The settlement of Hamnøy in Lofoten with the 389 m high Festhelltinden in the background is one of the most photographed motifs in northern Norway, especially during winter. As with this picture, the photos are typically taken from the bridge of the E10. In winter you can get the best light around sunrise. But during this time there frequently are more than 50 photography enthusiasts on the bridge, so that an early arrival will ensure that you get the best perspective for your pictures. In addition to the time of day, the tides play an important role as well, because the atmosphere at low tide differs noticeably from the one at high tide.
Hamnøya is located in the east of the "Bay of Reine", one of the most attractive regions of Lofoten for us. Here and along the entire route to the end of Moskenes Island in Å there are numerous overnight accommodations. However, during high season, they are often fully booked, especially the rorbuer which are built on stilts.
Shortly before Bodø the Fylkesvei 17 (Helgeland route) crosses the Saltstraumen. Unprepared visitors will often be disappointed, because for many hours a day, the strongest tidal current in the world looks like a small fjord. Only four times a day, in the middle of low and high tide, its whole force shows up with fast flowing water and very large, deep vortexes as in this picture. The current is particularly strong during new and full moon. On the internet, the "Saltstraumen timetable" issued by the municipality of Bodø can be downloaded with the optimal times to see the tidal current in the current year.
The best place to watch the spectacle is from the bridge. Alternatively, you can go fishing at the shore or for a little more thrill, you can drive near the Straumen with powerful motor boats.
If you reach Lofoten from the direction of Vesterålen or from the east over the free Lofast, you can admire this fjord and mountain scenery after just a few kilometers on Vestvagøya on the left-hand side. However, this is only the overture for wonderful landscapes on the drive to Svolvær, the place to be on Austvagøya Island.
Svolvær itself is the largest city in the Lofoten archipelago and therefore offers the most varied and usually also the cheapest shopping opportunities. For ambitious climbers the mountain Svolværgeita certainly is a big attraction in this city. We are usually glad to leave the place behind rather quickly, though, and drive west on the E10 to get back to nature.
This picture shows the "Bay of Reine" shortly after sunset at the end of February seen from Toppøya. The characteristic mountain on the right is Olstinden (630 m), the settlement on the left is Sakrisøy.
In Sakrisøy you can rent rorbuer of different sizes and buy products such as dried fish. Since fish are naturally rather moist, they must be dried before being sold. This happens between February and April and on large wooden racks. Particularly the dried fish heads can be seen hanging on the racks until the early summer. What is less surprising is that fish can be quite aromatic so, depending on the wind, you can smell it in many places in Lofoten - especially near the said drying racks. Even though our noses quickly make peace with the general smell, we still try to avoid the drying racks.
This is another picture of the Olstinden and the rorbuer in Sakrisøy, this time in summer. Here you can buy not only dried but also various Atlantic fish and foods such as whale meat. The fjord at your doorstep is a great invitation to go fishing. Because of the clear water this also works quite well on sight, for example by holding the bait right in front of a large flatfish.
Of course, you can also rent boats and kayaks (as is true for almost all rorbu in Lofoten). In addition, there is a doll museum and a restaurant worth seeing on Sakrisøy.
The very close E10 did not prevent us from a relaxed night's sleep. Most of the time the birds and the rippling water under the Rorbu are "louder".
Once again, the "Bay of Reine" and the Olstinden from Sakrisøy looking Northwest shortly before midnight. Since there was no mountain available as a viewpoint on location, the drone had to compensate for the disadvantage. If you want to go high up and are at least slightly athletic, the over 600m high Reinebringen at the west exit of the village Reine offers the perfect conditions, as long as it has not rained much (slippery ascent and descent). Numerous visitors spend the night near the summit with a fantastic view.
As a starting point, the "Bay of Reine" is very well suited to conquer the beautiful islands of Moskenesøya and Flakstadtøya. For the attractive islands further east, the route is too long despite all the scenic beauty, because you will want to go there several times.
