Lofoten is an archipelago along the fjords coastline in northern Norway. The road runs snake-like, separating mountains and water, and dropping by every little fishing village along its way.
It is a scenic road that calls for beautiful roadtrips, with auroras in the winter and endless days of green scenery in the summer. My friend Manisha and I drove around the place somewhere in between, in spring, so we saw a bit of the transition between the two, getting a mix of snow and summer tones covering the place.
How to get in and around
The road that connects the Lofoten islands of the archipelago with mainland Norway is the European route E10. It begins in Luleå and ultimately ends in Å (yeah that’s the name of the village), the southern tip of the archipelago.
If you wish to have complete freedom to explore the islands and stop everywhere you wish, you should definitely rent a car or a van. If you plan to go for days-long hikes, then buses are probably a better choice. The largest town on the mainland side before hopping into the archipelago is Narvik. Many car rental companies have offices around the archipelago.
Outside of the archipelago, Narvik is the best place to get a car if you are coming by train or plane. “Arctic Campers” vans can be rented in Leknes and Tromso.
Road maps of Lofoten can be bought at gas stations or online. There are more than a dozen gas stations well spread around the islands. The longest stretch without a station is from Lødingen to Svolvær, about 100 km of distance.
Lofoten can be easily explored by bus as well. Buses stop at more than a hundred locations around the islands, reaching pretty much all villages along E10, route 85 and northern Lofoten. Check the lines and timetables here.
Buses run several times a day, though the schedule may be reduced on Sunday or might differ from season to season.
By ferry or express boat
Many villages and towns of the archipelago are also connected by boat. Quoting the government website, the routes are:
- Bodø – Værøy – Røst – Moskenes
- Bodø – Moskenes (3-4 h)
- Svolvær – Skrova – Skutvik (2.5 h)
Bognes – Lødingen (1 hour)
- Melbu-Fiskebøl (25 min)
- Digermulen-Finnvik (10 min)
- Hanøy-Kaljord-Stokmarknes (60 min)
- Refsnes – Flesnes (30 min)
You can find all timetables and a travel planner tool at Nordland’s website. Google Maps directions include ferry routes in their suggested routes as well. If you are renting a car from Bodø, definitely take it on the ferry towards Moskenes.
Røst and Varøya islands can be reached by boat from Moskenes and Bodø.
Narvik is served by the Harstad/Narvik Airport and a train station. You can fly to Narvik year-round via domestic flights from Oslo-Gardermoen, Trondheim, Tromsø, Andenes, Bodø and Sandefjord. There are international season flights too. From Narvik, you can either rent a car or take a bus.
Trains will only get you as far as Narvik. Swedish trains reach Narvik all the way from Stockholm (about 19h) passing Umeå, Boden, Kiruna and Abisko. Check their website for timetables. Alternatively, Norwegian State Railways connects Oslo with Bodø (about 18 hours). From Bodø, you can either drive north to Narvik (300 km, 5 hours) or take the ferry. Check NSB’s website for timetables.
Photos: roadtripping Lofoten in spring
Manisha and I rented our car in Kiruna (Sweden). We paid about 200€ for a simple 4-seat Skoda for three days.
It was spring, so the weather was unpredictable, hence we took thick jackets, T-shirts, winter boots and flip flops. As we were a bit short on time, we gave up on visiting the northern part of the archipelago, and planned to reach Å on the second day, visit Kvalvika beach, and on the way back take any secondary road that looked like it would take us somewhere nice. We would sleep in the car as well, since it was big enough.
We picked up our car in Kiruna in the morning, and reached Bogen some three hours later. We stopped there to grab a bite, and continued till the Tjeldsund Bridge, which we reached by night.
The day was rather greyish, people in the villages were all indoors, but still the air surrounding them was pretty cool. We then continued south-west, though taking the longer route so that we would pass the cozy little villages of Hemmesta and Flesnes.
In the end, we stopped around Tengelfjord to rest the night. Instead of what the weather services predicted, the morning was really cold and the roadside all white. The wind was really strong through the night, and it felt like it would knock our car over any second.
Å in Lofoten
On our second day, we drove all the way to Å passing Svolvaer, Leknes and Ramberg. I am not a big fan of red-house fishing village postcards, so in the end we hardly took any pictures of them.
Most of the time we stopped to take pictures of the nature around us and the scenic road. The Fredvang Bridges in Ramberg are a must-see spot as well; the two arc bridges make for a really cool picture. A similar set of two bridges can be found between the villages of Hamnoy and Reine.
A common trait to all these villages is the ever-present structures for drying fish. They are a bit smelly too. Finally, we reached Å, which is the shortest name ever and is pronounced like “oh”.
There are at least eight more towns in Norway, Sweden and Denmark called Å, so this one is sometimes referred to as “Å i Lofoten”. We knew that the most spectacular mountains would be the ones near Reine and Å, but we also knew that the weather would not be the best one to hike around. Planning to hike to Kvalvika beach the next morning, we parked our car in Ramberg on our way back from Å.
The wind that night was even stronger than the night before and it also started raining (not sure I will ever trust weather.com for the Lapland region), so we ended up parking by the Bunnpris supermarket.
From above, this supermarket is shaped like a U. So we patiently waited till the supermarket closed (9pm), and then parked the car inside the U, blocking the front entrance and sheltering us from the wind and the rain. Thank you, Bunnpris.
The morning after, we left the car by the lake 2.5 km south of Fredvang, and finally we got started with our planned hike up the hill and down to the Kvalvika beach.
really love the picture that results from big mountains suddenly ending by the sea (but not cliff-like), allowing only for a bit of beach. Because of this beautifully mind-blogging look, I called that “the beach at the end of the world”.
Then we met the surfer from the end of the world. A dude had been sleeping in a very simple shelter made out of rocks, surfing by day and reading his books by night. He left the water and an hour later we saw him hike up the mountain, and we decided to leave as well a while later.
Unstad surf beach
On the way back, Manisha decided the water from the lake was the perfect temperature for a quick bath, and so she did. I did not dare! Before we even reached Fredvang again, we saw the surfer and his huge surfboard walking along the road.
He saw us and pointed his right thumb to the sky, so we stopped to take him in. We ended up fitting his board diagonally across the roof of the car, him holding it in the back so that it wouldn’t move. Charlie was from California and his accent was really funny.
As we approached Vestvågøy, he told us to drop him. We did not really mind giving him a full ride to wherever he was going, so we asked him for his final destination. He was returning to Unstad, a beach west of Vestvågøy where even in the winter a lot of surfers met and spent their days surfing together… so we obviously went all the way to Unstad, taking a westward detour from E10.
The community at Unstad had a really cool vibe to it. I imagine it gets crowded in the summer, but it was also warm and sunny that morning. We had our picnic lunch and some smoking on the sand while watching surfing tricks.
Little did we know that a lot of surfers look forward to these world-end beaches for worldclass waves, no matter how cold. Unstad Arctic Surf has a surf school and rental services there, as well as accommodation for the night and food.
Short as our trip was, we really had to get going at some point. We needed to reach Kiruna before 9pm to drop our car in time, and we had seven hours of driving ahead of us.
Are you a roadtrip kind of person? What is your most memorable road trip?!