I recently visited Lofoten in winter, and all though I was a little nervous at the thought of heading that far north in the darker months, I couldn’t have been happier with the decision once I got there.
Winter is the perfect time to visit the Lofoten Islands in Norway, and this post will tell you why!
The Lofoten Islands, also known as just Lofoten, are a popular destination for travellers to Norway, and with good reason.
People come from all over the world to visit Lofoten (in both winter and summer), especially after seeing all the stunning photos there are of this place.
This arctic archipelago boasts dramatic sceneries packed with steep mountains, dreamy beaches and intense weather. A photographer’s dream, to say the least.
If you are considering whether you should visit Lofoten in winter or summer, this post aims to make the choice a little easier for you. The Lofoten isles in the winter are absolutely magical, and I promise you that you won’t regret it if you decide to visit in the colder months.
Also, if you are considering whether you should visit Lofoten at all, I do hope this post will convince you that you should.
Table of Contents
Quick Lofoten Travel Guide
Where to stay: My favourite place to stay in the Lofoten isles is Hattvika Lodge. They have self-serviced apartments with the perfect, Norwegian hygge feeling – some with an outdoor jacuzzi! Further out along the islands is Eliassen Rorbuer, perhaps the most famous place to stay in Lofoten. These traditional, red rorbuer (fishermen’s cabins) have been photographed thousands of time. If you want to stay in a more typical hotel, you’ll find both a Thon Hotel and a Scandic Hotel in Svolvær – the largest town in Lofoten.
Where to eat: Don’t miss the rustic-yet-fine-dining experience at Lofoten Food Studio, where there are 15 seats around the “chef’s table” that can all be booked individually. Restaurant Kjøkkenet (translating to “The Kitchen Restaurant”) in Svolvær also offers a unique experience as you feel like you have walked into an old kitchen.
Top activities and tours in Lofoten (winter):
- Snowshoe hiking with a guide with epic views
- Fjord cruise to Trollfjord
- Traditional fishing trip with a Lofoten fisherman
- Northern Lights boat trip with tasting menu
- Lofoten Northern Lights Chase
- Lofoten photography tour
Packing for Lofoten in winter: If you do plan to visit Lofoten or the surrounding area in winter, don’t miss my packing guide for winter in Norway! The entire packing list is a must for anyone visiting Norway in the darker months – but especially if you are heading up north. Of course, don’t forget a warm, Norwegian sweater.
25 Bucket-list things to do in Lofoten in Winter
The photos below were all taken by me during my trip to Lofoten, and I am so excited to share them in this Lofoten winter guide!
Trust me when I say that these islands will seriously up your photography game. It’s just not possible to take bad photos there, I swear.
With each photo I’ve put a little description of the place, including how it made it to this list of best things to do in Lofoten in winter – or as I like to call it; reasons you need to visit Lofoten in winter (as if the photos weren’t enough).
I am also including Google Maps destination coordinates for some (via a link), as we found that some of the places were quite tricky to find with the GPS in our rental car.
Side note: if you are planning a trip to Norway, I have created some easy-to-follow itineraries that you can use to make the planning easier, or just follow for the perfect trip to the fjords! There are also self-drive Lofoten itineraries available for immediate download. Find them all here!
The items/reasons on this list are both actual destinations (that will take your breath away), some are specific sights to stop at, whilst others are general things that you’ll see all over the Lofoten Islands.
In other words, there are plenty of great things to do in Lofoten!
Don’t miss this list of 18 things you’ll only understand if you grew up in Norway!
#1 Nusfjord village
Nusfjord is a beautiful fishing haven in Lofoten, and it is actually one of the oldest fishing communities in Norway!
The village consists of a dock area with wooden houses (painted in the Lofoten classics; red and yellow), and is worth a visit just to stroll around and enjoy the beauty of it all. You’ll find that there is fish hanging to dry in various areas of the docks, and an outdoor spa area with a jacuzzi and sauna as well!
Read this next: My guide to planning your perfect Norway trip!
