvik Evenes Airport.