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  • Writer's pictureParadoxTravel

Winter Wonderland: A Photography Adventure in Lofoten and Alta, Norway

Updated: Mar 16


Ice floating in front of a snowy mountain in Norway

If you've been following Paradox Travels for a while now, you know we travel pretty frequently. If we're not doing some hybrid active-luxury trip together, Nic's off on some backpacking adventure with 'the dudes', or I'm laying on a beach somewhere with 'my besties'. Although I also run a non-profit project, and Nic teaches online and offers photography workshops, we do make an effort to see as much as the world as we can without sacrificing the projects we care about, time with friends, and of course time with our dog, Quincy. So as you can imagine, with such an active schedule, it's sometimes near impossible to try and plan a surprise trip! But I decided to gift a winter photography workshop to Nic as a birthday surprise one year. But because our travel calendar was already filled, it was almost two years later before we made it happen. So with that introduction, let me show you the 'winter wonderland' of Lofoten and Alta, Norway!


icy water in front of snow covered hills in Norway


The Active


We've both always wanted to go to Norway, and specifically to the Lofoten Islands. So I took my time researching different guides and landed on Wild Photography Holidays. This organization gets great reviews. And based on the fact that half our group was repeat clients (some doing this exact trip a second time!), I can see why. I hadn't been on a photography tour before. And to be honest, I was simply planning to tag along as my husbands 'assistant'. I didn't even take a 'real' camera. Except where noted, all the photos in my itineraries or on Facebook are taken with my Iphone. Which is fine for online story-telling. But Nic's photos are the ones that go up in people's home or office, as his Nikon (and his skill level) are far better quality for scale. So because of my inexperience, I didn't know what to expect.


What surprised me the most was how much time we spent at each location. This was not a point-n-shoot, then off to the next location type week. Of the eleven attendees, all but two or three were serious, or professional photographers. So that meant, after I got a few shots for my blog, I'd spend several hours walking around, hiking through deep snow or along a beach and taking in the beautiful surroundings. But that's about it. Our guides, James Rushforth and Andy Teasdale did a great job at offering options for all physical abilities, from roadside captures to knee-deep snow hikes up to higher vantage points. But there was also a lot of non-active travel time in between sites. But overall, I would say the activity level was what I would expect for a group photography workshop. If you're someone who aches for more aerobic exercise, get up early. Then bundle up and do a pre-breakfast run. But bring your microspikes - the roads can be really slippery.


smiling couple in winter landscape with green and red coats

Dressing for the cold - daytime temps for our February trip was 25 degrees F (-3 C) and on windy days, it was a lot colder. I brought 4 layers for both upper and lower body options.


TOP: lightweight synthetic first layer, wool / synthetic blend mid layer, down jacket ( mine was 600 fill) and a wind/waterproof outer shell (a good ski jacket works).


BOTTOM: yoga tights, smartwool long-johns, rain/wind pants, and I also had a pair of down pants when it was really windy. Other guests used ski pants with a thermal under-layer. I simply prefer to have option for different layer-combination based on that days weather. Most days I wore 2 layers on bottom with 3 layers up top. But when the wind was howling, all 4 layers were employed!


BOOTS: you'll need a solid pair of waterproof snow boots (Bogg or similar) and some ice-grips / microspikes (Yak-trax or similar) as the roads were quite slippery.


HAT/GLOVES: you'll definitely need a fleece cap and good gloves. We also had re-chargable hand warners which were used frequently, as I even brought my electric/heated socks. As for camera equipment, the guides send out a detailed list of recommendations several weeks before the trip. But you'll definitely need a sturdy tripod to capture the aurora and withstand windy days.


TIP- bring ski googles if you have them! They keep your head and face warm on really windy days.


Physical Fitness - as I mentioned, the guides were great at offering a variety of options. But the terrain we were on most days was icy and snow-covered. So not only do you need to be prepared to be out in cold temps for 2-3 hours at a time. But having good balance, being comfortable hiking in calf-deep snow and on varied terrain will make your trip far more enjoyable.


hotel room with orange and brown decor and two chairs near window
Photo credit: Sorrisniva Wilderness Lodge

The Leisure


For those of you that have followed our adventures, you already know that if I'm out hiking in the backcountry for weeks or freezing my 'hiney' off in some winter environment like this one...there's gonna be a few days of some luxury or 'comfy-cozy' at the end. And our stay at Sorrisniva Wilderness Lodge did just that! I'll elaborate in an upcoming, more detailed review. But we spent three wonderful days in stylish, modern comfort, enjoying fine dining and an assortment of outdoor adventures - including a morning of king crab fishing and an overnight at an ice hotel!


little red houses in Lofoten, Norway

How to Connect


If you'd like to support the preservation of the natural beauty of the Lofoten Islands, here are a couple of venues to do that:


Norwegian Institute for Natural Research (NINA) - This is Norway's leading institution for applied ecological research, with broad-based expertise on the genetic, population, species, ecosystem and landscape level, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal marine environments. NINA cooperates with research institutes in more than 30 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and America to contribute their findings and expertise to support sustainable environmental practices. Their scientists have a broad-based expertise on the genetic, population, species, ecosystem and landscape level, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems. Go here to learn more or inquire how you can offer support.


