This self-guided summer road trip travels at a relaxed pace through gorgeous scenery above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway. Explore two distinct archipelagos offering hiking trails, peaceful beaches, guided excursions, and a seaside teeming with whales—not to mention constant daylight hours during the 'Midnight Sun' to soak it in. Start and end the trip in Bodø, a cool little city with street art and a charming harbor.

Highlights

  • Spend a night on Hinnøya island for impressive cuisine and summer festivals
  • Hit the trail along the Queen’s Route—a moderate, 9-mile (15 km) round-trip hike
  • Take a boat tour in Andenes, an area known for year-round whale spottings
  • Join a sea kayaking excursion with a private guide in the extended evening light
  • Visit jaw-dropping villages and beaches on the Lofoten Islands at your own pace

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bodø Bodø
Day 2 Explore Bodø Bodø
Day 3 Drive from Bodø to Harstad Harstad
Day 4 Drive from Harstad to Andenes - Explore Andøya Island Andenes
Day 5 Hike the Queen's Route Andenes
Day 6 Drive from Andenes to Bø
Day 7 Explore Vesterålen
Day 8 Drive from Bø to Svolvær - Evening Kayaking Tour Svolvær
Day 9 Beach Hopping in the Lofoten Islands Svolvær
Days 10-11 Free Day in the Lofoten Islands Svolvær
Day 12 Drive to Moskenes - Ferry to Bodø Bodø
Day 13 Depart Norway  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bodø

Bodø's thriving marina
Walk to the harbor for freshly-caught fish

Welcome to Bodø, the 2nd largest city in Northern Norway! Upon arrival, pick up your rental car for your upcoming road-trip adventure. 

Once you're settled in your hotel, get out and explore this small, walkable city. Look for amazing street art scattered around the city center, thanks to a traveling art festival that came to Bodø in 2016 with international artists who decorated the sides of buildings downtown.

If feeling active, consider a hike to Keiservarden, a mountain plateau on top of Veten Hill near the city center. You can drive halfway to then continue by foot—it's a comfortable 40-minute walk to the top. From here you can see all the way to the Lofoten Islands. You can also drive to the Turisthytta, where there is also a spectacular view.

You can also enjoy the vistas from the 17th floor at Scandic Havet with a panoramic vantage point of Bodø and the surrounding area. From here, walk to the harbor and buy fresh shrimp from the fishermen.

Day 2: Explore Bodø

Take a scenic drive to the countryside near Bodø
Take a scenic drive to the countryside near Bodø

Today, you'll have free time to check out more of Bodø and its surroundings. Some options for exploring the area include:

  • Visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum, the largest aviation museum in the Nordic countries.

  • Check out the world’s strongest tidal current in Saltstraumen during a guided tour. Your guide will take you through the area's breathtaking scenery while you learn about proud coastal heritage.

  • Walk along Mjelle Beach, 30-minutes from the city center of Bodø. From the parking lot, there is a nice hike along a trail by the sea before you get to the beach, which takes about 15 minutes.

  • Join a guided Arctic Coastal Walk where you will learn about the elements geology of the area. Your guide will tell you about the local history and explain our dependency on the sea. He/she will also you some of the many Viking graves discovered in this area.

At the end of your adventures, return to Bodø and enjoy dinner in town

Day 3: Drive from Bodø to Harstad

Northern Norway offers long days of sunlight during summer months
Northern Norway offers long days of sunlight during summer months

After breakfast in Bodø,  it is time to hit the road!

Your road trip starts with a drive to Bognes where you'll take the ferry to Lødingen. When you get to Lødingen, drive north to get to Harstad. The city of Harstad enjoys a scenic and strategic location on Norway’s largest island, Hinnøya, serving as the gateway to both the Vesterålen and Lofoten archipelagos. 

Here you'll find impressive dining options, independent shops, music festivals, and untouched scenery. With 24/7 hours of sunlight during the summer months, you'll also have plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. Choose between hitting the trails in nearby mountains, renting sea kayaks, embarking on a whale safari, or joining in on one of the many diving trips in the Norwegian Sea.

