Lofoten Islands Road Trip: Winter Photography Guide

Lofoten Islands Photography
Lofoten Islands Winter Photography Road Trip
Lofoten, Norway

Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands provide the perfect setting for incredible photography opportunities, with soft winter light and majestic mountain landscapes rising from the sea.

The Lofoten Islands are located above the arctic circle in Northwest Norway. Made up of deep fjords, craggy peaks, sandy beaches, and cute red fishing cabins, the islands are a wonderful location for landscape photography.

Especially in February, with the pleasing effects of low winter light.

I rented a car and spent 10 days driving around the Lofoten Islands with my camera, hunting the Northern lights, tracking down hidden beaches, and hiking through deep snow to capture inspiring images of this amazing section of Norwegian wilderness.

With very little daylight and seemingly endless sunrises & sunsets, winter in Lofoten is the perfect time to visit for photography. Frequent aurora sightings and white snow-capped peaks are just icing on the cake.

Below you’ll find travel photography from my adventures in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, along with a short video I produced along the way.

I hope my Lofoten Island photography inspires you to visit for yourself!

Hamnoy Lofoten Islands
Eliassen Rorbuer Cabins on Hamnoy

Hamnøy Island

This is probably the most iconic photography location in Lofoten. Hamnoy is a small island and village near the spectacular fjord of Reinefjord, just outside the town of Reine. Red wooden cabins hug a rocky coastline, with huge mountains rising from the background. I actually stayed in these cabins too! They are called Eliassen Rorbuer. This shot was taken from a nearby bridge after a fresh layer of morning snow covered the landscape.

Lofoten Islands Nusfjord
Nusfjord Mountain Pass

Lofoten Road Trip

The Lofoten Islands are connected by a series of bridges and tunnels along a main road called the E10. Splintering off it are many side roads for you to explore. Like this one, Route FV807, which winds through an impressive mountain pass on the way to the fishing village of Nusfjord. Winter driving in Lofoten can be tricky, with snowy roads and quickly changing weather conditions. All rental cars come equipped with studded snow tires.

Lofoten Northern Lights
Northern Lights in Lofoten

Northern Lights

One of the biggest reasons to visit Lofoten in the winter for photography is the magical northern lights which occur between September – March. With its extreme northern latitude and long nights, conditions are good for nature’s amazing light show. However catching a glimpse of the lights is not certain. Clear skies and strong aurora activity are needed. I lucked out with two decent nights of northern lights while traveling around Lofoten.

Lofoten Islands Fishing
Fishing Community

Norwegian Fishing Boats

Fishing has been a fixture in the Lofoten Islands for over 1000 years. The unusually warm waters lure millions of arctic cod to spawn here between February – April. Most of the population is involved in the cod fishing business in some capacity. Every morning I watched fishing boats heading out to work, or men hanging the “stockfish” on wooden racks to dry in the open air.

Lofoten Islands Sakrisoy
Sakrisoy Rorbuer Cabins

Sakrisoy Rorbuer

More renovated fishing cabins in Lofoten that you can stay in, these yellow wooden buildings are part of Sakrisoy Rorbuer. I was shocked at just how many of these landscapes look fake, like they were created specifically for perfect postcard photos. Here the snowy Lofotenveggen Mountains tower behind the small yellow cabins, a shallow crystal blue bay in front. It’s a colorful mosaic which continually changes with the passing of the seasons.

Lofoten Islands Rambergstranda
Snow Covered Beaches

Rambergstranda Beach

The rusty red color is achieved with paint mixed with cod liver oil. Plenty of that around these parts! When it’s not so snowbound, this is a landscape of waving grass and sky-blue water, and temperatures hit 20 degrees C, but on days like this, everything’s locked down with the cold and if you’re taking photos, you’d better have your gloves handy. Checkout my Survival Guide in Cold Weather for more info.

Lofoten Islands Surfing
Surfing in the Arctic

Arctic Surfing Unstad

Because it’s on the Gulf Stream, Lofoten’s climate is relatively mild despite its latitude above the Arctic Circle, plus the insulating properties of modern wetsuits are astonishing. (If you’re in the water and you’re feeling cold, you’re doing it wrong.) These waters attract surfers of all skill levels from around the globe – and I decided to jump in and give it a try with the guys at Unstad Arctic Surfing. What a crazy experience!

Lofoten Islands Mountains
Giant Coastal Mountains

Lofoten Mountains

Stand on the beach anywhere in the Lofoten Islands, and most of the landscape towers above you, up to a thousand meters above sea level. Inhabitable land is the exception, not the rule – and only possible on infrequent strips of terrain between the sea and the colossal mountains that form the bulk of the island chain. In places, the mountains rise near-vertically from the sea. It’s a stunning backdrop for everything you do there.

