After four days and five flights I finally reached my destination of Lofoten, Norway! Coming from Australia (the bottom of the world) where it was 32 degrees, hot and sunny the day that I left and arriving in Norway (the top of the world) to 2 degrees and snow was a bit of a shock. Actually I had one day in London on the way which was like a pre-warning to the cold.
Good old London was putting on the weather real nice with bitterly cold temperatures, grey skies, rain and wind. By the time I got to Norway it was actually quite pleasant. If you’re not a photographer you may be asking “Where is Lofoten, and why go there?” Lofoten is located north of the Arctic Circle, about halfway up the continent of Norway. Let me show you why I went there!
Lofoten is a photographer’s paradise and we pilgrimage to this great land all year round to capture the amazing scenery which includes dramatic mountain peaks, postcard-looking fishing villages nestled in fjords, beaches with snow capped mountains surrounding them and untouched land. Not to mention the northern lights. The archipelago is often described as one of the most scenic parts of Norway.
There are many islands in the Lofoten archipelago and I stayed at one of the most scenic called Hamnoy. I was fortunate enough to stay at Eliassen Rorbuer which is a holiday resort with 35 fishermans cabins situated by the spectacular fjord of Reinefjord. The fishermans cabins are modern, cosy and have one or two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, big living and dining areas extremely comfortable furniture and high speed wifi. We stayed in number 13 which had a spectacular view of Mount Olstind from the dining room window.
Our cabin was the perfect place to stay in Lofoten with its central location to everything. Having a fully equipped kitchen meant that we could make all our own meals as there aren’t a lot of places to eat out in Lofoten. The convenience store which was only 5 minutes down the road had a good supply of everything that we needed to make some delicious meals. The other benefit was being able to look out the window and see the fabulous Mount Olstind right there as you can see in the picture above.
There are a lot of stunning locations in the Lofoten area so to make it easier I will break this blog up into those locations:
1. Skagsanden Beach
This beach is known for its amazing reflections on the sand of the snow covered mountain to the right of it. This is also a great beach for spotting the northern lights at night if you are there in winter. Small waves of aqua blue water wash across the white sand with snow capped mountains rising into the sky above. It was a bizarre thing for me to see coming from Australia where you associate beautiful beaches with warm weather, not snow capped mountains but it is truly a spectacular sight.
Sakrisoy is a beautiful little fishing village situated 5 minutes down the road from Hamnoy. It is known for its uniquely coloured yellow fishermans cabins. Most of the rorbuers (fishermans cabins) in Lofoten are painted red as that was the cheapest colour to make back in the day but the yellow cabins look just as pretty against the turquoise water and white snow capped mountains.
Driving through Sakrisoy you will notice an abundance of cod fish heads strung up on the stockfish racks and you get that lovely smell of fish as you drive through. Some people can find the smell quite repulsive but I actually didn’t think it was too bad! For centuries these stock fish have been exported all over Europe as a delicacy and still are to this day!
Reine is the main village in Lofoten and the most popular place for people to stay when they visit due to its size. It is a really pretty village and is usually what you see of the tourism brochures for Lofoten and Norway. There is a lookout just as you drive into Reine that gives you a 180 degree view over the entire village and surrounding mountains. The village is full of the gorgeous little red fishermans cabins which look fantastic against the white snow capped mountains.
4. Haukland Beach
Haukland Beach was such a surprise for me. While we were driving to the beach we passed through a massive snow storm where were could hardly even see two metres in front of us. We thought we would keep on driving to Uttakliev Beach instead but found that we couldn’t get access to it due to it being winter so we went back to Haukland Beach. It was still snowing pretty badly by the time we got back but I still wanted to see it for myself so I got out of the car and battled my way down to the water. Its the most peculiar thing walking through snow on top of sand. The two are such a contrast in my world and it still boggles my mind!
Once I reached the water the snow storm had finally passed and this beautiful light came flooding through the clouds out over the ocean. I ended up spending about two hours exploring and photographing this beach as it was so stunning with white sand, turquoise water, snow capped mountains, rock formations and this incredible light. There was no one else on the beach which was a shock because everywhere we went in Lofoten there were at least 10 other photographers that were being escorted around by various tour companies.
