This article is part of the Complete Guide to Photography in The Lofoten Islands
The Lofoten Islands are among the most rewarding locations on earth for landscape photography. There are enough beaches, mountains, and pretty towns to keep a photographer occupied for weeks, and all within a 3-hour drive from top to bottom.
The landscapes of Iceland and Patagonia are just as impressive, but Lofoten is dense with photography spots. There are potential photographs everywhere, and you'll experience plenty of moments in Lofoten where the light suddenly changes, and you can capture an amazing image wherever you happen to be.
This is my list of the best photograph locations in the Lofoten Islands, and I've concentrated on places which are easy to reach, especially if you have your own car for getting around. Most spots in Lofoten are versatile and look good at sunrise, sunset or at night for the aurora, but I've included an idea of the best time to visit.
Some of these spots are very popular, and images of them may be familiar even if you haven't visited Norway. However, Lofoten is so small that you can combine visiting a popular location with some of your own exploration to find something unique all on the same day. These spots will give you a starting point for your travels around the islands.
This scene of red huts set against the mountains is the most famous composition in Lofoten and the image which first drew me to visit in winter.
I only knew the rough location of this photograph when I first visited Lofoten and decided to investigate the precise spot when I arrived in the area. I researched the composition on a laptop in my cabin, in what turned out to be the second hut from the right. Growing suspicious that I'd already gotten much closer to the spot than I realised, I looked out the window and saw a large group of photographers staring at me from the bridge.
On a busy morning, you'll find 50 photographers crowded along the small bridge which overlooks this scene, their cameras arranged along the railing to capture the sunrise. In the night, even if the aurora is out, you might have it to yourself.
Your image of this scene will be one of thousands taken before, but I think there's value in practising fine-tuning with a fixed composition like this. Balancing the peak at the top and the rocks at the bottom is not easy, and I recommend spending some time here working on precision in your images.
Aside from the most famous composition, there are other points around these huts where you can capture the mountains with different foregrounds; it's a great place to explore the shoreline around the small island of Hamnoy.
When to go: This spot is best at sunrise, when the first light of the day shines on the peak, especially in winter. It also makes a beautiful foreground for the northern lights if you get the magical combination of clear skies and aurora activity (it's a bright area, so the aurora must be strong to capture in the image).
To get here: This composition is taken from the bridge on the west side of the tiny island of Hamnoy, on the main road running through this area. There are several small areas to park nearby, just off the road.
Reine (and nearby islands)
Reine is a town set in one of the strangest landscapes in the world. It occupies a set of low islands in a bay circled by incredible peaks, with no gradual variations of hills in between. The mountains tower over the tiny islands in the bay, and the effect of building a town here is a striking and unusual sense of scale.
Reine is a small town, but popular enough with visitors that you'll find accommodation and restaurants; there are also boat tours and excursions to areas nearby in the summer. It's almost the last place you reach as you travel down the Lofoten Islands, and a good place to stay for a few days if you are travelling for photography (I slightly prefer the location of Ramberg, as it is easier to reach both Reine and spots to the north).
The islands of Hamnoy and Sakrisoy are next to Reine. Although these are separate places for administrative reasons, they all feel like the same place, and you'll find yourself exploring all these islands together with Reine. There are several well-known compositions in this area, but it's worth spending a few days exploring Reine and enjoying the incredible landscape; there are plenty of new angles to discover.
The mountain peak of Reinebringen has an incredible view over the town, and it's an accessible summer hike to the top from a trailhead just out of town. It is not a safe hike in the winter, and there are numerous warnings to avoid making the journey.
When to go: Reine is best at sunrise, as the circle of peaks around the town faces east, and the light catches the mountains at dawn. It's also a great place to capture the aurora; although it doesn't have wide-open views of the sky, and the lights from the town are bright, it does have plenty of compositions that can be enhanced by the northern lights.
To get here: Reine is on the main road through Lofoten and an easy place to reach. You may wish to stay here for a few days for a thorough exploration, but you could get a good sense of it in a day. There are many places to park by the road and paid parking areas in Reine itself. The view above was taken here. A famous view of a footbridge in Reine is here.
The other famous composition from the Lofoten Islands can be found on Uttakleiv beach, where a small tide pool has become known as the "Dragon's Eye".
