Location guide: Lofoten Islands, Norway

The Archipelago of Lofoten in Norway is north of the Arctic Circle in the county of Nordland. The dramatic islands of Hinnøya, Austvågøy, Gimsøya, Vestvågøy, Flakstadøya and Moskenesøya are linked by bridges. These bridges are fantastic photo opportunities in their own right.

Owing to the warm Gulf Stream, Lofoten has a much milder climate than any other parts of the Arctic Circle. Between late May and mid July you can experience the midnight sun, while the northern lights can be viewed from September through to mid April.

The dramatic peaks are truly breathtaking and abundant. Literally at every turn you’ll be wowed by the scenery. Whether it’s day or night, the mountains will provide stunning backdrops. You will find numerous beaches, such as Haukland and Flakstad, that are pristine. As well as beaches there are lots of rugged granite shorelines, which often have layers of ice and snow. The fishing villages such as Hamnøya and Henningsvær are very picturesque where you’ll likely see white-tailed sea eagles picking fish from the fjords and circling above the mountains. The fish are dried on large racks dotted around and about.

The weather here can change quickly, but you can hardly fail to capture dramatic scenes. Even in calm, still weather, the fjords look incredible, especially with mirror-like reflections of the mountains. Remember to note your favourite viewpoints during the day so you can revisit them after dark to try to capture them with dancing aurora overhead.

Shooting advice

My favourite time of year to visit is February and March, with nice long nights for chasing the aurora and shorter days where the golden hour lasts most of the day. Being at such high latitudes the days are very short; in fact, from 27 November to 15 January, the sun doesn’t actually rise above the horizon. Seeing the first sunrise of the year in mid-January is always a great time to visit. The all-day (albeit short days) twilight is a joy for photography.

Food and lodging

Airbnb has become quite popular now, but the fisherman’s cabins ( rorbuer ) are the nicest way to enjoy your stay. The cabins, usually on stilts, have terrific views across fjords with mountain backdrops. If you’re near larger towns there are some nice restaurants, but down on the Lofoten Islands there are very few places to go. So stock up at supermarkets in the towns and embrace the hotdogs at the garages. Make sure you have supplies for Sundays, as you’ll find it difficult to find anywhere open at all.

A word of warning

Lofoten has become much busier in recent years, so book accommodation in advance. If you’re planning to drive from Tromsø rather than fly in, consider a night’s accommodation en route, as it’s a long drive, especially if it’s snowing. You can fly from Tromsø and rent cars locally.

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