Lofoten is located north of the Arctic Circle in the northwest of Norway. There are many islands that make up the Lofoten archipelago, although I focused my stay on the southern tip, travelling by ferry to Moskenes and staying at Eliassen Rorbuer in Hamnøy.
There are so many unique characteristics that make Lofoten the dreamland it is, from the rugged peaks that rise straight from the sea, odorous cod drying on racks in the crisp arctic air, vibrant red fisherman cabins dotting the islands and even the unpredictability of the weather. Pairing these up with the remoteness and isolation of the archipelago make it a real magnet for photographers year-round.
While we were here to specifically see the wild mid-winter landscape and hopefully spot the northern lights, I would definitely return throughout the summer to check out some of the hikes in the region under the midnight sun.
How to get to Lofoten
I flew from Oslo into a place called Bodo, and then caught an overnight ferry to Moskenes. Here I picked up a rental car from Moskenes Rent-A-Car and drove 15 minutes to Hamnøy, where I was staying at Eliassen Rorbuer. It’s much cheaper to hire a car over on the islands rather than from Bodø and ferrying it over.
Leaving Lofoten, I caught a bus from Moskenes to Leknes Airport which had to be the most scenic drive I have ever experienced.
Where to stay
I was looking for accommodation that was a bit more unique than a standard Airbnb for my stay in Lofoten so I decided to book in at Eliassen Rorbuer, a collection of 35 restored red fisherman’s cabins lining the rocky coast of the island of Hamnøy.
Each cabin is named after the fishermen that once called them home, and the interior is decorated with historic photos giving you an insight into what life was like back in the day.
There are a variety of different sizes, although I stayed in a superior two bedroom cabin that looked out to Mt Olstind rising directly out of the spectacular Reinefjord. One room had a single bunk and single bed, while the other double/single bunk combination.
There aren’t many places to eat out nearby so it was great to have a fully-equipped kitchen to make our own meals. We stocked up at the local convenience store which was just a 5 minute drive from Eliassen Rorbuer.
If you aren’t up for cooking, Krambua Restaurant is located in the heart of Hamnøy. The menu offers a variety of dishes from locally caught fish to fresh Lofoten lamb. There are a few more exotic foods on offer too, including traditional Norwegian stockfish and fried cods toungues.
The place was well-heated, keeping us warm and cosy throughout our stay. The décor provided modern facilities with old charm while simplicity was key. I loved that there wasn’t a TV, I mean if you’ve travelled all the way to visit a place as incredible as Lofoten and you would prefer to sit indoors watching television there has to be something wrong with you!
There was high-speed wifi available which was convenient as the first thing you want to do with the photographs you’ve taken in Lofoten is share them with friends and family back home!
This was the perfect base for our stay in Lofoten, especially when it came to watching the Northern Lights. You don’t have to venture more than 10 metres to find the ideal outlook for aurora shots with epic mountain backdrops.
Hands down, this is the most stunning place I have ever stayed!
There was a mix of cloud, snow and brilliant blue skies in the short time we stayed there which gave us a variety of different lighting and backdrops for our photographs.
Thick snow covered everything from the top of the peaks right down to the ground. The roads were quite icy and the weather does change quickly so you do have to drive with caution. Most rental vehicles come with studded tyres for the snowy conditions.
Temperatures dropped to around minus 7 degrees at night and didn’t really rise above zero degrees throughout the day, but my Canada Goose jacket did a great job of keeping me warm and toasty both day and night.
We were blessed with mostly clear skies each evening. Just when we thought things could get even more surreal the aurora borealis appeared, putting on the biggest and brightest show of the trip.
Both locals and photographers that regularly visit the region even said that this particular night was the best performance they’d ever seen.
Aurora Borealis in Lofoten
There are few natural phenomena that compare to the raw beauty of the northern lights. The first glimpse I had of the aurora in Norway was when we were catching the ferry from Bodø to Moskenes.
It was the middle of the night and the skies lit up with bright green beams that danced from one horizon to the other. It was difficult to capture this in photographs though as we were moving quite fast and the lights were blazing all over the ship.
The performance had stopped by the time we arrived in Lofoten but it will still nice to be able to watch it all through full length windows on the boat as we cruised across they icy ocean.
It wasn’t until the next night that we were sitting in the cozy lounge of our fisherman cabin at Eliassen Rorbuer that we looked out the window and saw the aurora start to appear. We grabbed our cameras and walked out to the shore, just 10 metres from our cabin to start photographing the display.
This is how it started…
And then this happened!
The entire sky came to life, completely lighting up the ground as if someone had turned a torch on. Enormous beams stretched from one end of the sky right across to the other. It danced like rays of smoke moving in the wind and even specks of pinks and purples emerged among the greens and blues.
It was a truly breathtaking sight watching the beams grow in intensity and form intricate shapes and patterns. Every direction you looked in there was a new formation putting on a show and the longer we stayed, the stronger they got.
The aurora was clearly visible with the naked eye and I even managed to capture the beams on my phone (without a long exposure).
Mid-winter is the best time of year to spot the northern lights in Lofoten. Often seen from about 10pm right through until 1am, although the powerful display we saw occurred at 7.30pm in the evening.
I used the aurora-service.net website to monitor the forecast and then you just need to pray for clear skies!
If you’re looking for an experience that will last with you for a lifetime, then I highly recommend a visit to Lofoten. Imagine waking up to silence, clean crisp air and colossal mountains that rise vertically from the sea. Throw in sightings of the northern lights and it immediately becomes a place that needs to be added to anyone’s bucket list.
I can safely say that this is the most remote and spectacular place I have ever travelled to and I would love nothing more than to return to the region to discover it under the midnight sun in summer.