Lofoten, Norway. Usually, I prefer to go somewhere south. But the cold north always ends up surprising me in a good way. I´ve travelled around Scandinavia as a teenager with a tent, but this time we visited Lofoten islands with our LR Defender, which we transformed into a camper. It´s nice up north. Peaceful and calm. And It takes your breath away may times. In one week spent there, we didn´t want to just tick off all the famous places. We went offroad lots of times. And it was always worth it. Here is a long blog post about Lofoten – for me it is a wonderful memoir, for you hopefully inspiration.
We visited Lofoten during our 5 week long road trip through Scandinavian and Baltic countries. From here we continued through Sweden to Finland and onwards.
Places: A i Lofoten, Reine, Kvalvika, Ramberg, Flakstad, Nusfjord, Napp, Haukland, Uttakleiv, Unstad, Borg, Rorvik, Henningsvaer, Svolvaer, Laukvik, Grunnfor, Andenes
How: with our LR Defender
How long: 1 week
Stayed in: wild camping, campsite
We started our Lofoten trip with a FERRY to MOSKENES from BODO on the maninland. We didn´t really have a plan on where to go. We were on the way already for about 2 weeks and were starting to get used to the easy pace.
On the way, we helped finding places and routes over the INTERNET, but we also carried an ancient GUIDEBOOK from 1997. It was fun to see how things changed over the years. We visited some of the most important and FAMOUS SPOTS, but also quite a few HIDDEN ONES. Totaly unexpected, we finished the Lofoten part of our longer road trip in ANDENES which surprisingly ended up being the HIGHLIGHT of this trip. We did WILD CAMPING and went to a CAMPSITE once.
TOP BEACHES LOFOTEN: Haukland, Uttakleiv, Kvalvika, Unstad, Bunes, Horseid, Skagsanden, Flakstad, Vikten, Rorvik, Eggum.
TOP HIKES ON LOFOTEN: Reinebringen, Kvalvika, Horseid, Festvagtind, Floya, Munkebu, Bunes, Glomtinden, Justadtinden, Stokkavika, Ryten, Volandstind, Tjeldbergtind, Nusfjord to Nesland, Helvetestind, Mannen, Munken, Offersoykammen, Nubben, Himmeltinden, Flakstadtind, Hoven, Eggum, Hellostinden, Tonsasheia.
*This list is summerized from the guidebooks and our internet research – not minding the names on the list, you can always find a wonderful nameless bay and a sandy beach to enjoy yourselves. If you intend to do lots of hiking I advise you to be prepared for bad weather and things can change very quickly over here.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO ON LOFOTEN ISLANDS
REINE. One of those places from the list. To tick it off. But you kind of have to come here, even if you don´t want to just tick off things. The LANDSCAPE around this SMALLER FISHING TOWN is just stunning. MOUNTAINS on one side and the SEA on the other make this place magical. No wonder its images end up on the covers of almost all of the brochures and books about Lofoten. Then there are also the famous RED WOODEN HOUSES, built over water, WOODEN RACKS used for DRYING FISH, MYSTICAL FOG creeping around the mountain tops and and and.
Even though it is a SMALLER TOWN, it seems to have everything. SPORTS & CMAPING SHOPS, RESTAURANTS, GROCERY SHOPS, BARS, TOURIST CENTER, GAS STATION, MOTORHOME PARKING and so on. True we expected more tourists here, but still, we were shocked to see how many there really were. Such a contrast to our last days in the wilderness before coming here. BUSSES OF PEOPLE from all over the world have filled the streets and it was more than obvious we have ended up in a TOURIST MECCA.
We did our best to escape the crowds whenever we could, so we used the afternoon for FISHING. One does NOT NEED A PERMIT to FISH IN THE SEA in Norway and we heard Lofoten was the BEST PLACE FOR FISHING. We cna only confirm this. It has been a crazy experience, we ended up with a full fridge for the next days in just over an hour.
Everywhere, we were accompanied by WOODEN RACKS WITH HANGING DRY FISH. We had to stop here and there and take a closer look of the dry monsters. The FISH really look scary sometimes. But even more than the physical appearance, we remembered the STRONG SMELL.
AIRDRYED FISH, mostly COD, are national pride of Norway and Lofoten. TORRFISK, as they call it here, played an important role already in the VIKING TIMES and they are still the main SOURCE OF INCOME for many locals.
IN SUMMER MONTHS the DAYS ARE VERY LONG in Scandinavia, which is great for travelling. You can really see a lot in one day. This time we ended up in a RESTAURANT for a change. We might have fallen into the whole touristy mood and we craved LOCAL CULINARY DELIGHTS. So we dressed up a bit nicer and were sipping beers waiting for the food already at 6pm.