Day 4: Drive from Harstad to Andenes - Explore Andøya Island

These surreal landscapes are accessible by car
These surreal landscapes are accessible by car

After enjoying breakfast in Harstad, it is time to drive onwards to Andenes. This is a village on Andøya Island within the archipelago of Vesterålen, which lies just north of the well-known Lofoten Islands. Nature lovers will be in heaven here, for the varied landscapes span from calm and peaceful beaches to craggy, alpine mountains and dramatic fjords.

Most Norwegians know Andenes as a year-round whale watching destination and the northernmost point in the world where you can observe sperm whales. Even short trips offer a very high chance of spotting a whale, so take the afternoon to enjoy a 2- to 4-hour boat trip with a local whale-watching operation, where you can get a glimpse of the mighty sperm whales as well as other aquatic life and seabirds. 

Alternatively, you can go walking or biking between the five different islands linked together by bridges or tunnels. The routes are mostly flat along asphalted roads that were originally built where people lived. Traffic is heaviest in the mid-summer season, but it is still moderate—apart from the E10. To avoid crowds, skip the E10 highway in favor of lesser-traveled roads.

Day 5: Hike the Queen's Route

Hike and hit the beach today
Hike and hit the beach today

After a hearty breakfast in Andenes, set out towards the fishing village of Stø—a beautiful 2.5-hour drive from Andenes, 93 miles away (151 km).

From here, you'll hike along Dronningruta, the Queen’s Route. This moderate, 9-mile (15 km) round trip takes you along the shoreline and over the mountain between Stø and the old fishing village of Nyksund, in the far north of Langøya, Norway's third-largest island.

Named after Queen Sonja, who first visited the island in 1994, the route itself is much older and has been used by many people, including (according to legend) the midwife of Stø on her way to births in Nyksund. The route is now a combination of two well-marked hiking trails (a low and high route) running along the ocean's edge. Together, they form an incredibly beautiful walk.

When you're done hiking, take time in the late afternoon for a drive on the National Tourist Route along the west coast of Andøya—one of the best ways to experience the region's coastline and its characteristic fishing villages with colorful wooden houses.

Day 6: Drive from Andenes to Bø

Coastal landscapes in Vesterålen
Coastal landscapes in Vesterålen

After breakfast in Andenes, you will drive further into the Vesterålen Islands in order to get to

A trip into Bø is like experiencing a condensed of Vesterålen: here you find the frothy open ocean alongside calm skerries, white sandy beaches and colorful moors, flat stretches of heath and alpine peaks, cacophonous bird rocks and silent marshes, as well as many, many deserted natural beaches.

Steep mountains will surround you and locals will be greeting you on arrival where you will stay in traditional cabins with access to your own kitchen. On arrival, walk the all year hiking trail to the Vetten Mountain or have a chat with the locals at Losjehytta.

Day 7: Explore Vesterålen

Orcas off the coast of the Vesterålen archipelago
Orcas off the coast of the Vesterålen archipelago

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll have the entire day to explore Vesterålen any way you please.

The landscapes of this district and archipelago tend to be much wilder than other areas in Northern Norway, with rounded mountains (compared to the jagged mountains in Lofoten), lush green valleys, inland lakes, and small villages close to the sea.  

If you haven't done so yet, join a whale watching tour, as this is one of the area's biggest draws since your chances of spotting whales are very high due to the fact that the area is rich in whale nutrition. Whale watching is a year-round activity, but in summer months, you'll likely get a glimpse of the mighty sperm whales.

You can also rent bicycles, sea kayaks, or rowboats. Sign up for a fishing trip with a local fisherman or visit a lighthouse with a guide. If you want a relaxing day, drive along the west coast, visiting hamlets along the way.

Day 8: Drive from Bø to Svolvær - Evening Kayaking Tour

Svolvær offers stunning scenery and calm waters for sea kayaking
Svolvær offers stunning scenery and calm waters for sea kayaking

Today, enjoy a relaxing morning in Bø before continuing your road trip to Svolvær in the Lofoten Islands—a mountainous archipelago known for its craggy peaks and tiny fishing villages. The word Svolvær itself was first mentioned in historical records in the late 16th century, which likely derived from the Old Norse word ‘svair’, which means chill.

