Practical Travel Tips: Lofoten Islands, Norway

We had to actually Google Lofoten Islands when we received this submission. It is an archipelago in the northern part of Norway. If you are going on one of those cheap Norwegian Air Shuttle deals to Oslo, it might be worth the visit. Varud of Bicoastal Cooks, who last wrote about Buenos Aires, is back with his practical travel tips to this island.

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The Lofoten Islands are paradise. They are without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I have had the opportunity to visit so far on my travels.

It is very unique that these Islands can also be two different experiences depending on the season. During the winter, they are famous not only for the striking snow covered mountains surrounded by the Arctic and sprinkled with fjords, but are known as one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights (along with, being a big exporter of dried cod that fills the shores and scents of the island during this time of the year). And in the summer, the islands transform into a vacation spot for Scandinavians great for the beaches, hiking, and devouring fresh shellfish. We went during the winter months and I have already started looking forward to my return.

Lofoten Islands, Norway - Photo: (c) 2016 - Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Lofoten Islands, Norway – Photo: (c) 2016 – Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Costs & Practicalities:

  • We are in Norway, so the costs here are pricey. Being on a solo-traveler budget, I convinced my family to take a vacation with me. If that is not a possibility for you, plan carefully and ahead of time
  • Your major costs will be food and if you decide to do any excursions or activities—other than that, walking and exploring the island is free. The island does not have that many restaurants to begin with and the ones that do exist are on the fancier side; try to balance your costs out by going to the grocery store and picking up things such as smoked salmon, meatballs, and other Norwegian specialties
  • There is public transportation on the island, but most people we spoke to found it to be very restricting (both regarding time and accessibility). We decided to rent a car and without a doubt I would recommend having your own transportation on this Island to be able to explore it fully on your own time (especially if you are here for the Northern Lights!)
  • Reine and Svolvaer are the two biggest towns on this Island. When I say towns, I really do mean towns—small feel and walk-able. We chose Reine due to the option to stay in a “Rorbuer” or a converted fisherman house. Apart from that, this island has the full array of normal to “budget” accommodations
  • During the winter time, you NEED cold weather gear including a snow jacket or parka, boots, hat, and gloves, as well as multiple layers of clothing. In March, which was the tail end of the winter season, we were still bundled up, especially during the nights spent chasing the Northern Lights
  • WiFi is not an issue at all and most airports will have free connectivity
Lofoten Islands, Norway - Photo: (c) 2016 - Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Lofoten Islands, Norway – Photo: (c) 2016 – Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Getting There

  • Firstly, you will need to get to Bodo which can be done either by flights (~$150) from Oslo (there are technically “low-cost” national airlines, but Norway low cost isn’t very low-cost to outside travelers), or the scenic route using The Northern Railway (~$200). On a time constraint go with the flight, but the trains come highly recommended from a local.
  • Second, you then need to go from Bodo to Lofoten for which you again have two options. There is a ferry (~$75) that runs from Bodo to Svolvaer (and a couple of the bigger ports) or another flight (~$150) to Leknes using the company Wideroe (unfortunately, the flights during the winter months are not on daily schedule) that will drop you off in the middle of the Island. Although we had to fly due to schedule conflicts, given the beauty of the Island, I would choose the ferry my next time. And if you do fly, you will need a car to travel from the city to the towns (about an hour to the town of Reine from the airport). Editor’s Note: Wideroe – for those who remember the deal from Thanksgiving 2013, is actually an airline.
  • As complicated as the travel arrangements might seem, it is definitely worth the trip
Lofoten Islands, Norway - Photo: (c) 2016 - Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Lofoten Islands, Norway – Photo: (c) 2016 – Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

To Do

  • Viking Museum – so while ultra touristy, my family had a fun time doing the Viking Feast that this museum offers. The tour includes a feast in a reconstructed Viking hall, private time at the museum, along with some song and dance. The museum by itself is a fun half-day activity to learn about a very important cultural element of the island (780 NOK)
  • Arctic Cod Fishing – take advantage of the opportunity to catch (and then later cook/eat) your own fish while on this Island. The fish vary according to the time of the year, but during the winter you can head out with Aqua Lofoten to catch artic cod (a specialty and delicacy of the Island) the traditional way using a jig (800 NOK)
  • Chasing the Northern Lights / Flakstad Beach – if you are here during the winter time, Flakstad beach is the most picture-esque spot to try and get a picture of the lights. However, since the lights are constantly changing depending on conditions, having a car is really handy to try new spots. We asked almost every local if there were any special spots, but other than Flakstad is was just luck of the draw. Have patience and time (free)
  • Visit surrounding towns – each day on the Island we would head over to another town on the Island to walk around. Each town has its own main attraction ranging from activities such as a museum dedicated to Stock Fish production to more simple sights such as beautiful churches
  • Reinebringen Hike – this peak is the most popular on the island and offers a great view of the island, but is recommended during the summer only (free)

About The Author:

Varud’s life is food–eating, reading, exploring, and creating. Voted Forbes 30 Under 30 for ‘Most Clueless Individuals’, he jumped ship from his management consultant lifestyle in October 2015 and embarked on a culinary journey to learn about cuisines around the world. His first book documented an experiment in Recipe Development (how to create and gain inspiration for original recipes) while his most recent novel narrates the journey of leaving the US to travel to Argentina and learn about Asado, or Argentine BBQ. Follow him on his blog, Bicoastal Cooks, instagram or Twitter.


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