Norvegian people EAT THEIR DINNERS QUITE EARLY and some restaurants close already at 9pm. We found that a bit odd but we blame it on the short winter days. We survived the much early meal and closed one eye while paying the bill. It was tasty but we simply can´t afford 140€ dinners too often right now. But it´s ok, siometimes you just have to enjoy. Besides we had fridge full of fish for the next days.
GOOD MORNING VIEW. Not bad, hm? Much nicer than a hotel, I´d say. Sure, we don´t have a hot shower, fresh towels, nice smelling bed sheets and a TV every day, but to be honest – do we really need all that to have a great holiday? We definitely don´t. I admit, sometimes it feels good to enjoy all those things, but they are definitely not a requirement for good times. The less you complicate, the easier it is.
Our car can get us anywhere we want and it is not hard to find peace and quiet. IN NORWAY, WILD CAMPING IS ALLOWED. We only visited a CAMPSITE one time in the Lofoten, mostly because our dirty clothes have piled up and we felt like cleaning the car a little bit. Campsites usually cost between 20-25€ per night for 2 persons and a car.
It is not the one on the picture, but it looks similar – REINEBRINGEN, the most FAMOUS MOUNTAIN at the back of Reine town is something one should not miss out on climbing while on the Lofoten. Unless there are Sherpa from Nepal fixing the way up just as you arrive. Sounds unlikely, right? Well, it was our case. Apparently there were so many people going up every day that the path was damaged and unsafe. So the Norwegian authorities called for some serious expertise backup and here they were. We realised there is no way coming up there right now, so we will just have to come again. Maybe in the winter tim, that must be awesome!
So, we had to enjoy the VIEWS FROM THE ROAD. But they are not bad as well, aren´t they? Could be worse. Slowly we were saying goodbye to Reine and drove off towards the southernmost town in the Lofoten, with a very funny name, Å.
Å i LOFOTEN
Surprisingly there were even more tourists in this IDYLLIC VILLAGE as in Reine. It was at times bothering us a bit, we were simply not used to the crowds anymore. So our visits to such places were quite short most of the time.
We escaped to a MUSEUM, where we learned all about the DRY FISH. It was very pleasant inside, not to crowded and the owner seemed to be an interesting man who appeared to speak at least 7 languages. Nice. We did not go to a museum too often, so it was always great when we did.
While walking around the village, we noticed a TRADITIONAL BAKERY and the smell of the sweetness was so inviting, we had to go and get a bite to eat. Despite the huge line in front. I think one of us was especially hungry. We ended up on a wooden bench with a wonderful view and 2 YUMMY CINAMMON BUNS.
KVALVIKA BEACH HIKE
Yaaaay, time for our FIRST HIKE ON LOFOTEN. We were not able to do Reinebringen, but here we had perfect weather to at least do this one. The WEATHER CAN BE QUITE MOODY OVER HERE, so be prepared from everything. It can change from sun to rain several times in just one day. After a rainy first day we were very lucky and had a week of sunshine though.
You can only reach KVALVIKA BEACH ON FOOT. There are 3 PATHS, starting from 3 different parking places. Those are pretty busy and you might not get a spot. Parking along the road is not allowed. We took THE MIDDLE WAY UP. This one is THE SHORTEST, but also THE STEEPEST.
Once we reached the TOP OF THE PASS, slightly sweaty, we were rewarded with very nice views down the beach. We did not have a tent, but if we did, this would have been A PERFECT SPOT FOR CAMPING. Waking up to the sound of the waves, surrounded by sheep and a few other campers, must be a great thing.
It was sunny on the day of our hike, but it was quite rainy prior. So the path was MUDDY AND WET, we really had to watch our steps the whole time. I don´t recommend taking this hike in foggy and rainy weather as the last part is mostly walking over slippery rocks.
THE SEA is just wow so beautiful, but so damn cold. Some brave people were swimming, but it was more like quickly in and even quicker out.
Back at the car, we made a short term plan on where to go next. We were thirsty and hungry so we both agreed to find the nearest shop. That was the moment we realized it IS NOT POSSIBLE TO BUY ALCOHOL ON A SUNDAY in Norway, even though all the shops are opened. So, no beers, but at least we got some food. On the way up north, we made a short break at this WONDERFUL BEACH directly at the road.
Somebody made a joke about why hiking for 3hrs to get to a mediocre beach, when you can just drive up to a more beautiful one with a car, but I ignored this remark haha. I agree though, this one was a very nice one.
