Winter time at Reine fishing village in Lofoten

9 reasons to visit Lofoten in the winter time

The Lofoten archipelago is a dream come true for every visitor who wishes to experience the beating heart of Norway.

Named after a lynx, the Arctic archipelago carries an almost feral, untamed beauty all year long. Its jutting mountaintops and diverse wildlife juxtaposed with postcard-perfect fishing houses and the glittering waters of the fjords, the Lofoten archipelago is a dream come true for every visitor who wishes to experience the beating heart of Norway. 

But in the winter, the Lofoten islands become even more magical. Drenched in the dashing blues of the polar nights, the archipelago becomes the perfect backdrop for anything from quiet walks to a ton of exciting activities. Here’s nine reasons to visit Lofoten in the winter time:

The climate

Although located north of the Arctic Circle, the Lofoten islands enjoy a surprisingly milder climate for their high latitude. The archipelago has the Gulf Stream to thank for that: its warm currents keep the water temperature from getting too cold. As a result, the sea around the islands never fully freezes during wintertime, which is one of the reasons local populations have thrived here for millennia. You should still dress warmly when you visit, of course!

Authentic fishing boat on the fishing banks of the coast of Lofoten


Exactly because of their milder climate, the Lofoten islands are a veritable treasure trove of winter water sports activities. If you love kayaking, you’ll be pleased to know you can still kayak in Lofoten in winter time (although you’ll have to stay within the inner coast). And there’s just something magical about kayaking under that blue light of polar nights, just you and the birds flying above

A girl kayaking in Lofoten at winter


Another unexpected winter water sports activity in Lofoten? Surfing! Yes, you read that right: with the water temperature never straying farh from 5-14C year long, and the geology of the islands making for some majestic waves, surfing is very much an option. Whether you carry your thermal suit with you or just have a yearning for some waves, you should visit the Unstad Arctic Surf Resort where they offer lessons and resources.

Surfing at Unstad beach in Lofoten

The fish

Whether you enjoy fishing them yourself or simply savoring them at a restaurant, Lofoten in the winter won’t let you down. The Norwegian Arctic cod, also known as “skrei”, has been plentiful in the waters of the archipelago since the Viking Age — and much of the local Lofoten culture is centered around catching it, drying it up to sell it and finding inventive ways to cook it. In the winter in particular, the skrei arrive from the Barents Sea to mate, so if you take a guided fishing trip you’re guaranteed a good catch! Or you can visit one of the local restaurants and enjoy a traditional dish of tørrfisk, made from local, dried cod.

Fishermen gutting Arctic cod in Lofoten
Photo: Ismaele Tortella | Visit Norway

The Northern Lights

Wintertime is Aurora Borealis time in Norway! These elusive dancing lights in the sky are easier to spot during polar nights and Lofoten is situated under something called the “Aurora oval”. Basically what this means is that here you have more chances to spot the Northern Lights — and even see them reflected in the archipelago’s waters!

Green northern lights dancing over some red fishing huts in Lofoten

Skiing and snowshoeing the Lofoten mountains 

The jagged mountains that have given these islands their distinctive looks, are a treat to explore all year long. In wintertime however, they can make you feel a bit like a polar explorer, as the usual crowds are gone and the eerie silence of the snow dominates. The terrain is ideal to cross with the help of skis or snowshoes — and the views will simply be majestic!

A group of people on nature safari with snowshoes in Svolvær

The “Frozen” effect

When visiting the Lofoten archipelago in the winter, you get to see what the Disney designers saw when searching for inspiration for the fictional kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa’s home in Frozen was modeled after a few locations in Norway, the colorful houses and imposing mountaintops of the Lofoten islands being the main inspiration. Ready to step into a real-life Disney movie?

Winter time at Reine fishing village in Lofoten

The ice sculptures

Svolvær in Lofoten is home to the Magic Ice Bar, aka the world’s first permanent ice gallery. And yes, you can visit this unique attraction all year long, but in wintertime it’s even more special when the ice sculptures inside feel like a continuation of the snow outside. So how about a cold cocktail while looking at some impressive ice sculptures?

Ice bar in Svolvær made with magic blue ice

Early Christmas

Winter in Lofoten will be an amazing adventure for the kiddos, as Christmas celebrations start early. There are several activities, from gingerbread decorating to window painting and sledding, but the idyllic fishing village of Henningsvær goes all out. They organize “Førjulseventyret”, or “the pre-Christmas adventure,” with 22 “rebus” clues spread around the village for kids to find and answer questions — and prizes for the winners! Need more motivation for your Lofoten trip than a dose of Christmas magic with the world’s most beautiful background?

Fishing boat in the harbor of Svolvær in Lofoten

Explore the beautiful Lofoten islands at winter

Four people with double kayaks along the coast of Lofoten

Winter Kayak Safari in Svolvær

Kayak through the crystal clear waters of Svolvær in the midst of winter
From NOK 1095
Three people snowshoeing in Lofoten

Snowshoe Hike in Svolvær

Snowshoe hike in the Lofoten mountains around Svolvær
From NOK 1195