As part of our year of travel where we’re figuring out where we want to live more permanently, we’ve spent 5 weeks in Lofoten in winter.
Instead of driving back up to Tromsø, we decided to stay in Lofoten longer and explore the beautiful Lofoten Islands in winter.
And while Lofoten Norway may be renowned for winter storms that keep you stuck inside and crazy winds that’ll blow you over. We’ve been lucky with the weather and had weeks of sunshine and clear skies.
It’s recently started snowing and yes, it’s dark with no sunrise, but we’re leaning into it and enjoying the slower pace of things, seeing the Lofoten Islands Northern Lights and exploring with very few other people around.
If you’re thinking about visiting Lofoten in winter, here are some of the best things to do in Lofoten in winter as well as some top tips for your Lofoten winter itinerary.
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Best things to do in Lofoten in winter
If you’re visiting Lofoten in winter you’re in luck! You’re there for the Northern Lights, skiing, snowshoeing and the cosy season when most of the tourists have already left; the best season!
We loved our Lofoten islands Norway winter trip and I’m sure you will too!
1. Go Backcountry Skiing in Lofoten
If you’re into ski touring and backcountry skiing, then you’re going to have an awesome time in Lofoten in winter!
Top tip: Get the Lofoten: Skiing in the Magic Islands book to read up on the ski touring routes around Lofoten.
If you have ski touring experience and all the gear, including your transceiver, probe and shovel, then you could head out on backcountry ski trips on your own.
However, if reading snow conditions and picking safe terrain from avalanches is newer to you, I’d highly recommend taking a backcountry ski vacation in Lofoten with Lofoten Ski Lodge.
Lofoten Ski Lodge offers luxury accommodations and guided skiing. It’d make such a cool ski trip in Lofoten!
2. Take a sauna in Lofoten
One of the best things about visiting Norway in winter is that it’s perfect for taking a sauna! Saunas just hit differently in the winter compared to the summer.
We love a sauna on a dark, rainy or snowy day followed by a dip in the sea to cool down before warming back up again.
Some of the best saunas in Lofoten are:
- The sauna at Trevabriken, Henningsvaer
- Lofoten Sauna in Svolvaer
- Hov Gård on Gimsøy
- Skårungen sauna and hot tub, Kabelvåg
3. Visit a Lofoten Christmas Market
If you’re visiting Lofoten in November or December, be sure to check out a Christmas market in Lofoten!
Skårungen resort holds a Christmas market on Sundays from 11 am – 4 pm in November and December. They have several of their cabins opened up and taken over by local producers and artists.
When we visited there were locally roasted coffee, candles and soaps, sausages and sea urchin lamps.
There’s also the Skårungen cafe open which is gorgeous outside with sea and mountain views. This was one of my favourite days while we were in the Lofoten Islands in December.
Henningsvaer also does Christmas activities where the village shops are open, there are kick sleds to zip around the streets on and even Santa might show up!
4. Go surfing in the Arctic
If you’re a keen surfer or dream of being one, then make sure you try surfing in the Arctic in winter!
Sure, it’ll be a bit chilly but with the right wetsuit it’s not too bad, and it’s such a cool experience!
There are two main places you can go surfing in Lofoten with cafes and businesses that will rent you out wetsuits and boards.
There’s Unstad Arctic Surf Resort which also offers accommodation, camping in Lofoten, and a cute cafe with some delicious cinnamon buns and Lofoten Beach Camp.
Lofoten Beach Camp also has a great cafe with views of the surf and a campsite.
5. Sail and ski in Lofoten Islands
Unfortunately, visiting the Lofoten islands in November was too early to d omuch skiing, but if you’re a keen skier with touring experience and good fitness the ultimate thing to do in Lofoten in winter is to take a sail and ski trip in the Lofoten Islands.
This is the most incredible way to experience Lofoten in winter but it doesn’t come cheap.
You’ll board a ship with your friends and crew and then embark on several days of sailing and skiing accompanied by great food!
Some of the best companies for sail and ski trips in Lofoten include:
- Sail Norway
- Alpine Guides
6. Take a Lofoten winter photography tour
Lofoten has become famous over the years due to its natural beauty and wherever you go you’ll be wowed by the scenery. There are also some great Lofoten winter tours that’ll show you the most picturesque spots.
