In less than a week, experience snow-covered scenery and the Northern Lights with this photogenic road-trip through the Lofoten Islands. The trip begins with a car ferry from Bodø, where you'll drive across the coastline at your own pace and explore some of Norway's oldest and most colorful fishing towns hugging the shore with traditional red 'rorbu' (fishermen's huts). Conclude the adventure with an overnight coastal steamer to Tromsø for a slice of Northern Norway's biggest city.

Highlights

  • Put on your sea legs for a scenic car ferry and coastal ferry steamer 
  • Drive through the islands and explore picturesque fishing villages 
  • Partake in winter sports like fishing, snowshoeing, and even surfing
  • Dine at a cozy pub made from a WWII Polish troop ship
  • Join a guided Northern Lights chase or dogsledding excursion

Overview

Travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations in Norway will love this winter road trip through a portion of the Arctic Circle, allowing you the freedom to drive at your own pace and stop as you please. And with overnights in three memorable spots (including a coastal steamer), this itinerary is ideal for those who want to make the most of their five days with a mix of jaw-dropping rural landscapes and small city culture (Tromsø).

A major portion of this itinerary focuses on the country's wild and untamed Lofoten Islands — part of a mountain chain on the Norwegian Sea that sits right up against the Gulf Stream. These islands offer local art, fresh seafood, and stunning nature, along with history linking back to the Viking Age. This particular driving route takes you through the villages of Moskenes, Reine, Hamnøy, and Svolvær. Stop and take part in a range of winter activities, or simply explore the villages by foot. You'll also have the chance to join a range of unique excursions with an English-speaking local guide.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bodø - Ferry to Moskenes Reine/Hamnøy
Day 2 Explore Reine & Hamnøy Reine/Hamnøy
Day 3 Drive to Svolvær - Hurtigruten Hurtigruten
Day 4 Hurtigruten - Explore Tromsø Tromsø
Day 5 Depart Tromsø  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bodø - Ferry to Moskenes

Red wooden houses are ubiquitous in this part of Norway.

Welcome to Norway!

After you've landed in Oslo, you'll catch a short flight to Bodø and pick-up a rental car before catching a 3-4 hour car ferry to Moskenes on the southwestern part of Moskenesøya Island -- part of the Lofoten archipelago. 

Once you've checked into your accommodations, check to see if the skies are clear and look for the Northern Lights. Otherwise, head to a pub and think about how you'll spend the coming days undertaking some of the numerous activities available in the Lofoten Islands during winter months: 

Skiing/Snowshoeing: The combination of sea and mountain, snow, ice, and granite makes this archipelago one of the unique snow destinations on the planet.

Skiing and Sailing: After skiing in the morning you can sail in the afternoon towards the next mountain for the next day. This is an active trip where the outdoor experiences are either the wheel of the boat or with skis on your legs.

Fishing: You can join local excursions on either small or large boats. The main season for cod fishing is February-April.

Surfing: With consistent waves and the rugged beauty of the islands, Unstad has a thriving surf scene. There are only a few dozen residents, but thousands of people visit the town each year to surf; the village is relatively easy to reach by car.

Day 2: Explore Reine & Hamnøy

The village of Reine looks even more beautiful during winter months.

After breakfast hit the road and explore the islands at your own pace. One of the best ways to appreciate the stunning natural scenery of the Lofoten Islands is to follow the E10 road, which runs along the archipelago allowing you to stop and admire the dramatic landscape along the way.

Two fishing villages on Moskenesøya Island worth exploring are Reine and Hamnøy. Reine is particularly breathtaking from the highway with red and white fishermen’s huts from the late 1800s — called rorbuer — dotting the shoreline and surrounding peaks of granite shooting out of the Reinefjorden. It is a quiet village, but many of the best hiking trails on the Lofoten Islands are within a short distance. You can also arrange kayaking, biking, and skiing trips in the winter. Stop at the Coop market and stock up on edible supplies if you're headed on an outdoor adventure.

