High above the Arctic Circle on Norway’s west coast, the Lofoten Islands, commonly referred to as just Lofoten, are draped across the turbulent waters of the Norwegian Sea. The islands are rugged and harsh, but visitors come for the remarkable nature; mountains descending directly into the sea, pristine beaches, and even world-class waves for surfing. Not to mention the very symbol of Norway: fjords. Lofoten forms an isthmus on the Norwegian mainland with the nearest well-known city being Tromsø. Like Tromsø, Lofoten is the ideal winter destination for catching a glimpse (or many) of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. Due to the area’s diverse landscape, you can also go hiking, skiing, fishing or even scuba diving. In October 2017, momondo contributor and long-time photographer Thomas Flensted and two friends visited the Lofoten Islands and the nearby island of Senja. Join their adventure through this captivating photo story.

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There is no such thing as bad weather

Regardless of the weather, Lofoten Islands are quite a sight © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

In spite of its remoteness, Lofoten is not hard to get to. A short domestic flight from Oslo will get you to the village of Evenes, from where you can pick up your rental car. Expect spiked tires on your vehicle as icy roads are common as early as in October and constantly changing weather conditions are a given.

While driving can sometimes be a tedious experience, the three-hour drive from Evenes to the first stop of the trip, Sennesvik, is anything but that.

Driving from the airport in Evenes to the village of Sennesvik is an adventure in itself © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

Due to the warm Gulf Stream, Lofoten is blessed with a much milder climate than other places on the same latitude. However, if you happen to visit during a period of more temperamental weather conditions, the car works as more than just a vehicle of transportation.

Another stop on the way to Sennesvik © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

Using the car as a shelter is a great way to explore the islands, and if you’re a photographer, the gloomy light can prove an interesting advantage.

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Hike to the top of Finnglunten for panoramic views of the surrounding fjord © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

The Lofoten Islands are every hiker’s paradise. From curious beginners to seasoned pros, there is no shortage of hiking trails that will showcase the very best of this beautiful wilderness.

For beginners, or in case of challenging weather, a hike to the viewpoint of Finnglunten is a good choice. The trail is meant for mountain bikes but works equally well for hikers. Your efforts will lead to a ridge with 360° panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and fjords.

Don’t forget to hydrate: there’s nothing like a cup of coffee with a view © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

Hiking to Finnglunten and back down again, while leaving plenty of time for taking photos, takes around three to four hours. It goes without saying that staying hydrated is essential, so why not enjoy the view with a cup of coffee in hand?

Read more: the expert traveller’s guide for first-time hikers

Ryten and Kvalvika

Strap on your hiking boots and follow the trail to Ryten, a viewpoint overlooking Kvalvika Beach © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

For the slightly more experienced hiker, the popular trail leading to the viewpoint of Ryten is a must. Though it’s a five-hour hike that is fairly steep at some points, this hike is still regarded as accessible to most.

Not only is the end destination, the view of the tropical-looking beach of Kvalvika, so mesmerizing that it is almost impossible to capture on camera, but the hike itself abounds with stunning scenery. It’s not hard to understand why this is one of Lofoten’s most famous hikes.

Your efforts will be rewarded with this spectacular view of Kvalvika Beach © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

Another reason this hike is so popular is the photogenic ledge at the end of the trail, which looks like it is only for daring souls, but – unsurprisingly – it looks more dangerous than it actually is, as there is safe ground right below it.

Read more: the daring adventure travel photography of Jody MacDonald

Senja and Segla

The viewpoint of the mountain Segla, which is also known as the Sail of Senja © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

Senja is a relatively big island between the isthmus that is Lofoten and the city of Tromsø. Though technically not part of Lofoten, Senja is just as beautiful, and one of its more famous spots is a mountain called Segla or the Sail of Senja.

You can hike to a viewpoint of Segla, which is accessible to all levels of hikers. If, however, you happen to take a wrong turn, the same pathway will lead you all the way to the summit of Segla. The “easy family hike” will then turn into a rather steep, strenuous and scrambling hike …

If you’re up for the challenge, hike all the way to the summit of Segla © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

…worth every step of the way. Coupled with the first snow of the year, the view from the top is simply breathtaking.

Read more: a guide to hiking in Banff

The Northern Lights

Northern lights on the island of Senja © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

Visit Lofoten between September and April for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Also known as Aurora Borealis, these shifting celestial lights are the result of electrically charged particles emanating from the sun reaching the earth’s magnetic field. The poles are where the field is weakest, which is why the further north you go, the better a chance you have of seeing them. Lofoten is an excellent place for this.

Watch the Northern Lights dance on the star-studded night sky © Thomas Flensted-Jensen

To stand under the star-studded sky of the Arctic and watch the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights is to witness one of nature’s most spectacular light shows, the kind of phenomenon that seems out of this world.

Read more: the best places to see the Northern Lights

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