A Lofoten Islands photo tour is no longer just a photographer’s dream. It has become a favourite destination for thousands of tourists looking for supernatural landscapes above the Arctic Circle.
In this archipelago at the north of Norway, you will find otherworldly vertical fjords, turquoise seabeds that will teleport you to the Caribbean, a congregation of diverse species of cetaceans and a simple and plain lifestyle that will steal your heart. And particularly, light, such a magical light that will beg you to be captured and immortalized. Whether during the eternal dawn-dusk of winter, the midnight sun of June or the Northern Lights during most of the year.
Taking a 10-day Roadtrip through Lofoten Islands wasa unique experience for us. We traveled in November in search of The Green Lady and we had a success rate of seven nights out of eight. Seven nights in which we saw the Aurora Borealis painting the skies of Lofoten. Without a doubt, this is something magical impossible to achieve if we had not traveled the archipelago by Camper Van.
LOFOTEN ISLANDS PHOTO TOUR
The archipelago of Lofoten is formed by a group of islands located at the north of Norway, in the province of Nordland and above the Arctic Circle. The main islands (Austvågøya, Gimsøya, Vestvågøya, Flakstadøya and Moskenesøya) are connected by the popularly known as King Olav V route, road E10. This 300-kilometer road links the archipelago with the mainland. However, there are still other smaller islands that make it necessary to use ferry lines to get there.
The environment of this road is probably one of the most photogenic places of the Earth, with old fishermen wooden cabins anchored to the rock and fjords that challenge the peace of its turquoise waters. Therefore it is not surprising that more and more people decide to take a photo tour to the Lofoten Islands; some hiring an organized trip and others traveling on their own.
Most of these organized photo tours are based on the interest in photographing the Aurora Borealis; a natural phenomenon that in order to capture you should have some previous photography knowledge (or hire an expert guide to advise you).
There are countless places to enjoy these magical lights. However, none of the conditions we have in these islands are given.
In winter we can get up to 20 hours of total darkness, essential to enjoy the auroras. However what makes Lofoten totally unique is a climatic anomaly that turns out to be one of the most pronounced in the world. While in winter in similar latitudes the temperatures can drop to -30ºC in some points, in Lofoten they do not drop below -5ºC. This is due to the currents that bring to the coast of Lofoten the heat of the Gulf of Mexico creating a microclimate.
With all this we can assure you that a photographic trip to the Lofoten Islands is the best way to enjoy the Arctic Circle and its drastic landscapes.
Scroll comfortably through this guide to Lofoten photo tours using this index:
HOW TO GET TO THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS
There are several options to get to the Lofoten Islands. However, they all stop by Oslo and from there we have the following main options.
GETting TO LOFOTEN FROM TROMSØ
Tromso is considered the Arctic Capital. Its airport, although small, is the largest of the airports in the north. Therefore, the frequency of flights is greater. This makes the prices significantly cheaper.
However, it is the one that is farthest from Lofoten, so you will lose practically one day and one way to get to the archipelago by road if you travel in winter. We took this option and as the landscape was so beautiful and different from what we saw in Lofoten, it did not matter to us. And it also helped to decrease our budget.
Another advantage of flying to Tromso is the high availability of companies that rent caravans and camper vans. This makes the prices fall a lot compared to renting caravans directly in Lofoten. For us it was a turning point to find the Norwagon company, which rents campers prepared for the cold winter and accommodation at a great price.
GETTING TO LOFOTEN FROM EVENES
Evenes is the easiest way to get there. It is right on the Lofoten Islands. However the prices are more expensive than flying to Tromso airport and the availability of companies that rented caravans was very scarce and expensive.
GETTING TO LOFOTEN FROM BODØ
For getting to Lofoten from Bodo airport you must take a ferry that takes about 4 hours. It saves some time with respect to driving from Tromso but also the offer of caravans and prices was lower compared to that of Tromso.
Getting to Lofoten from Harstad/Narvik
This airport, although is quite large and close, is in the easternmost part of Lofoten. This means reaching the most popular part of Lofoten will take some time.
In addition we did not find any caravan company with good prices.
Getting to Lofoten from Svolvær
Another airport that you can use to get to Lofoten is the one of its capital, Svolvær. We could not find any good offer.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS
You cannot explore Lofoten completely if you only come once. If you want to enjoy everything that the archipelago has to offer you will have to come twice.