View from Å on Værøy-Moskenesøya-Lofoten
The E10 ends in Å i Lofoten on the southwestern tip of Moskenesøya. Behind a short tunnel you reach a parking lot. From here, it is a short walk of just a few hundred metres until you get to the ocean where you can enjoy a view as beautiful as in this picture.
The islands of Værøy and Røst can be reached by ferry from the neighboring Moskenes in about 90 minutes or 3 hours.
Å is a historic fishing village with numerous rorbuer, a campsite with cabins, a museum and a traditional bakery. You will meet many fishermen here, because between Å and Værøy there is the Moskenstraumen, a very strong tidal current, where you can catch many large fish.
In Vareid on Flakstadøya we recommend leaving the E10 for a short detour to Vikten. The beach is heavily exposed to storms coming from outside of the archipelago. Here, the ocean rolls in and out year in and year out, dragging stones to form beautiful sculptures as can be seen in this picture. For a visit, I recommend the time shortly after the flood, because then the beach is wonderfully smooth while one stone after another emerges from the retreating waters. The picture was exposed for 8 seconds (using a gray filter).
Before or after a stroll on the beach, you can also visit the glassblowing workshop.
If you leave the E10 just before or behind Leknes in the direction of Uttakleiv, after just a few kilometers you will have come across the viewpoint in this picture which is just above the beach of Vik. Minutes later you are at one of the most beautiful beaches of Lofoten: Haukland. Other people know this, too, so on a beautiful summer's day you will not be alone here.
In the sunlight of the summer months, the turquoise shimmering water and the white of the beach surrounded by the archipelago look almost Caribbean. The water temperature does not seem to care about that, because it is usually rather cold. In the winter months, however, northern lights can be seen dancing over the beautiful landscape.
The detour is by no means over here, because after a 3 km drive through a tunnel you will reach another spectacular beach which is perfect for observing the midnight sun: Uttakleiv.
This picture shows the football field of Henningsvær from the bird's eye or drone perspective.
Henningsvær is certainly one of the most visited places in Lofoten. Many cruises including the Hurtigruten also offer their guests a flying visit to this site.
Even the 8 km drive from the E10 on a narrow road directly on or above the sea under some spectacular rocks is worth the time. The rocks are a paradise for climbing enthusiasts, while the sea attracts divers, fishermen and kayakers.
Despite the many tourists visiting it, the fishing village is very inviting and still a great location for a relaxed stroll.
On an impressing road a few kilometers southwest of Ramberg you can turn in the direction of Fredvang. Especially from the two bridges you have a great view over Flakstadøya, Moskenesøya and the colorful sea.
Both north and south of Fredvang are beautiful hiking routes leading to two frequently photographed Lofoten attractions: Kvalvika beach and the mountain hike up the Ryten.
In my opinion, the best descriptions of hikes in western Lofoten are included in the guides of Cody Duncan (www.68north.com).
Personally, I find the road on the east side of the Raftsund between the E10 and Digermulen not very intriguing, except for details like the intense colors pictured here.
It is quite different if you sail the Raftsund from Svolvær by boat, either with a sea eagle safari or with a Hurtigruten ship. The Hurtigrute starts its tour in the evening in Svolvær in the north, so that you are going towards the midnight sun. Depending on the timetable, for example, if you change to the southbound ship in Harstadt, you have spent a day on a great section of the Norwegian coast, including Trollfjord, and return to Svolvær in the early evening.
This is how the archipelago near Henningsvær looks like from a bird's eye view - divine.
In calm weather, this paradise can be visited with a rented kayak or boat. Alternatively, in Henningsvær - at least during high season - different sea safaris are offered as well.
View from Hamnøya to the Lofoten Wall
This photo was taken about an hour after midnight, northeast of Hamnøya, looking northeast along the so-called Lofoten Wall. The view over the Vestfjord reaches from Flakstadøya to Vestvågøya, Austvågøya and beyond.
Here is a little tip: During the summer months in northern Norway, you should enjoy the hours around midnight. Unless it is completely overcast, the light is often magical and, in particular, for me, the first hours of the day radiate a wonderful grandeur. The transition from the fading day to the break of dawn can only be experienced in this intensity near or even better north of the Arctic Circle (or in the Antarctic).
