JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH KRISTIN PETTERSEN FROM THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY!
Kristin Pettersen is a 25 years old Norwegian, born and raised in the heart of Lofoten. She left Lofoten for three years to study economy and management, but returned as soon as she was done. She feels lucky to call Lofoten her home! It really is heaven on earth. Now she works as manager of the second best hotel breakfast in Norway. She travels as much as she can, and loves to take pictures/videos to share with people!
Special thanks to photographer Steven Henriksen for providing us amazing pictures of Lofoten archipelago.
Far above the Arctic Circle, you find the Lofoten Islands. The Lofoten is an archipelago of five big and five small islands in the northern Norway. The main islands are Austvågøy, Gimsøya, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøy and Moskenesøy. The islands are connected by bridges and the E10 road that runs through them. The stretch from Svolvær (The capital and largest city of Lofoten) to Å (the end of Lofoten and also the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet) is one of Norway’s designated National Scenic Routes.
Deep, beautiful fjords and majestic mountains surround Lofoten. During winter most people come here for skiing or the spectacular northern lights. Summer is more for those who wish to see the well-known midnight sun.
What is the best time to visit Lofoten Islands?
This is really a matter of preference. Some people enjoy the winter cold and all the beauty it has to offer, while other prefer a bit of sun and fun on the beach. Lofoten is really an all year tourist destination. Personally, I do not prefer one season from another, because there is something truly magical about every season. With that said, I love camping and being able to spend as much time as I can hiking and exploring our breathtaking nature without having to put on my warmest clothes!
For those who wish to see the midnight sun, they would have to visit in from the beginning of June to the middle of July. For those of you who do not know what the midnight sun really is, it just means that the sun will never go below the horizon. You pretty much have sun 24 hours a day if you are in the right place. If you bring a tent, there are many amazing spots to camp, where you can see the midnight sun from the comfort of your own sleeping bag. Nothing beats camping with a view! If you wish to avoid the worst of the tourist season in the summer, but still want nice weather, I would recommend coming in May or middle of August.
When it comes to the Northern light, the season for this is from the end of August to the middle of April approximately. Seeing as the weather is very unstable some months, like October, November and December, I would choose to come in September, February, March. February, March and April are also the best months to visit for those who want to spend their time skiing in our beautiful mountains.
What according to you are the best ways to reach Lofoten considering most travellers land in Oslo?
There is always a possibility to rent a car and drive from Oslo to Lofoten (not recommended). This will take you at least two days.
You can also get here by boat (this boat is called Hurtigruten, and it departs from the city Bergen). This is a very beautiful trip, but it takes several days, and I would not recommend it if your main goal is to see Lofoten. However, if you are in no hurry then no one knows the Norwegian coast better than Hurtigruten. For more information on different voyages with Hurtigruten, click here. If you wish to combine the traditional fishing villages of the Lofoten along with the Arctic city of Tromsø with for your winter vacation.
Getting from Oslo to Lofoten I would recommend travelling by air. There are three airports to recommend here. The cheapest one that I always use, is Evenes Airport. This is a 2- 2,5 hour drive from Lofoten, but you pick up a rental car in the airport and on your way here you have a lot of beautiful nature around you while you drive. If you want to go straight to Lofoten and not drive for 2 hours, you can take a plane to Svolvaer (by airplane Widerøe) or Leknes. If I had to choose I would choose Svolvaer, because this is almost at the beginning of Lofoten, so you can start there and work your way through it. And also, Svolvaer is a prettier city than Leknes.
Is it necessary to rent a van/car in Lofoten to explore it fully or public transport does the job? Can you recommend some companies for such hire?
We do have public transportation going through Lofoten (bus), but these routes only stop along the main road and in the cities. Also, Lofoten is not a very big place, and the bus doesn’t go through that many times a day. If you want to visit some smaller villages or go off the beaten path, I would definitely recommend renting a car. This also gives you more freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it.
Companies such as Hertz, Avis, Europcar and Sixt are those I would recommend.
How many days are enough to see Lofoten considering it’s a string of islands?
This depends on what you plan on doing on your trip.
If you mainly want to just go skiing and enjoy yourself, then 4-7 days would probably be enough.
If you want to explore as much as you can, I think you should spend two weeks here. That gives you time to see pretty much all of Lofoten, including the islands Værøy, Røst and Skrova that you need to take a boat to reach.
You will have time to go on guided trips, drive around, see the beaches, hike the mountains, and all this without having to stress from one place to another.
What are the top three must visit places for stunning landscape views in Lofoten Islands?