One in winter, to enjoy the aurora borealis and the beautiful ephemeral light that this time of year offers in this latitude. Another in summer to enjoy the many hiking trails between fjords, know the history of the Sami people and live the midnight sun.
BEst TIME TO visit THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS IN WINTER
We consider winter from November to February. In theory the worst month of the year to visit Lofoten is in November. It is assumed that in this month there is still no snow but a lot of rainfall. The skies are covered in most of the time which does not allow to enjoy the aurora, or the lights of the sunset. In addition the roads are full of ice and the hours of light are scarce so it is not possible to make most of the hiking trails.
Our experience was very different. Surely we were lucky that 2017 was an atypical year and during our 10-day photographic trip to the Lofoten Islands in November we enjoyed 7 nights of auroras and sunrise and sunset lights that we had not seen anywhere else.
However, the climate records state that the best time to travel to the Lofoten Islands in winter is during the second half of February. Everything is covered in snow which will be perfect in your winter photos. There are few precipitations and many clear skies to see auroras and the number of hours of light is superior to the one of previous months, with the possibility of having long hours of crepuscular lights.
best TIME TO visit LOFOTEN IN SUMMER
From May to September is a good time to enjoy the advantages of Lofoten in the warm months.
The number of hours of light is high, especially as we approach June, when the summer solstice occurs, reaching up to 21 hours of light per day. More than enough time to enjoy long trekkings that take you to secluded beaches and to make you know tiny villages of Viking origin.
The temperatures are quite good if we consider that it is located above the Arctic Circle. With maximum of 15 ºC that allow you to enjoy a cool day at the beach.
Top things TO DO IN THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS
Depending on the time of year when you travel, the best things to do in the Lofoten Islands change radically.
The few hours of light that you can find during the winter months you will want to spend them in seeing paradisiacal beaches, deep fjords and the most important places of interest. For us, other activities such as going to museums and visiting villages in depth to get to know the Sami culture took a back seat.
However, when we return in summer we will not only take advantage of that, but also to trek to the most secluded beaches, beaches that we could not reach by the ice of the trails or because the distances required to make the back journey in total darkness.
THINGS TO DO IN LOFOTEN IN WINTER
As in winter you have very few hours of light, you should know in advance what sites you can not miss. The islands that most interested us were those that are further south, Moskenesøya, Flakstadøya and Vestvågøya. In this section we tell you our favorite places.
If you could only enjoy a sunrise in Lofoten, I would tell you to spend it in the picturesque village of Hamnoy, on the island of Moskenesøya. The winter sun rises almost to the south illuminating the Reinefjord. The most representative photograph of the place is taken from the bridge that goes from Hamnoy to Toppoya and in which Rorbuers appear, old fishermen’s huts at the foot of the rock converted into luxurious accommodations.
In particular, these are called Eliassen Rorbuer. They recommended them so much that we did not hesitate to leave our Camper Van one night to check if they were really worth it. The price was not bad, 120€ per night, although I guess it was because we were not in high season and therefore there was more than one empty hut.
The price does not include sheets, towels, or cleaning. If you do not leave the cabin as you found it, they will charge you.
We were also lucky enough to see northern lights in this area, something not as easy as if you are heading to more open areas in the north.
Following the King Road another 3 minutes you will reach Reine, where you will find a gas station, supermarket and some shops.
However, even if it is a little bigger than the previous one, this is still a fishing village, with its striking colors Rorbuer located next to flakes; wooden structures that you will see in each corner and that are used for the drying of cod in the months from January to April.
If you follow the King route another 15 minutes, you will arrive at the village with the shortest name in the world, Å, where the E10 road ends.
The first time we went to Skagsanden beach was during our first night of auroras in the Lofoten Islands. The beach is located in the northwest of the Flakstadøya island, in the village of Flakstad, so it is good location to enjoy this phenomenon. Also it is the closest beach from Reine.
It is a very flat beach, so depending on the tide, you might find a lot of wet sand in which to reflect The Green Lady.
This same flatness of the sand makes, that after a lot of rain, dark sand rom the mountains reaches the white sand of the coast forming patterns that show the displacement of the gravel towards the sea. We could not find these patterns but the visit during the ephemeral hours of light was worth it.