Lofoten Islands Photography
Kvalvika Beach Photography

Hiking Kvalvika Beach

This beach, in a remote corner of Moskenesøya, is only accessible on foot – park your car, take the easy trail over a nearby pass between the mountains, and after an hour you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the whole archipelago. During warmer months, Kvalvika Beach a great place to camp, complete with driftwood and a mountain stream – but even when the snow lays thick, it’s well worth a visit. Just expect the hike to take a bit longer.

Lofoten Village
The Village of Å

Å, Norway

No, it’s not a misprint – it’s a one-letter word pronounced “Aw” that in Old Norse means “small river.” This tiny but popular village is at the southern tip of the Lofoten peninsula, and people come from miles around to have their photo taken next to the town sign – and, occasionally, to steal the sign, a constant irritation for the town’s 150 residents.

Lofoten Islands Hiking
Hiking Ryten Mountain

Ryten Mountain Lookout

It may look forbidding, but Ryten (543m) is a surprisingly easy mountain to climb, thanks to low, steadily rising slopes – just give yourself three or four hours to do it. And if you’re visiting Lofoten, you absolutely should do it. The view from Ryten is unparalleled, giving you a view of Kvalvika Beach and the surrounding mountains that will punch the breath right out of you. More care must be taken in the winter when crampons & ice axe are recommended.

Lofoten Islands Sunsets
Beautiful Lofoten Sunsets

Endless Sunsets

Lofoten is north of the Arctic Circle – and that means a lot of things. It means the Polar Night, where the sun spends a full day below the horizon. It means the Midnight Sun, where the sun stays up for more than 24 hours. It means spectacular variation in day length, contracting or lengthening an hour every week between these two extremes. And best of all, it means incredible sunrises and sunsets that last for hours (yes, hours), turning the land and sea every color imaginable. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Stockfish Lofoten
Stockfish Hanging to Dry

Lofoten Stockfish

The tradition of drying unsalted fish (mainly cod) on huge wooden racks goes back at least a thousand years, and it’s still a big part of the Lofoten economy – and a spectacular sight, when the racks are full. If you want to understand the history of this ancient practice, head to Å’s comprehensive stockfish museum. Depending on how fresh the fish are, you may be in for a smelly surprise if you get to close to them!

Lofoten Islands Bridge
Connected by Bridges

Fredvang Bridges

Opened in 1988, these sinuous structures connect the fishing village of Fredvang with its craggy neighbor, Flakstadøya by road. They perfectly match the curves of the surrounding lowland islands – and the effect is a little eerie, as if you’re getting a peek at what’s underneath all the islands if you stripped all the rock and earth away. Driving across is fun, there are pull-overs every few hundred meters because the bridges aren’t wide enough for two lanes.

Winter Fishing Huts
Old Fishing Cabins

Rorbuer Cabins

The signature architecture of the Lofoten islands, rorbuer (singular rorbu) are well-suited to their environment. These tough wooden huts were originally built to protect fishermen as they assembled the year’s stockfish catch. These days, many have been converted (or rebuilt from scratch) into beautiful, primary-colored tourist accommodation – they can be a bit pricey, so it pays to do your homework about what’s available.

Lofoten Islands Photography

If you are looking for spectacular nature, deep silence, northern lights, diverse adventures, wild weather, breathtaking sea and mountain views, you can’t do much better than visiting Norway’s Lofoten Islands in the winter to capture some amazing travel photography. ★

Where to stay in Lofoten Islands?

If you’re wondering where to stay on Lofoten here is my recommendation:

Budget

Eliassen Rorbuer – Cute red cabins. One of the most photogenic places I’ve ever stayed in.

Check prices on: Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda

Watch Video: Lofoten Islands Road Trip


Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch Lofoten Islands Road Trip – Norway on YouTube)

Travel Planning Resources For Lofoten Islands

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Norway
Suggested Reading: Lofoten Islands Photography Guides

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You will love this Lofoten Islands Photography. More at ExpertVagabond.com
You will love this Lofoten Islands Photography. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE ARCTIC TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on the Lofoten Islands Road Trip! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about traveling to the Lofoten Islands? Are you planning a trip? Let me know in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (42)

  1. I really loved your article and the photos are amazing. Would have never thought of surfing in this great land of snow that is Norway.