Naturvernforbundet - This is Norway's oldest nature and environmental protection agency. You can learn more about them and support their mission here.


Trip rating - L2 English is spoken widely throughout Norway and the Lofoten islands. Typical food options include local fish and occasional beef and breakfast items are 'european-typical'. We felt that Norway was safe country for travel and we didn't run into any unfamiliar cultural or religious customs. See how we rate our trips here.


Length of trip - 14 days, including travel: 7 day photography workshop, 3 nights at a wilderness lodge, plus 3-4 days of international travel


Month of travel - Feb 7-20th This is really a beautiful time of year to see the rugged terrain of Lofoten. If you're lucky and skies are clear, it's also a prime time of year to see the Northern Lights as the days are shorter. For photography, this also means reasonable sleeping hours, as sunrise is around 7:30am and sunset around 4:30pm. Surprisingly, there were many more hearty winter tourists in Lofoten than I expected! Granted, it's a lot less busy than summer. But we were definitely not the only photography group there. NOTE: you may have more in-country flight options than we listed below, at different times of year.


Photography equipment - Except where noted, all photos in this itinerary were captured by my Iphone 14. You can see the my husbands professional photography here, or take one of his highly affordable classes here. He uses a Nikon Z7 camera and a Mavic Pro drone.


people boarding an aircraft in Norway
Leknes, Norway

The Details


Arriving in Oslo - We flew United from Los Angelas, CA ( LAX) to Oslo, stopping in London Heathrow en route. On the return, we transitioned through Zurich. Our originally scheduled flight was through Frankfurt. But a local strike forced a change in itinerary. Once in Oslo, we stayed a night at the airport hotel, then took a Scandinavian Air (SAS) 1-way flight from Oslo > Bodo > Leknes where our guides picked us up. For our flights between Leknes and Alta, we used Wilderoe air. This took 3 quick, back-to-back flights (all within 4 hours) to get to Alta. And then it was SAS again for a direct flight from Alta back to Oslo, where we stayed another night at the airport hotel before flying back to the USA.


Arrival accommodations: Oslo airport Radisson Blu



Day 1 - Ramberg


Our guide picked us up at the Lekness airport and drove us the 25 minutes or so to Ramberg. This is where we would be based the entire week, as it's centrally located and has many accommodation options. Like many villages on Lofoten, most overnight offerings were modest guest houses, private or shared apartments (shared apartments had private rooms with shared kitchen/living space and shared bathroom.) Those small, traditional 'red houses' are also available for rent in many places. But they book up quickly.


FUN FACT: Do you know why so many of those houses in Norway are painted red? Back when they were built, it was the cheapest paint color! White was the most expensive color, followed by yellow, then red. So one could sometimes guess the social status or income level of the inhabitants, simply by the house color.


Accommodations - Ramberg Guesthouse . Our group had a couple of private rooms available on FCFS basis. And since we were the first to book these dates and make the request, we stayed in a really lovely, top floor apartment with private bathroom, kitchen and living area. The Wifi was strong and my husband had no problem working on his photos in the evening. The apartment included a smart TV and an invigorating, consistently hot shower. The kitchen was fairly well stocked and the local grocer is a 5 minute walk away.

The restaurant was terrific too! Fresh baked bread, a variety of menu items and drinks - we were well-fed on this trip! A buffet breakfast that included both hot and cold items is included with stay.


Activity / Photography - Today we mostly got settled into our accommodations, then met the rest of the group and went to dinner. Each evening, the guides would describe the next days plan, based on weather.



Day 2 - Nusfjord


Photography stops - Our first stop today was a quaint fishing village called Nusfjord. It offered a variety of photography subjects and landscapes both within town, and in the surrounding countryside. Nic, I and a few other members of our group opted to make our way up a snowy hillside outside of town. This was a terrific vantage point to fly drones and capture a more distant view of the area. We were blessed with a blue sky day today and no wind !- A really nice (and fortunate) introduction to the area.


