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Northern Norway: The Ultimate Travel Guide [2020]

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
January 17, 2020
Travel stories
Thinking of visiting the remote, yet beautiful northern Norway? Then look no further, check out our complete guide to northern Norway for all you need....
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A visit to Northern Norway can feel like a visit to a new planet, with vast landscapes, beautiful views and a lot less people. If you seek natural beauty and a sense of freedom, then a trip to northern Norway should be top of your list. Brad and I had a fantastic time in the north of Norway during our 3 month road trip with Tinggly and we spent quite a bit of time in the north. 

We LOVED it. Northern Norway is probably my favourite area in all of Norway and below I am going to take you through everything you need to know about northern Norway, including the best places to visit in northern Norway and the top things to do! 


What is Northern Norway? 

Before we begin, let’s define the perimeters of what northern Norway actually consists of. If you look at a map of Norway you’ll see that it actually curves around the top of both Finland and Sweden

Northern Norway is everything in “Nordland” so above Folderied (if you look on a map), you’ll see the border for northern Norway. 

This runs the whole way up and around to Kirkenes. So there is a LOT of road to cover. 

Remember you’re going to be within the arctic circle, so not only will there be lots of reindeer (yup! A lot!), you can also learn more about the Sami culture.

Best places to visit in Northern Norway 

Below I’ll give you a run down of all the best places to visit in northern Norway. This is a perfect way to plan a northern Norway roadtrip. Every place listed is somewhere Brad and I visited. 

Kirkenes 

Brad and I had a short and sweet stop in Kirkenes. We actually wanted to visit the ice hotel there (it’s pretty famous and awesome) and try out king crab fishing, which the area is famous for, but basically in classic fashion, we left everything too late! But if you do want to try king crab fishing, then this is the main point in Norway to do so. 

Hamningberg

This was a completely unexpected destination for us in northern Norway, but it turned out to be a very special place...it was the first time in Norway that we have seen the amazing Northern lights. It’s one of the further points you can get to in Europe and the town itself is actually a seasonal fishing village. 

It’s closed in the winter, but Brad and I managed to visit just before they closed the road. But because it’s so secluded, the drive there is crazy beautiful, it feels like you’ve driven onto another planet- amazing. 

Also, there wasn’t another human in sight when we visited. We had this whole random little village to ourselves and because we were so far north, we got a clear sky and the northern lights lit up the sky ...amazing memories! 

If you’re looking for one of the very unique places to visit in northern Norway, then this is your stop. You’ll need your own set of wheels to visit! 

Vardo

Vardo is a great place in northern Norway and it’s actually quite easily accessible because it has its own airport (check Skyscanner for the best prices). Vardo is it’s own little island and just before we went, we were trying to find the bridge to get over then realized it’s an underwater tunnel, which is always cool! 

Vardo itself is very quaint and cute and has a really cool fort and museum that you can wander around. It’s also got hotels, restaurants, a cinema and other sights to see so it’s definitely worth a stop.

vardo

Borselv 

If you’re planning a Norway road trip from Kirkenes to the North Cape, then you’ll probably find yourself pass Borselv. It’s the name of an area in Norway and the reason I mention it as one of the great places to visit in northern Norway is the fact that we have seen an amazing show of the northern lights by a lake there and it’s got a really cool canyon you can stop at. 

Borselv

North Cape

Ah, the North Cape is my favourite place in all of northern Norway. It’s the most northern point you can go in Europe, so it’s an iconic stop for that reason alone. When we visited we were greeted by an amazing sunset, followed by one of the strongest views of the northern lights ever. We saw green, pink and purple with our own naked eye. It was amazing. 

The north cape is the highlight of any northern Norway itinerary and should not be missed. 

north cape

Alta

Alta is a popular stop as it’s one of the major towns (or cities) in northern Norway. We had planned on visiting a husky farm in Alta, but that fell through, so we did a little work and checked out the northern lights cathedral which is actually pretty cool. 

Gorzi 

This is another great area in northern Norway that’s popular for its hiking opportunities. Brad and I done a baby hike, we basically hiked in the snow to a frozen waterfall and bridge. The bridge you can jump off in the summer months, if you’re feeling braze, but actually the frozen waterfall looked really cool! 

It was the first time I saw a proper full frozen waterfall, and the drop is quite dramatic on the bridge, so you might find it scary.

If you visit in winter like we did, then be super careful with ice! 

Tromso 

When people think of northern Norway, they often think of Tromso. I guess it would be considered the “capital” of the north. It’s got an airport and it’s a very popular spot for holidays to northern Norway, (even though there are even better places more north!) 

But if you want to wander around the city, take a northern lights tour or do any other holiday based activities, then a trip to Tromso is great. We stayed one night but didn’t see the northern lights. 

This is a great Northern Lights tour from Tromso, the 7 hour duration gives you the optimal chance to see them. Check it out. 

