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Lofoten has some of the most changeable weather in the world. Due to its polar position, it experiences both endless days and endless night in a single calendar year. It’s an intriguing feat of nature, but it also means timing is crucial when planning a trip to this remote part of Norway.
I visited in February and, after ample research, I think it truly is the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands. We’ll take a deeper dive into why that is but, to really understand those reasons, you’ll need to know what you can expect when you arrive.
Why visit Lofoten
There’s nothing that better exemplifies my love/hate relationship with Instagram than places like the Lofoten Islands. Once a barely-known and rarely touched drop in the seas of the Arctic Circle, there’s no doubt that hashtags and likes are behind Lofoten’s recent popularity.
On the one hand, I can’t help but worry about the over-tourism from inappropriately dressed individuals who pose for hours in pursuit of the perfect shot. Instagram, of course, isn’t solely to blame for Iceland’s temporarily closed canyon or the shutdown of an entire island in the Philippines, but there’s no denying the role it’s played.
While the Lofoten Islands aren’t quite up there on the popularity scale with Iceland, I can see them catching up pretty quickly.
On the other hand, though, I love how social media has broadened our horizons when it comes to planning our next travel adventure. No longer are we restricted to the glossy recommendations forced into our minds by a handful of magazines. The lesser known gems are beginning to get the attention they deserve, too.
The world has never been more open and more accessible, both in the media consumed and the passport stamps we collect.
The Lofoten Islands are a great example of the kind of destination that might not have made it on to most travellers’ radars in the past. Now, though, their beauty is no secret.
With stunning landscapes, colourful cabins and a snapshot of Norwegian village life around every bend, the Lofoten Islands are a great place to visit – whether you plan on sharing your trip with the world or keeping it for yourself. Although you’ve no doubt seen countless striking images, nothing compares to soaking up the icy air, winds from the mountains and, er, the overwhelming smell of cod.
When to visit the Lofoten Islands
So, why would you want to visit an Arctic destination in the depths of winter and spring?
Even though the Lofoten Islands are becoming one of the most popular spots in Scandinavia, their raw wilderness has not been spoiled by oodles of tourists. But you’ll appreciate their remoteness even more if you visit in the colder months, which is one of the reasons why the late winter and early spring is the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands.
Of course, with both experiences and weather changing with the seasons, no trip will come without sacrifice. If you choose to visit the Lofoten Islands at this time, that sacrifice will come in the form of forfeiting the Midnight Sun.
If experiencing those drawn out days is one of your mains reasons for visiting the Arctic Circle, you might want to delay your visit until summer (and sacrifice some of Lofoten’s other main draws). Otherwise, there may well be no better time to plan a trip.
Why February-March is the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands
There are plenty of reasons to visit the Lofoten Islands at any time of year, but here’s why I’m routing for early spring.
#1 The Lofoten Islands are in the Arctic Circle
The top of the Earth’s daylight hours vary much more than countries closer to the equator.
Visit in the summer and you’ll probably feel jet-lagged for your entire trip because it never gets dark. Visit in the midst of winter and you’ll only get darkness… and won’t see anything at all!
To enjoy a fairly “normal” day in the Arctic Circle, you need to visit during the in-between seasons.
#2 The mountains will still be capped in snow
Is it just me or would travelling to the Arctic feel a little, y’know, weird without the snow?
If you want to have a true Arctic experience, you’ll need to visit before the snow melts. Even though Lofoten looks stunning in the summer – and has plenty of trails to keep hikers happy! – it’s simply not so unique.
Lofoten’s Arctic position is one its biggest selling points, and visiting in February or March will allow you to have that experience – without dealing with super extreme coldness and endless nights!
#3 It’s a great time of year for photography
I realise not everyone cares about timing their travels for the best photos. But, photography was the main reason I travelled to the Lofoten Islands and I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, the number of photography tours we ran into while we were there tells me I’m definitely not!
As is usually the case, winter makes for the best photos. But visit in the middle of winter and there won’t be any sunrise or sunset to work with.
February is a great time to visit Lofoten for photography because the days are fairly short and the weather isn’t as brutal as it can in other months. That means you can shoot most days, will almost definitely get epic light on some, and won’t have to go out shooting at weird hours.
#4 The weather is constantly changing
Unpredictable weather might be enough to put you off visiting most places at certain times of year, but it’s even more reason to visit Lofoten in February/March.
The changeable weather means you (kind of) get to experience the Lofoten Islands in multiple seasons without having to travel there multiple times. Basically, it’ll be like multiple trips in one, meaning you (kind of) get a whole lot more for your money.
After watching a brilliant rosy sunrise at the spot where the below photo was taken, we went back in the evening and were met by a snowstorm. It left a blanket of fresh snow all over the cabins and rocks, making it look like a different place entirely. And that was just in one day!
The weather in the Lofoten Islands can – and does – change rapidly. And that’s not such a bad thing.
#5 You’ll have time to sleep
The pace of life in the Lofoten Islands is as relaxed as you’d expect. The combination of sea-born breezes, fresh seafood and a lack of life for miles simply forces you to slow down and unwind.
Visit in the early spring and the days suit the lifestyle perfectly. After a late sunrise at around 8am, you can enjoy adventure-fuelled days exploring the islands but still get your full eight hours once darkness falls again. This is a trip you’ll go home from refreshed.
Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi. This handy little device will give you unlimited data for your trip to Norway, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
#6 You might see the northern lights
With the unpredictable clouds that constantly roll over the Lofoten Islands, there’s never any guarantee that you’ll see the northern lights. But visiting in early spring will give you best chance of doing so.
The best time to see the northern lights in Norway is from October to March because the nights are dark. But, given that October to January is pretty much nothing but nighttime, February and March are your best bet. You’ll give yourself a good chance of spotting those magical green lights while having enough light to explore during the day.
#7 There will be fewer tourists
Most people assume that summer is the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands. And it certainly has its draws: it’s warmer, lighter and home to the midnight sun.
It’s also when most tourists choose to plan their visit.
The Lofoten Islands are the kind of place that are best enjoyed in peace; that way, you can appreciate the remote wilderness spread out around you. Travel a few months ahead of the popular and you’ll be able to enjoy a much quieter trip and much more authentic experience.
#8 You can enjoy a hot tub at the end of the day
The truth is, it’s always a good time of year for a hot tub in Norway. The temperatures in the Lofoten Islands rarely climb higher than the mid teens.
Just like the mountains, though, hot tubs are somehow better with snow.
If you want to enjoy a hot tub to its full potential, it’s got to be in winter – just not when it’s so called you can’t bring yourself to get out!
With such different conditions throughout the year, there’s really no bad time to visit Lofoten. But if you want to have the most varied, most Lofoten-y experience possible, the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands is without a doubt around February/March.
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