From the rugged peaks of the Lofoten Islands to the wide plateau of the Finnmarksvidda, from long summer days basking in the midnight sun to eerie winter nights lit up by the northern lights, Northern Norway offers a wide range of experiences for travellers to choose from. Cross the Arctic Circle just north of Mo i Rana at 66° 33′ 44″ and head north towards the North Cape, often referred as Europe’s northernmost point. Almost all of Northern Norway lies above the Arctic Circle. Whether you are sea kayaking along the Helgeland Coast, hiking in the Lyngen Alps or the Lofoten Islands, golfing or cruising around the Svalbard Archipelago, stunning scenery awaits at every bend. Prepare to be dazzled.
Highlights of the region
- Midnight sun and northern lights
- Beautiful scenery of the Lofoten Islands and Helgeland Coast
- Sami culture and traditions
- Arctic life and polar bears in Svalbard
- Norway’s best bird-watching
- The Arctic Circle and the North Cape
Coastal life: Stay in a rorbu (fisherman’s cabin), go deep-sea fishing or try a king crab safari in Kirkenes; visit Kjerringøy Trading Post north of Bodø for a taste of coastal life in the old days; and learn the story behind stockfish (tørrfisk) on the Lofoten Islands.
UNESCO heritage sites: Witness the unique interaction between the eider ducks and the local population on the Vega Islands during the nesting season, and check out the Alta rock carvings, which bear witness to human activity in Northern Norway already in the prehistoric period.
Driving on one of (Varanger, Senja, Havøysund, Andøya, Lofoten, Helgelandkysten), for a blend of stunning nature and modern architecture.
Diving: Explore Saltstraumen, the world’s strongest maelstrom near Bodø; head to the Lofoten Islands for diving in huge kelp forests and with killer whales in season; or to Narvik, the wreck capital of Norway. Other options include catching giant crabs in Finnmark and ice diving in Svalbard.
Sami culture: Karasjok, the Sami capital of Norway, is home to a thriving Sami culture. Here visitors will find the Sami Parliament of Norway, Sapmi, a Sami theme park, as well as some 60,000 reindeer in the autumn and winter months.
History: History buffs should check out the Vikings at Lofotr Museum in the Lofoten Islands; the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden on Svalbard; the witch monument in Vardø; and Grense Jakobselv, a settlement on the border with Russia. The Aviation Museum in Bodø is also worth a visit.
Wildlife: Highlights include sea eagle safaris in the Lofoten Islands; whale-watching in Vesterålen; bird-watching (including puffins), in Varanger or Røst; and polar bear and walrus spotting in Svalbard. Polaria, the Arctic aquarium in Tromsø, is the only place in Norway where you will be able to see bearded seals.
Winter wonderland: There is plenty to do in winter for adventure seekers in Northern Norway, from extreme skiing in the Lofoten Islands to joining a snowmobile expedition on Svalbard. Or why not try dog sledding in Troms, Finnmark or Svalbard – a great experience made even more magical with the appearance of the northern lights.
Sea kayaking in very popular in the Lofoten Islands and along the Helgeland Coast. In recent years the cold waters of the Lofoten Islands have also attracted a number of hard core enthusiasts looking for a different kind of surfing experience.
Hiking is a great way to experience Northern Norway for many visitors. Scenic hiking destinations include Torghatten and the Seven Sister Mountain Range on the Helgeland Coast; the rugged peaks of the Lofoten Islands and the Lyngen Alps just outside Tromsø, as well as the big open spaces of the Varanger Peninsula.
Places to visit
- The Lofoten Islands
- The North Cape
- The Helgeland Coast
- The Vega Archipelago
- The Lyngen Alps and Senja
A selection of festivals and events
Polar Jazz, the world’s northernmost music festival (Longyearbyen, Feb)
World Cod Fishing Competition (Lofoten Islands, Mar)
Easter Festival, a celebration of Sami culture (Karasjok and Kautokeino, Easter)Midnight Sun Marathon (Tromsø, Jun)
Riddu Riddu Festival, one of Europe’s most popular indigenous festivals (Kåfjord, Jul)
Træna Festival, chilled music festival in a stunning setting (Helgeland Coast, Jul)
Stay in a rorbu (fisherman’s cabin) in the Lofoten Islands and on the Helgeland Coast in summer; spend a night at the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes or Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta in winter; try Vulkana Floating Spa Hotel in Tromsø; stay on board the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice on Svalbard (spring only) or at the Trappers’ Hotel in Longyearbyen.
How to get there
The railway doesn’t go further than Bodø. In the far north you will have to either rent a car or travel by bus. Main airports in Northern Norway include Sandnessjøen, Mosjøen, Brønnøysund (for the Helgeland Coast), Bodø, Narvik, Harstad (for the Lofoten Islands), Leknes, Svolvær and Røst (on the Lofoten Islands), Tromsø, Alta, Kirkenes and Longyearbyen (for Svalbard). The Hurtigruten plies the coast of Northern Norway daily year round and is a good way to see the region from the sea. The ships travel all the way to Kirkenes, and offer a number of shore excursions on the way.
Visit Norway/Northern Norway
Did you know?
Northern Norway has enjoyed excellent growth in tourism in the past two years. With 3,096,009 commercial overnight stays in 2011, Northern Norway increased its total number of overnight stays by 8.8%, while Norway as a whole saw an increase of 1.9%. 55.3% of these were related to leisure traffic.
Mari Boine is a famous Norwegian artist of Sami descent. She is a proud symbol of Sami culture in urbane, modern Norway. She uses her Sami background and the folk music of Northern Scandinavia in creating her music.
Nearly 65 per cent of the surface of Svalbard consists of protected areas, including three nature reserves, six national parks, 15 bird sanctuaries and one geotopical protected area.
Polar bears are excellent swimmers, spend most of their life on sea ice and feed almost exclusively on seals. They can survive up to eight months without eating, and can easily walk (or swim) over 5,000 kilometres a year. An adult weighs typically 400-600 kg (males being larger than females) but cubs are only about 600 grams at birth.