If you’re a keen amateur photographer looking to get some of the best pictures of Lofoten then take a winter photography tour!
This winter photography tour leaves from Svolvaer and you’ll not only visit some of the best places for photographs in Lofoten, but you’ll get tips on how to take the best photos too.
7. Take a sea eagle safari through Trollfjord
When it comes to what to do in Lofoten in winter, taking a boat trip to the Trollfjord in Lofoten is a must. The Trollfjord is a narrow fjord that is home to sea eagles and is incredible to visit.
Inaccessible by car, you’ll need a boat to really experience Trollfjord, which is why this Trollfjord boat trip is the perfect tour to take in Lofoten in winter.
You’ll head out from Svolvaer on the RIB and experience the beauty of the fjord. You’ll also learn more about sea eagles and hopefully get to see them!
8. Experience the Polar Night
From early December until January the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon in Lofoten.
This doesn’t mean it’s completely dark in Lofoten in January though! You’ll still get several hours of daylight and, if it’s sunny, you’ll basically have a four-hour sunset/sunrise with beautiful orange and pink colours. It’s so pretty!
And, when it’s not sunny, you get a super cool blue Arctic glow.
I thought visiting Lofoten during Polar Night would be really hard on me but it’s not been too bad. Just try and get outside during the time it is light and then cosy up indoors with a good adventure book or go hunting for the Northern Lights.
This is the best time to see the Northern Lights too since it’s dark for so long and you need darkness to see them!
9. Horseback Riding on Gimsøy
Horse riding might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Lofoten. However, there is a great horse stable on Gimsøy in Lofoten where you can take a trek through this wild scenery on horseback.
Hov Gård is an Icelandic horse farm where you can take a ride out on the sandy beaches that are flanked by mountains. You can take a ride during the day or, for something extra special, ride at night and see if you can spot the Northern Lights!
Make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes for the horse riding trip. You’ll need gloves and mittens, thick socks and good boots. Maybe have some hand warmers ready to go too!
Hov Gård also has a great restaurant and cafe that does great food!
10. Go ice skating on the lakes
If you’re into ice skating and happen to have your own skates then pack them with you for your trip to Lofoten in winter.
There are so many lakes around Svolvaer that you can go skating on. And, if you don’t have access to skates then you can head to the lakes and watch others skate or play hockey!
If you’ve got microspikes, which I highly recommend if you’re visiting Lofoten in winter, then you can walk out onto the lake without skates too.
If you’re there before the snow but when the lakes are frozen over, you can also see fish under the ice, or see deep into the lakes!
11. Stay in a DNT cabin
DNT is the Norwegian hiking association that maintains most of the trails around Norway and builds cabins up on the mountains.
There are a few of these cabins in Lofoten and the most accessible of them is the Nøkksaetra cabin near Svolvaer.
The hike from Svolvaer is a moderate hike and takes around 3-4 hours return.
The cabin is beautiful and you can book a night or two there if you’re a DNT member. If you’re not then it’s still worth hiking up here for the views anyway!
If you are staying, you’ll need to pick up a key from the tourist information centre in Svolvaer and then pack food and sleeping gear for the night.
12. Go skiing at the Kongstind ski resort
Kongstind ski resort in Svolvaer usually opens up in January and offers lift-accessed ski runs that are perfect for more beginner to intermediate skiers and those who are just desperate to get out skiing!
The Kongstind Alpinsenter opens Friday to Sunday during the ski season and there’s a great cafe on site which hot drinks and cinnamon buns!
13. Take a winter road trip through Lofoten
Whatever time of year you’re visiting Lofoten you definitely need to plan a road trip from Svolvaer to Å. The drive is incredibly beautiful with bridges, tunnels, turquoise beaches and mountains everywhere you look.
Plus, the closer you get to Å, the prettier the villages get with the classic red buildings (Rorbuer). Make sure you visit Hamnoy, Reine, Nusfjord and Henningsvaer but there are plenty of other beautiful places to stop in Lofoten too.
14. Visit the Lofoten beaches
One thing I didn’t know about Lofoten before visiting is that the beaches in Lofoten are stunning!
They have white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters.
There are so many Lofoten beaches to visit and some of the best include Unstad, Ramberg and Haukland.
Kvalvika is also beautiful but does require a hike to get there.
Check out this hiking guide for Kvalvika beach!
