Lofoten Island by Rental Car
The Lofoten Islands are very isolated and they are north of the Arctic Circle, so you will need a rental car for your visit. If you fly in, pick up a rental car at the airport in Leknes or Svolvaer. The best way to get to Lofoten Islands is through the town of Bodø, in northern Norway. Bodø offers half hour direct flights to either Leknes or Svolvaer on the Lofoten Islands. You can fly non-stop to Bodø from Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim or Tromsø.
You can also take a rental car on the 3 hour long ferry ride from Bodø to Moskenes on the island of Moskenesøya. The ferry arrives in the most photographed and popular part of the islands. You won’t be renting a car in Bergen, because it’s a 4 day road trip one way to get to Lofoten Islands.
Hurtigruten in the Lofoten Islands
Another way to get to the Lofoten Islands is on the Hurtigruten ships that sail the 7 day one way voyage between Bergen and Kirkenes. In summer the Hurtigruten voyages offer several day trip options on the islands. Passengers leave the ship in Stamsund for their excursion and re-board at the next port in Svolvaer. These tours are about 3 hours long. You won’t see the more famous area of Reine area on a Hurtigruten cruise though. The Hurtgruten cruises are a great way to see the entire Norwegian Coast. In summer the Hurtigruten ships also travel to the popular Geiranger Fjord.
When Should You Visit the Lofoten Islands?
You can visit the Lofoten Islands any time of year, but summer is when you can enjoy the sun that never sets. Summer temperatures can reach 65 F, so it never gets hot. The seas get warmer in summer because the islands are at the end of the Gulf Stream, but a trip to the beach isn’t going to involve swimming. The Gulf Stream also helps keep temperatures from going much below freezing in winter even though you are in the Arctic. Winter isn’t a great choice for your visit though because the sun doesn’t even come up in December. July and August are likely the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands, but if you want to see the norther lights choose the winter.
Find you Favorite Villages
Once you arrive on the Lofoten Islands by rental car, it’s time to find your favorite villages. Study the islands in advance because you have lots of options. You can travel across the islands on the E10 highway, which has many bridges that join the isolated islands and communities. You can even drive the E10 all the way from Moskenes to Narvik on the mainland of Norway in about 5 hours.
Reine, Sakrisøy and Hamnøy
My favorite villages are Reine, Sakrisøy and Hamnøy. All three of these favorite villages are close together and just a few minutes from the ferry landing at Moskenes. These villages are where you will see traditional scenes of cod fish drying on open air racks beside rustic fishing cabins called “rorbu”. The background of steep mountain peaks and Norwegian fjords makes the scenery amazing. You won’t find any tourist attractions or shopping districts. You won’t see major cruise lines stopping by either. The isolation is part of what makes the Lofoten Islands so special. If you are an adventurous hiker, climb up to the Reinebringen viewpoint for fabulous views back down over these villages.
The town of Ramberg is on the Atlantic coast side of the islands about a half hour from Reine. The scenery here is very different than the east coast of the islands, because there are some sandy beaches on the Atlantic coast side. Find an AirBbB in Ramberg and enjoy the sand and sea views for a few days.
Rorbuer – Where to Stay in Lofoten Islands
When you look for places to stay in the Lofoten Islands, you keep seeing the words Rorbu and Rorbuer. What’s that all about? Well, these words come from the traditional cod fishing history of Norway. Rorbu refers to a cod fishing cabin. Rorbuer is simply the plural in Norwegian, so it means cabins. When the economy of Norway was based on cod fishing, cabins were built along the shores where fishing boats could easily be launched. Today tourism has taken off in the Lofoten Islands and it’s too isolated for major hotel chains. So, locals have converted their rorbuer fishing cabins into tourist rental units.