Wow factor: Bicycling the stunning Lofoten Isles of Norway’s Arctic Circle, Pt. 1

(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 1 of a two-part post about Kimberly Hanneman’s adventures in Norway‘s Lofoten Archipelago.)

Can a moderately skilled bicyclist ride a multi-day tour above the Arctic Circle? Oh yes! 

In the wet, windy, grey January experience of our home country, the Netherlands, my family cheers itself up by exploring summer travel options. Researching for a bicycle touring holiday in Scandinavia introduced me to the gorgeous Lofoten Archipelago of Norway. The description from the travel company said the adventurer needed moderate skill. YOLO, the deposit was sent. 

Six months later, the bicycling holiday that I imagined in January was logged with picturesque scenes that limited my vocabulary to one surprising injection of “WOW” to all the wonder.

You find the Lofoten Archipelago north of the Arctic Circle (66°33′ N) in the Norwegian Sea on the west of Norway at the 67th and 68th parallels.

For nearly all people on the planet, this is way up north!

Another trippy surprise is the distinctive milder Arctic coastal climate at Lofoten due to the warm Gulf Stream. 

Pin marks Lofoten Archipelago, Norway | Google Maps 2024

Lofoten’s Arctic location contributes to unusual light, where sunlight radiates and reflects differently, inspiring painters and photographers from around the world. Someday when I return, it will be for an extraordinary photography adventure. 

Bicycling Svolvaer to Hov

Our first day of the ride was a 40-kilometer pedal from Svolvaer to Hov / GimsØya that took us through an incredible transformation of the landscape. The changing views from the expected stunning Norwegian fjord scenery, snow-capped mountain peaks, rocky coasts, and pasture lands to the unexpected saltwater marshland, tide pools, and startling white sandy beaches along gentle shorelines of stunning crystal blue sea water.

A fortunate few see this scenery every day. 

The author in Norway (©kimhannem)

Norwegian Sea & Golf World’s Top 100 Course

My iPhone camera couldn’t reproduce the expansive color palette of nature’s kaleidoscope. I wanted to show off this amazing bucket list golf course, Lofoten Links, with coastal views of the Norwegian Sea. In spring and summer, you can play golf at midnight under the midnight sun. 

The Lofoten landscapes present greens and blues differently and with a playful tease that there is more, something that can’t be seen but is felt. Trolls! Oh my goodness. Norwegian folklore myths do come from the landscape! Why wouldn’t a sneaky troll live under this rock stealing golf balls from the green? 

Bicycling Hov to Leknes | Vikings or Surfer Dudes?

The Norwegian bicycling tourists we met in our group were in their 60s and first-time travelers to the Lofoten. They were as delighted as we were with Lofoten’s history. Instead of going with these lovely people to the Lofotr Viking Museum, we decided to keep riding beyond the 53 kilometer ride to the seashore to catch surfers in action at Unstad, one of the best surfing spots in Europe.  

Bicycling Lekenes to Reine

Cod fishing defines the history and culture of this archipelago where it was inhabited long before the Viking Age. Over 1000 years ago, these permanent fishing villages were built. Cod liver oil paint was cheaply available and this fish stain created the red Rorbu cottage. These traditional seasonal wooden houses bunked fishermen. I could see back in time. I could smell it now. The contemporary fish drying racks along the fishing villages are traditionally built, unique to food preservation due to the natural environment, and continue to be part of Norway’s modern stockfish trade. Residents of Reine live here year-round with authentic fishermen using sophisticated, high-tech boats for their trade as well as the traditional open-air drying racks.

The Locals Told Us

The locals told us we were fortunate to be bicycling Lofoten in late June and early July. Starting with the first weekend in July, camper vehicle volume increases dramatically. The happy campers clog roads, encroach on bicyclists’ road shoulder space, and hog rest stops and viewpoints.

Northern Lights in Summer?

No. We heard this question a few times from fellow tourists. In the Northern Hemisphere, Lofoten will not see the aurora borealis in the summer months. Right latitude. Wrong position of the Earth. The polar day (midnight sun) begins approximately May 28 and the sun doesn’t set until July 18th.  

One Regret

We should have rented electric bikes. We didn’t account for the extra cycling distance for all of the side activities that we wanted to do. There was one rainy, windy day and two long ascents where I wished I had an electric bike. If we had rented electric bikes, I know we would have played that round of golf under the midnight sun.


My travel notes from our Lofoten adventure are presented to you with delight from our trip and not for affiliate marketing. I am not paid to guide you to any travel company or country. 


Read more about Norway here in Dispatches’ archives.

Kimberly Hanneman
Author | Website | + posts

Kimberly Hanneman is a writer who travels. She lives near Utrecht in a 115-year-old Dutch cottage she is renovating. In 2019 with her family, Kimberly relocated to the Netherlands from the USA. They enjoy cycling through the Netherlands and traveling outside the country to the mountains to hike. Kimberly worked for a decade in financial communications and investor relations before becoming a National Certified Counselor in career counseling at a Virginia university supporting undergraduates and graduate students by debunking the shallow find your passion advice. She was raised in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and returns each summer.

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