// Overseas travel blog
// Overseas travel blog
A 5 day Lofoten Islands Itinerary
There are no rolling hills in northern Norway; there are sharp crags and volatile skies. Although the lingering, glowing sunlight signals that summer is well underway, the weather may be disinclined to follow. Nevertheless, the Lofoten Islands are a serene departure from the Norwegian cities and a must for adventurers and nature lovers. Just look at Instagram for a glimpse into the rugged beauty of the place!
While hiking in the Lofoten Islands is challenging, hikers who dare to take on the mountains are rewarded with expansive blue-tinged views over the ocean and the kind of fresh air that invigorates you from the inside out and reminds you what life is all about. Just make sure you are well-prepared for the hikes (unlike my hiking accomplice. More on that later…)
How to get from Oslo to the Lofoten Islands
Flight: Oslo to Bodo
Car ferry: Bodø to Moskenes
Drive: Moskenes to Å
After finally landing following our 3-hour-delayed flight from Oslo to Bodø, we collected our pre-arranged hire car from the airport. Smaller cars are quick to go during the summer months, and it’s best to book one online at least 3-4 weeks out to ensure you’re not paying premium price for one of the remaining large vehicles. Another option is to hire a van through either a rental agency or AirBnB and use it to camp in if you’re up for it. Note that these are also snatched up a long way in advance, so get organised and book ahead to save the stress and money.
Once we’d thrown our gear into the car, we made the quick 5-minute drive from Bodø Airport to the ferry terminal, arriving exactly 43 minutes before the scheduled departure of our pre-booked car ferry. However, as I didn’t (couldn’t) read the fine print which was tiny and Norwegian, I’d missed the part about having to arrive at least 45 minutes before the departure time. We couldn’t have avoided it anyway due to the flight delay, but as we’d missed the cut-off time we forfeited our guaranteed car spot on the ferry. This was despite the fact we’d booked weeks beforehand. Consequently, we were moved from the pre-booked line to the ‘hope for the best’ line where we were to wait until all the people who had made it in time plus all their cars were loaded on.
We sat there sweating it out until the last minute, and were extremely relieved to make it onto the ferry into one of the three remaining car spots. Lucky. Ferries are scheduled every three to four hours during summer months, and run all night. If you have a car, it’s advisable to either book ahead (and arrive at least 45 minutes before departure time!) or arrive well ahead of your intended departure time (90 minutes +) and aim to be one of the first vehicles in the un-booked line.
The ferry journey itself seemed to be smooth sailing for the first hour, but after that it became progressively rougher until we were lurching in every direction, and giant waves were smashing over the hull and up onto the front glass panels. My conservative estimates say that 10% of the passengers were vomiting into paper bags at one point. We took seasickness tablets and ate ginger during the journey, which I would highly recommend. Although you can also stand on the deck outside to get fresh air and a view of the horizon, the fumes at the back of the boat were quite heavy, and the spray and wind made it too cold to stay out for long. Our ferry arrived at the scheduled time at 8PM into Moskenes. The bonus is that it is was still very much daylight, so we could easily navigate the ten or fifteen-minute drive to the little fishing village, Å.
Lofoten roadtrip itinerary
Once we were back in our room, we contemplated which smaller hikes might be possible if the weather cleared for an hour or two. In preparation of setting out for the day, I put on my sweat-wicking tights, singlet, and thermal top, and grabbed my Gortex jacket and a hat to take in my pack. I looked across at my accomplice dressed in thin black cotton pants and a turtle-neck yellow jumper, leaning over the side of the bed putting on her anklet socks. On top of that came the ankle brace, supporting an injury suffered a couple of weeks prior.
‘You brought a jacket for hiking, right?’ I asked, curious. She looked up at me from the bed.
‘Well, yeah. I have this one here,’ she replied, snatching a navy, sailor blazer from her overstuffed suitcase.
‘You mean that’s your hiking jacket?’ I asked. ‘The one you wear around the city in Berlin and which you wore to the House of Red Doors?’
She looked a little concerned.
‘Is it water proof or wind proof?’ I continued.
It was not.
‘Hmm,’ she said. ‘Well I don’t have any other one.’
I looked at the overflowing suitcase.
‘What about pants?’ I said.
‘Well, I have these ones that I have on,’ she said doubtfully. I spotted a tiny hole, and estimated their thickness at 0.1mm.
‘Ok then. But you have thermals and things to wear underneath?’
‘Gloves? Or a beanie? Umbrella?’
* crickets *
I wondered what exactly was packed in that overflowing suitcase. We had also discussed bringing hiking snacks from Germany, given the exorbitant prices of anything in Norway. I had stashed a packet of ginger for the ferries, some dried fruit and nuts, and a bottle of red wine to be enjoyed after a hard day’s hike (don’t even think about purchasing wine in Norway).
‘Well, did you at least bring snacks?’ I said, hopefully.
Her face lit up.
‘Yes! I brought many delicious things!’ She moved aside piles of clothes in the suitcase. ‘I have three bottles of wine! And also these rosemary and sea salt crackers, AND…’ she drew out a half-meter long, narrow brown paper bag from her suitcase, ‘this! It’s from the French delicatessen near my house. It’s an amazing duck and fig salami!’ she waved the bag in the air excitedly, and then her face dropped.
'Oh shit, I forgot you don't eat meat.'
I laughed and added ‘find a hiking store’ to our day’s to-do list... then we set off.
The weather didn’t clear the entire day, but it gave us the time we needed to find a hiking store and drink some coffee, and get a feel for the landscape and the A10 – the tiny, winding ‘highway’ that runs through the length of the islands. It’s a good thing to build flexibility into any hiking schedule in in the Lofoten archipelago.