A good 12 km north of Leknes is Uttakleiv with a north-facing beach. It is not as caribbean as the beach of Haukland 3 km south, but it is perfectly aligned for the midnight sun in the summer and the northern lights in the winter months.
For photographers, the beach has even more to offer, because on the one hand, the almost 500m high imposing Veggen falls into in the Norwegian Sea and on the other hand, the sandy beach is full of rocks and round cut stones which are perfect for the foreground of your pictures.
This sight is widely known and in summer, you can see many mobile homes on the narrow parking area above the beach in the afternoon. In winter, there are less tourists around. However, now the vacant area is taken over by minibuses with tripod-carrying photographers. Despite the many tourists: When the weather is good, it is definitely worth visiting!
View of the Vesterålen from Austvågøya-Lofoten
The northwest and north of Austvågøya is sparsely populated and beautiful, but far less spectacular than the competition to the east and southwest of the island. The region is being developed with a ring road that branches off of the E10 in the east of the island as Fv888 at Jordneset to join it again in the northeast at Fiskebøl near the ferry pier to Melbu on the Vesterålen.
To me, the area around the Grunnførfjorden with its sandbanks and the views of the Vesterålen in the north is very beautiful.
Henningsvær is also a wonderful place to visit because of its fantastic location and because it is still a living and breathing fishing village.
Especially during the spawning season of the Atlantic cod from January to April, the harbor is full of small fishing boats. In many cases, cod from the Arctic Ocean is still caught with fishing rods and longlines and then sold to gourmets across Europe as Skrei.
In Henningsvær you will also find numerous accommodations (but hardly rorbuer) and restaurants.
Like Henningsvær on Austvågøya, Ramberg is an important harbor for fishing boats, especially during the cod season from January to April. The place and harbor are far less picturesque.
To make up for this, you will find two of the most beautiful beaches in Lofoten in the village or in the immediate vicinity: Rambergstranda and Skagsanden on the E10 a few kilometers east. I already went for a swim on both beaches ;-)
On our last visit, however, Skagsanden had lost much of its fascination because it was very busy. It still offers extremely attractive views of the midnight sun and the northern lights, as well as "artistically valuable" flow patterns in the sand as the water drains away, which serve as attractive foreground motifs for many photographers with wide-angle lenses.
Eggum on the north coast, 23 km northeast of Leknes, is another great harbor for Lofoten fishing with beautiful views to the north and northeast, i.e. a good place for the midnight sun and northern lights. Here, my wife and I enjoyed our first midnight sun at 20°C in 1980.
Nearby alternatives with a view towards the north are Unstad (20km from Leknes), Uttakleiv (11km) and the road to Myrland at Flakstadøya (12km).
On the road from Ramberg in the direction of Å, turning southwest after passing the junction leading to Fredvang will lead you to the magnificent and for me most beautiful mountain massif of Lofoten. Unfortunately, the road here is not wide and offers little opportunity for a stop to enjoy the landscape.
A little later you will drive along the east side of the Sundstraumen where you will be thrilled by the varied and intense greens in summer. The road is still quite narrow here.
The bridge over the Kåkersundet then leads you to the south side of the Lofoten archipelago to Moskenesøya island. In Lofoten, the weather on the southern and northern side is often very different. On the bridge and along the Sundstraumens you have a good view in both directions.
During the cod season from January to April, the drying racks are filled with freshly caught cod. The dried fish is consumed in Scandinavia and has been exported to the Mediterranean countries of Europe in large quantities for centuries.
The smell of the racks is certainly not to everyone's taste. Fortunately, there are only very few windless days in Lofoten, so that the smell of the drying racks is quickly replaced by the scent of fresh salt air.
The mountain in the background is the almost 700m high Olstinden.
View of Gimsøya-Lofoten
Gimsøya is one of the smaller islands in the Lofoten archipelago between Aust- and Vestvågøya. On the drive along the E10, you will spend less than 5 minutes on the island - unless you stop to take pictures of the bridges and the Gimsøystraumen.
