Enveloped in the magic of the aurora borealis, Northern Norway provides travelers with a unique experience in the Arctic Circle. Its expansive landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and authentic Nordic adventures offer a glimpse into the otherworldly wonders of this far north destination.
Northern Norway is a good place to visit any time of year. It all depends on travelers’ interests. The land of the midnight sun offers 24 hours of daylight during the summer, so travelers can hike or fish whatever the hour. Winters in the far north brings dog sledding through snowy terrains, cross-country skiing and the famous northern lights, colorful waves of light that seemingly dance across the night sky.
Whether exploring stunning fjords, wandering through picturesque fishing villages or watching whales in crystalline waters, Northern Norway deserves a top spot on your travel bucket list.
Map of Northern Norway
Vesterålen is an archipelago located north of the Lofoten Islands. It’s very mountainous, with towns situated between the mountains and the fjords. With its white beaches, Vesterålen is a good place to not only see the northern lights but also watch birds and sperm whales, which feed close to the shore.
With its mild winters, the archipelago stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean. Travelers may want to hike the Queen’s Route, a nine-mile marked trail along the beach and across a mountain to a fishing village. The fishing villages are notable for their colorful wooden houses.
The Vikings may have attacked Great Britain centuries ago, but the British got even in 1809 when they attacked Hammerfest, the most northern city in the world.
The municipality also is known for getting the first electric street lights in Europe and served as a German U-boat base in World War II. It was totally destroyed in the war as part of the Germans’ scorched earth policy.
As the oldest city in northern Norway, Hammerfest offers excellent fishing and wilderness adventures. A key attraction is the museum devoted to Arctic fishing and hunting; it’s also where visitors can join the Polar Bear Club.
Located in Norway’s far northeast, Kirkenes was also impacted by World War II, serving as a base for the German army and navy, and then taken over by Russia’s Red Army. It is located not too far from the border with Russia and Finland, so travelers will want to visit the Border Area Museum.
The town’s central square is home to a Russian market on the last Thursday of every month. Another top attraction is the Andersgrotta, an underground bunker that houses Kirkenes residents during World War II. Kirkenes is reachable by ship, airport and road.
7. Vega Archipelago
Inhabited since the Stone Age, the Vega Archipelago is a group of 500 islands in the Norwegian Sea. Here, fishermen ply the seas as they have for 1,500 years. They also harvest the down feathers from eider ducks, in an Arctic Circle environment that is inhospitable for life.
Though the environment is harsh, the archipelago is scenic with lighthouses, eider nesting houses and quaint fishing villages. The islands are popular with bird watchers who come to see more than 230 species of birds. Hiking and biking are good ways to explore the islands.
Skiers will love Narvik, which offers some of the best alpine and extreme skiing in Norway. What could be more exciting than skiing down a mountain that offers panoramic views of the fjord below!
The fjord offers excellent fishing; the port is ice-free in the winter. Because of this, Narvik was important to both sides in World War II. Visitors can learn more about this at the War Museum.
The Museum Nord affords visitors a chance to learn more about the area and everyday life in Narvik. Art lovers won’t want to miss Skulpturlandscap, where pieces of sculpture can be found around the town.
Alta, located in Norway’s far north, has many things going for it. It has a subarctic climate that makes it a popular year ‘round travel destination. Winter activities include cross-country skiing and dog sledding, while warmer weather recreation opportunities include hiking, fishing and biking.
It’s not only a good place to view the northern lights but a great place to view ancient rock art. More than 6,000 rock carvings have been discovered since 1973; an open air museum can be found at Jiepmaluota, about three miles from Alta. Staying in an igloo hotel is a good wintertime option here.
Sitting just north of the Arctic Circle, Bodø is the second largest town in northern Norway. A section of the central town is referred to as “Swedish town” because Sweden helped build new housing after most of the town was destroyed by World War II bombing.
Situated on a peninsula, Bodø is where the railroad ends and a jumping-off point for the Lofoten Islands. Saltstraumen, known as the world’s strongest tides, are just outside Bodø. It’s also a good place to see northern lights dancing across the night sky. Fishing, boating and kayaking are popular activities. With a strong arts community, it is a good place to buy Norwegian crafts.
For most of the year, the Nordkapp region has just over 3,000 residents. The population, however, soars by 200,000 in the summer months when travelers come to visit its famous North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe connected with the international road network, and its lighthouse.
The scenery in his remote area isn’t too shabby, either. The region also is known for its large colonies of birds, including puffins. Outdoor adventures abound, from fishing for king crab (and eating it) to riding ATVs over scenic terrain and whale and seal watching. Getting here also is an adventure since it involves going through a 6.9-km (4.3-mile) underwater tunnel.
Located 350 km (217 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is an ideal place to chase the northern lights. Known as the “gateway to the Arctic,” Tromsø is the largest city in northern Norway. It is home to the world’s northernmost botanical garden and golf course.
Tromsø hosts an international film festival and a northern lights festival every year, and has an active nightlife scene. Outdoors enthusiasts are sure to enjoy wilderness recreation opportunities such as hiking, whale watching, kayaking, cross-country skiing and dog sledding across frozen lakes. Tromsø is a beer-drinker’s heaven, with more pubs than any other Norwegian town.
1. Lofoten Islands
The Lofoten Islands are located far above the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian Sea. They may be off the beaten path, but travelers who search them out will be rewarded with unique opportunities for adventure.
Things to do in Lofoten includes kayaking between the islands, fishing and just enjoying the picturesque scenery, including quaint villages with picture-postcard harbors. This wilderness outpost is surrounded by pretty fjords and spectacular mountains, with a landscape that is punctuated with seabirds.
This land of the Vikings boasts the Lofotr Viking Museum and a living museum at Borg that centers around an original Viking longhouse.