15. Go snowshoeing or Lofoten hiking in winter
We didn’t get any snow until about a month into our Lofoten winter trip which meant we could explore the hiking trails of Lofoten without too many people on the trails.
We did a new Lofoten hike pretty much every day and while we didn’t need snowshoes, we did always pack our microspikes with us since the rocks and boardwalks get pretty slippery and these give you a little bit more traction.
A lot of Lofoten Islands hiking is quite boggy too so when it freezes over you’ll find yourself walking over ice and microspikes come in super handy then!
One of the best things about visiting Lofoten in winter over summer is that the trails are so much quieter! We barely saw anyone on all the hikes we did and so we didn’t have to worry about parking either.
However, you do have to take the daylight into account as you’ll only get a couple of hours when hiking Lofoten in winter. Though you should always have a headlamp with you since it’s one of the 10 hiking essentials. Plus, you should avoid some of the harder trails which have exposure as they can be risky in ice and rain.
If you’re visiting in deep winter (January or Lofoten in February), the trails will likely be snow-covered and you may need snowshoes.
At this time of year taking a snowshoe tour can be a great way to get out and explore Lofoten.
One of my favourite winter hikes in Lofoten was Tjeldbergtind and Kleppstadheia would be another great option.
16. See the Northern Lights in Lofoten
Chances are you’re coming to Lofoten in winter in hope of seeing the Northern Lights and hopefully, you’ll be in luck!
We’ve seen the Northern Lights many times throughout our visit to Lofoten and while I think Tromsø probably has the edge over Lofoten, you should still get a good show in Lofoten too.
If you’re only in Lofoten for a short time, the best way to maximise your chances of seeing the Lofoten Northern Lights is to take a tour.
The Lofoten Northern Lights guided tours have access to a vehicle to drive you out to clear skis, provide warm winter clothing and often drinks or a campfire, are skilled in taking Northern Lights photos and know how to read Northern Lights prediction charts.
If you’re staying in Lofoten for a few weeks or longer, you probably don’t need to take a tour. As long as you get clear skies you can usually see some aurora activity most nights.
At first, it can be hard to know what to look for as sometimes the lights are so dull they just look like clouds. But, when you get a real Northern Lights show, you can’t mistake it for anything else!
Read more: Hiking Fløya and Djevelporten in Svolvaer
17. Grab a drink at the Magic Ice Bar in Svolvær
The Magic Ice Bar in Svolvaer is the world’s first permanent ice gallery with sculptures depicting fishing and Viking history.
It’s one of the top Lofoten attractions and you can also enjoy a cocktail inside the ice bar!
The ice bar is open all year round but it’s particularly special in winter as you’ll come out and it’s snowy and dark whereas in summer it’ll feel a bit weird coming out to daylight and sunshine!
The Magic Ice Bar in Svolvaer costs 250 NOK (£25) and includes a warm jacket and gloves, a museum entrance and a drink.
The Magic Ice Bar is open every day from 6 pm – 10 pm in winter.
18. Eat a typical Norwegian Christmas dinner
In the latter half of November and into December, restaurants all across Norway start to celebrate Jul (Christmas) with Christmas menus and Julbord.
In Lofoten, this means you can enjoy a meal of lutefisk or ribs as well as other Northern Norway specialities.
Some of the best restaurants for Christmas dinner in Lofoten include:
- Børsen Spiseri in Svolvaer,
- Trevarfabrikken in Henningsvaer
- Makalaus in Leknes
19. Visit the Lofoten Viking museum
The Lofoten Viking Museum in Borg is the best place to learn about the history of Scandinavia, Norway and the Lofoten Islands.
The museum itself is in the world’s largest longhouse built by Vikings that’s been excavated. It’s full of artefacts from the Viking era. If you’re even vaguely interested in Vikings then you’ll love this museum.
As one of the top Lofoten attractions, the Viking museum also offers a Viking feast where you get access to the museum and then come back for dinner to learn even about the history of the Vikings and eat some traditional dishes from the time.
20. Cosy up in a cafe in Lofoten
As we’ve been spending over a month in Lofoten in winter, we’ve done our fair bit of cafe hopping.
Luckily, Lofoten is full of cosy cafes where you can grab a hot drink, and cinnamon bun and people-watch, read or get in a bit of work.