Lofoten has so much to offer, so choosing only three places is a very difficult task. But if I had to choose, I would first of all recommend booking a boat trip to see the famous Trollfjorden. Trollfjord is a fjord situated between the two archipelagos Vesterålen and Lofoten. According to Norwegian Mythology, the fjords are actually trolls who couldn’t stand sunlight and hence turned into stones. I can assure you that this is a spectacular place, and you have most likely never seen anything like it. If you take Hurtigruten, you can visit Trollfjord on your way from Bergen to Kirkenes. Read more about visiting Trollfjord here.
Second place I would recommend is Reine. This is a small and nice village with beautiful surroundings. From here you can take the ferry over the fjord and visit Bunes beach. If you bring a tent with you, you can spend the night by the beach and hike the amazing mountain called Helvetestinden. In Reine there is also a mountain called Reinebringen. This is one of my favorite hikes in Lofoten! It has a really breathtaking view!! To know more about the Reine village, click here.
Last, but definitely not least we have the places called Haukland and Uttakleiv. These are two different places, but they are right next to each other. Here you can relax by the beach, enjoy a walk in nature or hike the mountains. There is a mountain called Mannen. This mountain separates Haukland and Uttakleiv, and it is a hike that suits everyone no matter what shape you are in. Find more details on the hike here.
Which are the best beaches in Lofoten?
The best beaches in Lofoten in my opinion is Kvalvika beach, Unstad beach, Bunes beach, Haukland/Uttakleiv beach.
To get to Kvalvika you need to hike a mountain first, so if you do not want to spend that much energy just to get to a beach, then skip it. But have in mind that it is really worth it! Like I mentioned before, you have to take the ferry to get to Bunes beach, but again, it’s worth the trip.
Haukland/Uttakleiv is also very beautiful, especially for seeing the midnight sun. And then we have Unstad. This is also a beautiful place, but it is usually windy. So I would recommend this one if you like to surf or just to see others surf. There is a place right next to the beach, where you can rent paddleboards and surfboards.
What adventure activities can one indulge in when visiting Lofoten?
When it comes to guided activities, I would recommend booking a trip with the company called xxLofoten. It’s located in Svolvaer, and they offer a wide range of activities. The most popular ones are sea eagle safari in the famous Trollfjorden, kayaking, northern lights photo tour and fishing. LofotenExplorer also offer guaranteed adventure on Sea Eagle & Trollfjord safari. Try them for experienced guides and plenty of local knowledge.
Arctic Winter Whale Safari from Andenes is an unforgettable experience too. Andenes and Hvalsafari AS is strategically located between the famous tourist destinations Lofoten and North Cape. Orca is the largest species of the dolphin family and belongs to the toothed whales, check them and other variety of whales on a tour with Hvalsafari. To know more about them click here.
They also offer to guide you on a hike in the mountains, but you do not necessarily need to pay a guide to do this… If you are used to hiking, I would just go to our local book store and buy a book that tells you which trips to go on. They tell you where to go, how to get up there and how difficult it is. If you choose to go off on your own in our mountains; BE CAREFUL! Do not underestimate the danger of hiking in unfamiliar areas, especially during winter. We have a lot of great mountains to hike, but if you are interested in climbing, I would highly recommend the Svolvaer goat! Find the complete guide to climbing Svolvaer goat here. Also check out these excellent guides by CodyDuncan and SummitPost for hiking help in Lofoten.
At a place near Henningsvær that is called Festvåg you can find a wall worth climbing called Presten (The priest). The great pillar at Vågakallen is also a well known place to climb. Henningsvær is also famous for world’s most unique and scenic football pitch.
I would also recommend playing midnight sun golf at Hov/Gimsøy.
Which is the best time of the year to spot Aurora Borealis from Lofoten considering the unpredictable weather there?
My favorite months for Aurora hunting is from the middle of September to the middle of October (after this the weather can be very unstable to the end of the year). In addition, January, February and March are very good, since the weather is much more stable. Even though the aurora forecast tells you there will be northern lights, you might not be able to see it unless the sky is clear.
Any suggestion on where to stay in Lofoten?
While recommending places to stay I am thinking about both prices and the view/surroundings. At Hov/Gimsøy you can rent at Lofoten Links. They have cabins with a gorgeous view, and you can even enjoy the northern lights from the comfort of your living room.
Next, we have Svinøya Rorbuer in Svolvaer. They have cozy cabins by the sea and is a bit cheaper than staying at a hotel.
At the place in Lofoten called Hamnøy, you can rent at Eliassen Rorbuer. If you want to visit places from Leknes and to the end of Lofoten – Å (Å is a village in Andøy Municipality in Nordland county, Norway), this is a good place to stay if you want to stay in one place and drive from there each day and visit other places.
Renting on Airbnb is also a good choice. There are many good options here.
