What it costs to see the Lofoten islands, and how it's worth it.
This was a big one. Not only was getting out to the Lofotens a long (and more difficult than initially thought) trip, these islands were also where I had allocated the most time to stay. And it was worth it. But I cannot stress enough how lucky I’ve been with the circumstances of the last couple of days, especially considering how poorly I actually planned for this part of my trip.
To begin, the weather has been amazing there. Every moment of my last few days has been a warm and sunny one – with the exception of the first 18 hours, which included overcast skies, howling wind and a depressing drizzle. Even though I imagined some sun during my trip, I never thought I would get significantly sunburnt. I have now bought sunscreen and will be applying it generously – one of many lessons I’ve learnt from this little time in Norway’s north.
I’m hesitant to say the cruise line ferry I caught from Bodø to Svolvær (considered to be the capital of the Lofoten islands) was a mistake, as it was my only option to get to the islands with the time constraints I had. But I was later informed that the express ferry could’ve saved me a couple of hours and a couple of dollars. If only I had checked the times before I arrived to Bodø. Nevertheless, I made it Svolvær and picked up a cheap meal for a late dinner before making my way down the highway to find a spot to camp. This was quite daunting. I had no idea how far I had to walk before I could find an appropriate spot, and the skies taunted me with occasional raindrops and chilled breezes. When I did find some ground, however, my spirits were lifted and mind eased ever so slightly.
Fortunately, I had the foresight to book a hostel for the second night, then extend my stay for the third, as camping now looked to me like a foolish idea. And when I got to the hostel the second morning, I gladly collapsed on the cafeteria couch. A week of travelling may not sound like a long time, but for an amateur backpacker it sure can take a heavy toll. Some days you simply need to take a moment, a seat and a deep breath. Listening to your body is a vital part of travelling, and mine was telling me to just stop for one bloody second.
Things soon picked up when I met the people in the dorms surrounding mine. Conversation was easy and fun, and plans to hike together the next day were made. It’s extremely difficult to get around the Lofoten islands without a car, something I realised as soon as I arrived. A couple of my new found friends indeed knew this and, luckily, offered to drive us around for the next couple of days. I would never have had seen as much of the islands as I did if it weren’t for a couple of these dorm mates, one fellow Aussie in particular.
The next two days were ever so close to what I had dreamed exploring the Lofoten islands would be like. A steep hike (rock climb almost) up Fløya, a small mountain overlooking Svolvær, proved to be the most exciting, dangerous and exhausting trail I have ever come across. And the views were stunning. Such beauty is not easily outdone, but the next day’s hike on Tjeldbergtinden perhaps succeeded in doing so. The trek up was not so fun, especially as we were all still recovering from the previous day, but the views from one of the summits were incredible. My mind let go of all worries and all I could think about was the wonderful atmosphere surrounding me. This lasted until I realised we had to make our way back down the mountain.
A brief visit to the Viking museum proved more difficult than we thought when we began to fall asleep during a screening of a historical short film. Our physically demanding adventures had caught up with us, and the day was beginning to come to a close. In fact, my whole trip on the islands was. I was able to secure a reasonably cheap flight back to Bodø, which was a much better option than any ferry (the express ferry departed early morning). And once again was fortunate enough to get a lift from the lovely Aussie. Perhaps I would have stayed longer in the Lofoten islands if I didn’t have plans to leave, other places to see, and too small a budget for a car.
Although I didn’t see as much of the islands as I had initially hoped (unfoundedly), it was well worth the trip up. An excellent way to end my first week.
Travel alterations thanks to my time in the Lofoten islands:
- Budget a rental car for freedom of exploration.
- Limit time camping in spots along a highway.
- Keep an inventory of sunscreen.