Henningsvaer comes out on top as one of the best towns for cafe hopping since there are multiple options. We loved Klatrekanteen in Henningsvaer which is right on the water, does a tasty lunch and has two wood fireplaces so you’ll definitely stay warm.
Also in Henningsvaer, there’s Trevarefabrikken which operates a co-working, self-serve coffee and tea space Monday-Thursday and then has their full cafe from Friday to Sunday with brunch at the weekend too. Lysstøperi, a cafe and candle shop, seemed popular with locals when we visited, and they’ve got some great sweet treats!
Visiting these cafes is one of the best things to do in Henningsvaer in winter! In fact, you could easily spend a day in Henningsvaer where there’s the famous Lofoten football pitch, some great short hikes and cute shops and cafes!
Further afield in Nusfjord, I highly recommend Landhandleriet Café. Unstad Arctic Surf (great soup and cinnamon buns!) in Unstad, and Kafe Naust in Laukvika up north.
Top tips for visiting Lofoten in winter
While I think one of the best times to visit Lofoten is in winter there are some things you should bear in mind before deciding to plan your trip to Lofoten at this time of year.
- Seasonal closures: In winter, many shops, cafes and restaurants are closed completely for the season or on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you’re just visiting for a short time, you should plan your trip for the weekend when more places are open.
- The weather in Lofoten can always be extremely unpredictable. It’s famed for its wind and you should expect storms too in winter. However, our experience was completely the opposite and we had two weeks of non-stop sunshine!
- Crowds: The best thing about visiting Lofoten in winter is that there are no crowds. The only places we’ve seen quite a few people were in Hamnoy, the Reinebringen car park and Nusfjord. These are some of the most popular places for photographs so they were understandably busier.
- Pack microspikes: Even if it’s not snowy, the ground can still be super slippery and freezing rain, frost and ice are common. I highly recommend packing or buying, some microspikes to take with you to Lofoten to avoid too many slips and trips! These are what I use
Where to stay in Lofoten: the best Lofoten hotels
Booking accommodation in Lofoten in winter is much easier than in the summer. In the summer, Lofoten is a busy, busy place and accommodation prices can be sky-high or booked up months in advance.
In the winter, however, many places have spare rooms with last-minute availability and prices are generally cheaper. Especially if you’re visiting in November and December before ski tourism has kicked in.
While we stayed in Airbnbs so that we could have access to a bit more space, and a full kitchen, if I was visiting for a shorter period of time, these are the Lofoten Islands hotels I would book.
- Nusfjord Arctic Resort: Beautiful fishing cabins right on the water with mountain views and access to a wood-fired hot tub.
- Trevarefabrikken: Lofoten’s coolest hangout spot in trendy Henningsvaer with stylish rooms and access to a beautiful sauna.
- Svinøya Rorbuer: Set in Svolvaer, this hotel has both hotel-style rooms as well as 1-bedroom Lofoten cabins all with beautiful views.
- Rostad Retro Rorbuer: This beautiful fishing cabin in Reine is right on the water. It’s super cosy with beautiful views and a kitchen.
- Skårungen Hotel: Tucked away between Svolvaer and Henningsvaer, the Skårungen Hotel is in a picturesque area where guests have access to a restaurant and cafe and a spa, hot tub and sauna. It would be a lovely place to spend a trip in Lofoten in winter!
How to get to Lofoten Islands in winter
We drove to Lofoten from Tromsø. The whole journey takes around 6 hours from Tromsø to Svolvaer, and around 8 hours if you’re going from Tromsø down to Å at the southern tip of the Lofoten Islands.
We broke this journey up by visiting Senja and Sommarøy on the way down to Lofoten, which I’d highly recommend if you’re visiting Lofoten in winter too.
We rented a car for our whole 2 months in Norway from Europcar at the Tromsø airport and it came with studded winter tyres which are a must if you’re driving a lot in Lofoten in winter – it gets icy and snowy!
Flights to Lofoten airports
There are two small airports in Lofoten, plus a third on the island of Røst. The two main Lofoten Islands airports are Svolvaer and Leknes.
These airports are domestic airports only so you’ll need to transfer at a larger airport before boarding your plane to Lofoten.
There are a few direct flights between Svolvaer and Oslo in the spring and summer months.
In fact, you’ll usually have to transfer a couple of times. Flights from Oslo to Lofoten usually stop at Bodø before travelling onwards to Svolvaer or Leknes. If you’re flying from outside of Norway to Lofoten, that means changing at Oslo and again at Bodø.
