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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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: