The Lofoten Islands don’t seem real. Spectacular, staggering – these are just a few of the words used to describe this otherworldly archipelago. Lofoten is located 170 kilometers above the Arctic Circle with five main islands that draw visitors. Each island is surrounded by a series of craggy peaks and lined with fishing villages where you can stay the night, enjoy seafood and take a sailing trip into remote parts of the Lofoten Islands.
While the glorious E10 provides road trippers with the chance to drive the island chain from tip to toe (across a network of bridges and tunnels), the best way to truly experience these islands is to jump onboard a sailing vessel and gain a new perspective from the water. Some jewels of Lofoten are only accessible by traveling on a yacht. And the amazing crew at World Sea Explorers can help you uncover these hidden gems of the sea.
Why Go Sailing in the Lofoten Islands
If you only need one reason to go sailing in the Lofoten Islands then the Midnight Sun would be sufficient. Experiencing this natural phenomenon from the water is both a bucket-list activity and a major challenge at the same time. During this period, from mid-May to mid-July, the sun in the Lofoten Islands doesn’t set below the horizon. This leads to sensational scenery at all hours of the day, but it also interrupts your sleep patterns.
After a few days though, you will get accustomed to the 24-hour sun and revel in this atmosphere where time literally stands still. The Midnight Sun is best seen from a beach, on top of a mountain peak or on the open waters with direct views toward the northern horizon. The sun’s endless energy encourages you to stay awake and continue your outdoor adventures – whether it be a casual kayak or throwing a fishing line overboard at “night”.
The waters of Lofoten are brimming with cod – there is nothing more satisfying than eating a fresh filet of fish that you caught yourself. Sailing gives you the opportunity to anchor where you please and enjoy a spot of fishing just before dinner. The catches are usually abundant in this part of Norway, no matter your fishing expertise. Once your cod is cooked, just sit back and enjoy your meal with epic mountain views all around you.
Peaceful scenes like this abound in Lofoten. That is one advantage of booking a sailing trip: finding remote islands and beaches that are off the beaten path. Cruise ships do venture into these waters but only to certain areas. With your own private charter you won’t have to worry about cruise ship noise or boats blocking the views. Your only concern will be how to get enough sleep with so many adventures to tackle under the Midnight Sun!
5 Best Sailing Trips in the Lofoten Islands
The great thing about booking your Lofoten Islands sailing trip with World Sea Explorers is that they offer a range of set tours that you can book directly from their website, or you can get in touch with Sachi Maekawa (Operations Manager) who can help you create a custom charter depending on your preferences. The options are endless for sailing in the Lofoten Islands but here are the top 5 sailing trips that we have identified.
1. Lofoten Highlights – Expedition (6 Days)
A spectacular 6-day sailing trip to discover the highlights and hidden gems of Lofoten. Visit untouched places that can only be accessed by boat and travel at a slow pace where relaxation is prioritized. With a maximum of 8 people on a public tour or 8 people on a fully private tour – this trip will be intimate, allowing you to create shared travel bonds and memories that will last a lifetime. You can book this expedition from May to September.
Booking this journey during the Midnight Sun period would take your experience to the next level. Just imagine beach bonfires after midnight with the sun still hovering above the horizon, hiking up jagged mountain peaks to capture the sun shining at a different angle or staying up late to find elusive whale sightings. If you would prefer some darkness at night to help you sleep, you could book this tour from August to September.
2. Ski & Sail Lofoten – Expedition (4 days)
With a short season running from March to May, the 4-day Ski & Sail trip by World Sea Explorers is one of the most exclusive winter adventures in Scandinavia. Sail between snow-capped mountains and stop at “floating base camps” along the way, where extraordinary backcountry skiing opportunities await. Of the 4 days, 2 and a half days are dedicated to skiing. You will be guided by a IFMGA certified mountain guide.
A dinghy will take you to shore each day and then pick you up at the end of the skiing day. After a fun but physically strenuous day, there is nothing better than jumping into the hot tub onboard and looking up at the stars that blanket the sky. Even better, there might be the chance of Aurora Borealis lights coming out to dance for a bit. This is Northern Lights season after all – and what better way to tick this experience off your bucket list!
3. Lofoten Cod Fishing – Expedition (4 Days)
Fishing fanatics will love this trip as you will get the chance to catch a big Atlantic cod (skrei). These fish differ in size between 100-140cm. However, some cod grow as big as 140-180cm and weigh up to 50kg. The waters of Lofoten are teeming with cod. The fish migrate here from the Barents Sea in order to spawn. Fishing is big business in Norway and it has helped the country with economic growth and development over the years.
