Once home to only Viking clans, the Lofoten Islands in Norway are now accessible by road, train, boat, plane, and even helicopter. But however you get there, you’re sure to be blown away by their poignant arctic beauty and picturesque fishing villages. Tucked into bays sheltered by craggy mountains and sheep pastures, sunlight burns 24 hours a day during summer time, and from August on the Northern Lights dance across dark skies.
Austvågøy, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy and Moskenesøy are the main islands of Lofoten, separated from Norway’s mainland by Vestfjorden. All four are well connected by bridges and tunnels to hop between the various islands with ease. But beyond the rich culture and history, there are plenty of adventurous ways to get to know the true spirit of Lofoten. Sure, lying on the beach and soaking up some sweet Scandinavian rays is an option, but these islands are PRIMED for adventure. Whether you're a cyclist, climber, camper, hiker, surfer, fisherman, or scuba diver, the Islands have a place for you.
Kayaking is one of the most popular ways to tour the islands. If you'd like a guide, there are a number of local tour companies like XXLofoten – but if you want to go out and explore on your own, many businesses rent kayaks for personal use. Paddle around and discover the many coves and inlets that were long ago inhabited by fearsome Vikings.
It isn’t uncommon to see people surfing out in Lofoton’s world-class waves, even in the dead of winter. And this water is cold even in the summer time! Thick, full-body wetsuits are virtually required if you plan on doing any arctic surfing, but a few companies like Unsted Arctic Surf rent equipment and offer lessons.
For underwater enthusiasts, the Lofoten Islands offer an excellent opportunity to explore sunken wrecks or go on a marine life safari with a company like Lofoten Diving. There are a host of amazing aquatic creatures to be seen like arctic crabs, anemones, large jellyfish, and more. Diving companies offer a range of experiences for all skill levels and can provide all the equipment.
Every winter when the Gulf Stream and the Arctic Ocean meet, vast schools of spawning cod migrate to Norway. Cod fishing is actually Lofoten’s biggest industry – and despite dwindling numbers of fish, the fishing culture is still very much alive. Many professional fishermen offer tours and even cruises for visitors.
There are a number of really cool trails that blanket the islands, and each offers breathtaking views over the mountains and ocean. A few of the most popular routes include Reinebringen, Ballstad on Vestvagoy Island, and Unstad to Eggu.
Because all four islands are connected by roads, cyclists can explore all of Lofoten thoroughly in about a week on two wheels. If you travel in the summer, you can cover even more distance in a shorter period thanks to the extended daylight hours.
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The jagged and craggy mountains towering above the Islands are a hotspot for alpinists and rock climbers. Popular routes/peaks in the region include Presten, Vagakallen, and Svolværgeita, and local operations like the Norwegian Climbing School and Northern Alpine Climbing Guides can provide equipment, technical know-how, and tours for visitors.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Winter is definitely off-season, as the islands are much quieter, but for the powder-hound out there, the surrounding mountains get heavy snow coverage. Unfortunately, there are no lifts – so anyone who’s trying to shred in Lofoten better be ready to earn their turns the old fashioned way: hiking.
Besides the ridiculous views from the green, many of Lofoton's golf courses are open 24/7 in the summer months. Golf through the night without ever taking off your shades!