Do you like beautiful landscapes, road trips and hiking? If you answered yes, then you owe it yourself to make the journey to Norway’s Lofoten Islands – before everyone discovers one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
The relatively untouched Lofoten Islands – located within the Arctic Circle – offers kilometres of spectacular mountain landscapes scattered with quaint fishermen cottages and bridges spanning azure water. And one of the best ways to reach them is by pulling on your hiking boots and navigating muddy and steep mountain sides to see them. You won’t be disappointed.
If you only have time to do one hike in the Lofoten Islands, make sure it’s the Reinebringen hike. It’s only for experienced hikers though – it’s one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done both physically and mentally.
The Reinebringen peak is 448 metres high and getting there is pretty much straight up along a narrow, slippery path.
The hike is a little hard to find unless you know where it starts. Park your car in the carpark on the corner of the E10 (the main road on Lofoten Islands) beside the turnoff to Reine. The carpark is on your left coming from the north. Cross the road and head south down a dirt and concrete path towards an overpass. Eventually you’ll see a small opening on your right along a concrete path which is the start of the trail.
The first part of the trail is steep and there was one part I had to wait for others to go ahead because I couldn’t figure out where the trail went. It went up over rocks rather than through the trees and it was slippery and difficult.
If you’re scared of heights, don’t do this hike. I’m not scared of heights but there were a few moments when I looked down and realised the sheer drop below me and if I put a foot wrong I was going to end up all the way down a steep cliff. But I continued on with the help of a Portuguese hiker I met on the trail who helped me get up some of the slippery rock sections.
I made it to the top in about an hour, but it was a hard slog. But the views were absolutely worth it – they actually take your breath away! You get a spectacular view over Reine – seeing how the bridges link up all the islands. There’s also a brilliant crater filled with water.
If you keep going up to the peaks on your left and right, you can get 360 degree views but it’s a very steep and tricky climb to some of higher peaks.
The Kvalvika Beach hike is the only hike I found on the Lofoten Islands that is marked at the trailhead. The hike starts opposite a small parking space, but get there early as the hike is popular.
The start of the trail can get pretty muddy – but you’ll get used to all the mud after a few days on the Lofoten Islands! The first section is well marked and the muddiest sections have wooden planks laid over them.
Be warned, the trail itself is not that well marked once you’re clear of the trees and on the hillsides. I had to double back a couple of times, particularly making my way across the pass as you start the descent down to the beach.
The descent down to the beach is steep and slippery. It’s very slow going and hard to keep to any sort of trail. But even if you don’t make it all the way down, you can catch a good view of the beach from about halfway down the pass.
Plan the hike to take about 90 minutes to two hours each way depending on how well you can stick to the trail and negotiate the downward hike to the beach.
The Offeysoykammen Peak starts just off the E10 Highway. The hillside overlooks the Nappstraumen waters and a hillside with small lakes. If you get a summit free of cloud though – you’re very lucky.
To get to the starting point, look for the road named Skreda. Coming from the south, it’s just past the Nappstaumen tunnel on your right. Park at the end of this road, cross the E10 and look for a small opening that marks the start of the trail.
The climb starts off fairly easily but once you’re out of the trees – it gets steeper and steeper and then it’s pretty much straight up. It’s also one of those peaks where you think you’re nearly at the summit, then you realise you have much more to go.
In the information I read, the trail is marked as easy. I would say it’s moderate at a minimum – it’s not difficult in the sense of lots of mud or slippery rock but it’s fairly steep. But it’s a good short hike with panoramic views. Expect the trail to take about 90 minutes up.
Another hike you can do is the Bunes Beach trail. The trail starts from the Vinstad village. You’ll need to take a ferry there from Reine – ferries leave several times a day during summer and the timetable is posted on a signboard at the Reine harbour.
The return Bunes Beach hike will take around three hours.
A few Americans I met out hiking also said the hike starting from the row of fish heads (you’re sure to spot them) across the road from the carpark serving the Å township has rewarding views but features a whole lot of mud. Maybe bring a spare pair of shoes and socks.
How to get to the Lofoten Islands
I reached the Lofoten Islands from Sweden’s Stockholm Arlanda Airport, but you can also fly in via Norwegian cities. I flew into the town of Leknes via Bodo, and I exited also via Bodo to Stavanger.
You can also take a ship from Bodo to Moskenes on the southern tip of the islands but I’m told it’s a rough crossing – so if you get sea sick like me, stick to flying.
There’s regular flights offered by the airline Wideroe to reach Lofoten Islands from Bodo. You can fly into either Leknes or Svolvaer.
Leknes is a small town and there’s not much to see, but there’s a couple of car rental agencies represented at the airport and in town. It’s best to book ahead.
Accommodation is limited and can be on the expensive side, so I opted for an AirBnB accommodation near the Fredvang Bridge and it was an excellent choice. I stayed with a lovely family who made me feel incredibly welcome and helped me find hikes to do.
The Lofoten Islands is easy to get around. The main highway is the E10 and goes the length of the islands. The main towns are well marked.
Things you should know
- A car is the best way to get around the islands. Buses go to and from the main towns so you’ll need to either walk or hitchhike to the starting point for any hikes you choose to do. The islands are very easy to navigate as there’s only one main road (the E10) so don’t worry about a GPS. The roads are very narrow and winding though so it will take you longer than you think to get between locations.
- Most of the trailheads are not well marked. You can buy a trail map from tourist offices or research online at 68north.com to find out starting points for the most popular hikes.
- Hitchhiking is a common way to get around the Lofoten Islands. I spoke to several hitchhikers who said wait times between rides was between 10 and 45 minutes depending on where they were.
- Hikes in Norway are very challenging. Trails marked easy are not easy by Australian standards – it just means they haven’t got too many rocky areas or slippery mud patches. Hikes should only be tackled by people with hiking experience and proper hiking shoes and clothing.
- Be prepared for all kinds of weather in Lofoten Islands – in the same of a few hours. I experienced sun, wind, fog, rain and freezing cold on most of my hikes. Bring a wind and waterproof jacket and if you have expensive gear such as cameras, bring along some ziplock bags or similar to keep them dry if it rains. A raincover for your backpack is also a good idea.
- Wear shoes you aren’t afraid to get muddy. I guarantee you will get muddy. Spare socks main also be handy.
- You can fly or sail into the Lofoten Islands. Bodo is a good launching point for air or sea.