TIP - The local coffee shop Landhandel & Kafe is nice place to warm up and grab an espresso and a fresh baked pastry.


Our second stop was a viewpoint of Storvatnet - the biggest lake in the area, located between Bådalen and Bruhagen.


Accommodations: Ramberg Guesthouse



Day 3 - Ramberg beach, then Reine


Photography stops - Today we spent the morning at Ramberg beach, which provided lots of beautiful angles and an opportunity for group to practice working with long-exposure. I found this area quite beautiful and a quiet place to take in the environment with several senses at once. The sand, water and its icy layer on top created terrific lines and patterns for both landscape and macro images.


Our second stop was really special. One of our guides knew of an unusual water viewpoint in the neighborhoods near Reine. The entire area around Reine is beautiful. But on this evening, we were again graced with clear skies and...NO WIND! This yielded some gorgeous reflective captures, including the ones below shot form my Iphone.


Accommodations: Ramberg Guesthouse



Day 4 - Day trip to Henningsvaer


drone shot over ocean with snow covered islands
Henningsvaer - courtesy of Nic Stover Photography

Photography stops - This day trip was a fairly long drive, but we made some stops along the way. The wind was whipping today! So I had full gear and four layers on in response. Despite the wind, several people including Nic, managed to get their drones up in a few places. And if you were willing to work your way through some knee deep snow, you could get some really unique shots. Me? I was happy playing a bit in the weather - having the right gear sort of makes you feel hardy. But after making a snow-angel and taking a few snaps, I headed back to the warmth of our vehicle ( which we now called 'The Van Cafe' ) for some hot tea.


Accommodations: Ramberg Guesthouse



Day 5 - Local sunrise shoot, then Myrland and Uttakleiv


Photography stops - Our guides warned us the previous night at dinner, that we'd be up early today for a sunrise shoot, and it would be a full day. Some of our group opted to sleep in a bit and join us later for breakfast. For those of us who rallied, we didn't need to go far. But we certainly needed to bundle up! Our morning shoot was near a bridge within a ten minute drive of Ramberg and offered some gorgeous lines and compositions.


After breakfast, we headed towards Myrland and then Uttakleiv for some more long-exposure practice at a local beach. Then we headed into the park area to see the infamous 'eye'. By the time we got there, the wind was howling and my husband was negotiating for use of my ski goggles. Some of our group opted for the warmer van haven, while others worked their way down to the seaside rock formation with a twisted mix of adventure and trepidation. I opted to stay up on higher ground and make my way across a wide road that paralleled the coast along its rocky wall. This ended up being a good choice because as soon as I rounded the corner, the wind was almost non-existent. This was indeed a long day. But it made for some great shots and a good story - our van got stuck in quickly-falling new snow as we left. But a team effort got us back on track.


Accommodations: Ramberg Guesthouse



Day 6 - Reine, Hamnoy and Sakrisoy


Photography stops - Today, it was far less windy but it was still cloudy. So it created a sort of icy, frosty look to the landscape and the villages within it. These three villages are very near to one another, separated by bridges. It can get crowded even winter, with tourists walking amidst traffic and cars backed up on the bridges. So there's a benefit to starting out early and planning to hang out for sunset. Take a break midday and enjoy some local stockfish for lunch or a fresh pastry at Anitas in Sakrisoy. You'll avoid some of crowds and find warm respite at a welcoming cafe.


Accommodations: Ramberg Guesthouse




Day 7 - Reinefjord and a 'classic' capture


Photography stops - In the morning, we changed up our mode of transportation and took a tour of Reinefjorden by local ferry. It's a spectacular way to see the surrounding landscape and had everyone in our group gasping with appreciation while angling for a railing spot to capture it through the lens. In the afternoon ( after indulging again in some local pastries and coffee ) we stopped to capture what I learned was a 'social media' favorite - a lone, abandoned red hut on a beach near our lodging. From what I could tell, most in our group couldn't care less about the location's social media fame. And instead used the time to wander about finding unique angles of their own. It was a pretty spot. And it seemed to capture the quintessential essence of Lofoten.


Accommodations: Ramberg Guesthouse


aerial view of island villages at sunrise
courtesy of Nic Stover Photograohy

Day 8 - A final sunrise and a new adventure


Photography stops - This was our last morning together and several of the pros, including my husband, took the guides weather recommendation and got up for another sunrise shoot. The lookout point over Sakrisoy had been so enthralling the first time, that the idea of capturing it again at sunrise got several folks out bed early for a repeat trip. Me? I slept in. But my husband captured the amazing pano above with his drone.


