The islands of northern Norway are the perfect destination if you enjoy hiking, scenic drives, and jaw-dropping landscapes. On this northern Norway itinerary, road trip from Tromsø down through Senja and the Vesteralen Islands, ending with several magical days in the Lofoten Islands. This is the type of trip where every day just seems to get better than the one before it. Be prepared to fall in love with Norway, take way too many photos, and hike some of the best trails in Europe.
This is one of our favorite trips of all time. Every single day here amazed us. The landscapes, the adorable little fishing villages, the epic hiking trails…you are in for a treat. We thought it would be tough to beat our first trip through the Norwegian fjords, but this road trip is the clear winner.
Driving through the Lofoten Islands
About this Itinerary
This itinerary is designed as a road trip, so you will need to rent a car. You will pick up the car in Tromsø and drop it in either Leknes, Svolvaer, or Bodø, depending on where you fly home from the Lofoten Islands. Expect to pay a drop fee for this (this fee varies quite a lot based on season and rental car company). You can avoid the drop fee by driving back to Tromsø, but this is an eight hour drive and will add another day onto this itinerary.
On this itinerary, we also put a big emphasis on hiking. Seeing Norway from the road is a great experience, but there is nothing like seeing Norway from a hiking trail.
This itinerary works best from the end of May through September, when the ferry from Gryllefjord to Andenes is operating. It’s still possible to do this trip during the rest of the year, but you will have to do a lot more driving.
This Northern Norway Itinerary is Perfect For:
- Scenic Drives
Arrive in Tromsø
Get settled into your hotel and take a nap if you desperately need one. Spend the afternoon walking the pretty streets of Tromsø. The harbor is a great place to spend the afternoon and have dinner.
Today is a low-key day so you can shrug off jetlag (if you arrived on an international flight) and get adjusted to the time change. If this is your first time in the Arctic Circle, it may also be the first time you see the midnight sun (from mid-May to mid-July) or the northern lights (from October to April).
Where We Stayed in Tromsø: We stayed at the Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromsø. Located in downtown Tromsø and within walking distance of the harbor, this hotel is a great option if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive place to stay. Rooms are large, clean, and quiet and come with blackout curtains (a must during the summer months).
Another good option is the Clarion Hotel The Edge. This ultra-modern hotel is located right in the harbor. Rooms can accommodate up to four people and some offer stunning views out to the Arctic Cathedral. Have a drink and enjoy the view from the rooftop bar on the 11th floor.
Tromsø started off as a fishing village but has grown to be a small, modern city. Visit the modern Arctic Cathedral, go shopping, or spend your time at a handful of the museums in town.
One of the best things to do in Tromsø is to take in the view from the top of Fløya. From this mountain peak, you get an incredible aerial view of the city. To visit Fløya, you can hike up or ride the Fjellheisen cable car. We rode the cable car to the top and then hiked back down.
The top of Fløya is a popular place to be a midnight during the summer months, when you can see Tromsø illuminated by the midnight sun.
For an excellent guide on Tromsø, check out this post by Nerd Nomads. Their Tromsø guide covers everything you need to know to have the best experience here.
Ørnfløya and Sommarøy
Today is a low-key day. Feel free to have a leisurely breakfast in Tromsø. You can even spend the first part of the day in town, if there is more here that you want to do.
When you are ready, make the short drive to Sommarøy (1 hour, 56 km).
The best thing to do in Sommarøy is to hike to the top of Ørnfløya. This short but sweet hike is easy to do and great for all ages and ability levels.
If you are looking for more to do after the hike, you can spend the afternoon kayaking or fishing.
Have dinner at the Sommarøy Arctic Hotel, the only restaurant in the area. The food is expensive (190 NOK for a burger and 300 NOK for main entrees) but these prices are typical for many of the restaurants in northern Norway.
Where We Stayed: The Sommarøy Arctic Hotel is the one and only hotel in Sommarøy. Take your pick from a traditional hotel room or a cabin on the water.
Sommaroy by drone
Senja & the Hike to Segla
The Ferry to Senja
This morning you will travel by ferry from the Sommarøy area to the island of Senja. The ferry leaves from Brensholmen, a tiny town just around the corner from Sommarøy and Ørnfløya, and travels to Botnhamn on Senja.
To maximize your time on Senja, you need to take the first ferry of the day, which is 8:45 am during the summer months (10:15 am on Sunday).
Brensholmen Ferry Port
To make sure you get a spot, it’s a good idea to get in line early. We got in line at 7:30 am and we were the first crazy ones in line. On the day that we did this (a Tuesday morning in July) every car in line made it onto the ferry. Even so, it’s not a bad idea to get here about a half an hour early (8:15). If you miss the ferry, the next one is at 10:45 am.
The ferry takes 45 minutes. You will buy your tickets once you are onboard the ferry (NOK 82 per adult, NOK 41 per child, NOK 273 for a car and driver). We paid NOK 447 for one car with a driver, one additional adult, and two children.
Check the updated ferry schedule and prices here.
If you enjoy hiking, I highly recommend the hike up to Segla. This was our main reason for visiting Senja and it was absolutely worth it.
The hike up Segla is short but surprisingly tough. In fact, it’s probably the toughest hike in this itinerary. This hike is only 5 km (3 miles) round trip, but with 610 meters (2000 feet of climbing), it can be exhausting. But, oh, what a view you have from the top of Segla.
Segla by drone
Another great hike to consider on Senja is Breidtinden. This is an even more demanding hike, with more climbing and a slightly longer distance, but it offers gorgeous views of Segla and Mefjord.
More Things to do on Senja
If hiking is not in your game plan, Senja is still worth the visit. It’s a gorgeous drive on the Norwegian Scenic Route from Botnhamn to Gryllefjord and along the way there are a few places to visit.
Tungeneset is a coastal viewpoint. Walk out on the wooden walkway to the beach for a stunning view of the jagged Okshornan mountain range (it rained during this part of our visit so our photos aren’t the best).
The Bergsbotn viewing platform is a wooden and metal platform that offers nice views of Bergsfjord. Unfortunately, we visited these spots in rather rainy, dreary weather (not uncommon in Norway!).
Senjatrollet, also called the Senja Troll, is advertised as being the world’s largest troll. You can simply see it from the road (what we did) or pay admission and visit the souvenir shop, walk the grounds, and watch the show. Learn more on the official website.
What We Did: We hiked Segla midday and then crashed at our hotel for the remainder of the day. The following morning we visited Tungeneset, the Bergsbotn viewing platform, and did a drive by of Senjatrollet on the way to the ferry at Gryllefjord.
Where to Stay on Senja
Mefjord Brygge. This property is located on the opposite side of Mefjord from Segla. This is where we stayed. We had our own house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms, and a full kitchen. Mefjord Brygge also runs a restaurant that serves fresh fish and seafood and really good desserts. From the property we could look out over Mefjord and see Segla.
Hamn i Senja. This is probably the best place to stay on Senja. It’s awesome but it’s also expensive (which is why we chose Mefjord Brygge). However, Hamn i Senja gets great reviews on Trip Advisor and Booking.com.
This morning is all about catching that first ferry from Gryllefjord to Andenes. If you miss the ferry, you will also miss the opportunity to hike out to Måtind, one of our favorite hikes on this itinerary.
Ferry from Gryllefjord to Andenes
The ferry only operates from mid-May through the beginning of September. Even then, it only runs two to three times per day. The first sailing from Gryllefjord is at 11:00 am. Plan on getting here early to make it onto the ferry. The car line can be long and those at the back of the line may not make it onboard.
If you stayed in Mefjord, you can visit Tungeneset and the Bergbotn viewing platform as you drive to Gryllefjord. It takes about one hour to drive from Mefjord to Gryllefjord and visiting those viewpoints does not add a lot of time.
We got in line at 9 am for the 11 am ferry. And no, this time, we were not the first ones here, although we were near the front of the line. There is a small grocery here, so if you want to put together a picnic lunch, this is a good place to do it.
The ferry line at 9 am.
This ferry is much larger than the one you took yesterday. However, there are also a lot more cars in line for this. On the day we did this, a bunch of cars at the back of the line did not make it onboard the ferry. It’s not ideal to wait in line for an hour, but it beats missing the ferry. Guess what, the next one is not until 5 pm!!
I recommend getting here at least one hour before the scheduled departure, although even a little bit earlier is preferable.
Again, you will purchase your ferry tickets onboard (NOK 642 for a car and driver, NOK 240 per adult, NOK 120 per child). It takes one hour and forty-five minutes to travel by ferry from Gryllefjord to Andenes.
Get the ferry schedule here. In 2019, the updated ferry schedule was not released until mid-May.
Hiking on the Vesteralen Islands
Remember when I said that every day just keeps getting better? Hiking out to Måtind on the Stave-Bleik Coastal Trail is relatively easy and offers jaw-dropping views of the coastline. To get here, it is just a 20 minute drive from Andenes. This hike is 8 km (5 miles) long and takes 3 to 4 hours.