Lofoten Islands 

Ah, the Lofoten islands. An area of outstanding beauty in my opinion and my second favourite place in all of northern Norway. I’ve actually done a whole guide on the Lofoten Islands because there is so much to see and do here, but it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in northern Norway. 

Full of natural beauty, cool bridges, fishing villages and chances to see the northern lights, this place is growing in popularity every year. 

Narvik 

We didn’t “stay” in Narvik, rather we just visited through to pick up some gas and shopping. But, I want to mention it because it looks like a pretty cool city. There are lots of bright lights, shopping opportunities and you’re quite close to the polar park which is a popular place to visit in northern Norway with kids. 

This is often a good place to rent a car then take the Lofoten islands road trip. 

Remember Rent a Car is a good place to compare car rental prices in Norway. 

Best things to do in Norway Norway 

So now that I’ve explained my favourite places to visit in northern Norway, I thought I’d mention some of the cool activities you can do here. Some of these Brad and I didn’t do, but they are worth mentioning because we had plans to do them! 

1. Chase the Northern Lights 

There are a few factors needed to see the northern lights: no cloud, a certain KP index, and the further north the better...well you can’t get much further north in the world than northern Norway, so you’re putting yourself in the BEST position to see the northern lights. If you give yourself week, then you’ve got a pretty good chance. 

Read my guide on where to see the northern lights in Norway for more tips. 

2. Go Crab Fishing or Ice fishing 

Basically fishing in Norway is a very popular activity, as you’ll notice from all the fishing villages you encounter. So if you want to do as the locals do, then try your hand at fishing. Ice fishing is possible in the winter only. 

3. Discover frozen waterfalls 

There are lots of really cool waterfalls around northern Norway, and of course if you visit in the spring or summer, then they won’t be frozen (But they’ll still look beautiful). 

But if you visit in the winter, then a frozen waterfall is a really cool thing to behold. I can recommend the Gorzi waterfall. 

4. Go hiking 

Northern norway is a hiker's dream and there are countless opportunities for hiking in Norway. A very popular walking and hiking region in the Lofoten islands, however remember if you are hiking in the winter, you’ll need crampons for your shoes and some routes may be closed due to weather conditions. 

5. Check out the Vardohus Fortress

This is a really cool fortress in Vardo that’s totally worth a visit. I would recommend an overnight stay in Vardo. 

6. Take beautiful pictures of Reine 

I have never seen a more picturesque village than Reine in the Lofoten Islands. This is probably the most famous and most popular spot in the Lofoten Islands and it’s really no surprise why. Those red houses with the mountainous backdrop make for an iconic postcard picture and there is really no bad angle of this cute little town. 

7. Go arctic surfing 

When we were driving around the Lofoten islands, we saw surf board rental and then we saw people actually surfing in the water….that is brave! Arctic surfing a real thing and people love it. 

Don’t worry, you’re wrapped up warm, so apparently the water temperature is fine, but if you want a unique experience in northern norway, then why not try that.

8. Find out more about the Sami culture 

The Sami people are the indigenous population of mainly northern Norway, Finland and Sweden. Their way of life is unique and certain tours allow you to experience that way of life up close, which is pretty cool. 

If you want to learn more about the Sami culture and discover reindeer, then this is a great option! Check it out here. 

Driving in Northern Norway 

Driving in the north of Norway is amazing, and for a few good reasons. Firstly, it’s super quiet. Brad and I went days where we only passed 1 or 2 cars in about 3 hours of driving. This means you have vast and beautiful landscapes all to yourself- amazing. 

There are no road tolls in all of northern Norway which means it’s a lot cheaper to road trip the north than it is to roadtrip the rest! 

You will need to be careful with driving as some road conditions can be icy and snowy if visiting in the winter season. You’ll need winter tyres too and a decent car. 

Fuel is more expensive in northern Norway than it is in the rest of Norway. It averages at around 1.5-1.6 euro. 

When is the best time to visit Northern Norway? 

Since Brad and I visited in the month of October, I can recommend that. It was quiet, peaceful, beautiful, and the weather was awesome. October is one of the best times to see the northern lights too, after October it will start snowing more heavily, and you can’t see them with snow. 

And also places like Hammingberg won’t be open after October. So I think that’s a great month to visit. 

On the other hand, I think the spring time would also be beautiful, and perhaps May/June would still be a quiet time to visit northern Norway too. 

How to visit Northern Norway 

When it comes to visiting northern Norway, you’ve got a few options. You can either fly to one of the main cities, such as Tromso and use that as a base to rent a car and a road trip through different parts, or you can rent a car from Oslo, or Bodo and do a fully blown northern Norway roadtrip. 

I think regardless of how you get to northern Norway, you should definitely rent a car for at least a couple of days to really experience all the beauty the north has to offer. 

So there you have it, my guide to Northern Norway. I hope you’ve found this useful and hopefully it’s inspired you to discover the beauty of the north. If you’ve got any other tips or tricks to add to this northern Norway travel guide then simply pop a comment below. 

Happy travels! 

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