This article is part of the Complete Guide to Photography in The Lofoten Islands
The Lofoten Islands are a beautiful place to photograph at almost any time of year, but there is a striking difference in the landscape between summer and winter and the best time of year to visit will depend on the kind of photography you want to do.
The most important factors to consider when planning your visit are light (Lofoten experiences periods of 24-hour dark and 24-hour light), foliage, snow, and the potential for viewing the Aurora Borealis. Although the temperature and climate will influence what activities are available in Lofoten, the landscape is accessible for photography throughout the year due to the mild winter climate.
The light will be an important feature of your visit at any time of year, and the length of the day changes rapidly in Lofoten as the year progresses. Each section of this article includes sunrise and sunset times in the middle of each month, for an illustration of the length of the day.
Visiting Lofoten in the Spring
Sunrise - Sunset Times
March 15th: 0624-1759
April 15th: 0515-2051
May 15th: 0245-2315
Spring is between March and May in Lofoten and is the time of year when the snow melts from the landscape. There will be plenty of waterfalls, and spring flowers start to appear for beautiful foregrounds for images of the peaks. Spring temperatures range from 1°C-8°C / 34°F-46°F, and there can be strong winds, especially at altitude.
The light, weather and landscape changes rapidly between March and May. At the beginning of spring, you'll likely find snow on the mountains and long dark periods in the days. Later in the season, the landscape is becomes more green, and the days extremely long. This isn't a smooth, gradual transition; sometimes, snow can reappear late into spring, and it can also melt very quickly and change the appearance of the hills when you aren't expecting it.
The light in spring is beautiful and soft, though the days are very long by April. During these months, you'll need to plan carefully to photograph sunrise and sunset, and consider when you might rest during the long days if you hope to capture both dawn and dusk.
Early in spring is the only opportunity to capture the aurora; by mid-April, the sky begins to get too light at all times of day. You may be able to capture a strong aurora in April, but there are only a few hours of darkness in which to see it. By May, the sky never gets truly dark, and it's unlikely you'll capture the aurora at all.
If you plan to kayak, hike or cycle in Lofoten, the best opportunities are later in the spring when the weather becomes milder, the landscape less snow-covered, and the days longer.
Spring is a rapid transition period between winter and summer in Lofoten, and your photography will be very different in March compared to May. It's an unpredictable time in the landscape, with more chance of snow early in the season and more chance of wildflowers later, but with neither guaranteed.
Visiting Lofoten in the Summer
Sunrise - Sunset Times
June 15th: 24-hour daylight
July 15th: 24-hour daylight
August 15th: 0417-2151
Summer in Lofoten is between June and August and is the time of midnight sun. The sun dips below the horizon for the last time at the very end of May and doesn't disappear again until the beginning of August.
This is peak tourist season for Lofoten, when the hotels and restaurants will be most busy, and you'll meet more visitors around the islands. The landscape is green, and the light is beautiful very late at night when the sun is low. Summer temperatures are from 8°C-15°C/46°F-59°F, and the islands are relatively dry compared to the other seasons.
In summer, the light is at its best when the sun is low in the sky, and this is a great time of year for photography. You'll get a long period of beautiful, soft light on the landscape and beautiful colours in the sky. The only disadvantage is the need to plan your sleep around the best light of the day, around midnight.
There is no chance of seeing the aurora during the summer. This is the first choice you'll need to make when planning a photography trip to the Lofoten Islands: to experience the surreal light of the Midnight Sun or plan for the Northern Lights at another time of year.
What might sway that decision is the opportunity to try out other activities on your visit, and summer is the best time of year for hiking, cycling, kayaking and rock climbing.
If you want to experience the midnight sun and are willing to adjust your sleep schedule to fit in photography very late at night, this is a beautiful time to visit Lofoten. If photography is just one of your priorities, it's even better, as Lofoten is popular with all visitors interested in outdoor activities. You won't see the Northern Lights, but that is just a reason to come back another time and see the landscape in winter.
Visiting Lofoten in the Autumn
Sunrise - Sunset Times
September 15th: 0616-1935
October 15th: 0805-1728
November 15th: 0916-1415
Autumn in Lofoten is between September and November, when the nights draw in, and the colours in the landscape start to change. Temperatures drop slightly (5°C-11°C / 41°F-52°F) but remain mild and windy. The Lofoten Islands are not heavily forested, so the landscape isn't a carpet of autumn colour as it can be in other parts of Scandinavia; there are some beautiful trees which turn with the season, but the landscape can look rather brown and dull.
As Lofoten has a mild climate, the arrival of the first snow is unpredictable. At the beginning of autumn, you'll most likely find a rocky landscape, perfect for dramatic seascape images and black-and-white photography of the peaks. Near the end of the season, you may get the first snow, especially on the mountains. However, there will be a certain amount of luck to the landscape you find on any given week.
The nights draw in quickly in the autumn, and there are many hours difference in the length of the days at the start and end of the season. You'll need to think carefully about the photography you want to do and the times of day you are willing to get up or stay out to capture the light.
At the beginning of November, Lofoten has almost the ideal length of day for single-session photography, with 6-7 hours between sunrise and sunset. With some planning, you can be on location for sunrise, stay out shooting all day, and complete sunset in time for an evening meal. This is my favourite structure for a photography day, with no gap in the middle of the day waiting for the harshest light to pass.
By mid-September, true night returns to Lofoten and there are more hours of darkness when you might capture the aurora. Including aurora-hunting in your schedule can be very disruptive to your sleep but, later in autumn, the shorter hours of daylight make it viable to photograph all day, with plenty of time left over for rest and night shoots.
Outdoor activities become less viable later in the season, and Lofoten becomes darker and colder. However, this is the ideal whale-watching season, which might persuade you that this is the right time of year for your visit.
Visiting Lofoten in the Winter
Sunrise - Sunset Times
December 15th: No daylight
January 15th: 1043-1338
February 15th: 0823-1609
Winter in Lofoten is a strange experience, and there is almost a month (December) with no sun at all. However, the warm water flowing from the North Atlantic Current gives Lofoten an unusually mild winter climate for its latitude, and it's surprisingly warm even in the depths of winter. Temperatures range from -2°C-3°C / 28°F-37°F, and it's possible to spend hours in the landscape without highly specialist winter equipment.
The landscape in winter is often covered in snow, though the variation in the weather means that there is some change in the coverage throughout the season. Winter is the most popular time of year among photographers and the least with other visitors. Although you'll find fewer tourists in general, you are more likely to meet people at the more popular photography locations at the best times of the day.
When the sun does appear, the light glows in soft shades of blue and pink, and Lofoten becomes the ideal location for winter landscape photography. It's easy enough to get around, and rental cars are fitted with studded winter tires to handle the icy roads. You'll need specialist planning to reach some of the more remote locations which involve climbing or hiking, but there are dozens of accessible spots with incredible views of the landscape.
This is peak aurora season because of the long nights. Lofoten's latitude makes it perfect for viewing aurora, and you'll often see vivid colour in the sky even when the aurora is relatively weak. There is no best time of night for the aurora - it can appear whenever the sky is dark enough - the best approach is to use services online to research the short-term (45-minute) prediction and then get out in the landscape and wait if the sky is clear.
There are few other activities in Lofoten in winter, and you'll find many services and restaurants closed for the season. However, for a trip focussed entirely on landscape photography with the chance of seeing the Northern Lights, this is the best time of year to visit Lofoten.