By the time you finish the hike it will be dinnertime. Grab a bite to eat in Bleik or Andenes, or another nearby town, and then settle into your hotel.
Where To Stay
We stayed at the Nord Fish Apartments, picking this place for its budget prices and decent reviews. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, in a cluster of communist-style buildings. We had two enormous rooms that were spotlessly clean. But the old building echoes a lot and it felt more like a dormitory than a hotel. I would describe this hotel as clean and functional. If you are looking for “boutique” or “charming,” this is not your place.
If you are just two people, check out Apartment Utsikten in Andenes. This highly rated property offers a gorgeous sea view and is within walking distance of the center of Andenes.
Also in Andenes, if you are a family or a group of up to six people, Villa Jorgensengarden is a nice option. This is a three-bedroom villa that also offers a sea view and gets great reviews.
So this is it…this is what you have been waiting for. For the next four days, you get to explore the awesome Lofoten Islands.
There are a lot of different ways to plan your time here, but I’ll let know exactly how we did it.
In the morning, drive south to Svolvaer. From Andenes, this drive is 210 km and takes three hours. During the drive, we stopped at a grocery store and bought food for a picnic lunch.
Just before arriving in Svolvaer, we stumbled across this very lovely picnic spot on E10 (labeled as Austnesfjorden rasteplass on Google Maps).
Once in Svolvaer, you have several options. If you want to pass on hiking, you can take a boat trip out among the islands, go fishing, or visit the Lofoten War Museum.
Or, you can do what we did, and have your most epic experience in the Lofoten Islands. In Svolvaer, there is a tall pinnacle of rock called The Goat, or Svolvaergeita. This is a very popular rock climbing spot and from the top you have one of the best views of Svolvaer. Even beginner rock climbers can do this.
Another option is to hike to the top of Fløya for another gorgeous view of Svolvaer. It is possible to combine the climb up Svolvaergeita with the hike up Fløya (this is what we did).
Where to Stay
We chose to stay in Kabelvåg (just south of Svolvaer) since we knew today would be a very long day. However, this added another hotel to our itinerary. It worked out fine for us, but if you want to avoid staying in a ton of hotels, you can choose one hotel for all four nights in the Lofoten Islands.
We stayed at Nyvågar Rorbuhotel in Kabelvåg, a 15 minute drive south of Svolvaer. A rorbuer is a classic fisherman’s cottage that has been converted into a hotel room, that usually comes equipped with a kitchen, living room, and private bedroom. We had a two bedroom cabin with the bedrooms on the second floor and the kitchen and living area on the lower floor.
On this day, we road-tripped down the Lofoten Islands to Hamnøy and Reine. We spent the next three nights in Hamnøy.
After breakfast at our hotel, we checked out and then drove south towards Henningsvaer.
Just before reaching Henningsvaer, you have the option to do another hike. The hike up Festvågtind is very similar to Svolvaer Fløya, with a nice viewpoint over the Henningsvaer. We didn’t have the best weather and the hike was nice, but if we skipped one hike on this itinerary, this would be the one. However, on a clear day, I think it would be worth considering.
Continue on to Henningsvaer, a charming fishing village and a great place to get lunch.
Road Tripping through the Lofoten Islands
Spend the afternoon road tripping through the Lofoten Islands. The scenery really is awe-inspiring here. It seems like there is another gorgeous view around every bend in the road. It was difficult to make any progress because we stopped so frequently for photos.
The Lofoten Islands near Henningsvaer
Haukland Beach & Uttakleiv Beach
Just north of Leknes, turn right onto Leiteveien from highway E10. Follow the narrow road out to Haukland Beach. This is a nice spot but if you keep going, it gets better.
From Haukland Beach, take the road through the tunnel and you emerge out into one of the Lofoten Island’s prettiest beaches, Uttakleiv Beach. Park at the parking lot and then walk out on the beach, taking time to enjoy the view and capture the moment in photos.
Our next stop is on the island of Flakstadøya. Nusfjord is one of the best preserved fishing villages in the Lofoten Islands. Now, it’s an open-air museum where you can tour a sawmill, an old-fashioned store, and a factory that makes cod-liver oil. You can also stay overnight in one of the old fisherman’s cabins (rorbu).
Reine and Hamnøy
From Nusfjord, we continued south to Hamnøy and checked into our hotel.