On this 4-day adventure, you will learn about the coastal history of the Lofoten Islands and how the fisheries have played their part. There is no fishing experience needed or high levels of expertise required – a good attitude is all that matters. Lessons will be given and even beginners can expect to catch something, that is how plentiful the waters are. Just keep in mind that the season for this expedition runs from February to March.
4. Trollfjord Cruise in Lofoten – Day Tour
The mouth of Trollfjord is just 100 meters wide but it expands to about 800 meters further inside. This Arctic fjord stretches for 2km and is arguably the most beautiful fjord in Lofoten. The narrow entrance, steep mountain cliffs and perfectly still waters paint the most stunning of natural portraits. You will also get the chance to spot eagles flying around the mountain peaks as well (although that is not a guaranteed wildlife sighting by any means).
This 5-hour cruise with World Sea Explorers makes for the ultimate day trip from Svolvaer. Jump onboard a luxury yacht as it sets sail into the open sea of Vestfjord, before entering the inlet of Raftsundet, and then navigating through the mouth of Trollfjord. Included is a traditional slow-cooked reindeer meal. If you don’t eat meat then your dietary requirements can be catered for. The season for Trollfjord goes from February to September.
5. Northern Lights Cruise in Lofoten – Day Tour
Departing from Svolvaer, this 4-hour evening cruise takes you on a hunt for the ever-elusive Northern Lights. The lights can normally be seen in the Lofoten Islands during the months of February to April, or from September to October. However, nothing is guaranteed with Aurora Borealis sightings and each year brings different results. Even if you don’t spot many lights, there will still be a lot of fun experienced in the search itself.
Included on the Northern Lights Cruise is the opportunity to soak in a hot tub, enjoy a few drinks on the deck while looking at the sky, and tasting a traditional meal of Reinsdyrgryte. With a maximum of 12 people onboard for public trips or 12 people for private trips, this experience benefits from a small group feel rather than trying to wrestle for spots with crowds of people. If you do witness an active night of lights, it will change your life!
When to Go Sailing in the Lofoten Islands
The Northern Lights get more attention than the Midnight Sun, yet the latter is definitely the best time of year to go sailing in the Lofoten Islands. This period is quieter with less cruise ships about and the local kids are still in school (so there is less domestic travel). All sailing enthusiasts should experience the Midnight Sun at least once in their life – it truly is a unique phenomenon to witness. Part of the fun is the challenge of it too.
For the warmest conditions, the summer months of July and August are ideal. These months offer warm(ish) weather and all of the major tourism operators will be running during this time such as kayaking and fishing companies. But mid-July to mid-August are busy times. Popular beaches such as Kvalvika will be packed. That is why booking a sailing trip, like the 6-day Lofoten Highlights expedition, is such a good idea to find hidden spots.
Winter has its own attractions and will appeal to a different type of traveler. If you love skiing or photography, then winter is a wonderful time to visit. The snow-capped mountains dotted with fishing villages are amazing to capture. But if you can’t handle the cold, we would suggest coming closer to summer. In sum, Lofoten weather is variable and unpredictable. No two months are the same and each new year will be different to the past one.
There are times to avoid altogether though and that is from mid-October to early-January. November and December are usually dark, cold, rainy and even windy – so we suggest avoiding that time frame. Mid-May to mid-July is the Midnight Sun season and it provides unreal conditions for sailing. Having the sun up 24-hours of each day means endless chances to get outside and enjoy an epic Norwegian adventure!
Tips for Visiting the Lofoten Islands
- Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the Lofoten Islands. One week would be a minimum and two weeks would be the perfect itinerary. Although, it depends on the nature of your trip. If you visit in summer and want to go sailing, you might want to stay for longer. In winter, you might just want a quick ski trip. If that’s the case 3 – 5 days would be sufficient.
- It takes around 4 hours to drive the entire length of the Lofoten Islands, but with so much incredible scenery along the way you might want to plan for more time just in case you come across some beautiful sights.
- Flights from Oslo to Lofoten are available and are quite common. This is a great option for those short on time who would like to fly into Norway just to experience the Lofoten Islands and then fly back out again.
- Make sure you pack warm clothes, no matter what time of the year you visit. Even during July and August, you will still need warm clothes like puffer jackets, raincoats, windproof tops, merino layers, warm socks, etc.
- Over the past decade or so, tourism has skyrocketed in the Lofoten Islands (pandemic notwithstanding). Always be respectful of the pristine nature and the local life. Let’s keep the Lofoten Islands authentically beautiful.