  2. Just wow! Love every single one of your photos, with the surfing in the Arctic probably being the coolest one. I really want to visit Norway one day and now I’m adding Lofoten Islands to my bucket list for sure!

  3. Great pictures indeed. They remind me of my time as a student in neighboring Sweden. I used to travel around Scandinavia and was amazed by the beautiful mountains in particular. I missed seeing the lights because I partied too much while on cruise and by the time I woke up, it was no more.

  4. Thanks for making a great presentation of “my” Lofoten. 😊👍🏻
    We tried to surf on Unstad this summer, but after four days with flat sea we had to go back south.. But we will try again.
    Best regards
    Marianne from Lofoten 😊

  5. Thanks for writing this. Me and the wife have been planning a trip to Norway. We were only going to go as far north as Fefor but after seeing these photos we’ve decided to replan! Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Thanks for a really inspiring article about what you can do if you just get out there – a car, a camera, and a sense of adventure. I picked this one as a selected article for our recent newsletter, in which we each month try to find some special and noteworthy article from the world of photography blogs. And this is one of them. Thanks again.

  7. I will never get tired of these views. When I lived in Iceland, I made frequent trips to Norway and Sweden but I really wish I spent more time in the Lofoten Islands. Nothing quite like it. You took some magical photos!

  8. Matthew your pictures are amazing! thank you for sharing. What equipment did you use to capture these images? I’m going to Lofoten islands in March 2017, are there any particular vantage points I should look out for ?

  9. WOW!!!!!!!!!!! Postcard perfect place! What an incredible expereince to see this in “real life”.
    I really want to see the Northen lights and sleep in the snow (different subject sorry haha!)
    Do you sell your pictures Matt!? If not you should they are freaking amazing!

  10. Great photos and awesome places, I mark it in my calendar. If I don’t rent a car,
    is it worth to take a local bus there?

    Bangkok friend.

  11. I just wrote a post/gallery about my experience on Senja Island in the North back last February, similar stuff its awesome! Probably one of my most epic adventures…. nothing like seeing those Northern Lights

  12. Did you bring the crampons and ice axe with you for the Ryten Mountain-lookout hike?

    Were you bagging your gear to keep it from freezing when shooting, or was this not a problem??

  13. Wao : Lovely Sakrisoy Rorbuer I am feeling lovely after look this photography of Sakrisoy Rorbuer also beautiful hut home. I wish to stay here.

  14. The images are stunningly beautiful! Congrats on your photo taking skills :) That must be a harsh land to live in.

  15. Some really awesome shots in this one. Great work! I really want to visit somewhere like this or Iceland where you get those long sunsets. All that magic light to shoot with!

  16. Beautiful photos!! I went to Norway at the end of January to take pictures and I couldn’t believe how pretty it was. It was definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, with Iceland not far behind. I went to Tromso and Kirkenes but will definitely go to the Lofoten Islands next time.

  17. Your photos are incredible! Being from Canada I never really want to travel to frozen landscapes, but this post has really inspired me to want to go to Norway, and the Lofoten Islands. Top notch Matt! Keep up the great work! Let me know if your ever in western Canada!

    • Yeah, don’t underestimate winter travel! I’m enjoying it more and more these days. Especially with wild & beautiful landscapes like Lofoten.

  18. Stunning shots and descriptions. I am not one for cold locations but this ignited my childhood winter land fantasy.From the Nothern Lights to the water front locations your article left me feeling warm inside :)

    • Nothing a roaring fire and hot cup of tea can’t fix at the end of the day. Glad you enjoyed the photography from Lofoten. :)

  19. Wow, some of your best photos to date! I’ll be there in July and I’ll be staying in the Eliassen Rorbuer as well! I’ll have to find that bridge and get a summertime version of your shot.

    Did you hike the Reinebringen?

    • I wanted to hike Reinebringen, but the weather was crappy when I planned to. It’s tough to do in the winter, and you need crampons/ice axe. Hopefully on a summer trip though!

  20. What a journey!

    The photo of the Nusfjord Mountain Pass made me feel overwhelmed just looking at it! You’re a great photographer also :)

    James

    • Nature’s best light show for sure! You really have to get lucky with the weather in the Lofoten Islands though, it’s often cloudy.

  21. awesome pics matt, I hope to travel to this amazing place one day.
    Keep on making this amazing histories, as you are a true inspirational person.
    see you around.

  22. Lofoten has been on my bucket list for a while. Your pics are stunning. I admire your dedication to setting up self-portraits!

  23. The images are breathtaking!! I love that I get to see so many unique locations through your expert lens. Thank you!