Hiking clothing near Å: we went into the town at Reine, and found a little sports store across from the petrol station, which thankfully was open Sundays. It was compact and there was not a lot on offer for smaller sizes but it had everything we needed. My accomplice bought a decent weatherproof pants & jacket set, and some gloves, and I grabbed a 3-pack of wool hiking socks. You can also find miscellaneous items like camping cookware there.
Stornappstinden hike: Afterwards, seeing that the weather had cleared a little, we ate a small lunch and grabbed some bread rolls from the nearby bakery to take on our hike up Stornappstinden. According to websites we checked, this starts off the E10 near Napp. We must have driven past the start about 3 times.
If you are heading north from Å to Leknes, the parking area will be to the left of the A10 before you reach the bridge. If you go over the bridge, you’ve gone too far. We thought we were at someone’s property (maybe we were?) and only noticed the track because a group of 4 hikers was making its way back down the mountain as we arrived. Once parked, you will go through a gate to reach the track and likely see animals grazing nearby.
The path itself is well-trodden and easy enough to locate once you’re in the right area, but it was very wet the day we went. Avoid going off track because although the grass looks firm, it’s mainly boggy marsh. I expect the full hike would be about 4 hours return.
Sadly, we never reached the top of Stornappstinden, and had to turn around after 90 minutes due to bad weather. We ran into a French couple who had done the same thing. They mentioned that they’d completed the hike a couple of years earlier, and assured us that the views were stunning, but on this day the weather gods weren’t playing nice.
We were frozen by the wind and rain by the time we reached the car again (it was only around 6 degrees), so we proceeded to crank the heating and continue our drive northwards. It was another hour and a half by the time we made it to our charming little AirBnb apartment in Svolvær.
In town, there are a couple of supermarkets to stock up, and some coffee shops too. We cooked in our apartment on all but one night. Eating out in the Lofoten Islands breaks the bank and so I would not recommend it for anyone with a semblance of a budget, even though the fish is delicious!
In the afternoon, the skies had cleared up and it was great hiking weather, so we took the advice of our AirBnb host and took a short drive south on the A10 from Svolvær to the start of the Tjeldbergtind hike.
Tjeldbergtind hike: There are several paths up to Tjeldbergtind. We ended up parking on the corner of the lake just off Kongsvatnveien, and finding a rather steep and muddy path that was quite a direct route up. We came down on a different side, and did a lot more winding around the mountain. The downward route deposited us somewhere along Dalfaret, and from there we walked along the road back to the car. The summit was great – 180 degree views over Svolvær and Kabelvåg, and plenty of different vantage points along the ridge. It wasn’t too difficult and was around a 2.5hr return journey.
Once we made it back down to the car, we decided to keep driving south to Kabelvåg and go exploring. The town was also small enough to walk around (they practically all are – Lofoten is not a big place!), and there’s a nice church nearby if that’s your thing. What was more our thing, was the cute little pub on the waterfront. The walk down the pier to see the lighthouse was hands down the highlight, and at around 8PM, the dusk light was just magical.
DAY 4: Festvågtind hike, Rørvikstranda and Henningsvær to Leknes
Day 4 was the best weather of the trip, which suited us perfectly as we’d planned a big hike up Festvågtind, one of the more popular Lofoten hikes. We checked out of our AirBnb in the morning, and then made straight for the mountain, hoping to avoid the hottest part of the day around 4PM.
Festvågtind hike: You can’t miss this one. The parking area is well-signed, as is the start of the track. I recommend passing the paid car park, and driving further on towards the bridge to Henningsvær where you can get a park for free if you’re early enough. The walk from there to the start of the track is only 5 minutes or so.
Festvågtind is a lot of vertical climbing, so if you prefer winding walks with a mild gradient, do not attempt this one. Adding to the difficulty level is some very gravelly, rough ground which makes it a constant struggle for secure footing. After a while, it’s not only your body that tires, but also your mind because of needing to make calculated moves every step of the way, ever conscious of the sharp drop offs and the possibility of tumbling down the mountain face.
The view at the top is 100% worth it though, and the colours and shapes of the earth below gave the impression of looking down on the planet from space. It took us 4.5 hours return, factoring in a mild injury on the downward climb and a break for lunch at the top.
DAY 5: Leknes, Lofotr Museum in Bøstad, Vestvågøya
The very long days in Lofoten (11:30PM - 1:30AM is the only real ‘night time’) make you forget to sleep. It’s not uncommon for people to leave for a hike at 5PM if the weather is good, returning much later around 10 or 11 PM for dinner. A combination of these long days and some solid hiking had us fairly exhausted and ready for a more relaxed schedule on day 5. Plus it was raining again, which made a day indoors all the more appealing.
There’s not a whole lot to do when its raining in the islands, apart from eating, reading or catching up on sleep. We did, however, decide to venture out to the Viking museum in Bøstad. It was ok, but still a museum so take it or leave it. We ended up arriving home relatively early, so we cooked up a nice warm dinner and got stuck into the wine supplies.
* * *
DAY 6: Getting home
The following day, we drove back from Leknes to the Moskenes ferry terminal in around 45 minutes, and this time we left plenty of time to spare. The ferry returning back to Bodø was gentler, and we dropped the car off back at the airport without a hassle before boarding a return flight to Oslo.
A week in the Lofoten Islands, or even two weeks
... would a good amount of time to see the area and complete a few hikes, so long as you have a car to get around, otherwise you'll spend half your time doing some pretty boring hiking along the highway to get between villages. Camping would’ve been pretty miserable with the weather we had too, so only choose the tent option if you’re not afraid of bunking down during some wet and windy days. Planning your car and accommodation ahead of time will keep down costs. And don't forget the sneaky BYO wine supply :)