#2 Uttakleiv Beach & Haukland Beach
Have you seen those photos of super blurred out water cascading over icy rocks with the horizon in the background?
If you’ve Googled Lofoten in winter, or something along those lines, you may have.
Well, Uttakleiv is one of the places photographers can go to get that shot! As you can see from my attempt below.
We visited this beach for sunset, and it was packed with photographers (I think as part of a tour)! To be honest, seeing the beach and getting those shots was completely worth the crowd, though.
Just a 5 minute drive through a tunnel you’ll find Haukland Beach, which is also very pretty. Both beaches are worth a visit during your trip to Lofoten, and should be on your list of things to do!
#3 Sakrisøya (the yellow rorbuer)
Sakrisøya is a small island, located between Reine and Hamnøy (both mentioned further down on this list
Now, what are rorbuer, you ask? They are the traditional fishermen’s cabins that have been in use all over Norway, where fishers have stored their gear, equipment, and even their boats in some cases. They are especially common in Lofoten, and many of them have been repurposed and are now lodgings for visitors!
So, now you know. You’ll find that I mention the term throughout the post.
In addition to being a pretty unique place, due to the yellow rorbuer here, Sakrisøya is also where you will find the famous photo op of the yellow house with the mountain peak perfectly placed behind it.
What the photos don’t show, however, is that Sakrisøya, like the rest of Lofoten, has plenty of space where they dry fish. In addition to tourism, dried cod is the main export from the area.
So just to the right of the pretty yellow house you’ll find a bunch of cod hanging out to dry, with a smell to match.
Read next: If you have 10 days to spend in Norway, don’t miss this itinerary I created!
#4 Buksnes Church
This beautiful red church is perched on the top of a little hill in Gravdal, just a short drive from Ballstad (which is the next reason to visit Lofoten on this list).
The church is over 100 years old, and was completed in 1905! When driving from Ballstad you’ll see it with the dramatic mountain peaks in the area as its backdrop, and it makes for quite a majestic view.
Some (not so fun) facts about the church is that it is actually the fifth Buksnes Church (that is mentioned in writing and that we know of), due to some pretty bad luck throughout the years.
The first church was knocked down by the wind several years in a row in the 1600s, the next had to be torn down after several centuries (so it did pretty well), and the third was also ruined by a storm (in 1882).
A fourth church was built soon after, only to be struck by lighting and burn to the ground in 1903.
So you could say the current church is on a good streak at the moment.
Head this way for exact Google Maps directions.
#5 Jacuzzi and hygge at Hattvika Lodge
We spent the majority of our week in Lofoten staying at Hattvika Lodge in Ballstad. This collection of classic Norwegian ‘
We stayed in their newest rorbu: Bendiksenbua, which had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a fireplace (score!) and a private jacuzzi (double score!).
You know I love a good fireplace, and I would have spent every night in front of it (if we weren’t busy chasing the Northern Lights).
Our host at Hattvika Lodge was incredibly helpful, answering all our questions, sharing tips for making the most of our trip, and supplying us with extra firewood whenever we needed.
It really was the perfect basecamp for our busy days exploring the Lofoten Islands, and I couldn’t recommend it enough if you are planning a trip to Lofoten. Just make sure you book early, as this is a popular place.
Side note: love my sweater in the photo above? Learn more about the pattern and similar ones in this post listing 25 great Nordic Sweaters for your trip!
#6 Unstad Beach (and the Arctic Surfers)
This beach is a very popular stop for most people who are visiting Lofoten.
Not just because it is beautiful (there are plenty of beautiful beaches in the area), but because of the sportsmen who frequent it.
Located just a stone’s throw from the beach is a surf resort, and surf enthusiasts travel from all over the world to try these cold waves. Would you do it?
Find directions via this link.
#7 The tiny cemetery at Unstad Beach
I’m adding this as a separate point on the list because it really blew me away, and I don’t feel as if it is fair to couple up the Arctic surfers and the cemetery at Unstad Beach.
