I’m always saying that the best way to explore Norway is by car, and that especially applies to Lofoten – in fact at one point Lisa, Teru, Marti, and I were thinking of only renting a car in Lofoten for a few days of our week there and my Norwegian friends just silently shook their heads at me.
You see, as in a lot of remote places in Norway public transport on Lofoten isn’t great, and I think it would have been fairly frustrating not to be able to explore all the far corners of these gorgeous islands. And since we were visiting in March, hitchhiking wasn’t really a great option – at least I know I’m not a fan of waiting for rides in blizzards.
So a Lofoten road trip it was!
I’ve been wanting to visit Lofoten since I first read about it as a teenager, and guys, if you’re wondering if the Lofoten Islands live up to all the hype they’ve been receiving over the past few years (thank you, social media) all I can say is that my 10+ year wait to see them was totally worth it.
Though it would also be great if I didn’t have to wait another ten years to see Lofoten again – summer Lofoten road trip, anyone?
Renting a car in Lofoten: finding the best Lofoten or Bodø car rental
Oh that’s right, you can’t do an epic Lofoten road trip if you don’t have a car!
Seeing as the four of us were all flying into Bodø and planning to get the ferry across to Lofoten, we decided to rent a car at the airport in Bodø. We rented from Sixt, and as tends to be the case with car rentals, you’ll get a better deal the further in advance you book.
After a quick search, it looks like cars are starting around $55/day for the summer, whereas in the autumn they drop to $45/day. You can check the prices here
You can also rent a car in Lofoten if you’re planning to fly there, though it’s considerably more expensive. I couldn’t find any options for under $80/day. You can check prices here
Getting to Lofoten from Bodø by ferry (with a car)
If you do choose to get your car in Bodø don’t worry, you can totally take it on the ferry – it will just cost extra. The ferry from Bodø to Moskenes takes between 3 and 4 hours. Our journey there was on the longer side and made me quite queasy (consider bringing medicine with you if you get seasick!) but the journey back was totally fine.
The ferry timetable varies based on the time of year, but you can check the current times and prices here.
The best time of year to visit Lofoten
To be honest, I had nothing to do with the timing of this trip to Lofoten, as this one was dreamt up by Lisa and Marti, but when they invited me to join them I was all “yes please!” and also, “what perfect timing!”
And I think it was.
I wanted to see Lofoten covered in snow, but I also wanted to, well, see it, and December, January, and early February in Lofoten would have been too dark. But by visiting from mid-February to late March you can still experience winter in Lofoten while avoiding the short/nonexistent days of the polar winter.
I asked a friend who grew up in Lofoten what other times of year she’d recommend visiting, and she said mid to late August is really nice, because the summer crowds from July are gone, the nights are dark enough for a chance to see the Northern Lights, and the weather still feels like summer and is warm enough for camping.
June is also a nice time to visit, as after a long winter you can finally go hiking again in the mountains (there might be some snow left though), it’s warm enough to camp in a tent, and if you come early enough the summer crowds won’t have arrived yet.
In June you can also experience the midnight sun – though be aware that this can mess with your internal clock (in a fun way!) and you won’t be seeing any starry night skies.
The worst time of year to visit Lofoten
I’m a big fan of traveling in the low season, but I guess there are some pretty good arguments against visiting Lofoten during some months.
I actually had wanted to visit Lofoten last September but was yet again met with silent head shakes from my Norwegian friends. Apparently, the weather from September to November is really, really rainy. Still, I’ve seen some amazing photos of the Lofoten Islands decked out in autumn colors, so I’m tempted to make an autumn trip up there and brave the rain.
And of course, December to mid-February is going to be really dark, which makes it difficult to explore the islands. Some people do visit then to see the Northern Lights, in which case, I’d recommend this tour with a photographer. However, Lofoten has pretty unpredictable coastal weather, so you’d have a better chance of seeing them somewhere with clearer skies, like Abisko in Sweden.
I also haven’t heard great things about Lofoten in April and May, as it’s still too snowy and cold for a lot of outdoor activities, but no longer snowy enough to be a winter wonderland. Though again, that might just mean you’ll see fewer tourists on Lofoten then!
And while July is sort of the perfect time of year to visit Lofoten, it’s also kind of becoming the worst as the islands are becoming popular. I mean, very, very, very popular.
