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Arctic Norway in Pictures

Kirkenes Church in northern Norway

25 photographs that prove the incredible raw beauty of northern Norway. Come take a closer look.

Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim and the fjords are what most people think of when hearing the word ‘Norway', but there's a whole other world to the north. In fact, more than 35% of Norway's land mass lies north of the Arctic circle, but less than 10% of the country's population live there.

This means the spectacular scenery is much less trafficked and a lot more peaceful than down south. Take a visual tour with me around some of the most intriguing parts of the north, and start planning your trip today.

A road trip to remember in Lofoten

Reine in Lofoten

A fan of driving? Then strap yourself in for an unforgettable road trip experience. The magnificent Lofoten islands offer dramatic mountains, delightful fishing villages, and stunning beaches – yes, beaches! Photographers come for iconic photo opportunities like this, while creatives of all kinds come for inspiration.

The beautiful Lofoten islands in Arctic Norway, as seen from a ship
Photo by Pascal Debrunner / Unsplash

One of the best ways to appreciate the islands is from the water. Take a ferry from Bodø across the open ocean and you'll see the granite mountains rise out of the water as they get ever closer.

A beautiful beach in Lofoten, Norway

But if there's one thing that will stay with you from a visit to Lofoten it's the beautiful beaches. They aren't suntraps by any means (although it can sometimes get hot!), but these beaches are simply stunning places to walk, practice your photography, or even camp.

Cottages and boats at Å in Lofoten

Lofoten's communities exist because of the fishing industry, which is still going strong today. Villages full of little red rorbuer (cabins) are dotted all along the coast. At the western end, the road ends abruptly at Å, which has largely been transformed into a museum.

Peace and quiet in Vesterålen

Bleik beach on Andøya in the Vesterålen islands of Norway

Like Lofoten but a whole lot quieter, the Vesterålen islands offer visitors perhaps the ultimate in ‘get away from it all' experiences. Pictured above is the huge beach at Bleik on Andøya.

The ghost village of Nyksund in Vesterålen, Norway

At the northern tip of Langøya island is Nyksund, a tiny fishing village (you can see the entire village in this picture!) that was all but abandoned, but has been given a new lease of life in recent years thanks to a couple of hostels and other enterprises.

A blue bank building in Sortland, Norway

One of Vesterålen's largest urban areas, Sortland, is known as Norway's Blue Town. Many of the town's buildings are painted in various shades of blue. Find out why here.

The top of the world

North Cape globe sculpture

Okay, not quite top of the world, but Norway's Nordkapp is at least advertised as mainland Europe's northernmost point. While that's not technically true, the exposed cliff still draws more than 100,000 tourists every summer, mainly bussed in from passing cruise ships to ‘watch' the midnight sun.

A marching band at the North Cape in Norway

The iconic globe sculpture was erected in 1978 and has become a visual representation for the North Cape itself.

Just behind the sculpture is Nordkapphallen (North Cape Hall), a visitor centre open all year round with a cinema screen showing a movie about the area, exhibitions in the underground tunnel, and the world's northernmost ecumenical chapel.

There's also an impressive gift shop. Whether it's worth the trip is up to you.

A moody winter's day at Nordkapp in Arctic Norway

The vast majority of visitors come to Nordkapp in the summer. The main reason being, this corner of Finnmark gets a lot of snow, and the weather conditions can make getting to and from the cliff treacherous. At some times in the winter, drivers can only move around the region in conveys that leave at set points of the day.

Nature's light show

Northern lights photography in northern Norway

One of nature's true wonders, the aurora borealis is a huge tourist pull to northern Norway. As delicate ribbons of colour dance across the Arctic sky, it's hard to believe this light show is caused by a natural phenomenon.

Northern peoples have long seen the lights and they were for many years shrouded in myths and legend.

This photo is courtesy of the family-run Tromsø Friluftsenter, who offers northern lights tours and experiences by minibus from Tromsø.

Art and architecture in Tromsø

Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø

The largest city in northern Norway is Tromsø, home to the Arctic Cathedral. Despite its modern appearance, this striking building was actually built in the 1960s. During the summer, midnight sun concerts are held most evenings.

Christmas decorations in Norway: Storgata, Tromsø in the December daytime

Tromsø has a reputation as the party and cultural heart of the north, but it is still a relatively small town. Pictured above is one of the main shopping streets on a winter's day, in the middle of the day. The sun doesn't rise for six weeks around the winter solstice.