Uttakleiv beach has a mix of sandy areas and a long, rocky shoreline, which is perfect for compositions of the distant cliffs at the end of the bay. The dragon's eye is just one of the many pools, but the vivid, round rock in the centre does make it a striking foreground and very popular among photographers.
The dragon's eye is to the left as you arrive on the beach from the parking area (precise location) and is very small in person. It's often easy to find because it will be surrounded by photographers capturing their version of the composition featuring the rock and cliffs in the distance. However, Uttakleiv Beach has much more to offer than this single image, and it's a place you could easily spend an afternoon lost in seascape photography.
On the way to Uttakleiv Beach, you'll also pass Haukland Beach, which is worth exploring with the camera. This is a less popular photography location, with fewer features than Uttakleiv, but it is set in a wide bay with some beautiful cliffs, which may work better for you, depending on your style of photography.
When to go: The direction of the light changes so much throughout the seasons in Lofoten that you'll need to research the angle of sunrise and sunset during your visit to find out where the light will fall. However, Uttakleiv Beach looks good whenever there are interesting skies, and it works for dramatic seascapes even when the weather is dull. This is a great place to capture the aurora, as there is so much open space that you can often find a composition wherever the lights appear in the sky.
To get here: Off the main route through Lofoten, the beach is a 15-minute drive on a narrow, paved road. There is a paid parking area right by the beach and also public toilets (though they are usually closed in winter).
Despite being small and not the most popular location among photographers, Storsandnes is my favourite beach in Lofoten.
The range of mountains on the horizon is the perfect background for images of the beach, and they work for photography in almost any conditions, day or night. The beach has a small sandy area with plenty of rocks to create compositions with the breaking waves as foregrounds.
At night, this is a good spot for aurora photography, and you can create compositions in several directions to adapt to where the aurora appears. The beach is a little remote and can be very dark, so it's worth coming here to scope out compositions during the daylight before returning to capture the aurora.
Another small beach - Myrland - is also along this stretch of road, just another few kilometres up from Storsandnes. This place is smaller again, but it adds another stop along a less-visited part of the islands that is still very easy to access.
When to go: This beach works in all conditions, and you can visit at any time of day. For dramatic skies, you will have more luck at sunset, where it will be easier to compose images with the setting sun. It is also a great place to watch the northern lights because it is dark and has plenty of open sky.
To get here: The beach is just a 4-minute drive off the main road through the islands and well worth visiting if you are nearby. There are places to pull off the road, but no major parking area and it can get a little busy with so few places to stop a car. However, it's not a large location, and many visitors do not stay long, so you may be able to wait for a space to clear.
Possibly the most popular beach in Lofoten, this enormous stretch of sand is a favourite among photographers and surfers. It faces a distinctive mountain on the other side of the bay, almost completely separated from its surroundings, which provides a beautiful main subject or addition to a composition.
As the beach is just off the road, it's easy to access and popular among visitors driving past. The most interesting photography here uses features on the beach as foregrounds for the mountains, and there are dozens of options to explore. There are rock pools and seaweed to create interesting shapes, but you can also use the patterns in the sand or waves to create compositions anywhere along this beach.
You could spend hours here and revisit in many different conditions. It's very well photographed but without a fixed composition to capture; I recommend researching the images other photographers have made here for inspiration.
When to visit: You may need to research the direction of the sun at different times of day to find a time when the mountain will catch the light during your visit. However, there are so many options for creative photography at Skagsanden Beach that you can create images at any time of day in any conditions. This is another beautiful spot for watching the aurora, with plenty of possible compositions.
Nusfjord is the postcard Lofoten village, full of fishing huts nestled among the mountains by the sea. Reine and Henningsvaer have more dramatic settings on low-lying rocks in the ocean, but Nusfjord is the perfect quaint fishing village of Lofoten.
However, it's tough to photograph. The position of the village among steep cliffs offers no obvious place to stand for a wide view of the scene. The centre of the town is complex for photography, with many individually beautiful buildings but fewer compositions which combine them and capture the atmosphere.
Nusfjord is a great place to practice and develop your photography because it has no set-piece compositions to recreate but does have plenty of features to work into a photograph. There are endless angles to explore, and you could spend a day here working with textures, shapes, colours and small scenes to explore different styles of photography.
