Best time to visit the Lofoten Islands


Without the Gulf Stream swooshing past, the Lofoten Islands would be ice-clad all winter; with it, Jan-Feb hover at around 1°C. In Jul-Aug, expect 15°C with the occasional 25°C scorcher! The sun doesn’t set from late May-mid July, perfect for round-the-clock adventure, from photographing wildlife to midnight cycling, but sudden showers and weather that varies across the archipelago is common. In winter, the sun doesn’t rise from early Dec-early Jan, but visitors return in Feb-Mar, lured by long nights for Northern Lights spotting. Come in spring to see orca, often chasing herring around Reinefjord and Vestfjord.

Things to do in the Lofoten Islands

What to do in the Lofoten Islands & what not to

Things to do in the Lofoten Islands…

Get on your bike! Cycling is the perfect all-senses way to experience the Lofoten Islands. Beautiful scenery waits around every corner, and you can hop off any time to visit a gallery or explore a fishing village. Most routes hug the space between mountain and sea, so are reasonably flat, and from early June to mid-July you can even ride all night, with the midnight sun as your guide.
Embrace the Norwegian philosophy of friluftsliv,meaning ‘free air life’. The idea is simply that returning to nature is returning home, but even if you’re more Surrey than Scandi, it’s easy to experience the bliss and calm of this landscape, just be prepared to get out there. Pull on hiking boots or jump on a bike to commune with mountains, fjords, marshes, lakes and wooded slopes. Or explore the craggy and corrugated coastline from the water on a sailing vacation, spotting whales as you go, mooring in sheltered bays and breathing in gales of fresh air.
Stay in a rorbuer. These traditional red or yellow fishing cabins are the manmade mascots of the Lofoten Islands and many have now been converted into vacation accommodation. Sit out on the deck of one as the summer sun hovers over the horizon, gazing over racks of drying cod towards the sea, and you could have time-travelled back a hundred years or more.

Things not to do in the Lofoten Islands…

Leave your camera behind. It’s hard to take a bad shot in the Lofoten Islands. In summer, vivid colours – green mosses, turquoise waters, red fishing huts – compete for attention, while the mix of snow, blue skies and crisp Arctic light turns most winter snaps into classics. For keen amateurs and more experienced photographers alike, photography vacations reveal the best wildlife and landscapes, day and night, with capturing the Northern Lights a goal of any winter trip.
Ignore the wildlife. Although inside the Arctic Circle, the Lofoten Islands are warmed by the Gulf Stream, with mild sea temperatures. This pulls in herring and cod in their thousands, with whales, porpoise, dolphins, seals and seabirds pursuing this fishy banquet. Take to the waves and follow the crinkly coastline to see riotous colonies of cormorants and kittiwakes and spot marine life swimming past, while sea eagles are easily viewed from a RIB in Trollfjorden.
Eat whale meat. Norway continues to defy global opinion over commercial whaling, killing 1,000-2,000 whales a year for meat – much of it aimed at curious tourists in search of novel dining. Whalers cite tradition and claim their prime target – minke whale – is abundant. We disagree. If you want to eat something distinctly Norwegian try elk or moose, but remember to bring your credit card. Budget £75 for a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, without alcohol.

Lofoten Islands travel advice


Dawn Kitson, from our supplier Aurora Zone, gives her insights on this northern Scandinavian jewel, from the best time to visit to how best to chill out.

When to come

“Personally, I enjoy the winter as I think the scenery is just stunning. The contrast of the snow and the white sandy beaches, dramatic mountain landscapes and Arctic light make the Lofoten Islands a spectacular place to visit. This combined with the very real chance of Northern Lights viewing in the evening makes it one of my favourite parts of Northern Scandinavia. Pack for warmth, though: layers, lots of layers, and as much wool as possible!”

Tips on enjoying your downtime

“I love sitting on the edge of the harbour in one of the cafes in Svolvær, just enjoying a cup of strong coffee and some waffles with lingonberry jam – no one does waffles like the Norwegians! – to just watch the world go by.”

Itinerary ideas

“If you don’t want to hike or cycle, there’s still plenty to do here. During the winter months there are Northern Lights tours which are always very popular and a real must any time of the year is a RIB safari to see areas which cannot easily be reached by road, to encounter some of the fantastic animal and birdlife native to these areas. Lofoten War Museum and Magic Ice, a bar constructed and carved from ice, are both quirky attractions in the unique little town of Svolvær.”
Photo credits: [TempChart: Richard Meurk] [When to come:] [Itinerary ideas: Frode Ramone] [Helpdesk: Richard Meurk]
Written by Joanna Simmons
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