We stayed in Hamnøy at Reinefjorden Sjohus. This place is wonderful. We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment, which is really a two-level cabin with a kitchen and a living area. The view from the living room was AMAZING! We could look across the water to Sakrisøy and Reine and see Reinebringen in the background.
Reine and Hamnøy, with their collection of red and yellow fishing cabins on the water, is one of the most picturesque spots on the Lofoten Islands and a great place to stay. Get more recommendations of where to stay in Reine and Hamnøy in this post.
We ate dinner at Krambua, just a short walk from the Reinefjorden Sjohus.
Hiking the Lofoten Islands
Today you have a full day to go hiking. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.
On this day, we did two hikes. We hiked Reinebringen in the morning and Ryten in the afternoon. It left us exhausted but we had no choice. Rain was in the forecast for tomorrow, so we needed to do as much as possible today.
Reinebringen is a short, challenging hike and it’s not to be underestimated. This is the most popular hike in the Lofoten Islands and the trail is undergoing a lot of wear and tear. It’s not unusual for the trail to close for repairs. People hike to the top of Reinebringen for its spectacular view over Reine and Hamnøy, but there are many other hikes that offer views that are just as amazing.
Munken is a hike that is just around the corner from Reinebringen and it looks and sounds amazing. We planned to do this on our last day in the Lofoten Islands, but rain kept us indoors. If you are looking for a great alternative to Reinebringen, put Munken on your list.
Ryten is another great hike to consider. The hike to Ryten has all of the ingredients of a perfect Lofoten Islands hike: sweeping vistas across the mountains and fjords, a fun but slightly strenuous hike to a mountain peak, and a breathtaking view of a white, sandy beach. The icing on the cake is a “mini Trolltunga,” an outcropping of rock where you can get creative with your photos.
There are many more hikes to choose from. 68 North is an excellent resource for hiking in the Lofoten Islands. Just be aware that the listed hiking distances and times are for one-way, so you will need to double these numbers for a round-trip hike.
On this final day in the Lofoten Islands, you can go surfing, visit the tiny town of Å, or do another hike.
For some of you, today may be the day that you start your journey home. The Lofoten Islands are a remote destination, so you will have to factor in extra travel time to get off the islands.
To leave the Lofoten Islands, you can fly from Leknes or Svolvaer to either Bodø or Oslo. You can also take the ferry from Moskenes to Bodø and catch a flight from here. The ferry crossing takes 3 hours and it can be quite rough at times. Finally, you can drive northeast to Narvik or Tromsø and catch a flight from here.
For those of you flying on to another destination other than Europe, you may not be able to travel from the Lofoten Islands to an international destination all in the same day. On day 9, you may need to travel to Oslo and on day 10, fly home (or continue your travels) from here.
About Our Experience
From the Lofoten Islands, we traveled to Gdansk, Poland. Rainy weather cancelled our flight from Leknes. We were bussed to Svolvaer, rerouted on a short hop to Bodø, and took a second flight to Oslo. From Oslo, we continued our journey to Poland.
Flight delays are not an unusual occurrence on the Lofoten Islands, and we got lucky that we still made it to Gdansk on our planned day (although a lot later at night and with four flights in one day…yes, it took four flights to get us from Svolvaer to Gdansk).
Start or continue your journey home.
When To Go
You can do this road trip all year, however, this itinerary works best from mid-May through early September, when the ferries are running on their full operating schedules and the hiking trails are free from snow.
We did this road trip in early July.
How to Modify This Itinerary
With Less Time
If you need to shorten this itinerary by one day, the best place to do this is by taking some time from Tromsø. It’s possible to see the highlights of Tromsø if you have less than 24 hours. On day 1 and the morning of day 2, see the main sites in Tromsø. After lunch on day 2, drive out to Sommarøy, hike Ørnfløya, and sleep in Sommarøy. Continue with the itinerary as it is written. By doing this, you now have a nine day itinerary.
With More Time
If you have more time, consider taking another day to road trip through the Vesteralen Islands. One more day in the Lofoten Islands would be wonderful as well.
Are you planning a trip to northern Norway? Comment below if you have any questions about this itinerary.
More Information for Your Trip to Norway:
- Top Ten Things to do in the Lofoten Islands
- 10 Day Norway Itinerary: The Ultimate Road Trip through the Fjord Region
- 10 Days in Norway: The Fjords and the Lofoten Islands
- 14 Best Hikes in Norway to Put on Your Bucket List
- Hiking Trolltunga: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Best Experience
- How Much Does it Cost to Visit Svalbard?
Planning a trip to Norway? Read all of our articles in our Norway Travel Guide.
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