When to visit: Nusfjord looks pretty on a nice day with scattered cloud, and images of the village can look good with early morning or dusk light. However, this a versatile location, and you'll find something to photograph in any light and weather. I do not recommend coming to Nusfjord for the aurora, as the position of the village between high cliffs offers only a limited view of the sky.
To get there: Nusfjord is a busy and compact village, with several paid parking areas for the many visitors. Depending on the busyness of the season when you visit, it's best to follow local signs to an available parking area when you arrive in the village.
The village of Å (pronounced like the 'o' in 'story') is as far south as you can drive in the Lofoten Islands and is the final stop for most visitors. There is a large parking area with public toilets and a visitor centre at the end of the main road.
There is a string of pretty villages between Å and Reine (to the north), and it's worth spending a few hours exploring the coastline in this area. South of Å are a set of hiking trails, and you don't have to go far to reach the end of a peninsula, from which you can see the final points in the islands.
This is a good location for seascapes and coastal photography, and the landscape is open enough here (even in the winter) that you'll find several interesting views of the coast and cliffs.
When to visit: This area can look good at sunrise or sunset, and you should check the angle of the sun at these times on the dates of your visit. If you are lucky, it may set just behind the cliffs and allow you to capture some beautiful sunset seascapes. Some hiking trails are easy to navigate even in the snow, and you can go even further in the summer, so this area works in any season. The sky is wide open here, and it's a good place to watch the aurora.
The Red Hut
Lofoten is covered in red huts, traditional fishermen's cabins that are more commonly now holiday homes and accommodation for visitors. Although many pictures of the area feature the buildings, some have become well known because they happen to sit in just the right spot for a good composition.
This red hut is probably the most photographed of all, and it lies just off the main road through Ramberg (precise location). You'd hardly notice it but for its position in front of the perfect layered background of beach, water and mountains across the bay. This is a great place to explore textures, colours and scale. Although there is one obvious composition, it's surprising how much variety can be found in such a simple arrangement, and I recommend researching other photographers' takes on this scene.
Ramberg is a small town arranged along the main road just south of Skagsanden Beach and a great place to stay in Lofoten as it is easy to reach many of the best photography locations from here. The beach in Ramberg is not a popular photography location, but it's an interesting place to explore with easy access.
When to visit: I think this composition works best in flat light, not at sunrise or sunset, and preferably on an overcast day. The image is about colour and texture, and too much striking light in the scene could distract from the effect of layers against the beautiful red wood of the hut. Save this place for a day when you don't have the light for a more dramatic location.
To get here: There is a small, free parking area just north of the hut and plenty of places to pull off the road in Ramberg as you drive through. Spend a little extra time here to explore the beach and other compositions.
Henningsvaer stands out for its unusual location, spread across a series of low islands offshore. You can reach the town by bridge and, considering its strange position on a set of islands, it has plenty of hotels, restaurants and shops.
Henningsvaer is a popular spot for visitors who come to see the town built on the ocean, but it's a difficult place for photography. It's not as pretty and quaint as the smaller villages in Lofoten, and its position at the end of a spur from the main road makes it less convenient as a base for photography excursions.
However, it's the ideal place for drone photography. The best angles on Henningsvaer are from high up and out to sea, and the view of a sports field on one of the islands has become a famous composition. It's important to check local laws and restrictions on drone photography but, if you are satisfied it's safe and legal to fly, using a drone will get you the best compositions in Henningsvaer.
When to visit: Henningsvaer looks best at sunrise, as it sits on islands off the east coast of Lofoten, and the sun shines towards the town at dawn. The sun sets behind the mainland and casts Henningsvaer in shadow. This is not a place I recommend for aurora watching because there are fewer compositions from within Henningsvaer itself. To capture a Lofoten town with aurora overhead, you would have better luck in Reine.
To get here: Henningsvaer is easily accessible: it's a 15-minute drive from the main road through Lofoten and has plenty of paid parking in the middle of the town.
Finding the Best Photography Locations in Lofoten
Plenty of photographers have already visited these locations, and you'll have to choose between creating your version of the scenes or exploring new parts of the islands for different compositions. However, Lofoten is compact, so you'll likely have time for some of both.
An advantage of visiting well-photographed locations is that you can find other photographers' versions of the scenes online. This is a great way to practice and grow as a photographer, exploring different atmospheres and moods that can be created from the same location.
If you treat these locations as a starting point for your visit, you'll capture some beautiful images in Lofoten but won't have to travel far to find something new.