Situated above the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, the Lofoten Islands represent the wild side of Nordic life. The remote outpost has earned a reputation as a sustainable destination that welcomes visitors, while simultaneously reducing the negative impact of tourism.
The Lofoten archipelago is a historic district in Nordland. When looking at pictures of the colourful houses and enchanting fishing boats, you’ll find it hard to believe this is one of the northernmost populated regions in the world. The diverse landscape is enhanced by endless days of midnight sun and evenings illuminated by the Northern Lights. A quirk of nature sees the Gulf Stream warm the region to a higher temperature than many of the surrounding areas, and as such visitors can experience some of the best surfing conditions in Norway.
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The four distinct seasons offer a wide variety of activities to enjoy here, so planning is essential. Having an idea of your itinerary also helps with getting around Lofoten, which is relatively easy to reach from other parts of Norway. Buses, ferries and flights regularly service the area and local travel app Travel Pass Nordland will give you an idea of how an itinerary using public transport will work. And when the Hurtigruten passenger and goods shipping service, known as the Coastal Express, sails into Lofoten, locals still come out to greet it. The functional side of such a route is obvious, but it’s also been described as one of the most beautiful sea voyages in the world.
As with many other international destinations, major festivals and events have been postponed well into 2021. But the Lofoten Islands have a number of other smaller activities you can take part in, either on your own or in a limited group. Experience Viking culture up close, take a fishing trip to catch skrei (Norwegian cod) or, for a unique experience, play golf under the magical lights of the midnight sun.
There are several highly recommended day trips that you can weave into a comprehensive road trip if you are travelling by car. Medieval market town Kabelvåg is all about historic charm, while working fishing village Henningsvær is peppered with rorbu cabins — traditional fishermen’s cottages — aromatic drying racks and artisanal craft galleries. Local delicacies include cinnamon rolls and savoury dishes made using the catch of the day.
Travelling along the well-maintained roads, you’ll find a number of great spots to stop and eat, from picnic benches with incredible views to small restaurants that ooze Nordic charm. The National Scenic Route is the best way to take in notable points of interest across the islands, with stops at photogenic places such as Reinebringen, Flakstad and Vestvågøy.
A handy code of conduct is available from the official Lofoten website, explaining how you can help keep the islands clean and safe for other visitors. Many accommodation options are also part of the sustainable destination initiative. Here are our recommendations for places to stay in Lofoten.
Many Nordic countries have reasonable budget options, if you know where to look. This great hostel, in the historic Moskenes district, is a superb option for travellers who may have already overspent on getting here. With the Norwegian Fishing Museum a short walk away, you really will find yourself embracing the marine lifestyle.
If you’re after a little more luxury, but still sticking to a budget, this boutique hotel, at the end of a pier in Lofoten’s busiest fishing village, is perfect. Henningsvær would probably be on your list of places to visit anyway, so why not set up camp in one of the 30 double rooms on offer?
Time to turn things up a notch, with these cute boathouses and suites, in Svolvær harbour, on the island of Lamholmen. This self-service resort has all the modern amenities you would expect, with the added bonus of a quiet location that’s still centrally located in Lofoten. We’ve already mentioned the traditional rorbu you’ll see in large numbers in the area; now you can stay in one.
Once you get over the shock of staying in an actual Arctic resort, you’ll find this cosy retreat a fantastic option. As well as excellent dining choices and superbly designed rooms, the fine people at Nusfjord Arctic Resort offer a series of experiences curated by local residents. That’s exactly the sort of thing to complement a trip to these stunning islands in Norway.
The Culture Trip list features places with a feel-good factor that we can’t wait to visit in 2021 and beyond (once we can travel again). It celebrates travel that’s good and makes you feel good. The destinations are dedicated to sustainability; they offer something new and exciting, or an unforgettable moment that will make us fall in love all over again with the world we’ve missed in 2020.
Culture Trip compiled the list based on insights and recommendations from its global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with search data from millions of users from around the world to understand interest in those destinations.