The small neighboring town of Hamnøy is the oldest fishing village (cod is in season during winter months) in the Lofoten archipelago and unbelievably beautiful with local museums and galleries. Visitors can stay in the cozy original fishermen cabins (the oldest one is from the 1890s), which have been modernized with indoor facilities and Wi-Fi.

Day 3: Drive to Svolvær - Hurtigruten

Spend a day exploring Svolvær and its neighboring fishing island.

After breakfast, drive to the popular hub of Svolvær with about 2,000 residents. Spend the day soaking in the history while walking through the windy streets with centuries-old wooden houses and buildings, surrounded by majestic Lofoten mountains and sea. 

Stop by Foto Galleri for spectacular photos of the Lofoten Islands where the work of photographer Anders Finsland is for sale (pay a visit even if you don't plan to buy.) 

Sample traditional Norwegian cuisine at one of the local restaurants and then have a pint at Bryggabaren — a cozy, low-beamed pub made from a WWII Polish troop ship that washed up in Svolvær in 1946. 

Make sure to leave time for the vibrant fishing village called Svinøya — a little section of Svolvær on an island across from the main part of town. This is the oldest part of Svolvær, and has been a thriving fishing hub since 1828. Keep an eye out for the fish processing plant, as well as iconic stockfish racks, fishing cabins (rorbuer), art galleries, old wooden houses, and the fish restaurant called Børsen Spiseri. 

You can also arrange a tour with a local English-speaking guide who will show you around town sharing stories and historical bits, with plenty of opportunities to ask questions. 

Have dinner and then drop the rental car off before boarding an overnight Hurtigruten coastal steamer towards the city of Tromsø, arriving the next afternoon.

Day 4: Hurtigruten - Explore Tromsø

Get a glimpse of the Northern Lights on a guided tour. 

Welcome to Tromsø! After you arrive on the Hurtigruten, you will have the rest of the day to explore the self-proclaimed "Gateway to the Arctic". Check out the city on your own or take a guided tour. Here are a few suggested activities that can be arranged with local guides:

Walk Through History: Meet your local guide and set off on a three-hour walking tour of Tromsø. Visit the largest city in the north -- street by street -- and take in its rich culture and beautiful architecture, including historic wooden houses dating as far back as 1789. View relics and buildings dating back to medieval times, and learn about the city’s extensive fishing culture, which was established when trade in Norway was at its peak. You will also tour the stunning Arctic Cathedral. 

Dogsledding: Get ready for an active afternoon of dogsledding in the Norwegian countryside. (This is a half-day trip, lasting about 4 hours). You'll sled along a 2.4 mile (4 km) trail and have a meet-and-greet with 300+ huskies and their puppies. Stop for hot coffee, tea, and biscuits along the route and have time to hear more about the history of dog sledding from experienced guides. At the end of your journey, you will sit around a campfire and have a traditional Norwegian meal of Bidos — hearty stew made of reindeer meat with broth and veggies (vegetarian meals are available upon request.)

Northern Lights Chase: In the evening, get ready to chase the Northern Lights! Your guide will pick you up in Tromsø and take you on this fun after-dark excursion as they find the best locations away from the city lights for viewing and photographing this spectacular natural occurrence. Throughout the evening, your guide will offer interesting information about the Northern Lights, including why and how they occur, as well as legends and folklore of the indigenous Sami people. Your guide will even be able to assist you in adjusting your camera settings for the best photographs. If the weather allows, there will be a campfire with hot chocolate and marshmallows to end your night. 

If you remain in the city in the evening, check out Tromsø's great restaurants and lively nightlife.

Day 5: Depart Tromsø

A sunset near Tromsø.

It's time to say goodbye to Norway! If there's time before your flight, spend some time wandering this compact city center and charming pedestrian streets for unique souvenirs before heading to the airport.

Map

Map of Northern Norway's Arctic Adventure - 5 Days
Map of Northern Norway's Arctic Adventure - 5 Days