I have a real soft spot for far flung places, either very far north or very far south, so the Lofoten Islands in Norway had always been high on my list of countries to visit. Sparsely populated, but rich in dramatic scenery, the roads of this wild and unique outpost twist and turn to reveal gorgeous beaches, picturesque fishing villages and mountains that rise from the sea. The islands are ideal for those who love to self-drive along with the adventurous at heart, who will be spoiled for choice when it comes to active activities.
We arrived quite late in the evening near Evenes on the mainland, a couple hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. A short walk across the airport tarmac brought us to the luggage belt and car rental desk. Being such a small and efficient airport, it wasn’t long before we were in our car and across the bridge to Lofoten!
One of the perks of travelling at the height of summer is that, during the night, drives are still done in broad daylight under the ‘midnight sun’. This natural phenomena occurs in the far north, where the sun remains visible for a full 24 hours during the summer months. A comforting silence enveloped us during the three hour drive, with no traffic and the soothing sights of glassy water all around us. The roads were an absolute dream to drive on! At close to midnight we reached our first overnight stop in Henningsvaer, a delightful fishing village with a spectacular entrance crossing over several islands. Henningsvaer may only have a population of around 500, but its welcoming atmosphere invites you to wander through its streets filled with colourful wooden buildings, shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and museums. There’s even a gallery housed inside a former cannery. If you’re like me and you love football, you’ll definitely want to see the epic football pitch – a vast swathe of green squeezed onto a rocky islet! There are no stands, only racks for drying stockfish (empty in summer but filled with fish between February and May) and the incredible shoreline in the distance. The pitch was empty when we went, but what a glorious place for a match!
Our self-drive journey then took us to Reine. If you’ve ever seen a photo of the Lofoten Islands, odds are it was of this fairy tale village. This destination is the perfect spot to experience a stay in a rorbu – a traditional fisherman’s cabin. The brightly coloured exteriors are often a combination of red with white trim, reaching out over the water and supported by long poles on one end. Our mornings here started with a seat overlooking the harbour, a cup of coffee, and Norway’s beloved cardamom spiced buns. We opted for a cabin with a full kitchen that allowed for self-catering. There is a small supermarket in the village, as well as a quaint little fish shop just over the bridge in Sakrisoy. I loved selecting fresh fish, a bounty of vegetables and a small pot of homemade aioli to bake up a fresh seasonal dinner in our rorbu. Not far from Reine, you can also visit Å for a short and easy scenic walk.
While driving in Lofoten, you never know what you’ll come across, and having a car means you’re on your own schedule. While on the road one day, we drove past the village of Ballstad, and couldn’t resist stopping by to see what the Ballstaddagan (‘Ballstad Days’) festival was all about. Throughout Lofoten there are both simple and more challenging walks, along with a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking and wildlife sea safaris. As you’d expect, there are a large number of fantastic beaches (names will end in ‘stranda’), which are perfect for a stroll or to simply sit and enjoy the beauty and tranquillity. There’s even the Lofotr Viking Musuem for those who want to experience a taste of what life was like here a thousand years ago. You can learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, or practice your axe throwing skills!
Before we knew it, we were back at the airport near Evenes to begin the long journey home, promising we’d be back one day. Our goal for the next trip is to add on some more time and visit the spectacular island of Senja, located between the Lofoten and Tromso.
Take a look at our Lofoten Islands Self-Drive journey, or contact us to tailor-make you next dream trip here.