I would like to point out one in particular, if you are travelling with your family or a group of friends… It is a house my parents bought and renovated in 2018. I can safely recommend it because I know the standard it holds, and I know some of the most trustworthy people you can find in the area host it. I even spent a few nights there myself just to see what it is like being a guest there. It goes by the name “Pilan Lodge” and it is located in a small village called Laupstad. This is approximately 20 minutes to drive from Svolvaer City center. This village is in a fjord with mountains all around. You have the northern lights and amazing skiing opportunities right outside your door. It has a big living room, kitchen, bathroom, four bedrooms and a nice porch. Since we just recently put it up on Airbnb we have not hosted anyone there yet, but I can assure you it is a very nice place to stay. Especially for those coming here to ski. Of course, it might be a bit more pricy compared to other Airbnb’s in Lofoten, so it might not be within everyone’s budget.
Which guided Northern Lights and photography tours do you recommend for people coming to Lofoten?
When I first learned to take pictures of the northern light, I just asked others with experience and searched for ideas on google. So if you know your way around a camera a little bit, you do not really need to pay for someone to guide you on a northern light hunt. Google is your best friend sometimes! So if you choose to do it without a guide, here are some recommendations for where to see it.
First of all, you need to have a clear sky to see it. If it is raining, snowing or just cloudy in general, you do not stand a chance. Second, you might be able to see it in the middle of the city, but it is not recommended. I would go away from the disturbing city light and find a much darker spot to have a better chance of spotting it. Some good locations for this is Gimsøy/Hov, Sildpollneset, Haukland/Uttakleiv and Laukvik/Delp.
If you decide to go with the guide, I think XXLofoten offers good guidance on this adventure.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Lofoten?
In March we have the world cup in cod fishing where people from all over the world comes to Svolvaer to compete, drink and have a lot of fun. Throughout the summer we also have a lot of festivals all around Lofoten. Here you can experience good music outdoors, everything from rock, blues, country, pop, etc.
The 17th of may is our constitution day. If you are here that day you will experience how we celebrate it with national anthems, outfits and more. Of course we celebrate Christmas and Easter too, but this mostly just consist of spending time with family and the traditions we have at home, so there is not much special happening for the tourists visiting at this time.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Lofoten? Can you recommend a place to try them?
In Lofoten you can find many places to eat with great food! But while you are here I would like to recommend food that is typical Norwegian or specialties from Lofoten.
So first, typical Norwegian food. We have a dish called Fårikål. This is our national dish. This dish consists of meat from sheep/lamb, cabbage and black pepper. It probably sounds a bit weird, but it is worth trying if you have the chance. We do not serve this dish at restaurants all year long, so I would just ask a local when you are here and see if they can tell you where they serve it at that time of year.
Next up we have a dish that is also very traditional in Norway; Kjøttkake. It is kind of like meatballs, but they are bigger and taste differently. We usually enjoy this with potato, vegetables and brown sauce. You can usually buy this at many different cafes, but you can also buy it in the supermarket and make it at “home” if you have a kitchen in the place you are staying. It is very easy.
Moving on to the local specialties, I will list some things that are highly recommended to try when you are here. I will actually dare to say that you will never find a place that has better fish than Lofoten. Therefore, I would recommend trying the smoked salmon (which you can buy in either the supermarkets or enjoy at your hotel breakfast etc.). In the fishing village called Henningsvær you have a restaurant that is called Fiskekrogen. Here you can order some fish soup, fish burger, grilled stockfish or cod. Their food is absolutely amazing, and these are some great dishes you really should try! It is also very normal to eat dried stockfish here. This you can buy in the supermarkets, or maybe you get lucky and get to taste it from a local. It goes great with beer by the way. A lovely snack on a nice summer day.
Last, but not least we have something we call Fenalår. This is basically dried and salted lamb meat, and it is so delicious, I can’t get enough!! You can eat it alone, on bread, or with what we call Flatbrød (flatbread) and sour cream.
What to pack for a trip to Lofoten?
In winter I would say you could never have too much warm clothes. It is important to have a warm jacket, preferably clothes of wool or other warm materials, gloves, cap and shoes that are warm and repel water so your feet do not get wet and cold.
In summer the temperatures can vary. Always bring a thin jacket or a hoodie, because during evenings/nights the temperature drops. And during the day it can get quite hot some summers, but it can also rain and be only 10-15 degrees. So I would come prepared for cold nights, warm days and rain. Always be prepared!
If you want to travel light, plan your trip carefully in advance and only bring what is necessary and make do with what you have.
Any suggestion from a local to tourists visiting Lofoten?
Lofoten is a safe place, and most people living in here are very kind and hospitable. My advice to you would be to not be afraid to make contact with and talk to locals. They will be able to provide you with a lot of information about what to do and see while you are in Lofoten. And also tell you something about our local history.