Lofoten in Winter: 13 Things You Must Know


Are you planning a trip to Lofoten in winter and seeking insights into what to expect during this chilly season? Explore our article, “13 Essential Winter Tips for Norway,” to gain a deep understanding of the unique weather, daylight, and challenges in northern Norway. 

We’ll help you prepare for your journey and make the most of this enchanting winter wonderland without any surprises or setbacks. 

Guide to Lofoten_Radka and Ivar
Hello there! This is Ivar and I playing in the snow in Fredvang.

Quick Guide to Visiting Lofoten in Winter

How to get to Lofoten: Fly to Svolvær, Leknes (local airports), Bodø, or Harstad/Narvik (bigger airports nearby). You can also travel to Lofoten from Tromsø. 

Renting a Car in Lofoten: You can compare the prices for the big car rental agencies like Hertz, Avis, or Budget at the airports in Svolvær, Leknes, Narvik, or Bodø. We also recommend local car rental agencies like Rent a Car Moskenes (located at the ferry terminal in Moskenes) or Lofoten Rental Car (located in Svolvær).  

Where to stay in Lofoten: We highly recommend choosing one basecamp in the western part of Lofoten and another in the east. Avoid changing accommodations every single day. It’s not good for the environment or enjoyable for you, and it burdens accommodation providers financially. Slow down and explore more!

Stay in traditional fishermen’s cabins!

🏚️ Å rorbuer, Å Hamna rorbuer (Å)

🏚️ Reine rorbuer, Eliassen rorbuer, Rostad retro rorbuer (Reine and surroundings)

🏚️ Nusfjord Arctic Resort (Nusfjord)

🏚️ Svinøya Rorbuer (Svolvær)

🏚️ Lofoten Rorbuer (Svolvær) (Note: not a typical red or yellow wooden fishermen cabin, but super friendly owners and managers, convenient location, and possibility to rent a boat!)


Check out these unique accommodations with interesting concepts:

🥰 Furu Hostel (Knutstad, halfway between Leknes and Svolvær)

🥰 Skårungen (Kabelvåg, close to Svolvær)

🥰 Trevarefabrikken (Henningsvær)

🥰 Lofoten Planet Basecamp (Sørvågen, between Reine and Å)


Disclosure: We choose not to recommend Airbnb in Lofoten, as we believe it contributes to a challenging housing situation for those seeking permanent residence. We, too, face difficulties finding a year-round rental where we would not be asked to move out for the summer.

Top winter activities in Lofoten: 


What to pack:

Check out our Lofoten winter packing guide, which applies to northern Norway in general and Scandinavian regions. 

Reine Rorbuer in Reine
Eliassen Rorbuer in Hamnøy

Are you planning to explore the Lofoten Islands by a car?

#1 Lofoten is stunningly beautiful any time of the year.

The Lofoten Islands are beautiful all year, but visiting in summer or winter is a completely different experience. And it’s not just about the weather and temperature.

Beautiful winter morning light illuminating the Sakrisøy island.

Visiting Lofoten In The Summer

Summer is the peak tourist season in Lofoten, and the islands draw travelers from all over the world. The long daylight hours and the midnight sun provide plenty of time for exploration, and many tourists take advantage of this. 

This means you can expect larger crowds, especially in the most popular spots like Reine, Henningsvær, and Å.

Another aspect to consider is the cost. As one of Norway’s most famous tourist destinations, prices in Lofoten can be on the higher side, particularly during the summer months. It’s a good idea to book your stay well in advance to secure the best deals and ensure you have a place to stay.

Eliassen rorbuer
The iconic picture of Eliassen rorbuer taken in August
Nearby Sakrisøy rorbuer on a stormy winter day

Visiting Lofoten In Winter


In the winter, Lofoten transforms into a captivating landscape that alternates between enchanting beauty on the good days and challenging harshness on the not-so-good days.

In good weather, the archipelago resembles scenes from a winter wonderland. The air is crisp, and the snowy mountains reflect the soft glow of daylight or the magical Northern Lights dancing across the sky.

If you are lucky with the weather, you can experience beautiful sunny days when Lofoten looks like it's straight out of a fairy tale.