Just a short walk from the busy waves of the beach, you’ll find a small, white building looking like a tiny church (it’s more like a chapel, but not in active use today. It does belong to the cemetery, and thus it is styled as a church).
It is an incredibly beautiful resting place, midst the massive mountains and close to the ocean. I found it to be especially beautiful in winter, with a layer of snow covering the field.
Reine is just a short drive (or walk) from Hamnøy (next on the list), and it is worth taking some time to walk around this village.
It is the administrative center of the municipality, and it is also where you will find both a grocery store and a petrol station (which is good to know).
The mountains surrounding the village make for some spectacular photos, especially when the water is still and you get some incredible reflections.
Not only are there plenty of beautiful photo ops here (as you can see below), this is also where you can go on the Reinebringen hike, one of the most popular hikes in Lofoten.
#9 Hamnøya & Eliassen Rorbuer
We were lucky enough to stay at the famous Eliassen Rorbuer during our trip to Lofoten, and when looking at the beauty of this place it is easy to see why it is so popular.
Here, you can stay in rustic, traditional
Eliassen Rorbuer is at a great location for photography enthusiasts, and you may have seen photos of these red rorbuer in your Lofoten research. The bridge between Hamnøya and Sakrisøya is also a great spot for anyone wanting to get a good view of the Northern Lights (if you are lucky enough to see them).
The Hamnøy Bridge is within walking distance, and is a popular place for photographers to stop. The photo below was taken from the bridge, and shows Eliassen Rorbuer in the snow. Quite a photogenic accommodation, don’t you think?
As with all accommodation around Lofoten in winter, Eliassen can get fully booked.
Å is not only the last letter in the Norwegian alphabet. It is also literally the end of the road as you drive through Lofoten. And it is not just another beautiful fishing village (well, that too).
Å boasts of several fun things to do, with the main items on the list being the two museums you find here, and a bakery dating back to 1844 (it is sadly closed in the winter, but I hear they have the best cinnamon rolls in Lofoten).
One of the museums is an outdoor museum where you can learn about the life of the fishermen in the area through the times, and the other is a dry fish museum. So there is plenty to keep you occupied.
In addition, a simple stroll along the docks while taking in this beautiful view is also recommended.
#11 Ramberg Beach
Another beautiful beach in Lofoten. I just can’t get enough of them.
Ramberg beach is known for the little red hut located just off the sand, as you can see in the photo below. The beach itself stretches along Jusnesvika, and has a dedicated parking lot where you can safely leave your car.
It is absolutely beautiful in the winter, and I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the summer!
You are guaranteed to have seen drone photos of the Henningsvær Stadium when researching your trip to Lofoten (or just around the internet in general).
It has become quite famous, and even when the football pitch is covered in snow, Henningsvær is worth a visit on its own.
This beautiful little fishing village has actually been called the “Venice of the Nordics” due to its canals, and in the photos below you can see why. In addition to the famous football pitch, the village has cafes and shops for you to enjoy during your visit to Lofoten.
Fun fact: I found it quite odd that the football pitch is called a “Stadium” (that’s even what the signs say), but when I spoke to a local he told me all about how the spectators of the football matches will climb down to sit on the rock formations surrounding the pitch, making it a little more stadium-like. You can see the rocks he was talking about in the right of the picture below.
Find Henningsvær on Google Maps here.
#13 Flakstad Church
Another church, another reason to visit Lofoten, right?
Flakstad is, like Buksnes, a red wooden cross church, and it seats 300 people. That’s a lot more than is looks like from the outside, and this church is a popular photo stop in Lofoten.
The current church was actually built around the previous one, which was ruined by (you guessed it) a storm in the 1700s.
#14 The Fredvang Bridges
Lofoten is an archipelago, and in order to cross all the islands in the area, bridges have been built to connect the roads.
This allows you to drive through the entire length of Lofoten (all the way to Å, which was #10 on this list) without having to get on a ferry. For some of us (that have grown up in western Norway), this is a godsend.
