I recently visited the Lofoten islands during 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. The Lofoten Islands, also just known as Lofoten, are a popular destination for travellers to Norway, and with good reason. Travellers come from all over the world to visit Lofoten, 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. Or an Instagrammer.
If you are considering whether you should visit Lofoten in winter or summer, this post should 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. Also, if you are considering whether you should visit Lofoten at all, I do hope this post will convince you that you should.
If you do plan to visit Lofoten or the surrounding area in winter, don’t miss my packing guide for winter in Norway!
23 Reasons you should visit Lofoten in winter (with photo proof)
The photos below were all taken by me during my trip to Lofoten in March 2019. 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. Above each one, I’ve put a little description of the place, including how it made it to this list of reasons you need to visit Lofoten in winter (as if the photos weren’s 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.
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), and some sights that you’ll see all over the Lofoten Islands. Plenty of reasons to visit Lofoten, in other words!
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
Have you seen those photos of super blurred out water cascading over icy rocks with the horizon in the background? 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! Completely worth the crowd, though.
Just a 5 minute drive through a tunnel you’ll also find Haukland Beach, which is also very pretty. Both beaches are worth a visit during your trip to Lofoten!
#3 Sakrisøya (the yellow rorbuer)
Sakrisøya is located between Reine and Hamnøy (both mentioned further down on this list
What the photos don’t show, however, is that Sakrisøya, like the rest of Lofoten, has plenty of space where they dry fish. So just to the right of the pretty yellow house you’ll find a bunch of cod hanging out, with a smell to match.
#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). It 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 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 Google Maps directions.
#5 Ballstad & Hattvika Lodge
// Discounted stay
We spent the majority of our week in Lofoten staying at Hattvika Lodge in Ballstad. This collection of classic Norwegian ‘
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? 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 the surfers and the cemetery at Unstad Beach together. 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.
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 (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.
#9 Hamnøya & Eliassen Rorbuer
// Sponsored stay
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. This place, too, lets travellers stay in rustic
Eliassen Rorbuer is at a great location for photography enthusiasts and 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?
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 simply 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 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”, 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? Flaktstad is, like Buksnes, a wooden, red 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 a storm in the 1700s.
#14 The Fredvang Bridges
Lofoten is, as mentioned, 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. Simply put, the weather in Lofoten is so changing and dramatic, that ferries wouldn’t have been a good idea at all.
#15 Sandbotnen Beach
This beach is another popular photo stop for photographers (and Instagrammers) visiting Lofoten. The yellow and red houses below add some great contrast to the blue waters and white mountains surrounding them.
Fun fact: Sandbotnen means “sand bottom” in Norwegian. Find Google Maps directions here.
Vikten is a picturesque community located at the base of a 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 spectacular arts and crafts 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. Basically, 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). Ever since then I have 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.
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 3 hour Northern Lights Safari here! If you are mainly interested in shooting the perfect photo of the Northern Lights, you can also join a Northern Lights Chase with a photographer by heading this way!
#18 Anywhere you stop your car along the road
I mean, seriously. 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. 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 spend so much longer than planned to get anywhere, as we kept wanting to stop! The photo below was 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.
#20 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?
#21 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 best. 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 have in the safety of your own home.
The only Möller’s Tran factory 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!
#23 The mountain hikes
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.
Curious as to what camera I used to shoot these photos from Lofoten? If you head this way you’ll find an overview of my favourite travel gadgets, including my camera gear!
Find a great place to stay in Lofoten:
There you have some of my top reasons you need to visit Lofoten, and especially in winter. I hope the photos were enough to inspire you to take a trip to Northern Norway and explore this breathtaking area! Have you been to Lofoten? Is it on your bucket list? Leave a comment below and tell me!