However, every now and then, Lofoten exhibits its raw, untamed nature. During blizzards, the wind whips through the islands, making it difficult even to open the door of your house. Venturing outside becomes a battle against icy gusts, and the wind might knock you off your feet. 


We often meet tourists who tell us how fortunate we are to live in the paradise that is Lofoten. Yet, it takes a severe winter storm for tourists to realize the locals are not only lucky but also pretty tough to deal with such extreme weather. 


We genuinely hope you encounter both the enchanting winter wonderland and the fierceness of a proper winter storm! 🧊🌨️🌫 

But there are also days with limited visibility.
Or strong winds.

#2 Lofoten winter season runs from November to April

In Lofoten, winter hangs around from November to April, giving you an extended snowy experience. While most places consider December, January, and February the prime winter months, winter has its own schedule here in the north. 


November feels more like winter than autumn, and even when March comes around, it’s still very much a winter wonderland. Don’t expect spring to burst onto the scene in April either – winter likes to linger a bit longer in these parts of the world.

Snowshoe hiking in Lofoten in early April
Early April 2022 in Reine

Average Winter Temperatures In Lofoten


The Gulf Stream is a warm ocean current originating in the Gulf of Mexico, flowing across the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe’s northern regions. It plays a significant role in influencing the average winter temperature in Lofoten.


While Lofoten is situated well above the Arctic Circle, the Gulf Stream helps keep the winter average temperatures relatively mild for its high northern location. 

Without the Gulf Stream, Lofoten would experience significantly colder and harsher winters. 

The picture shows the temperature distribution in Svolvær throughout the year 2022. It's evident that the winters in Svolvær are relatively mild.
The mild winter temperatures in Lofoten, along with the nearly constant wind, create ideal conditions for fish drying.

The Snow Situation In Lofoten In Winter

Before January, the snow situation in Lofoten can be a bit unpredictable. The snow tends to come and go. Once January arrives, it usually decides to stick around, painting everything in a beautiful white coat. 


However, don’t be surprised if, now and then, warmer temperatures decide to make a cameo, causing some snow to bid a temporary farewell. 

In the pictures below, you can see that in 2022 there was pretty much no snow at the end of February and beginning of March. The year before, there was no snow at the end of February and also at the end of March before it snowed again in April. 

The amount of snow in Lofoten in 2021_1
The amount of snow in Lofoten in 2021
The amount of snow in Lofoten in 2022
The amount of snow in Lofoten in 2022

#3 Lofoten is world-famous but still a remote small community

Lofoten is a world-renowned destination famous for its stunning natural beauty, picturesque fishing villages with vibrant red cabins called rorbuer, and outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, kayaking, or skiing.


The archipelago spans a considerable area, comprising four main islands and numerous smaller ones. However, the population of Lofoten is modest, with approximately 25,000 residents scattered across the islands. 


The largest town, Svolvær, is home to around 5,000 people, while the second-largest, Leknes, boasts roughly 3,500 inhabitants. Even the charming fishing villages showcased in magazines, such as Reine or Henningsvær, have fewer than 600 permanent residents. 


While our small community prides itself on an impressive array of restaurants, cafes, and activities, we’re not exactly New York. 


So, when you visit, especially in winter time, revel in the intimate charm of Lofoten, but don’t expect the bustling services of a big city like Oslo or Tromsø. Especially during the winter season 😊🏡

The villages in Reinefjorden are scattered over several small islands.
The islands are connected by one-lane bridges, which can be particularly problematic on some winter days when they become icy, leading to cars getting stuck there.

Are you looking for activities in Lofoten, Tromsø, Oslo or Alta?

#4 Be prepared for short daylight hours

When visiting Lofoten in winter, prepare for some short days. From around early December to January, the region experiences polar night, a dark period lasting about five weeks. 


During this time, the sun doesn’t make it above the horizon, but it’s not completely dark. Instead, it’s like a prolonged twilight, creating a cozy, dusky atmosphere. 

