Visiting Lofoten Without a Car: Is it Possible?

Lofoten is right at the top of many tourist’s bucketlist when it comes to destinations in Norway, but this hiker’s paradise is a bit out of the way from the major Norwegian cities. Most people who visit Lofoten do so by rental car or even a van, but is it possible to visit Lofoten without a car, using only public transportation?

It’s possible to visit Lofoten by only using public transportation, but it requires a bit of planning. All the big towns are connected by bus and public ferries, but the departures are only a few times daily, so plan ahead! Most of the famous and scenic hikes and beaches are reachable by foot or bike from a town that has a bus connection.

Reine Lofoten 1
Reine village in Lofoten. Photo published with permission.

I would not just arrive in Lofoten without a plan if I were you, especially if you have specific ideas of which beaches and hikes you want to do. Lofoten is a huge island archipelago, so you will need to use the buses or ferries to get between the different destinations, and you will need to do some planning to get between them.

Getting around on Lofoten with public transportation

If you decide to come visit Lofoten without getting a car to get around, planning the trip in advance is going to be your best friend. You might want to make a certain town your base for the adventure, and focus on day trips to beaches and hikes from there.

Some of the best towns to use as a base for your Lofoten journey is Svolvær or Moskenes. Book a rorbu cabin or hotel room in these places, or look for a suitable place to go wild camping nearby. Then use the buses and ferries to get to other parts of Lofoten from these places.

To find bus and ferry departure times, use the website called Entur. Type in your departure and arrival destinations, and you get different options for using public transportation between them.

As you will quickly find out, many places will only have one, two or three bus departures daily, so you will need to wait until the next day if you miss the last one.

Henningsvær in Lofoten. Photo published with permission.

Consider renting a bike!

Many of Lofoten’s hikes begin somewhere close to a town or village, but requires a bit of driving to actually get to. That’s going to be a problem if you don’t have a rental car, so another good option is to rent a bike when visiting Lofoten.

Renting a bike in Lofoten makes it possible to reach places that would otherwise be impossible to get to without a car, and opens up so many different opportunities.

Lofoten is a great place to bike, and the flat and scenic roads are absolutely ideal for bicycling. There are plenty of different businesses that rent out bikes to tourists, so it should not be particularly difficult to find a bike to rent in any of the towns and villages in Lofoten.

Free ranging sheep with lambs in Lofoten
A typical Lofoten road with sheep wandering around. Photo published with permission.

I would only recommend renting a bike if you’re visiting Lofoten in the summer, since it’s not really suitable to be biking in Lofoten in wintertime due to snow and winds.

How to get to Lofoten by public transportation

You need to actually get to Lofoten before you can begin to explore this beautiful island archipelago, and Lofoten is surprisingly easy to get to by public transportation. As a matter of fact, it’s far easier to get to Lofoten by ferry than by driving a car to it.

To get to Lofoten by public transportation, simply get on the ferry in Bodø. Ride the ferry to Moskenes, and you’re done and in Lofoten! You do not need to book a ticket in advance, and it’s even completely free of charge.

It sounds too good to be true, but the ferry tickets are paid by the Norwegian government. The free tickets only apply to the regular public transportation ferry, and not the express ferry or any tourist ferries.

Both the express ferry and guided tourist ferries are also decent option to get to Lofoten, but are going to cost you some money.

Lofoten express ferry between Bodø and Mosknes
Lofoten express ferry between Bodø and Mosknes. Photo by rheins / CC BY 3.0.

Renting a car gives you a lot of freedom

It’s true that it’s definitely possible to visit Lofoten without a car, but it’s also worth pointing out that you should at least consider renting one if you have the chance. A car will give you a lot of freedom to explore the island archipelago as you wish, allowing easy access to many more locations, hikes and beaches than if you’re relying on public transportation only.

Many people are under the impression that it’s difficult to drive in the Lofoten islands, but it’s not really that difficult in either winter or summer. Sure, the roads are somewhat narrow and kind of bendy, but they are also generally in good condition, and are not usually terribly affected by snow and ice.

So don’t be afraid to rent a car to drive in Lofoten, and while the rental prices for cars in Lofoten and northern Norway might seem steep, remember that it’s also very expensive to use the public transportation system in Norway, so you might actually not save all that much money by not getting a rental car.

Avis Rental Car in Lofoten
Rental Car in Lofoten. Photo published with permission.

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