Guest Post: While most of the content on this site has been written by me (Tara), I’d like to thank my husband Rann for this post on the Lofoten Islands, Norway. While I was off at a blogging conference in Sweden, he set out on a grand adventure with our two kids. Post-trip, they all declared that it was one of their favourite places in all of Norway. Read on to find out why.
While in Norway, I found myself with 4 days on my own with the kids while my wife attended a travel writer’s conference in Stockholm. What to do with the kids? I had my work cut out for me. We had already visited Oslo, Bergen, Pulpit Rock, and Alesund, and I was looking for another exciting adventure. Fortunately, I had consulted a few Norwegian friends while planning our trip to Norway. They each had their own opinion on what to see and do over our 2 week trip, but one location they all agreed upon was the Lofoten Islands. As I was looking to head further north anyway, closer to the land of the Midnight Sun, Lofoten was a perfect fit. Take a quick peek at what there is to see in the Lofoten Islands in this 1 minute video, or just read on:
Getting to the Lofoton Islands
Most people travel to Lofoten via the town of Bodo (as was the case with us, flying in from Trondheim). From there, you can fly or take a ferry to the islands. While the first sight of the jagged peaks rising up on the horizon would be spectacular from the ferry, I opted for the 10min flight from Bodo instead since we only had a limited amount of time on the islands (the ferry takes 3 hours). The memory of a previous rough (and very queasy) ferry crossing with the kids also might have weighed upon my decision.
Of the 12 flights we had throughout our Norway trip, the Trondheim – Bodo – Leknes (Lofoten) had the tightest connection, with only 35 minutes to spare in Bodo. Miss it, and we would have to overnight in Bodo and miss half of our stay on the islands. At the airport, I realized that despite only being a relatively short flight, it was to make two stops between Trondheim and Bodo. The flight also departed 15 mins late due to a refueling delay. It wasn’t looking good. However, not unlike a community bus, the stops went smoothly. A few people hopped off at each then off we went. When we arrived in Bodo, the 20 mins until the next flight was ample time to buy a Kvikk Lunsj (the Norwegian equivalent of a Kit Kat) and saunter over to the next gate.
Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day for our arrival. The tips of the tallest peaks were all I could see in a sea of clouds. Once on the ground, we rented a car. One really needs to drive around to take in the beauty of these spectacular islands. It was a leisurely 1hr drive from the airport to our accommodation. Speed limits really seem to be the upper limit that people “may” drive in Norway (just saying…) and more so on Lofoten as the scenery tends to keep eyes off the road.
Lofoten Islands Hotels
For a traditional accommodation experience in the Lofoten Islands, most people stay in a Rorbuer, which is a converted traditional fishing cabin. They can be found dotting the various islets, surrounded in all directions by either the sea or jagged, near-vertical peaks. Our cabin at Eliassen Rorbuer was simple, with plenty of space. It had a full kitchen (handy for extended stays), living area, bathroom (shower only) and two bedrooms (sleeps 4 & 3).
Please note: Accommodation is limited in this area and books up very early.
Accommodation in the Lofoten Islands (Rorbuer)
While these aren’t exactly luxury hotels, they are very nicely remodeled fishing cabins with beautiful views.
Lofoten Islands Restaurants – Where to Eat
Most of the major Rorbuer on Lofoten seem to have their own restaurants serving local specialties (mainly fish and lamb). In advance of the trip, the only comment I would get regarding Norwegian cuisine was in reference to how expensive it is. Perhaps it is because we tend to put in the extra time looking up reviews but I really can’t remember having a bad meal in Norway. In fact, the second night in Lofoten, we had one of our best meals just down the road in Reine (actually over a couple bridges) at Gammelbua. Other highly recommended restaurants in the Lofotens include Himmel go Havn, Huset Kafe and Restaurant Karoline.
Things to Do in the Lofoten Islands
As far as activities go on Lofoten, there are plenty. It’s more about how much time one has. Fishing, hiking, kayaking, whale watching opportunities abound. For me, it was about how much can I squeeze in a day without keeping the kids cooped up in the car driving from one site to the other. We started by driving the 15 or so mins to the Southern tip of Lofoten. A pretty little collection of houses named Å. On Lofoten, one can’t really call them towns, hamlets perhaps? After a short stroll, we found what I had come for…the bakery. The tiny bakery looked like it hasn’t changed since it was built in 1844 and I have to say, the Kanelboller (cinnamon roll) was the best I had in Norway. Fueled up, we drove straight to Lofoten’s Viking museum.
LOFOTR Viking Musuem
I had read a little about the Lofoten’s Viking museum in advance. It was a reconstruction of the largest Viking building ever found in Norway. It’s sheer size and the artifacts found nearby point to the importance of the Lofoten Islands in the Viking era. I also found it interesting that some Icelandic sagas mention a man from Lofoten, suggesting that was the route the settlers came to Iceland.
The museum itself was a big hit with the kids. Upon entrance everyone gets headphones and a laser pointer. You then watch a short film (~15mins) about possible life of the former inhabitants. Our daughter was particularly interested in the film as the protagonist was the Chieftain’s daughter nearly the same age. You then move out to a room full of artifacts. Not normally what would interest an 11 and 9 yo but the interactive nature of the laser pointers really kept their interest long enough for me to get the history of the more interesting of items.
Walking out of the visitor’s center, we passed a pen with a large and rather fearsome looking boar. Quite the beast. The kids really enjoyed checking him out as well as tossing some buttercups to the herd of sheep further down the path.
We opted to walk straight to the “activities” area and hit the long-house on the way back. It is about a 1km walk down to the lake. There we found axe-throwing, archery, horse ride and a replica Viking ship. Needless to say they were big hits with the kids. Guides take groups out to row the ship around part of the lake every half hour. Upon our return, we took a brief walk through the long-house to see a very good reconstruction of what would be inside such a building over 1000 years ago.
We easily spent two hours there and including the 1+hr drive each way, half the day was pretty much filled. After grabbing a couple of sandwiches at a nearby café (they do have plenty of food offered at the museum as well), we carried on.
The Beautiful Beaches of the Lofoten Islands
One of the most beautiful beaches in Norway is said to be Haukland.The Lofoten scenery clearly plays the central role in the beauty of the beach. The sand in the islands is remarkably light which makes for nice stretches of white sand beaches as well as near Caribbean turquoise water. So tempting was the crystal clear sea that my daughter and I threw on our suits for a VERY brief dip in the frigid water.
Our remaining time on Lofoten was filled with gazing at the incredible scenery and climbing all around the rocky shorelines. Had we another day, we would have taken the ferry from Reine to Vindstad and hiked 1hr to Bunes beach. I was told by a local that it is a must-do. Note: The Lofoten Islands have some of Norway’s best surfing.
Learn more about Lofoten Islands activities and attractions at : www.VisitNorway.com
Things to Do on a Bodo Stopover
The next morning we dropped off the car (literally …keys in a drop box… why aren’t all car returns that simple???) and caught the puddle-hopper over to Bodo. One of my boxes to tick for Norway was to visit the Saltstraumen, one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. Of course, it involved a longer layover (6hrs) in Bodo and yes… another rental car. After a 40 min drive we parked at the visitor parking and walked below the bridge to check out the maelstrom. It was quite the sight watching the force of the tides through the narrow divide. We also walked up on the bridge to check it out from high above. After a pizza dinner at the airport, we were back off to Oslo for our final two nights in Norway.
Overall, the Lofoten Islands were an unforgettable experience and a (if not, the) highlight of our entire trip. For those with that passion to just get outdoors and take in nature at it’s most magnificent, the islands are a must-visit if you can make it to Northern Norway.