Even after the sun sets, there is a prolonged period of beautiful blue light.
During the polar night, we have a couple of hours each day of this blue light, even though the sun does not rise above the horizon.
Even after the sun has set, there are still opportunities to capture beautiful pictures.

Let’s break down the daylight hours for different dates. Remember to plan your adventures during these daylight hours to make the most of Lofoten’s beauty.

Sunrise and sunset times in Lofoten in winter

#5 The weather in Lofoten in winter is unpredictable

In Lofoten’s winter, expect the unexpected. You might be blessed with stunningly clear and sunny days, revealing Lofoten’s beauty in its finest light. Or you might experience a symphony of snow, rain, and wind, and sometimes, all three at once.

Arriving in Lofoten in winter demands the right mindset and preparation, especially when it comes to the ever-changing weather. Make sure to set realistic expectations, pack the appropriate clothing and equipment, and, most importantly, be mentally prepared to adapt your plans if the weather takes an unexpected turn.

While the unpredictable weather can be challenging, it also adds a thrilling sense of adventure to your journey. Dress in layers, keep your camera handy, and be prepared to embrace whatever Mother Nature throws your way. 

However, consider extending your stay for safety reasons in case of adverse conditions!

Villages in Reinefjorden
Same pictures taken about 10 minutes later
Winter day on Skagsanden Beach
The same location, about 10 minutes later, when walking became difficult due to the wind.
Winter walk in Fredvang with a view to Mt Volandstinden
The same place, about 30 minutes later, with close to zero visibility and gale-force winds.

#6 If you have a car, it will be much easier to explore Lofoten

I wish I could advise you to skip renting a car and rely on public transport in Lofoten in winter. I really do. 

However, traveling by public transportation in Lofoten in winter can be a bit challenging.

While there are buses that run along the main road E10 several times a day, their frequency might not always align with your schedule. 


While I would love to use public transport more in Lofoten and recommend it to others, the current options are simply insufficient. 


😔 For instance, when I finish work at the tourist information in Ramberg at 17:00, the earliest bus connection home to Sørvågen is at 22:13. 

😔 On weekends, I can’t use the bus to get to work (which starts at 10:00) because there’s no bus until 12:00.

😔 Similarly, let’s consider hiking Ryten, one of the most accessible and safe mountains in Lofoten that you hike in winter. The nearest bus stop is about 4 km away from the trailhead. After completing the hike, there’s no café, restaurant, or any place in Fredvang or along the way back to the bus stop where you could sit and warm up while waiting for your bus to arrive. Plus, you either make the bus at 16:25 or you will wait until 21:40.


Strong winds on Mt Ryten

Are you at the planning stage of your trip to the Lofoten Islands?

# 8 The roads might close, and the Moskenes-Bodø ferry might get canceled

While winter storms in Lofoten are not an everyday occurrence, they make their presence known about 2 to 3 times a month (on average), and it’s something to be aware of when planning your trip. 


We don’t want to sound alarmist, but it’s essential to consider the possibility of road closures and ferry cancellations. 

☝️ Having reliable travel insurance covering unexpected expenses, such as an extra hotel night due to unforeseen circumstances, is smart.

☝️Always watch the weather forecast closely, and pay special attention to the wind strength indicated on platforms like yr.no (above 20m/s is a red flag). 

☝️ The bridges on E10, like Kåkernbrua close to  Reine, Gimsøybrua near Henningsvær, and Tjedsundbrua close to Evenes airport, automatically close during strong winds. 

☝️If wind concerns arise, check the Vegvesen app for real-time road information. 

☝️Plan your journey, especially the Bodo-Moskenes ferry, with some buffer time. 

This screenshot from the Vegvesen app shows the situation from February 8, 2023, when Lofoten was struck by one of the winter storms. The bridges were closed, the ferry was canceled, and Lofoten became isolated from the mainland. Additionally, travel between the islands was impossible.
When a significant storm is approaching, it is typically forecasted in advance, and meteorologists issue warnings. You should monitor the weather forecast on yr.no and make necessary adjustments to your travel plans. If these warnings are issued, it means it's not suitable for traveling. Stay indoors, extend your stay at your accommodation, and DO NOT DRIVE!