Very close to the beach you will also find the amazing church of Flakstad, the Flakstad Kirke, whose photograph of its peculiar red facade taken from a fairy tale, we could not avoid placing it at the beginning of this article.
The beach of Storsandnes is perfect to see the northern lights as it also points north. Although the ones we saw here were not too strong because the kp was not very high that day, we were able to take a picture of the Northern Lights next to the Milky Way.
We stayed here after a session of auroras that ended very late. The next morning we lived an epic sunrise that caught us totally unprepared. Remember that it is a beach facing north and that in winter the sun rises steeply to the south, so when we opened the doors of our Norwagon we could not believe being the pinkish sky. In winter the light does not understand coordinates, light and colours can surprise you in the most unexpected horizons.
The beach of Uttakleiv, or beach of the heart is our favorite beach to see auroras.
The rocky coast allows some very interesting shots integrating reflections of the Arctic lights over the static water filtered between the multiple nooks and crannies of the stones.
It is also a very extensive and wide beach to the north so it is ideal to enjoy this phenomenon. In addition, the compositions are endless since not only do we have the western rocky area, but to the northeast we find a coarse beach of fine white sand that we could see covered with the first snowflakes of the year.
However, visiting it during the day did not meet our expectations, due to the strong gusts of wind that occur on this shore. Even so we could find the curious heart-shaped stone that is distinctive of this beach.
The beach of Haukland is the pure Arctic Caribbean. Its calm turquoise waters and fine white sand invite you to immerse yourself if it were not for the polar temperatures of the winter months. From this beach we saw a spectacular sunset hiding the sun between the vertical rock walls.
We could also see the northern lights from here. However, it is not the best location since it is oriented more to the west than to the north.
As an extension of Haukland, the small cove of Vik is also an amazing place. The waters are equally tempting but the extension of the white sand beach is much smaller.
To get to the beach of Myrland you must follow the path that takes you to Storsandnes until the end. It was a shame not having the time to go, because photos look like an amazing beach. Even a 10-day photographic trip to the Lofoten Islands looks short.
This incredible beach with blue waters and extensive white sand was further away from most points of interest in Lofoten.
Due to the few hours of light we had and that every time we set course for Unstad there was a landscape that forced the camper to stop to admire and capture it, it was impossible to get there. It is in the lofoten bucket list for our next Arctic adventure since the photos show that it is beautiful.
whale watching IN VESTERÅLEN
From November to March killer whales, humpback whales, fin whales and sperm whales are seen off the coast of Vesterålen following the herring migratory routes. This archipelago is located on the Lofoten archipelago itself, which is why it is often considered to belong to the Lofoten district, but this is not the case.
It is undoubtedly the best place to see these cetaceans in freedom and even swim with them, as many companies, in addition to offering boat safaris to see whales, also offer the activity of snorkeling with killer whales. A dream that I could not fulfill for traveling in November because, although there were already whales, companies started offering this service in the month of December, when the high season really begins.
WHALES IN TROMSO AND SURROUNDINGS
Keep in mind that whales sail from the north to the south during the winter, so if the season is very early and you are traveling from Tromso, you will have more opportunities to see them here than in Lofoten. In fact you can see them even from the land. For this, the best area is Tromvik, which we have indicated in the map below.
We went here but we did not see them and talking to the locals they told us that this year the herring was very late and the whales were still farther north, but the previous year at that time in the Tromvik fjord, hundreds of whales of all kinds were seen , so do not stop trying!
THINGS TO DO IN LOFOTEN IN SUMMER
Although the aurora borealis can not be seen with just a few hours of darkness, the other places recommended in the previous section are also very interesting to be visited in summer.
So in this section we will tell you what things can be done in the Lofoten Islands in summer that we would not do on a winter trip.
Reinebringen is undoubtedly the most beautiful viewpoint of all the Lofoten Islands, however getting to it is very risky even in summer. The road is little trite and the false steps here do not give you a second chance. If you’re wrong, you’re lost. In fact, there are few who have died trying to reach the top. After seeing this photo, do you think it’s worth it?
Fortunately after trying to ban the route, they have finally decided to make it safe for hikers and is currently in the process of remodeling.
We had part of the views thanks to our drone, but not all of them.
The Viking Museum is the ideal place to get to know the life of Viking societies. The museum itself is within the largest Viking building found to date, with 83 meters long.
