The port town of Svolvær is as busy as it gets on Lofoten. The town once sprawled across a series of skerries, but the in-between spaces are being filled in to create a reclaimed peninsula. Although the setting is beautiful with a backdrop of high mountains, the hotch-potch of modern buildings clutter things somewhat.
The general rule when exploring this central Lofoten island is that the most appealing areas lie away from the main E10. The Viking Museum is an exception. You can cross Vestvågøy in an hour if you drive straight through but you could easily spend the best part of the day exploring.
A delightful 8km shore-side drive southwards from the E10 brings you to the still-active fishing village of Henningsvær, perched at the end of a thin promontory. Its nickname, 'the Venice of Lofoten', may be a tad overblown but it's certainly the lightest, brightest and trendiest place in the archipelago.
Most of Flakstadøy's residents live along its flat north shore, around the town of Ramberg, but, as with Vestvågøy, it's the craggy south side that has the most dramatic scenery. Many visitors just zip through but it's worth stopping to sun yourself (sandy beaches are the exception in Lofoten) and perhaps to build in a detour to the arty village of Nusfjord.
At the southern tip of Moskenesøy and the Lofoten islands, the bijou village of Å (appropriately, the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet), sometimes referred to as Å i Lofoten, is something of a living museum – a preserved fishing village with a shoreline of red rorbuer, cod-drying racks and picture-postcard scenes at almost every turn.
The 365 islands and skerries of Røst (one for each day of the year) form Lofoten's ragged southern edge. Røst stands in sharp contrast to its rugged neighbours to the north, and were it not for a small pimple in the middle, the main pond-studded island of Røstlandet would be dead flat.
Craggy Værøy, its handful of residents hugely outnumbered by over 100,000 nesting sea birds – fulmars, gannets, Arctic terns, guillemots, gulls, sea eagles, puffins, kittiwakes, cormorants, eiders, petrels and a host of others – is a mere 8km long with white-sand beaches, soaring ridges, tiny, isolated villages, granite-gneiss bird cliffs and sparkling seas.
In Sakrisøy, Dagmar Gylseth has collected more than 2500 dolls, antique teddy bears and historic toys over 25 years for her Museum of Dolls & Toys. There's also an affiliated antique shop upstairs. Reserve at the Doll Museum for Sakrisøy Rorbuer, a relatively authentic complex of ochre-coloured cottages hovering above the water.
A spectacular 6km diversion southwards from the E10 beneath towering bare crags brings you to the cutesy village of Nusfjord (www.nusfjord.no), sprawled around its tiny, tucked-away harbour. Many artists consider it to be the essence of Lofoten but be warned: so do tour operators.