After we were packed up and returned to the Leknes airport, Nic and I continued further north to Alta and a three-night stay at Sorrisniva Wilderness Lodge. At this time of year, it took three short flights on three different planes to get there. But incredibly, the entire process took only four hours and.... our bags made it through every transfer! Impressive. And kudos to Wilderoe Airlines.




Day 9 - King Crab fishing and Fine Dining


Sorrisniva Wilderness Lodge is quite the experience. We had arranged pickup from the airport and didn't realize until twenty minutes into the drive that the pleasantly chatty driver was none other than the owner, Hans Ulrik himself! I'll go into more detail in a separate review of the lodge. But in summary, it was beautifully modern and cosy respite on the shores of an Arctic river. Famous for its fishing and river access in summer, in winter the lodge offers experiences like king crab fishing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding and reindeer experiences with the indigenous Sami people.


We opted for the King Crab excursion - a cold morning adventure that was more about recovering traps than actual 'fishing'. But it was great to be on the water and another new experience for us. The lodge does a great job at helping you stay warm by supplying boots, insulated over-suits and headgear as needed (ie:helmets for snow-mobiling). The experience lasted about three hours and included lunch made from our freshly trapped crab.




Day 10 - A Spa, A Snowmobile and an Ice Hotel


Today we slept in, followed by a leisurely buffet breakfast of both hot and cold items. In the afternoon, we decided to try out the spa, which was full service and included use of showers and the sauna. It was excellent.


Dining - the lodge has two restaurants: one is a fine dining tasting-menu experience with choice of 3, 5 or 8 courses. We chose the 3-course menu and were full because it actually comes with bread and a few other 'chef surprises'. The second restaurant was a la carte, and equally delicious. Your room stay includes breakfast.


One of the most unique features of Sorrisniva in the winter is that it creates a 25+-room hotel made of ice adjacent to the main lodge! This structure was truly a creative wonder, and the photos below can't fully describe the scale and beauty of the interior. Visitors can walk through and tour the frozen lobby, ice bar, chapel and overnight rooms, each with uniquely carved designs and illuminated with blue or red lights. You can even get a cocktail at the ice bar! While we were there, a couple even got married in the chapel. Although the ice-carved seats were covered with fur, I'm guessing it was not a lengthy service. Nic and I OF COURSE had to try sleeping in one of the rooms overnight, which I'll elaborate on in an upcoming review of the lodge. But hopefully these photos and short video give you a sense of how unique it really is.


Accommodations: Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel





Day 11 / 12 - Back to Oslo, overnight, then home


We actually managed to sleep about six solid hours in the ice hotel room. But the next morning, a hot shower and some coffee by the fireplace was a welcome refresher. The sauna and a buffet breakfast is also available for guests who stay in the ice hotel.


We took a pre-arranged transfer back to the Alta airport, and then it was a quick 2.5 hour flight via SAS back to Oslo. Here, we stayed another night at the airport hotel, and our international flight left the next morning.


Pre-departure accommodations: Oslo airport Radisson Blu


BUT WHAT ABOUT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS???


Unfortunately on this trip, there was only a few nights where the skies were clear AND the Aurora Borealis was visible. What's commonly misunderstood about viewing the Northern Lights is that there's no guarantee you'll see them simply because you're far north. Location is important. Yet other factors include how strong the flares / lights are on a given night, as well as how cloudy or clear the skies are. There was one night during our photography week when we had both clear skies and a high chance of sighting. Ironically, it was the night I decided to go to bed early, falsely thinking there would be more opportunity later in our trip. Doh! However, my husband did bundle up and went out with the group around 10pm, and got a few shots. One couple even got an amazing capture outside our apartment with thier Iphones set on 10 second exposure. Dang it. Guess I need to go back.


Northern lights over a mountain
courtesy of Nic Stover Photography

So that it! I hope this was helpful and inspired you to check out Norway and Lofoten! Don't be afraid of the cold, just bring good gear! Feel free to email me at Jen@paradoxtravels.com with any questions. And watch for my upcoming, more-detailed review of Sorrisniva Wilderness Lodge.


Cheers!


Feel free to check out some of our other travel itineraries from all other world! (as well as my other website where I love to give free stuff away!)


AND


If you like van-camping, check out some of the cool road trips we've done in our Sprinter van !


PLUS


 Are you a photographer looking to hone your skills? My husband's a pro and hosts affordable online classes as well as a terrific speaker series with tips from other world-class professionals that will enhance you skill and creativity.

Check it out!


We want to make it easier for you to

get out there and explore!








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