How to get to Lofoten and how to go around

I have been wanting to visit Lofoten since I saw my friends posted their Lofoten holiday picture in Instagram. Since then, I became captivated and have been reading many blogs on Lofoten. If you’re wondering if Lofoten does live up to the hype after all those research and long wait, after my last visit in March the answer is YES, Definitely!

Lofoten island is an archipelago located far north of the arctic circle. The islands are connected by bridges and the E10 road that runs the length of the archipelago. The E10 is the road that threads its way through the archipelago connecting the islands. The stretch from Svolvær to Å is one of Norway’s designated National Scenic Routes.

Lofoten boasts a stunning scenery with its dramatic landscape of steep mountain peaks, Arctic fjords, tiny fishing settlements, and beautiful beaches.

Many people skip Lofoten when they are planning for Norway because it seemed difficult to fit it to their planning especially if they do not have much time or reluctant to drive. The key is to plan for Lofoten first because the location is quite remote and then you add the other places you want to also visit around the plan.

Let’s start with how to get to Lofoten island

Two of Lofoten largest city with the most population; Svolvær and Leknes, both have airports. Svolvær Airport connects Bodø, Oslo, Røst, Stokmarknes and Leknes Airport connects Bodø, Oslo, Tromsø. The main operator to Lofoten is the domestic Norwegian airline, Widerøe which has code sharing with SAS. Before pandemic Wideroe have a direct flight from Oslo to Svolvær and Leknes twice a week. But starting 2020 all the flights to and from Svolvær and Leknes have to go thru Bodø.
We chose to fly to Leknes because we want to stay in Hamnoy. So chose the airport based on which area you want to stay in Lofoten. It you want to cover the whole island best to fly in from Svolvær and fly out from Leknes or vice versa. Take into account also the next destination after Lofoten.
Also be aware that flights to Lofoten from Bodø are using small plane like the picture below so capacity is limited and you need to book flights in advance.
If you see connection time in Bodø as short as 15 minutes, that is normal as long as it was offered by the airline. They can do it and the next plane will wait for you. Bodø is a small airport so it doesn’t take long walking from one gate to another. Our flight from Leknes to Tromso with SAS had a 15 minutes connection in Bodo. When we landed in Bodø we walked straight from one plane to another one waiting for us and arrived safely in Tromso with our suitcases.

The closest international airport that can be reached by road is Harstad/Narvik Airport located in Evenes. The flight to Harstad/Narvik airport is cheaper and you can fly direct from Oslo. But you will have to drive for more than 2.5 hours to get to Svolvær or close to 5 hours to Reine.
You can also fly in from Bodø Airport which also connects to international destinations.

Flight Duration:
Oslo to Evenes: 1h 40m direct
Oslo to Bodø: 1h 30m direct
Tromsø to Evenes: 35m direct
Tromsø to Bodø: 50m direct
Bodø to Svolvær: 25m direct
Bodø to Leknes: 25m direct

Bodø is the main point of departure for the ferry to the Lofoten Islands.
Car Ferry: The car ferry to Lofoten sails from Bodø to Moskenes. The ferry takes 3.5 hours. Some people rent their car in Bodø because the it was cheaper and then travel with the car in car ferry. If you are traveling with car, the ticket can be reserved online. But if you are a passenger only you can only buy the ferry ticket prior to departure. Out of season, the ferries work on a first-come, first-served basis, so make sure to turn up 2 hours ahead of departure. During summer, make a reservation in advance with the operator.
Express Boat: The passenger ferry sails from Bodø to Svolvær (3.5 hours). Bodø is the northernmost stop on the Norwegian train network, therefore it’s possible to take the train from Oslo or Bergen to Bodø and connect by passenger ferry to Lofoten.
To check timetable: Ferry and Express Boat Timetable

The famous Hurtigruten has two stops on the Lofoten Islands: Stamsund and Svolvær. The Hurtigruten can be booked on a port-to-port basis here.

Next how to get around in Lofoten Island

I cannot stress enough that renting a car is the best way to explore the island. Like other remote places in Norway, public transport on Lofoten isn’t great and they are more catered toward locals needs. It would have been frustrating not to be able to explore all the far corners of these gorgeous islands and not being to able to stop to take pictures whenever you see dramatic view (and there are a lot of them in every corner!). And if you are traveling in winter, expect to wait for rides in cold and other condition such as windy, rain and blizzards.
Also the best part about driving around Lofoten is being able to take random little roads, not knowing where they’ll take you, and chasing any fleeting patches of blue sky or sunlight.

A snippet from our driving when we first landed to Leknes on the way to Hamnoy

Here are the options of car rental from Svolvær and Leknes airport. I will start with the local names because I always try to rent from the local companies whenever I travel

Rent a Car Lofoten
This is where we rent our car from. They have multiple locations throughout the island and you can have different pick up and drop off location. We booked thru their website and communication via email is also smooth. They also have more car variations Vs other international brands

Rent a Car Moskenes
This is the best option if you arrive by Ferry to Moskenes. The office is only 50m from the Car Ferry Port. They can do pick up and drop off at Leknes for additional fee.

The other international players such as Sixt, Hertz, Avis all have presence at the airport and can also do pick up and drop off at Leknes for additional fee.

I don’t recommend in winter but I am fully aware that for solo traveler renting a car is costly and may not be an option. Taking a bus can be doable during summer time as long as you know what to expect. Lofoten is known to have pretty unpredictable coastal weather so be prepared with your gears for example if it suddenly rains. Buses are actually reliable in following their timetable. The problem is in the frequency, so advance planning is required. Prepare for a long wait because of that and a long walk from the bus stop to destination. Bus Timetable can be checked here.

Lofoten also has Travel Pass Nordland which allows you to travel by bus and express boat for seven days throughout Nordland for only 990 NOK. Children under 16 travel for half price.
Bus fee as well as Travel Pass can be paid using app Billett Nordland in your mobile phone. More about it here. Pre-pandemic you can also buy the ticket from the bus driver but like any other places in Norway it will be 20% more expensive.

Norway is a cashless country and all public transportation have apps for you to buy the ticket from. So before leaving ensure that your credit/debit card can be used for online transaction. And make sure you have a roaming package in your SIM card because most credit/debit card will require you to input OTP whenever you transact online. Other alternative is renting a modem wifi or buy local sim card and insert it into your own modem wifi. Big Cities like Oslo and Bergen will have a ticket machine in several bus stops but I’ve never seen one in Lofoten.

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