As a regional center, the town has a range of hotels as well as clothing stores, markets, upscale restaurants, and art galleries open for business throughout the year. While Svolvær is the busiest village in Lofoten, it still only has a population of fewer than 5,000 people so you will have plenty of magnificent scenery and outdoor activities. Svolvær is the main starting point for tours to the Trollfjord, one of Norway’s lesser-known yet most dramatic fjords.  There are also plenty of hiking opportunities around Svolvær, the most iconic one is Svolværgeita.  

For a unique summer experience, join an evening kayaking tour. Your local guide will meet you at the Svolvær harbor and provide you with the necessary instructions and adjusts your equipment for the trip. This is a three-hour excursion, tailored to suit those who wish to try out kayaking or who have little experience, but who also wish to learn about Lofoten’s history and culture from the coastline. 

The area you will paddle from the harbor is calm and well suited for beginners; no qualifications are necessary. Consider bringing a camera as you will find many opportunities to take great pictures in the evening light of the 'Midnight Sun'.

Day 9: Beach Hopping in the Lofoten Islands

Enjoy white sand beaches and turquoise water
Enjoy white-sand beaches and turquoise water

Today, spend a leisurely day driving through the Lofoten Islands. A good idea (if the weather cooperates) is to stop at various secluded beaches along the route. 

Despite what many travelers think of the Arctic Circle, there are numerous stretches of soft white sand with turquoise blue water and mountain peaks in the background. In fact, these might be some of the most spectacular beaches you will ever see. 

Many beaches are accessible by car but there are also some beautiful beaches that are only reachable by hiking (and some that require taking a ferry and then hiking). For instance, Bunes beach requires a ferry trip from the charming village of Reine, followed by an easy one-hour hike, rewarding you with a special beach experience without cars, noise pollution, or development.

Days 10-11: Free Day in the Lofoten Islands

Sandy beach popular with surfers in Unstad
Sandy beach popular with surfers in Unstad

Today, you'll have a free day to explore the Lofoten Islands at your own pace—and what a treat when equipped with a rental car to get to the lesser-visited areas. Here are some destination suggestions to keep you busy for one or more days. 

  • Gimsøya: Only 35 minutes from Svolvær, this beautiful island offers rich birdlife and hiking opportunities. Check out the mountain named Hoven with 360-degree views of the Vesterålen islands—ideal for seeing the midnight sun. There are also white sandy beaches, golf courses, and a farm with Icelandic horses and a café. Another great dining option is the café situated inside the small grocery store in town.

  • Eggum: This fishing village lies on the seaward side of Vestvågøy island and is a great place to experience the midnight sun. On the west side of the car park stands an intricate piece of art by Marcus Raetz.

  • Unstad: This cool little village is an arctic surf destination drawing surfers from all over the world. It has a chilled-out vibe and great local food.

  • Bøstad: Stop in Bøstad to check out the Lofotr Viking Museum and annual Viking Festival, held annually in August.

  • Vikten: Come here for amazing scenery and a well-known studio where you can experience the art of glassblowing. The glass studio and gallery offers regular tours and a lounge area with outstanding views towards the beach and ocean.

  • Nusfjord: This gorgeous drive offers vantage points of steep high mountains; you can stop and explore the charming harbor dotted with red rorbuer huts.

  • Ramberg: Take a big walk on Ramberg's long, sandy beach surrounded by stunning views.

  • Å: This is the official end of the Lofoten Islands where you can check out the Lofoten wall—a massive collection of mountain peaks rising steeply from the waters of the neighboring archipelago that appear to form a straight line.

Day 12: Drive to Moskenes - Ferry to Bodø

Ferry to Bodø where you'll catch a flight to Oslo
Ferry to Bodø to drop off your rental car

It's time to depart the Lofoten Islands and finish your road trip! At the designated time, you will drive to Moskenes and take the car ferry to Bodø.

Upon arrival, return your rental car and enjoy anything you may have missed at the beginning of the trip. Have a stroll around the quaint city and check out notable restaurants such as Restaurant NYT, LystPa, and Kom Heim.

Day 13: Depart Norway

Goodbye, Norway!
Goodbye, Norway!

After breakfast, head to the airport and catch your departing flight. Although it's time to say goodbye to Norway, the memories from your trip will surely stay with you forever!

Map

Map of Vesterålen & Lofoten Islands Road Trip - 13 Days
Map of Vesterålen & Lofoten Islands Road Trip - 13 Days