We continued towards NUSFJORD and enjoyed the views on the way. Lofoten are truly a SPECTACULAR PLACE for NATURE LOVERS and PHOTOGRAPHY ENTHUSIASTS. I think I could drive up and down around here for a whole month ans still find it beautiful. Sometimes it feels like we are in Canada and the next 5 minutes like we were somewhere in the South Pacific. So stunning.
This LAGOON is well worth the drive, especially if you like the TURQUISE SEA and WHITE SANDY BEACHES. The only minus is the LOW SEA TEMPERATURES.
NUSFJORD is a small HISTORIC FISHING VILLAGE, tucked in between the rocks in a fjord with the same name. Here, you can visit SEVERAL MUSEUMS, some are also outside. You can also STAY THE NIGHT in TRADITIONAL FISHERMAN´S HOUSES, which are called RORBUER.
Because we still craved for that cold BEER, we splurged on one here. 20€ for 2 small beers is quite a lot but at least we had great views and sun on top. Yes, NORWAY CAN BE EXPENSIVE, but you can also travel pretty cheap. We had a mix of both and it turned out quite well.
A short walk around the village, I can not get enough of these WOODEN COTTAGES ABOVE WATER, and off we drove. Finding a spot to spend the night.
NEZNANA PLAŽA NA KONCU CESTE vF804
Sometimes, we found A PLACE TO SLEEP very quickly, but sometimes it took some time. It also depends on how tired we were, sometimes we did not want to drive too much and just took the first parking (rarely, but it did happen). And most of the time we drove quite for a while before we found a perfect one. Yes, like here, we often ended up in dead ends, but this is how you often discover unexpected magnificent things.
Like this AMAZING BEACH here, with absolutely no tourists. So sometimes it is great to get lost, even if that means you have to drive back the same road for some kilometers.
As we did not find a spot to spend the night, we decided to head over to 2 OF THE MOST FAMOUS BEACHES in Lofoten, HAUKLAND and UTTAKLEIV. No luck there also. The beaches were nice, but it was only possible to sleep on the PARKING, which was already full with campers. So we moved on. To UNSTAD.
We´ve been on the road for some time already and I admit, WE BECAME PICKY WITH CHOOSING A PLACE TO SLEEP. Mostly because we knew we can find a great spot, so we wouldn´t settle with just any. At the end we ended up in UNSTAD, at the BEACH. Not surrounded by others of course. And our Defender brings us pretty much anywhere without a problem.
Yay, finally DINNER TIME! About time. Don´t know how and what you are eating while camping, but we sure didn´t have spaghetti all the time. Yes, preparing a better meal takes more time and sometimes even creativity with less appliances and space available as at home, but it is worth the „trouble“. FISH we caught the day before, POTATO & VEGETABLES, a PEACH CRUMBLE for desert and MARSHMELLOWS on top. Delicious.
BBQ IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS AT CAMPING. It serves as a kitchen first and you can use the fire to keep you warm late int he night after. Yes, you will probably smell a bit after fire, but who cares. It is pretty easy to FIND OR BUY CHOPPED WOOD, we also had an axe for when we had to do it on our own. Make sure to read the local RULES ABOUT MAKING AN OPEN FIRE, as it might not be allowed everywhere and every time. THE MORNING VIEW is not bad also, right?
UNSTAD BEACH is famous as TOP SURF LOCATION in Norway. Here, you will find a great SURF SCHOOL which offers CLASSES. With full neoprene suits from head to toes it is also possible to SURF IN THE WINTER. This must be really awesome. We gave it a pass this time, but we did visit the school quarters and had a YUMMY BREAKFAST, including their delicious CINNAMON BUNS.
We could have easily stayed here an extra day, but we were running out of food so we drove off. Again, we were accompanied by magnificent nature. Hills, sea, lakes, sheep – yes, it is kind of the same every day, but it just doesn´t get boring so easily.
BORG | LOFOTR VIKING MUSEUM
Despite a bit HIGHER ENTRY FEE, we decided to visit yet another museum, this time about the VIKINGS. This is something i really recommend doing here, as it is nothing like an usual museum. Amongst other things, we tried ARCHERY, AXE THROWING and PILLOW FIGHT on a wooden footbridge. In the covered part of the museum, they were cooking a real VIKING STEW which you could eat. There were men and women dressed in TRADITIONAL CLOTHING, presenting viking crafts. We could talk to them and they were happy to explain everything. We also got to see a real VIKING WOODEN BOAT at the docks. So very cool.
