Northern Norway is the northernmost geographical region of Norway, consisting of the two counties Nordland, and Troms and Finnmark. The region is the largest and at the same time the most sparsely populated area of mainland Norway. In other words, Northern Norway is the place to go to experience diverse, wild and spectacular nature!
The region has a population of fewer than 500,000 people and its land mass covers an area of approximately 113 000 km². The Arctic Circle crosses mainland Norway at Saltfjellet, thus circumscribing about half of Nordland county, as well as the whole county of Troms and Finnmark within the polar circle.
Milder than other Arctic regions
The Gulf Stream along the Norwegian coast gives the region a milder climate than most other regions within The Arctic Circle. Ice free harbours and excellent fishing opportunities are some of the main reasons why this part of Norway has been populated for thousands of years. In many coastal towns and villages, fishing has been the core business for centuries and is still the main source of income for a lot of people in this region.
At 71° north latitude, The North Cape, one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations. Located on a cliff 307 metres above sea level, the North Cape plateau offers you spectacular views of the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean. Contrary to popular belief The North Cape is not actually the most northerly point in Norway. The neighbouring Knivskjellodden Cape actually extends 1,450 meters further north. But perhaps you should keep this to yourself and let the other tourists fight over the best spots on The North Cape.
The Midnight Sun and The Northern Lights
In the summer, Northern Norway is the land of the midnight sun. The panorama here is like a prolonged sunset and sunrise at the same time, where the sun only dips briefly into the ocean before it rises again. The further north you travel, the more days of this spectacular natural phenomenon you get to experience. In total you can enjoy up to 76 days of midnight sun in Northern Norway between the months of May and July.
The northern lights is truly one of the most amazing wonders of nature. Also known as Aurora Borealis, this light show is caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun; the particles enter the earth’s atmosphere and then collide with gasses such as oxygen and nitrogen. Northern Norway has the highest density of these light shows in the whole world. The best time of year to experience the northern lights is between October and March.
Paris of the North
Northern Norway has many towns, such as Mo i Rana, Bodø, Narvik, Harstad, Tromsø and Alta. Tromsø is the capital of the North and has over 70 000 inhabitants. It is often referred to as Paris of the North. It got its nickname from visitors in the 19th century, who were quite taken by the inhabitants’ sophisticated etiquette, language skills and culture. Girls in Tromsø were said to dress like Parisian seamstresses. After a visit, the famous Norwegian writer, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, reported to his wife: “There’s nothing but champagne and commotion in Tromsø”. Commotion or not, Tromsø is famous for its buzzing nightlife, cultural events and music venues.
Borders Three Countries
Northern Norway shares international borders with three different countries. The municipality of Sør-Varanger lies farthest northeast in Norway and borders both Finland and Russia. The Swedish border runs alongside the length of Nordland county and the southern borderlands of Troms and Finnmark.
The Sami are indigenous people who live in the far North in all four countries. They are descendants of nomadic people who settled in these areas thousands of years ago. The Sami languages belongs to the Uralic linguistic group and are very different from the Scandinavian languages. In addition to the Norwegian and Sami languages, you will also find a few people speaking the Kven language in Northern Norway, which is closely related to meänkieli in Sweden and some Northern Finnish dialects. Somewhere between 2,000–8,000 people speak the language. The Kvens were first recognized as a minority group in Norway in 1998.
Northern Norway is mostly known for the diverse and spectacular nature and this is what makes the Arctic region a popular travel destination during both winter and summertime. From the beautiful Lyngen Alps, the breathtaking mountains in Lofoten and Vesterålen that plunges downward to meet white sandy beaches, to the reindeer herds that can be observed running on the vast, flat Finnmark Plateau, Northern Norway truly has something for everyone’s taste.