In the south near the European road, a mountain range rises more than 700m while the larger part of Gimsøya is flat and appears less attractive with the exception of some beaches in the north. The island can be explored by taking a ring road.
Flakstadpollen is a beautiful, elongated bay framed by mighty mountains. You can see the most beautiful water colors at high tide while some parts of the bay will be dry at low tide. At high tide, I also appreciate the bay to observe the northern lights.
There are two more possible detours on Flakstadøya we don't want to deprive you off:
At the end of Flakstadpollens, i.e. where I took this picture, the road branches off into the fishing village Nusfjord, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage since 1975 and is certainly one of Norway's most famous motifs. Many of the historic buildings - often rorbuer directly at or above the water - can be visited or even rented.
From Vestvågøya, turn right to Myrland at the end of the tunnel. The 5 km long road offers beautiful views (even of the midnight sun) and with Storsandnes a very attractive beach as well.
The view overlooking Vestvågøya from Henningsvær-Austvågøya-Lofoten
For some first-time visitors Vestvågøya may not seem as spectacular as the east and southwest of Austvågøya and particularly the islands Flakstadøya and Moskenesøya in the west. One way to make the "transit" more attractive is your choice of route. The E10 passes through the northern part of the island which is characterized by agriculture. A good alternative is the 815 starting from the bridge to Gimsøy which almost continuously follows the southern edge of the island. This route is not spectacular, either, but it is a little slower and more beautiful.
However, you should not underestimate Vestvågøya, because Haukland, Uttakleiv, Unstad and Eggum are home to some of Lofoten's most attractive northern beaches (ideal for both watching the midnight sun and the northern lights) on the archipelago.
In Unstad there is also a world-renowned hotspot for surfers.
Tranøy Fyr is a lighthouse on the southern edge of the Vestfjorden with wonderful views to numerous islands, the fjord and the Lofoten Wall. Here, you will find a restaurant and a hotel. According to their own information, you regularly get the possibility to sight orcas here in the fall.
The Hamarøy region is much less known to tourists than Lofoten, but still offers many opportunities for fishing, hiking, kayaking, photography, etc.
Just off the mainland between Tranøy and Bodø, Manshausen Island offers award-winning design accommodation and a wide selection of outdoor activities. Exceptional performance and prices.
For culture enthusiasts the region offers a special highlight: it is the habitat of the world-renowned, controversial writer Knut Hamsun. You will therefore be able to visit the Hamsun center and various stages of his life in the region.
Road to Nyksund-Langøya-Vesterålen
A narrow, 9km long private road leads to the former and now abandoned fishing village Nyksund at the northern tip of Langøya. For the most part, it runs along the sea and offers you great photo opportunities as you can see in this picture.
On our first visit in February 2017 we had a wind speed of 100 km/h, heavy snowfall and it was pitch dark. This was not the best time for driving on this road. At all other times it is not a problem, though.
You will be rewarded with a charming location in a very nordic environment and a great view, especially from the local mountain to the north.
In this picture, the headlights of an approaching car illuminate the former fishing village of Nyksund and the local mountain.
After Nyksund was abandoned by the last fishermen, the revival of the village began with the initiative of a scientist from the TU Berlin in the 1980s. The buildings around the harbor basin are far from being completely restored, but at every corner you can see people sawing and drilling to resurrect the buildings in a way as close to the original as possible.
In Nyksund there are many holiday apartments and hotels as well as restaurants. At least in the low season, you should check in advance to make sure they are open.
Numerous artists live in Nyksund at least temporarily. Mostly because they are fascinated and inspired by the surrounding landscape, the harsh climate and the magical light.
Because I find the winter landscape around Nyksund so fascinating, another picture has made it into the book.
Unfortunately, there is nothing more I have to say...
For me, this is a typical winter picture in Nyksund: Photographed directly in the harbor looking southwest.
After all the positive comments on the other pictures from Nyksund, I do not want to conceal one disadvantage: If you have explored and experienced Nyksund and the immediate surroundings, it is a long way until you get to other exciting places. To us, Nyksund is a wonderful place to arrive in the north but it is not a location from which you can "comfortably" explore the Vesterålen by bike or by car.