Obviously we could have gone to the museum in winter, but since the daylight hours were limited and the auroras nights were very entertaining, we finally had no chance to visit it. However, we aim for a future trip in summer. It must be quite curious because the Viking Museum is a living museum, completely decorated in the Viking era. You can enjoy dance exhibitions and typical food. It also has a market and conduct Viking festivals, etc. You can check the schedule here.
The beach of Kvalvika is quite accessible but not enough to make the route that takes you to it in winter. The trek lasts 45 minutes in a 2-kilometer route. This small beach is well known for the scenic views from one of the mountains that surround it, Ryten, 500 meters high. Here we leave a photograph made from there.
There are also areas where you can camp, which makes it the favorite beach to enjoy the midnight sun.
The beach of Bunes is one of the most remote and spectacular beaches, surrounded by cliffs sculpted by ancient glaciers. It requires a ferry trip from Reine to the village of Vindstad, and once there make a simple trekking of about an hour (2.5 km). It is one of the most popular to visit as a day trip in summer but not many people decide to stay camping. After seeing this picture we would not mind.
The least visited of the three, both by the need to take the same ferry to go to Bunes and the distance to travel. In this case we will start the route from Kjerkfjørd. The trekking is 4.5 km to the beach so you have to have a little over two hours to do it. All this makes it an ideal excursion to sleep camping at the beach at least one night, catching the ferry the next day.
KAYAK AMONG FJORDS
Another activity that you can do in summer is kayakking among fjords, as there are many companies that rent kayaks in Lofoten. We even saw some brave people who was doing it in the middle of November. However, the few hours of light once again did not let us do it.
VISIT THE PICTURESQUE FISHING TOWNS OF LOFOTEN
Although visiting the fishing villages of Lofoten is something that can be done all year round, when you like landscape photography and have a few hours of light you will end up leaving this activity for another visit during the summer months.
The main towns you should visit are Svolvær, capital of Lofoten, Sund where you can enjoy bird watching tours, Nusfjord with its peculiar Lake Storvatnet or Kabelvåg where you will find the second largest wooden church in Norway, the Vågan Kirke.
PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT TO THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS
For those who have not read it, we already have an article where we recommend the best photographic equipment for travel.
In this section we will only mention the peculiarities that exist when preparing photographic equipment to travel to Lofoten.
REFLEX / MIRRORLESS CAMERA
A reflex or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses will be the basic tool to photograph the Lofoten Islands.
The mobile camera or compact cameras will be useless to capture the Aurora Borealis or perform night photography.
In addition, if our trip is in winter, where we can foreseeably find adverse weather conditions, a sealed reflex camera will be ideal to prevent ice, snow or wind from damaging it.
We recommend a wide angle lens to capture from the evocative fjords and wild beaches to the aurora borealis. A sealed objective will be preferable, but above all luminous in order to immortalize the auroras.
It is also advisable to take longer focal lengths to photograph the fishermen’s huts. In addition it is always a good idea to carry a 50mm for panoramic photographs.
As far as telephoto lenses are concerned, they are recommended to photograph details of fjords and mountains, remote fishermen’s huts, and wildlife if we go on a whale safari or bird watching.
A sturdy tripod will be essential for the trip to Lofoten.
On the beaches the water can move with force and the wind becomes extreme, so we need to have the stability of a good tripod and ballhead. Do not forget your leveling base / L-plate if you like panoramic photography.
Fundamental to capture the movement of waves on the beaches and clouds when there is wind. Since the light in winter is not going to be strong, unless we want to make very long exposures should be enough with a filter of neutral density of 3 steps and another of 6 steps. We always use those of Lucroit, with whom we collaborate. Using the code CAPTURETHEATLAS at the end of the purchase you will have a discount of 10%.
Taking into account how adverse the weather can be in the Arctic winter, some useful items that we can carry in our backpack would be:
- Batteries. In winter temperatures will normally drop below 0 ° C, so the life of the batteries is drastically reduced, especially at night while shoting northern lights and time-lapse. We recommend carrying at least 3 batteries with the possibility of charging them in an accessible way.
- Remote trigger. Indispensable to avoid vibrations in the camera. Very useful also if we want to do auroras time-lapse.
- Rain cover for the photographic backpack.
- Headlamp. Essential when we are photographing auroras on dark beaches and more remote places.
