Yes, the Lofoten islands are located well above the Arctic circle. But due to the warm Gulf Stream, the archipelago actually enjoys a milder climate than other Arctic regions. That’s good news for you, as here you’ll find some of the most breathtaking beaches in Norway – it would be a pity not to swim, kayak or surf.
The island of Vestvågøy, the beating heart of the Lofoten archipelago, is home to several beaches: you have Haukland at the north side, with its white sand and crystal blue waters; Unstad, with its smooth, large rocks surrounding the water from each side making it ideal for surfing; then scenic Uttakleiv that’s become one of the most photographed places in Lofoten. At the island of Moskenes you’ll find Kvalvika, another gorgeous beach surrounded by mountains that surfers frequent. In case you haven’t figured out by now, Lofoten is one of the world’s northernmost sites for surfing. Don’t forget your board!
If you’re more of a mountain type don’t worry: Lofoten has got you covered. From the highest peaks to easy hikes for the whole family, there’s definitely a route to get your adrenaline going. You can start easy with Ånnhammeren, which is only ten meters high but a natural landmark and a great viewpoint (follow the 1,5 km-long Bleu Trail to get there). Or you can go big in Værøy, taking the path to Håheia to enjoy a panoramic view at 400 meters high. There are hikes that will lead you to lakes or hikes that you’ll have to take a boat trip to get started. Lofoten’s official website has enough hiking suggestions to fit a month, let alone a weekend.
The people living in Lofoten since the ancient times have relied heavily on fishing and seafood. It’s small wonder then that the local cuisine to this day is all about fish: restaurants in Lofoten will serve you fish that was just caught right on their doorstep. In places like Børsen Spiseri (an institution in Svolvær since 1828) or Gammelbua in Reine you’ll get an authentic taste of Lofoten food, while also taking in the beautiful surroundings. Don’t worry if you fall in love with the flavors a bit too much: there’s always the likes of the Lofotmat deli where you can buy a slice of Lofoten to take home with you.
The Lofoten archipelago played a very important part in Viking culture – and perhaps the best testament to that is the Lofotr Museum. One of the best Viking-related experiences you can have in Norway, at the Lofotr Museum you can marvel at the archaeological findings of the largest Viking house ever uncovered. You can also enter a Viking hall and other reconstructed areas (even ride a reconstructed Viking boat), eat Viking-appropriate food and play with the farm animals. If you visit in August, make sure not to miss the annual Viking festival.
Norway is definitely not short on places to watch the Northern Lights – but it seems that Lofoten are uniquely blessed in that department as well. The Aurora Borealis season here is a bit longer, lasting from September to mid April due to the milder temperatures. Most beaches are guaranteed spots for Northern Lights viewing, but Uttakleiv seems to be extra popular with photographers. We can’t really blame them.
But here’s the thing about the Lofoten archipelago: it doesn’t have to be Northern Lights or Midnight Sun season for you to shoot incredible photos. There’s something about the craggy shorelines and the contrasting colors of the typically red fishing cabins with the blue waters that makes this a captivating destination any time of the year. If you’re staying for just a weekend or longer, that’s up to you.