5. Uttakliev Beach
We had about 30 minutes until sunset and Uttakliev beach was still in the back of my mind so we jumped back in the car and decided that if we could see other cars up at the headland then we would brave it and take out little Suzuki Swift hire car through the muddy track to the beach. After flooring it we finally made it through the bog and ran down to the beach for some sunset shots. It’s funny how completely different this beach was to Haukland beach and all that was separating the two was a snowy headland. Uttakliev beach was covered in huge, smooth black rocks whereas there were probably only about 5 big rocks on Haukland beach.
Hamnoy has such a special place in my heart. Staying here was the best especially when I looked out the window and saw the northern lights right over my cabin. I came to Norway with absolutely no expectation of seeing the Northern Lights as I know how rare it can be to get the perfect conditions to see them. The second night of our stay we heard someone outside our cabin and after seeing a photographer over by the water taking some shots we thought that maybe the northern lights were around.
See the thing is, with the northern lights, they can be there but you might not be able to see them with the naked eye. The camera is able to pick it up because the sensor on cameras are so sensitive to low light.
The northern lights look like a whitish cloud in the sky if they are weak, obviously as they get stronger they start to turn green and the stronger they get the more visible to the naked eye they become. So I sent hubby out to do a test shot. After all he was just napping on the couch while I was processing photos from the massive day we had just had.
He came back in with the camera and we could see a green streak just peaking over Mount Olstind on the LCD screen. Full of excitement and wide awake we threw on our thermals, mid layers and snow jackets, grabbed the camera and ran out the door. We literally walked about 5 metres from our cabin and started clicking away on our cameras. The longer we stayed out there the stronger it got and we could start to see it with our own eyes and it was beautiful. I was in absolutely awe as I watched it dancing across the night sky. I just kept repeating “Its so beautiful!” over and over and over again. There is no other way to describe this fascinating display of nature.
Not only is Hamnoy a great spot to position yourself for the Northern Lights it is also a majorly photogenic area at other time too with its gorgeous red cabins perched on the rocks and snow capped mountains behind them.
On our last day in Lofoten we wanted to find the secret beach from my favourite documentary “North of the Sun”. If you haven’t seen this doco then you have to add it to your “must watch list”. Two norwegian guys decide to spend the winter living on Kvalvika Beach so that they could surf the massive waves that hit the coastline throughout the winter. They are absolutely crazy and go through some pretty extreme circumstances not to mention seeing some amazing seasons and scenery.
Anyway, I really wanted to photograph this beach for sunset so we found some instructions on a blog and made our way to the parking spot and found We asked some locals who had just gotten back from cross country skiing if we were in the right spot, which we were. Off we headed up the mountain in knee deep snow pushing through snow storms every 10 minutes. This mountain seemed to be never ending and I soon realised that this was one of the toughest hikes I had ever done.
By the time we finally reached the summit (after an hour and a half) we came across another two cross country skiers and asked them which way to the beach. They told us that there was a beach just in front of us but the one we were after was a long way to the left of the mountain and that we should start heading back down as the weather was starting to turn nasty. Bitterly disappointed I ran up the hill a bit more just to grab a snap of the beach that we did see and basically slid back down the mountain before the storm hit. It just means that I will have to go back to Lofoten again because I really want to see this place!
After spending five days in Lofoten and exploring as much of it as we possibly could I have to say that Lofoten is outstandingly beautiful in Winter. Being a person that loves the heat and summer, the cold didn’t bother me one bit. I have learnt that if you dress to the conditions then you really don’t feel it.
I am so thankful to have gotten to see the Northern Lights and it is something that I won’t forget it a hurry. I am also thankful to Eliassen Rorbuer for having me for four nights in their gorgeous fishermans cabins. There is no other place I would have rather stayed and I will be booking them again on my next Norwegian adventure to Lofoten.
I will leave you with a video montage of my time in Lofoten so that you can get an overview of the amazing place that it is!
Larissa was a guest of Eliassen Rorbuer but of course all opinions are her own!
8390 Hamnøy, Norway
Have you been to Lofoten or Norway before or plan on going any time soon? If so, I would love to know so leave a comment below!