- Special gloves for photography below zero. We use these. Also after testing these gloves we decided to collaborate with them. Here we told you our experience and a discount coupon.
PHOTO TOURs to THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS – IS IT NECESSARY?
It is a question that we have been asked many times since we returned from our adventure. Is it necessary to hire a photographic tour in the Lofoten Islands?
If you have the necessary equipment to photograph the elusive aurora borealis, you have experience in long exposure photography and you are able to plan the best locations in the archipelago, it is not mandatory.
In case one of the three previous requirements is not met it is quite recommendable to have the support of an expert who can guide you in the task of capturing the beauty of these islands.
HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD LOFOTEN ISLANDS photo tour
These are some tips that we want to give you when choosing a good photo tour for the Lofoten Islands:
- Do not do the tour with an agency but with a photographer or team of photographers in whose name you have access before hiring. In Lofoten, many young people with no idea of photography find temporary work in the winter as guides for photographic tours. They give them a camera, a couple of lessons and make money for the company. If you really want the tour to give you added value, more than telling you the four parameters that you need for shooting, your guide should be a photographer with experience.
- Linking with the above, there are many unknown photographers with amazing galleries that offer these photo tours at very competitive prices. Never hire a photographer without first being able to see his gallery for that particular destination. Write us if you want us to recommend our favorite photographers for Lofoten.
- Choose a tour that includes accommodation to increase your Northern Lights nights. The expert may warn you in the middle of the night if suddenly a clear or a very high KP is given. In addition, in this way you will also have at your disposal the expert photographer all day and you can resolve your photographic doubts even before the trip.
- Hire a tour that also includes editing lessons. Especially when we talk about northern lights it is important not only to know how to capture them but also how to process them.
- The winter light in Lofoten is spectacular. Choose a tour that does not neglect photographic sessions during daylight hours. The aurora borealis is only 50% of what the archipelago in winter has prepared for you.
WHERE TO TAKE THE 5 BEST LOFOTEN PICS
- Eliassen Rorbuer from the Hamnoy bridge in Reine at sunrise
- Northern Lights on the beach of Uttakliev playing with the hollows of the stones
- Rorbuer in Reine at sunset
- Bridge in Reine with auroras or blue hour
- Rorbuer in Fredvang fjord in blue hour
If you want to have the exact coordinates in the mobile and without internet:
- Download the Mapswithme application on your mobile.
- Download and save the following KML file in your dropbox:
- Open the file through dropbox from your mobile. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)
You also have our best pictures of Lofoten in this gallery that we have prepared.
TRAVELING LOFOTEN BY CAMPER VAN
Most tours call themselves Aurora Hunters. However, it is just a marketing name capable of attracting many customers. The reality is that they are not hunters of auroras, but of clear skies, without clouds.
If you are going to take a photographic trip to Lofoten without a tour guide, there is no better option than traveling the archipelago in Camper Van. The clouds are predictable but their prediction changes with little margin, so if you want to ensure a good rate of boreal nights there is no better option than to make life in your means of transport.
We enjoyed Aurora Borealis 6 out of the 8 nights we spent in Lofoten. In another post we will explain how to photograph the Northern Lights in Lofoten, emphasizing the tools we use to predict the best location according to the clouds every day. However, sometimes the prediction of the location changed just an hour before the show started and we had to be quick when it came to moving. Therefore, there is no better option than taking a photo roadtrip through Lofoten in caravan or Camper van.
Also, after an intense night dancing with Aurora, who wants to drive to the accommodation? Lofoten is a paradise for lovers of caravan trips. Any place is ideal for parking and sleeping. Most nights we ended up sleeping in the last photographed location and the next morning we woke up in amazing places.
Traveling in Camper through Lofoten was undoubtedly an option that saved us a lot of money. We rent a Norwagon that costs 150 € per day, a bargain compared to the prices you’ll find in Norway. The van included everything you need: gas cooker, kitchen utensils, cutlery, bed, table, trunks to store your belongings, curtains, heating, winter wheels indispensable for these months and insurance. The only thing you have to take apart is a winter sleeping bag like the one we told you in this post to pack your backpack.
Lofoten Islands Map
We also leave you the KML file of the map of the Lofoten Islands that we have created in case you want to have it offline. Simply click on this icon to download and follow the steps mentioned above.
And if we still have not convinced you to take a Lofoten photo tour play the video. See you soon!