#9 The northern lights in Lofoten are magical

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are a breathtaking natural phenomenon that graces the skies of Lofoten from late August to early April. 

Watching these celestial lights dance above the pristine sandy beaches, surrounded by the towering and jagged mountain peaks, is nothing short of magical.


It’s important to note that there’s no specific time of the year or day that’s best for witnessing the Northern Lights. What you truly need are active auroras and clear skies to have a chance of experiencing this incredible natural display.


To catch the Northern Lights, plan your trip to Lofoten between late August and early April, monitor the weather forecast, and keep a watchful eye on the sky when conditions are favorable.

Northern lights above Flakstadpollen in November 2023
Northern lights photographed from Skårungen in eastern Lofoten
Northern Lights in Skårungen in September 2022
northern lights in Ramberg in western Lofoten
Enjoying the fire and view of milky way and northern lights with friends in October 2022

Our favorite spots for viewing the aurora include the white sandy beaches on the northern coast, such as Skagsanden or Haukland Beach. 

Additionally, we love taking photo stops at locations like Sakrisøy, Hamnøy, or Flakstadpollen to capture the beauty of the Northern Lights.


And, honestly, our absolute favorite way to enjoy the Northern Lights is from a hot tub. We have a private jacuzzi, but many accommodations offer saunas and/or hot tubs, usually for an additional fee.

Even when the northern lights don't appear, the clear, starry nights are equally magical.
Even when the northern lights don't appear, the clear, starry nights are equally magical.

#10 There is no whale-watching safari in Lofoten

Lofoten is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and wildlife. While there are whales along the shores of Lofoten, there’s no organized whale-watching safari within the archipelago.

If whale watching is on your agenda, the nearest options are found in the neighboring Vesterålen archipelago.

Notably, Andenes, situated at the northernmost tip of the Andøya island, and the village of Stø offer renowned whale-watching experiences. While these locations are a 2.5-3-hour drive from Svolvær, it’s crucial to understand that they are not part of the Lofoten Islands.

In the summer, a few companies offer transportation or comprehensive packages, including transport and whale watching, from Svolvær to Andenes in Vesterålen.

In the winter, the whale watching activity moves to the fjords around Tromsø, with Tromsø, Skjervøy and Alta as the starting points for the whale watching tours.

Whale watching in the winter is concentrated in the fjords close to Skjervøy, which is about halfway between Tromsø and Alta.
Going on a whale safari and see orcas and humpback whales in their natural habitat is one of the best things to do in Tromso, Norway in winter.
The winter whales arrive in the fjords close to Skjervøy at the end of October or beginning of November to feed on herring. They typically leave the area at the end of January or beginning of February.

Where does the misconception about whales in Lofoten come from?

It is hard to say, but personally, I have a few theories:

1️⃣ Many people do not know the difference between Lofoten and Vesterålen and often consider the whole chain of islands stretching from Bodø to Tromsø as part of Lofoten.

2️⃣ It does not help much that some local tourist companies refer to their trips as whale watching in Lofoten, while it is actually in Vesterålen, and they know it. Why do they do it, then? It is easy – some people Google “whale watching in Lofoten,” and these companies are targeting them by providing misleading information in the title of their articles.

3️⃣ We do have whales in Lofoten. You can spot them sometimes when kayaking in Reinefjorden or when fishing from Svolvær or the Bodø-Moskenes ferry if you are lucky. However, those encounters are random.

#11 Hiking in Lofoten in winter can be dangerous.

Hiking in Lofoten is absolutely fantastic. But even in the summer, it can be challenging. The trails here are not super well-marked compared to trail marking in, for example, the Alps or the Czech Republic, where I come from. The mountains here in Lofoten are steep and the trail usually goes through challenging terrain that is sometimes exposed. 


Now, factor in the short daylight hours in winter, the unpredictable weather, the even more challenging pathfinding, the avalanche danger, the icy surface, etc.

When you plan to go hiking in Lofoten in winter, it is crucial that you have some mountain experience, proper clothes and equipment, and perhaps most importantly, common sense.

