Radka overlooking part of Lofoten islands
Uncovering Islands: What you must see and do in Norway’s Lofoten Islands
Written by Ornella Bressan
On 20 May 2024

Ditch the city chaos for fresh fish caught locally, scenic drives overlooking the picturesque villages and the Northern Lights that can be seen everywhere in Lofoten.

From the midnight sun to the beaches with white sand, clear blue water and jaw-dropping mountains, Norway’s biggest island chain is a treasure trove even for locals. However, its beauty comes at a price – transport. There are many ways you can reach Lofoten, but you will not be able to have a direct flight, train or bus to it.

If coming by plane, you should look to land either in Bodø or Evenes. From the latter, you will be able to catch a bus that will drive all the way to the end of Lofoten in Moskenes which is about a five hour drive away. From Bodø instead, you can catch a taxi to the nearest ferry terminal that will take you to Svolvær, a town that has been highly recommended by a local. 

In fact, Radka Stankova, a local guide, co-owner of guide to Lofoten, says that Reine or Svolvær are a must-visit. She recommends staying three days in Reine to savour its natural beauty and four days in the capital of the islands, Svolvær.

“Svolvær is where the locals live whilst Reine is more the tourist part and it’s what most people associate Lofoten with because of the steep mountains and lots of smaller islands with fishing villages there.” 

The village of Reine in Norway

She relocated from the Czech Republic to Norway 12 years ago and eventually settled on the Lofoten Islands three years ago.

She says: “I came to Norway in 2012 to study for one semester at the university, but I fell in love with Norway so I prolonged my stay, did an internship, and then applied for a Master degree there.

“It was always our [her and her partner Ivar] dream to move there [Lofoten islands] and run a hostel. In 2021, after we got stranded for a couple of months in Argentina, where we had to leave our van, I finally decided that I do not want to go back to work in the private medical sector and when I found a job offer to run a hostel in Lofoten I applied and we got the job.

“We quit after six months though and then we moved around the region to Narvik and Tromsø, before coming back to Lofoten and starting our own company.”

As an experienced local guide for Norway’s islands, she recommends coming from May to October if you are looking to be surrounded more by locals instead of tourists.

It is worth pointing out that although in July and August it does get crowded with tourists, from May to August you will have the chance to experience the midnight sun, whilst after September the night period approaches, and the Northern Lights season starts.

“In September you still don’t have snow, you can walk around hiking the mountains, see the autumn colours but also the Northern lights at night,” Radka says.

Sports in the Lofoten Islands

If you enjoy walking up a mountain to be rewarded with the most hypnotising view, or looking to catch the best waves with your surfboard, or even feel your adrenaline spike as you ski down the mountains, you will be able to do all of that in Lofoten.

For surfers, during autumn if you head north of the island you will grab the finest waves at Unstad beach. 

For skiers, head east of Lofoten, specifically around the Svolvær area. If you are used to taking slopes or lifts, forget about them, so in your case having a guide to ski is highly recommended here.

You can also go snowmobiling around Tromsø

For hikers, Radka says: “For us in Lofoten the number one activity would always be hiking in the mountains. You have so many beautiful hikes that you can stay here for months, or years, and still keep yourself occupied.” 

In Reine, you can hike up Reinebringen mountain, a challenging trail that takes a couple of hours, but the effort pays off at the top with stunning views of the picturesque fishing village of Reine, Reinefjorden mountain, and the deep blue fjords

Reinefjorden

For less experienced hikers, Kvalvika Beach offers beautiful scenery with mountains over 600m surrounding the isolated beach.

Kvalvika Beach

Food in the Lofoten Islands

Lofoten is known for its high quality fish, and is in fact known for its annual fishing competition. If visiting during the cold winter season, the best months to book for are in particular between March and April. Those two months allow you to enjoy the fishing season and taste their renowned stockfish. 

Radka successfully caught one of their local cod

The tradition of fishing cod and air-drying it to a hard stick-like texture dates back over a thousand years, originating from Viking times when they exported it commercially during their long voyages around the 10th century. Today, stockfish remains a must-try delicacy in Norway.

Cod being air-dried

Said stockfish can be eaten at Børsen Spiseri, a fish restaurant part of Hotel Svinøya Rorbuer located in Svolvær. The restaurant was built on a warehouse dating back to 1828 and considerable emphasis has been placed on maintaining the building’s original features. 

“It will make you feel like you took a trip back in time”, our local guide says.

Børsen Spiseri

Another restaurant recommendation is Holmen in Sørvågen, famous for its dinner experience of five course meals, which use local ingredients and have seasonal menus. They also host ‘Kitchen on the edge of the world’, a culinary five days immersion, where star chefs will cook using local ingredients in the evening and different kinds of experts will take over carefully planned workshops during the day, inviting guests to fully immerse themselves in Lofoten’s nature.

Delicacies in Holmen – Picture taken by Holmen

However, at any restaurant one thing you should ask for to try the Norwegian cuisine is the ‘catch of the day’, where you will be served fresh fish. Alternatively, you can also have a bite of the whale steak which is still legal in the country.

Activities

When it comes to what you can do in Lofoten, most of it involves the ocean, such as:

Kayaking
Paddle with your kayak around Reinefjorden, Svolvær, Skrova, and Henningsvær
RIB boat 

Take a boat and go through mountain Reinefjorden or whale watching in Tromsø

Whale watching

You can also visit the Lofotr Viking Museum in Vestvågøy, which is one hour away from Svolvær

Radka says: “It’s a pretty cool museum because back in the 80s there was a farmer who was ploughing his field and suddenly he found some artefacts from the Viking time. When the archaeologists arrived they started to dig and they discovered the biggest remains of Viking’s longhouse. When they excavated the parts that were left, they built the exact copy of the longhouse next to it, which you can visit now walking inside.”

Moreover, there is a lake not far from the museum where you can see exact copies of Viking ships that were found near Oslo and visit the inside as well as sail on the lake.

The viking ship sailing around the lake

Of course, we could not forget to mention the Northern Lights. The best time to see them would be from the end of August to the beginning of April. However, to get the best view, it heavily depends on the weather and with Lofoten having microclimates all over the islands, you more often than not have a chance of seeing them anywhere as long as there are clear blue skies. 

The mesmerising Northern lights recorded by Guide to Lofoten

Credit: all pictures belong to Guide to Lofoten

Things to know for a trip to the Lofoten Islands

Travel Information: Norway

  • Currency: Norwegian Krone (NOK).
  • The main language spoken is Norwegian but English speakers will be able to communicate effectively with locals.
  • Renting a car is highly recommended to see all of their gorgeous landscapes. However, if travelling during the off-season, Radka advises against using the car if not used to driving in the icy and snowy narrowed roads and instead stick to buses and guided tours.
  • If coming during the off-season, expect to find most independent shops closed or with short opening hours.
  • Looking for some guidance to the Lofoten Islands? Radka and Ivar will be able to help you plan the trip — For more information visit: https://guidetolofoten.com

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