From here, we took the famous E10 ROAD and with a couple of detours drove towards HENNINSVAER. On the way, the LANDSCAPE was yet again impressive. I was mostly admiring the beaches again, where the sea was so green that it almost blended the eyes. Amazing. Here in RORVIK, people were actually swimming – mostly local kids though, used to the low temperatures. Anyhow, it was nice to look at, even if we didn´t swim. THIS SECTION OF E10 ROAD seemed to be extremely interesting to us. Again, one of those moments where it is easy to empty the camera batteries before reaching the final destination. Here are some shots from the way.
This small town with just about 500 INHABITANTS is truly something special. On one side it is just another FISHING VILLAGE with a MARINA, WOODEN RACKS FOR DRYING FISH, a few SHOPS and RESTAURANTS. But on the other hand, it has SOMETHING UNIQUE – A SOCCER FIELD. Made only for the amateur players from the town, the field is built at the tip of the village, between rocks, surrounded by the sea. It has the most scenic views around I have ever seen at a soccer field.
On the way from Henningsvaer up north, we took a turn at AUSTNESFJORDEN and drove on MIDNATTSOLVEIEN ROAD. Just like that we found ourselves surrounded by hills and mountains instead of motorhomes. It was soon clear to us that we made the right choice this time.
On one section, the ROAD LEADS BETWEEN THE SEA AND A LAKE, the views over here are so fantastic that we had to stop.
THE BEST THING ABOUT TRAVELLING WITH A DEFENDER? Meeting others who are doing exactrly that. All like a big family, even though we never met before. And so, just here, on this road between the sea and the lake, we passed a white one parked on the side. We almost missed it because we were blinded by the natural scenery, but soon noticed its presence. Martin & Martina, she from German, he from Austria, are just at the end of their one year long Panamericana road trip and decided to finish their amazing trip in Norway. Even if we did not plan to sleep here, we ended up doing that. With great company, telling travel stories while having dinner and sipping wine.
Finally, 2 things have come together as well on that evening – THE WEATHER AND THE PERFECT LOCATION for seeing the famous MIDNIGHT SUN. We stayed up until about 2 am to witness the sun setting just to the horizon line and coming back up minutes later. Something unique again. And we had good company, so overall a nice day.
We´ve been hearing great things about SEEING THE WHALES in ANDENES, so after breakfast the next day we spontaneously decided to head over there and check it out. This is the best about such road trips, you can really travel from day to day and don´t have to have everything planned out.
For the FIRST TIME ON LOFOTEN (and second time in Norway), we spend the night in a CAMPSITE. It was time to wash our clothes, enjoy the hot shower and clean the car. As we found a very IDILYC SPOT overlooking the sea, it was not a hard thing to do.
We called and booked a tour for the next day. We were lucky there was still space as some people book it weeks ahead. Unfortunatelly the weather was getting worse, so we had ROUGH SEAS, but we survived. The tour started around 9 am and we were back around 3pm, the price was a bit over 100€ per person. It included a GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE MUSEUM where we were explained all about SPERM WHALES, which are the most common in this area and later on a BOAT TRIP with soup, coffee & biscuits. After the museum we sailed of to the start of an UNDERWATER CANYON, which took us about 45minutes.
Some of the PASSENGERS WERE SICK on the boat, the waves were really high. But in the moment we saw the FIRST WHALES, everything was forgotten. I´ve seen whales before and I have to admit, the most impressive experience was with Humpback whales in Australia. But nonetheless it is always nice to sea these amazing giants. Sperm whales show only their backs and the tail just before they dive under water for longer time again.
And just when we though we´ve seen it all that day, the BIG SURPRISE CAME. Along our boat, a GROUP OF ABOUT 50 ORCAS SWAM. Crazy. We were all kind of speachless. This was really a very lucky moment and something I could only dream about. The ORCAS SWIM IN ICEBERG FORMATION, meaning there are many animals under water (they never come out) and just a few (in our case around 15) swim on the top and jump from the water as they would be performing. We sailed along the group for around 15 minutes. It was just so surreal and magnificent.
When the captain of the boat is visibly surprised and cheering from happines as well, then you know you´ve experience something special. We left the boat smiling and grateful for this unexpected experience. I´ve uploaded a video on the Facebook page, you can go see it there. At this point I dare to write a few words about ANIMAL THEME PARKS – animals really don´t belong into cages and small pools. Once you see them in the wild, you know what I mean. If everyone would just think if their IG picture is worth of those animals suffering, that would already be a start. Please reconsider supporting these institutions by seeing their shows etc.
We were leaving Lofoten happy and sad at the same time. Happy because we got to see and experience so many great things and sad because our road trip was turning into the last half. Everybody who is thinking about a SCANDINAVIAN ROAD TRIP – just go, don´t wait! It is a lot of driving, but you get so much in return. Next time, we are coming in the winter!