Northern Norway is by far the largest and most sparsely populated part of mainland Norway and covers more than a third of the country. It stretches from the idyllic Helgeland region in the south to mainland Europe’s northernmost point near the North Cape.
Northern Norway has been settled for thousands of years, due to its relatively warm climate, ice-free harbours, and excellent fishing. For centuries, the fishing was the very basis of existence in this area, and even today you can find several characteristic old fishing villageswith coloured, wooden houses that used to house fishermen and traders.
In the old days, large parts of Northern Norway was inaccessible, but today there is an extensive network of both roads and small airportswith regular flights between many of the small towns and villages. The coastal steamer Hurtigruten calls at ports all along the coast at least once per day, both northbound and southbound.
But the region is not only one of wild and untouched nature and quaint old villages. Tromsø, for instance, is Northern Norway’s largest city and lies far north of the Arctic Circle. A vibrant university town, it has a lively student scene with concerts and shows, and sports an international film festival as well as a multi-cultural community of more than 100 different nationalities.
The Sami are the northernmost indigenous people in Europe, and the attractions on the Norwegian tundra in Finnmark all reflect Sami history, heritage, and life today. Preserving both the region’s nature and its culture and tradition is a priority.
Light will play an essential role in your experience in the north. Summer nights are long and bright, and in high summer north of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t dip below the horizon at all. Winter nights, on the other hand, are long and cold, but far from as dark as you might think. The northern lights will play across the skies, displaying bands and tendrils of red, purple, blue, and green light.
Opportunities abound in Northern Norway, whether you want action or relaxation, fun in the snow or lounging under the midnight sun, seeing the sights or doing the deeds, kayaking or skiing, hiking or fishing. The choice is yours.
Even though Northern Norway hosts the prestigious World Championship in cod fishing, the pace is quite laid back most of the time. Here, you can relax with a round of golf at the world’s northernmost golf course, watch the whales cavort in the sea, and hike the mountains or fish in the sea at your own pace.
If you travel to the coast of Nordland, you candive in the world’s strongest tidal currentSaltstraumen and explore the Lofoten and Vega islands. When winter sets in, so does the skiing season. Leisurely cross-country skiing is just as common as adrenaline raising alpine, off-piste and ski touring.
Amongst the cultural offers are the museum dedicated to the poet and priest Petter Dass. The main attraction may be the museum building itself, designed by renowned Snøhetta and blending in with the surrounding nature. The trading center at Kjerringøyis one of the most important building memorials from 18th century Norway, and the area served as an inspiration for many of Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun’s stories.
In terms of art, food and clothes, the Sami way of life is an important part of Northern Norway. At the Sápmi Culture Park you canexperience the Sami way of life. Here, you can try Sami cuisine by the open fire, hear one of Europe’s oldest surviving music traditions, the traditional «joik», and meet Sami people in colorful local costumes
Northern Norway is also the place to go fordishes and ingredients you may not have tried before. Sea wolf, halibut, rose fish, and king crab are commonly enjoyed, as are other forms of seafood such as sea urchins, clams, and mussels.
The more common types of fish such as cod, coalfish, herring, and saithe are also eaten here, traditionally prepared salted, dried or steamed. Reindeer are farmed throughout the region as well, an industry that form a cornerstone of Sami culture.