But if you aren’t afraid of crowds and can book your accommodation waaaay in advance (seriously, I’ve even heard that it’s hard to camp in July because there are so many people!) then July in Lofoten is probably pretty magical.
The best Lofoten accommodation
I would say in Lofoten it’s best to find accommodation with a kitchen, especially in the winter when many restaurants are closed for the season.
If you have a while on the islands I would also mix it up a bit, so you can explore different areas of Lofoten.
We spent our first three nights near Reine on Hamnøy, which is arguably the most photogenic place in Lofoten. At least I’m pretty sure it’s the most famous – have you seen this view before?
We stayed at Eliassen Rorbuer, in one of those little red cabins! Our cabin had two twin bedrooms and a cozy living room with a kitchen. And since Lisa booked it on Booking.com with her Genius discount it actually ended up being one of the cheapest places I’ve stayed in Norway. Check current rates for Eliassen Rorbuer here
And the fun thing about staying here was that I could see a bunch of different versions of that famous view:
Have I already mentioned that the weather in Lofoten changes a lot?
We then spent our last three nights farther north in Ballstad at Hattvika Lodge.
Hattvika Lodge only opened this past summer, but they’re already nearly booked out for the next year (so if you want to visit, book quickly!). Our apartment here was split onto two floors and definitely more luxurious than our cabin in Reine. Ballstad is also a bit less touristy than Reine, so it was nice to explore a quieter area of the islands.
But the best part about staying at Hattvika Lodge was its amazing owners. They are so enthusiastic about Lofoten and were overflowing with tips for us on where to go for the best views and activities, and they definitely made me eager to return to Lofoten in the summer for more hiking opportunities.
they sent us on a hike in Ballstad but we only made it this high up before a snowstorm came in
Due to the ferry times, we actually spent our final night back in Bodø at Opsahl Gjestegaard, which was the cutest (and quirkiest!) little guest house I’ve been to in a long time. I loved the decor, the breakfast buffet was delicious, and the staff was just super friendly. Staying there actually made me really wish I had spent longer in Bodø. Next time! Check current rates for the Opsahl Gjestegaard here
Airbnbs in Lofoten
I also recommend checking out options on Airbnb, like this centrally located apartment, this cozy cabin, or a room in this home only 50 meters from the ocean. And if this is your first time using Airbnb you can get a discount by [signing up here].
The perfect Lofoten road trip itinerary
And now the most important part: where you should go in Lofoten!
Um, sorry to be annoying, but I actually think that the perfect Lofoten road trip itinerary is no itinerary. Or at least a very flexible one!
I had originally planned on tracking our exact route to share with you guys, but once there I realized that the best part about driving around Lofoten is taking random little roads, not knowing where they’ll take you, and chasing any fleeting patches of blue sky or sunlight (we spent a lot of time trying to chase blue sky and escape snowstorms!).
Though that said, I will share a few of my favorite spots, in case you want to track them down on your Lofoten road trip too.
I’m usually the person secretly wanting to stop every two minutes to take a photo but not actually doing so because I don’t want to annoy my travel companions, so it was pretty cool not only to stop at all the pretty spots (which in Lofoten is basically every 10 meters) but also to actively track down the gorgeous Lofoten views we had come across on Instagram.
And yes, I was totally intimidated shooting with them, and no, I’m not really sure why they invited me along on this trip. But I’m so glad they did because we all had so much fun together! Now I’m just crossing my fingers that they didn’t secretly hate me and that we’ll travel somewhere together again someday.
If you don’t have some random photographer friends to road trip with, you can always check out this tour
Anyway, here were some of my favorite spots on Lofoten:
Unstad Arctic Surf Beach
Driving safely in Lofoten
And finally, not to be a total mom, but can I just say a few things about safety in Lofoten?
The villages on these islands are small and tourism has kind of exploded in Lofoten in the past few years, so it’s not exactly set up for tons of people. Some of the roads are narrow and windy, a lot of parking lots are quite small, and locals still aren’t totally used to people setting up tripods on their front yards.
Just be aware that this isn’t a tourist park but in fact a small community. So like, don’t stop your car in the middle of the road to take photos or park on someone’s lawn if a parking lot is full. And drive carefully in the winter, when the roads can be treacherous (especially when they’re covered in slush!).