It is very difficult to give advice about which mountain tops are doable in winter, as it very much depends on the current weather and snow conditions, as well as your experience and fitness level. Moreover, attempting any summit can be dangerous if you wander out in the challenging weather conditions or when you lack proper equipment. 

April hike to Ryten. Snowshoes and ice cleats were handy at some parts.
Merraflestinden in April. Without snowhoes it would be highly unpleasant bordering impossible.
February hike to Kvalvika. We encountered almost no snow, so it was doable without ice cleats. However, we turned back halfway due to changing weather conditions.

Do Not Attempt To Hike Reinebringen In Winter 

One thing is for sure, though. Most people coming to Lofoten have a wish to hike up to Reinebringen no matter the time of the year when they come. To put it briefly, unless you are Ueli Steck or Kilian Jornet, consider Reinebringen off-limits in winter. 


The trail is steep, and it goes through avalanche terrain. The stairs can be icy, and slipping on certain trail sections means you can get seriously injured or die. So, Reinebringen in winter is a big fat no-go. 

Reinebringen in winter
The mountain ridge you see on the left side of the picture is Reinebringen. In winter of 2022, there were two rescue operations within a span of two weeks when a team of rescuers had to help stranded tourists down from the mountain in gale-force winds. Reinebringen is not a safe hike in winter, even in picture-perfect weather, let alone during a storm. Click on the picture and read the Instagram post from the stranded tourist describing the conditions at the top.
Hiking Reinebringen in winter WARNING
Tourists often argue that hiking up to Reinebringen in winter is not forbidden. Yes, it's not in Norwegian culture to forbid access to nature. However, you need to understand that you are endangering your life by venturing to Reinebringen and possibly the lives of the volunteers and professional rescuers who will come to rescue you.

#12 East Lofoten is a great backcountry skiing destination

Skiing in Lofoten is a unique and exciting experience, but it’s important to consider the specific conditions of this archipelago. While the western part of Lofoten tends to be a bit warmer and wetter, making it less ideal for skiing, the eastern part usually offers better conditions for hitting the slopes. 

In Lofoten, you won’t find any big ski resorts, but there are smaller, local ski lifts in Stamsund and Svolvaer.


The great thing about skiing in Lofoten is that you don’t necessarily need a ski lift. Lofoten is full of opportunities for ski touring or splitboarding. 

However, keep in mind that the mountains can be challenging, especially in the spring when there’s an increased risk of avalanches. 

For a safer experience, we highly recommend you to book a tour with a local guide who knows the terrain and current weather and snow conditions.


When planning your skiing adventure in Lofoten, consider staying at places like Trevarefabrikken in Henningsvær, Skårungen in Kabelvåg or Furu Hostel close to Leknes. The hosts at these accommodations are passionate skiers and will be more than happy to recommend the best and safest mountains to explore based on the current conditions.

ski touring in lofoten with trevarefabrikken
3 days of ski touring in Lofoten with accommodation, food, sauna and cultural events at Trevarefabrikken. Check the offer by clicking on the picture!

#13 Winter is the prime fishing season in Lofoten

We sometimes hear tourists “complaining” that when they visited Lofoten in summer, there was no activity in the fishing villages. They expected the harbours to be bustling with life, with fishing boats delivering their catch day and night.


Well, the main fishing season in Lofoten is in winter when the cod comes to the waters around Lofoten to spawn. The fishing season lasts roughly from January to April, even though it seems that it starts later and later each year.


In Lofoten, the cod is not preserved by smoking or salting. The fishermen simply separate the fish heads from the bodies and hang the fish on the racks, letting it dry for several months.


That is another thing that makes visiting Lofoten in winter interesting – you will see the fish racks full of fish well into May or June. And yes, you will be able to smell it!

If you’ve found the information in this article useful or have your own insights from traveling to Lofoten in winter, we’d love to hear from you. 

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Safe travels!

Ivar & Radka

Ivar & Radka

Hi! We are Ivar & Radka, an international couple who runs the Guide to Lofoten. We met in Trondheim and lived together in western Norway, Narvik and Tromsø. At the moment we call western Lofoten our home. We hope our page will make it easier for you to explore the beautiful places that made us chose Norway for our home.




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