A road trip along the national scenic route E10 in Northern Norway’s Lofoten islands is a wonderful way to spend a week in the summer.
Driving along the coast-hugging road you’ll see jagged peaks rising from the ocean, incredible beaches, turquoise waters, waterfront cabins and picturesque fishing villages.
While it’s possible to get around the archipelago by public bus, renting a car opens up so many more possibilities. It’s tempting to spend each night in a different place to make the most of your time, but you shouldn’t overlook using Svolvær, the biggest town on Lofoten, as your base camp. Here are four reasons why.
1. You’ll still experience fantastic scenery
Northern Norway’s Lofoten islands are known for their dramatic mountain scenery. While the peaks at the western end of the archipelago are stunning, the scenery in the east is still impressive.
The most notable feature is Svolværgeita, known in English as the ‘Svolvær goat’. This rock formation towers above the town and serves dual purpose as a much-loved local icon and a challenge for serious rock climbers.
While taking on the goat is only for experienced climbers, there are other hikes that are much easier. The best known, Tjeldbergtinden, is a two-hour roundtrip loop with a trailhead just 15 minutes from downtown. The views across Svolvær, Kabelvåg and the surrounding peaks are well worth the effort.
Mountain views are present no matter where in the city you stay. To gain the best perspective, cross the road bridge to Svinøya island in the evening. The evening light that bathes the town is best appreciated from here, the oldest part of the town.
Svinøya itself is also home to several secluded bays and holiday cabins that rivals anywhere else on Lofoten for its photogenic qualities.
2. There’s more accommodation in Svolvær
It can be difficult to secure accommodation in Lofoten especially during the high season of June thru August. Picturesque waterfront cabins at the western end of the archipelago get booked up months in advance.
While accommodation in Svolvær can also fill up, there’s generally more availability and more choice than other parts of the islands. In addition to the main hotel chains Thon and Scandic, there are two budget hotels together with many cabins, private rentals and AirBnBs available in and around the town.
3. It has everything you need
Other than Leones, Svolvær is the only place in Lofoten to have a shopping mall. There are stores elsewhere of course, but choosing a base with several supermarkets, pharmacies and outdoor clothing stores will make for a much more comfortable stay.
4. There’s plenty of things to do in Svolvær
Services aren’t the only reason to choose Svolvær as a base. Not only does the town have some spectacular scenery, it’s also home to some fantasy attractions.
There is a ‘tourist trap’ element to the Magic Ice bar, but nevertheless it’s a fun attraction especially when the summer sun is shining outside.
The ice sculptures are truly special. Be sure to visit before the evening Hurtigurten ships arrive in port for a quieter experience, and take the time to fully explore all of the icy passageways so you don’t miss out on anything before you get too cold to stay.
The town’s privately-owned Lofoten War Museum is an astonishing collection of uniforms and other items from World War II. It’s far from a comfortable experience especially when reading some of the personal stories, but it’s an important chronicle of this devastating time. Even the keenest historian is bound to discover something new here.
Svolvær has a long maritime history and so it is no surprise that the town is a launch point for many boat trips in the area. Fast RIB boats to see the sea eagles and spectacular landscape of the Trollfjord are especially popular, albeit pricey.
A good value alternative is the local ferry to Skrova. Less than 200 people live on this picturesque island just a ten-minute ferry ride away from Svolvær. At less than one square mile, Skrova is easy to explore on foot or bike. Watch out for the photographic exhibitions that demonstrate the creativity to be found amid the silence.