Of course, the weather in Lofoten is so changing and dramatic, that ferries wouldn’t have been a good idea at all.
Some of the bridges have become quite the photo stop, with the Fredvang bridges being the most popular. They remind me a little bit of the Atlantic Road, which is an even more famous stretch of road in Norway.
#15 Sandbotnen Beach
This beach is another popular photo stop for photographers (and Instagrammers) visiting Lofoten. The yellow and red houses on the side of it add some great contrast to the blue waters and white mountains surrounding them.
This is also a great place to see the northern lights! So, if. you are visiting Lofoten in the winter months and hope to see and photograph the Auroras, consider spending some time at Sandbotnen beach.
Fun fact: Sandbotnen means “sand bottom” in Norwegian. Find Google Maps directions here.
Vikten is a picturesque community located at the base of a massive mountain.
We wanted to go explore it after seeing a photo of this weather-worn hut around Instagram, and so we did.
Vikten is home to Norway’s oldest glass blowing workshop, and you can find some pretty great arts and crafts offers in this place.
#17 The Northern Ligths
Need I say more?
I swear this could be a one list post with just the Northern Lights as the only reason you need to visit Lofoten in winter.
As you may know, the closer to the Arctic Circle you are, the higher your chances to see the Northern Lights. And Lofoten is pretty close.
ASKED AND ANSWERED: What is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway?
Personally, I had seen the Auroras once before, when they were strong enough to be seen in Aurland where I grew up (usually way too far south for them, however in recent years we’ve seen them even in Bergen).
Ever since then I had wanted to see them again, and Lofoten did not disappoint. On our last night there we were treated to an incredible show, and it really is something that has to be experienced at one point in your life. The northern lights are one of the things Norway is famous for, after all.
Here’s how to photograph the Northern Lights with a GoPro (like I did)!
Want to join an actual Northern Lights chase during your Lofoten trip? Book a Northern Lights Safari here!
#18 Lofoten Road Trip
There is so much stunning nature to explore in the area that I don’t even know where to start. If you are planning to visit Lofoten, I strongly recommend renting a car and just road tripping through the islands.
That way you’ll have the freedom to go wherever (and whenever) you want, and stop wherever you want.
Side note: don’t be an idiot and take me literally here. Try to find road pockets where you can stop if you want to take photos, and always use your indicators well. Here are more of my advice for driving in Norway (and not pissing off any locals).
As mentioned, there are so many stunning places around the Lofoten Islands, and regardless of where you plan on going, you’re going to want to pull over more than once to take in the beauty surrounding you.
We spent much longer than planned to get anywhere, as we kept wanting to stop! The photos below were taken on the drive from Ballstad to Henningsvær, as an example.
#19 Flakstad Beach
Flakstad Beach is a beautiful beach where the water lingers on the sand for long enough to turn the beach itself into a mirror of the surroundings.
This could turn anyone into a serious photographer.
We also ran into someone who had caught the Northern Lights from Flakstad Beach, who had taken some incredible shots of the wet sand mirroring the Auroras above!
#20 See (and smell) the fish hanging to dry everywhere
This might be an odd reason why you should visit Lofoten, but honestly, it’s an important part of the local heritage and culture, and worth a mention.
Plus, how many times can you say you have seen something like this?
Local fishing culture in Lofoten is very important, and Lofoten stockfish is actually a protected brand in the EU, much like champagne and roquefort cheese.
#21 Gaze at the beautiful mountain peaks
There really aren’t many places in Norway where you get mountains like these.
Not even on the drive from Bergen to Flåm, and on that trip you actually go through over 35 tunnels thanks to all the mountains.
Lofoten really does a great job at taking our breath away, and these majestic mountains are reason enough to visit.
#22 The Möller’s Tran Factory & Tasting Depot
If you grew up in Norway, like me, you’ll know very well what I mean when I speak of tran. Most likely you’ll have some nasty memories of your mum forcing it down your throat, but you’ll also know in your heart that it was for your own good.
