The National Tourist Route through Lofoten runs through some of the country's most dramatic landscapes, and is exceptionally beautiful. And even then you have to set aside time for all the detours: most of the best parts aren't actually along the main road.

An island kingdom in the sea

Lofoten's sharp peaks rise almost 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) out of the Gulf Stream. Four large and thousands of small islands form a row that stretches for 100 kilometres (60 miles). The Lofoten fishery, the biggest cod fishery in the world, forms the basis of a rich heritage of coastal culture that is visible everywhere. If you are the active type, we can also keep you busy with mountain hiking, kayak paddling, fishing trips and surfing. 

In Vesterålen

The National Tourist Route in Lofoten starts in the far south of the neighbouring archipelago Vesterålen. The elegant arc of the Raftsund Bridge offers wonderful views of the narrow sound, surrounded by 1,000 metre (3,300 ft) high mountains, but if you look to the north, you will also see the greener and more open landscape of north Vesterålen, and the 1,262 metre (4,140 ft) high spire of Møysalen. This is a landscape of dark purple, craggy mountaintops that shelter fertile villages, pleasant bays and fjord arms.

Svolvær

The location of the Lofoten capital Svolvær is beautiful, with a profusion of small islands and islets in a basin edged by steep mountains, all overlooked by the Svolværgeita rock formation on the mountainside. Svolvær is a vibrant city, and with its cafes, excellent restaurants, lovely art galleries and great quayside promenade, is a photographer's dream.

Kabelvåg and Storvågan

Since 1898, the imposing bulk of Lofoten cathedral has been presiding over the road leading down to the old centre of the island kingdom, Kabelvåg. There are many interesting sights in this town, like the Lofoten Aquarium with fish from the Vestfjord, Galleri Espolin with powerful images from a distinctive artist, and the Lofoten Museum, with exhibitions about the Lofoten fishery and coastal culture.

Detour to Henningsvær

Henningsvær is scattered over dozens of islands under the craggy 942 metre (3,090 ft) high Vågakallen. We recommend a walk down to the breakwater for some photos of the mountain and harbour. On your walk, you can stop off at Galleri Lofotens Hus, with paintings of Lofoten when it was discovered by Norwegian painters, or Engelskmannsbrygga ('Englishman's Wharf') with its glass-blowers, potters and candle factory.

Gimsøy and Vestvågøy

Lofoten's golf course lies on the smaller island of Gimsøya, with a fantastic view of the mountains of Bø in Vesterålen. Further west, the landscape has a surprise in store: behind the massive mountain range, the land levels out into a plain in the middle of the island of Vestvågøya. The main sight there is the reconstructed Viking chieftain's house at Borg. Detours from the E10 are just as interesting: visit the fishing villages of Ballstad and Stamsund on the inner coast of the island and the surfing village of Unstad and viewpoint of Eggum on its outer coast.

Flakstadøy

Flakstad Church in the centre of Ramberg was built in 1780 from Russian drift timber. Chalk-white Ramberg beach is impossible to pass without stopping for a quick dip. The detours on this island are also unmissable: Nusfjord is a picturesque fishing village with old buildings nestled between craggy cliffs, while the blacksmith in Sund makes beautiful wrought-iron cormorants.

The outermost peaks

Moskenesøya, the outermost island in this long chain, full of jagged peaks, is like a spear being brandished at the Gulf Stream. All the settlements are concentrated along the inner coast in picturesque fishing villages with old buildings: Reine, Sørvågen, Moskenes, Tind and the village with the shortest name of all, Å. A boat trip into the Reinefjord will take you to the foot of those impressive peaks, while the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum at Å focuses on coastal culture. The Lofoten Toy Museum will bring back nostalgic childhood memories. 

Practical information

The drive between Raftsundet and Å is about 180 kilometres (110 miles), and in theory should take about three hours to drive, with no ferries. However, if you follow all the detours to the end, visit all the sights and do some activities, you can easily spend a few days on it. Add in some full-day hikes in the mountains, surfing and kayaking, and, well, you get the picture. Lofoten has a mature and well-established tourist industry, and the range of accommodation, restaurants and attractions is excellent.

How to get there

The National Tourist Route in Lofoten forms the final part of the E10, which runs west from Narvik. It is also possible to get there from north via the Vesterålen archipelago and take the ferry from Melbu to Fiskebøl. The Tourist Route can be reached from south by ferry from Bodø to Moskenes, or from Skutvik on the mainland to Svolvær.

Read more about Lofoten Island at www.lofoten.info

The National Tourist Route Page is very inspirational.