You could also fly to Harstad or Narvik, both of which are cities close to the ‘entrance’ to Lofoten.
Ferry to Lofoten
There are a couple of ferries to Lofoten. The most well-known one is from Bodø to Moskenes. This is a car ferry service and possibly the most comfortable.
Alternatively, you can take the Hurtigruten coastal ferry from Bodø to Stansund and Svolvaer. This is a more expensive option and not all Hurtigruten ships take cars.
If you’re not taking the ferry with a car, the Bodø to Svolvaer ferry might be a great option for you. It’s passenger-only and an express boat so gets you there quicker than the Bodø – Moskenes ferry.
If you’re looking to limit your flights a little, you can fly to Bodø, rent a car and then take the Bodø to Lofoten ferry which arrives at Moskenes in the south of Lofoten.
The ferry to Lofoten can get very busy in the summer which is a downside to visiting Lofoten in summer in general: crowds.
However, in winter in Lofoten, things are much quieter. But you will need to make sure you get to the ferry terminal in time as there are only two sailings a day to Lofoten in winter.
You can check the timetables for the ferry to Lofoten from Bodø here.
The ferry to Moskenes from Bodø takes about 3 hours and, on a clear day, you’ll get incredible views of the mountains as you approach Lofoten.
However, the journey can be rough so not the best idea if you’re someone who gets seasick!
Train to Lofoten
There is no train to Lofoten. Bodø, or Narvik, are the end of the line depending on which direction you’re coming from.
If you’re travelling from Norway or Sweden to Bodø or Narvik and then onto Lofoten in the winter, it’s best to book in advance. That way you can get cheaper tickets.
From Bodø you can take the ferry to Lofoten. From Narvik, you can take a bus, or drive to Lofoten.
You can book trains online in advance by using TheTrainline.com which makes it super easy to plan your journey ahead of time!
Bus to Lofoten
There is no direct bus to get all the way to Lofoten from Oslo. The easiest way is to take the train to Bodø then take a bus if not driving or taking the ferry. If you’re coming from the north, such as Tromsø to Lofoten, then take a bus to Narvik and then switch to go to Lofoten.
The bus from Narvik to Lofoten goes all the way to the end of the road at Å, though you may need to change in Svolvaer or Leknes; especially with reduced service in winter.
Bu information for buses to Lofoten can be found here: reisnordland.no
Getting around Lofoten Islands
The easiest way to get around the Lofoten Islands is if you have a car. Getting from city to city is easy enough by bus, but if you want to get to trailheads for hikes and backcountry skiing in Lofoten, then you really will need a car.
Bus schedules in the winter are a bit reduced and in some cases, there’ll only be one or two buses a day.
We rented our car in Tromsø and drove it down from there. If you’re travelling through Narvik or Bodø then it might be best to hire a car there as it can be cheaper than renting a car in Lofoten.
We also found ‘Rent a Wreck’ which is in Lofoten and other towns across Norway. While the reviews for them weren’t the best at the Tromsø location, we did see quite a few of these around Lofoten and they didn’t look too much like wrecks! Their rental prices are a lot cheaper so might be worth the risk.
Final thoughts on this Lofoten Islands winter things to do
If you were looking for Lofoten winter activities I’m sure you’ve realised there’s no shortage of things to do in the Lofoten Islands. This has shared lots of the things we planned as part of our Lofoten Islands itinerary winter trip.
On our trip driving from Tromso to Lofoten in winter for our honeymoon, we weren’t sure what to expect from Lofoten in December but we were wowed by the stunning scenery and abundance of Lofoten activities winter offered.
From skiing to hiking, sauna dips and ice baths, we loved our trip. As you can see there are loads of things to do when it comes to what to do in Lofoten Islands in winter and I’d highly recommend you visit Lofoten in winter and not just in summer!
Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by Hannah
Hannah started That Adventurer after graduating back in 2013 and has documented all of her adventures since then. From backpacking South America to city breaks in Europe, a 3 month road trip across the USA in a self-converted van and 6 years living in Canada, you’ll find posts on all of this.
Hannah specialises in active travel and on That Adventurer you’ll find hiking, walking, biking, skiing and all sorts of active travel guides to allow you to see a destination in an adventurous way.