Basically, tran is cod liver oil, and Norwegians have been taking it for generations, in order to keep their health at its peak.
Kids would have to take a spoonful of it every morning at school when my dad was young, but (luckily) today there are flavoured versions you can “enjoy” in the safety of your own home.
The only Möller’s Tran factory that exists is located in Ballstad, and that’s also where you’ll find a tasting room for it!
You’ll be surprised when trying it and realising that it doesn’t actually taste that strongly of fish (my descriptions come mostly from bad memories of not having a choice in whether I had to have it or not).
The tasting depot is worth a visit while you’re in Lofoten! It is run by the same people who manage Hattvika Lodge, so if you stay there, you can easily arrange a tasting.
#23 Mountain Hikes in Lofoten
There are many beautiful hikes in Lofoten, ranging from short and easy to challenging and borderline dangerous. Do your research before you go to find out which one is most suitable for you and your fitness level, and trust me when I say that it’ll be an experience you won’t forget.
Of course, hiking in the winter differs from the summer, so make sure to check avalanche warnings and speak to locals before you go (they will often know the conditions better than any blog you read).
Those who want a truly adventurous trip to Lofoten should consider this 2-night hiking package, which includes all meals!
#24 Visit the Lofotr Viking Museum
I love sharing Norway’s history and culture with visitors, and our Viking history is no exception!
Lofotr is a viking museum located on the island of Vestvågøy, an hours’ drive from Svolvær. If you are driving across the islands (like most people do), make sure to plan a stop here.
At Lofotr you can explore several exhibitions focused on the Viking age in Norway, as well as archeological finds and artifacts from the area.
I especially recommend a trip here for those visiting Lofoten with children, as it is a great way to keep them entertained whilst learning!
#25 Go on a Fjord Cruise
When you think of northern Norway, fjords and fjord cruises aren’t necessarily the first thing you think about. However, it is possible to go on a fjord cruise in Lofoten (even in winter)!
Right where the Lofoten islands meet the mainland, you’ll find Trollfjord – a fjord in miniature (in my opinion), but nonetheless a fjord.
There are plenty of ways to explore the fjord, all by tour, and most of them leaving from Svolvær. Whether you want to go on a silent fjord cruise to enjoy the scenery, or go looking for sea eagles – the below tours have you covered!
Where to stay in Lofoten
Use the map below to find a great place to stay in Lofoten. There are plenty of hotels, rorbuer and holiday homes for rental year-round.
I recommend having two bases if you are spending more than 3-4 days exploring Lofoten, for example in Ballstad and Reine. That way, you can explore the areas near your accommodation. During my 7-day Lofoten trip, I did exactly this.
If you have less than 4 days in Lofoten, I recommend basing yourself in Svolvær and doing your exploring from there.
Lofoten Winter FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
There you have some of the best things to do in Lofoten (winter edition). I hope the photos were enough to inspire you to take a trip to Northern Norway and explore this breathtaking area!
Got a question about Lofoten? Hopefully I’ve already answered it below, but if not – leave a comment and I’ll add it!
There are plenty of things to do in Lofoten in winter, such as snowshoe hiking, seeing the Northern Lights and going on a fjord cruise.
Lofoten is an archipelago in Northern Norway, known for its beautiful nature and scenery.
Lofoten is most known for its scenery with stunning mountain peaks and white sand beaches, but also for the Northern Lights and for the export of Lofoten stockfish.
Lofoten can be visited year-round. In the summer it is visited for hiking and long days, and in the winter for the northern lights and snowy landscape.
At least 3-4 days to explore – ideally 6-7.
Lofoten does not have a night from the end of May until mid-July, when the sun is up 24/7 (Midnight Sun).
Yes, Lofoten is a beautiful part of Norway absolutely worth visitng.
Yes, you can surf in Lofoten year-round. The surfers at Unstad Beach are known as the Arctic Surfers.
By plane to either Harstad-Narvik or Svolvær airport. The flight is around 2 hours.