A statue of Roald Amundsen, the famous Norwegian polar explorer, in Tromsø

One of Norway's most famous explorers, Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach both the North and South pole. Amundsen disappeared with five crew while flying a rescue mission in 1928, with some of the wreckage was found off the coast near Tromsø.

History and huskies in Alta

Rock carvings in Alta, Norway, at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another town in the north of Norway, Alta is best known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site of rock carvings, which indicate a settlement believed to date from somewhere between the year 4200 and 500 BC.

Holmen Husky Lodge in Alta, Norway

Dog sledding is a popular activity in this part of Norway and visitors to the Holmen Husky Lodge can meet these beautiful animals. Dog sled tours are offered, with a wheeled version possible during the snowless months.

The striking exterior of the Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta, Northern Norway

Alta's city centre is little more than a parking lot and shopping mall, but there is this striking church. Alta's Northern Lights Cathedral is curious on the outside, but absolutely beautiful on the inside.

Explore the vast plateau

Finnmarksvidda: The Finnmark mountain plateau in the winter.
Photo: haninord (Flickr)

Much of Finnmark county is made up of Finnmarksvidda, a vast mountain plateau that experiences the coldest winter temperatures in mainland Norway. With an area greater than 22,000 square kilometres, it is Norway's biggest plateau.

Remote cabin part-buried in snow on the Finnmark plateau in northern Norway.
Photo: haninord (Flickr)

The plateau includes extensive birch woods, pine barrens, bogs and glacially formed lakes, but you wouldn't know it when its covered is snow. Snowmobiles are the most common form of transport around here, and sometimes you even have to dig out an entrance to a cabin.

Meet the Sami

A Sami reindeer herder

The indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, the Sami are a very visible part of life in much of northern Norway and especially on the Finnmark mountain plateau. While many are fully integrated into modern Norwegian life, a small percentage still make their living from reindeer.

The Norwegian Sami Parliament in Karasjok, Finnmark

The Sami people have their own Parliament, which has certain powers especially in the northernmost county of Finnmark. The architecture of the building in Karasjok makes the Sami Parliament one of the most intriguing buildings in all of Norway.

Where Norway meets Russia

This Kirkenes signpost shows how remote the tiny Norwegian border town with Russia is.

At the far northeastern point of Norway there is a border with Russia, and the closest town to the border is Kirkenes. It is hard to believe when you consider where most of Norway is, but Kirkenes is further east than almost all of Finland and at the same longitude as Istanbul. It's a long way from pretty much anywhere.

Kirkenes Church in northern Norway

Yet there is a thriving community here of a few thousand people, with all the amenities you would expect including a shopping mall and this cute church. Street signs are bilingual (Norwegian and Russian) while a surprising amount of Russian is spoken in shops and on the streets.

Blue hour in Kirkenes, Finnmark. This beautiful light phenomenon occurs during the winter months during twilight.

The reason so many tourists have heard of Kirkenes is that the small port is the end point of the Hurtigruten coastal cruise on its epic journey from Bergen. The above picture shows the blue hour, a light phenomenon in the winter months during the few hours when it's not totally dark.

Kirkenes snow hotel

Pictured above is one of the 20 guest rooms at the Kirkenes Snow Hotel. A night here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and many guests report a great night's sleep! There's also a large ice bar, and a non-ice service building with comfortable lounges and bathroom facilities.

What's your favourite thing about Arctic Norway? If this article and these wonderful images have inspired you to plan a trip, why not share those plans on Pinterest? We've got just the pin for that:

Beautiful Photography from Arctic Norway: Images from the northern lights to the chilly cities of the High North.

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

2 Comments

  1. I have travelled all over the place over 40 years, but I loved the North of Norway more than anywhere else. I can’t persuade my family to move there but I have to spend some years around Tromso and Alta. I fully recommend Holmen Huskies for an extended trek. If you read that a happy old man has frozen to death in a campervan somewhere in the North Cape that’ll be me. Way to go!

  2. Tusen takk for your report!
    The most prettiest sentences are the two last ones… I have been there with the camper in winter too… I can feel what you mean… Minus 35 degrees and the gas was frozen but I was happier than anytime before 😊

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