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Deep in the Arctic Circle, this landscape of fjords and windswept tundra is one of the best places in Norway to explore the wintry pleasures of snow sports. Here, you can discover some of the most northerly geography to be settled by humans and enjoy traditional pursuits like snowshoeing and dog sledding, as well as some of the more modern adaptations like snowmobiling. And, of course, you’ve got an exceptional chance of glimpsing the northern lights.

The main city in the area is Tromsø, which proudly proclaims itself to be the ‘Arctic Capital’. Spanning both an island and a peninsula, with a bridge connecting the two, the city is a great base for exploring the wilder areas of northern Norway. You can also get to know the history of the city and the region at a handful of museums.

Further inland, the area around Alta is home to several excellent hotels that balance the rugged beauty of the landscape with modern luxury, albeit in a spare Nordic style.

When I visit northern Norway, I feel like I’ve been given a rare glimpse into a different world that few ever get to see — a vast, windswept tundra where the northern lights play out across the sky several nights every week.

Norway specialist Aislyn

Winter activities in northern Norway

For outdoor adventures that require ice and snow, there are few better destinations than northern Norway. You might bundle yourself into reindeer furs and climb into a traditional dog sled pulled by a team of excited huskies. Or, you can drop your line into a small hole in the ice to try your hand at traditional ice fishing.

For something with a little more speed, you might get behind the wheel of a powerful snowmobile for a guided drive across the tundra.

Northern lights & the polar night

Aurora Borealis over a frozen pondThis far north, you have the rare chance to experience several of the Earth’s most remarkable phenomena — the northern lights and the polar night. The aurora borealis is famously fickle, but this region often experiences it two or three times a week, increasing your chances of seeing the cosmic light show.

Of course, a dark sky helps you see the gauzy veils of light and you’ll find darkness aplenty here. In this part of the Arctic Circle, the sun sets around the end November and doesn’t rise again until mid-January — a period known as the polar night.

Tromsø

Continuously occupied since the Neolithic, Tromsø is the social and cultural capital of this region and has several interesting sights. Tromsø University Museum has exhibitions examining life among the Sámi people as well as the natural history of the area. The Polar Museum goes more in depth into expeditions and adventures in the Arctic from the 17th century until today.

Another highlight is the Arctic Cathedral, a gloriously minimalist edifice with a sharply peaked roof that echoes the country’s mountains or perhaps the cracks and crevasses of glaciers.

Summer & the midnight sun

View towards TromsøThough it’s primarily a wintry destination, there’s also plenty to do in northern Norway even in the warmer months. This is the land of the midnight sun, when the sun doesn’t really set for about 70 days between late May and late July. The ample sunshine means plenty of time for guided hikes and cycle rides, soaking in the rare sight of the tundra in its full summery glory.

You can also explore the region’s many rivers and fjords from a boat. You might just enjoy the sunny time on the water, or you could opt to go fishing for the highly prized king crab — an enormous crustacean with a leg span that reaches 1.8 m (almost 6 ft).

Best time to visit Northern Norway

For winter activities, plan your trip for between October and April. These months provide the optimal weather for outdoor fun in the snow, as well as the most hours of darkness, to improve your chances of seeing the northern lights. The polar night starts in late November and lasts until mid-January.

For summery activities, plan to visit during the long days between May and early September, when you’ll encounter relatively warm temperatures. For the maximum sunlight, visit between late May and mid-July to take advantage of the midnight sun.

Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit

  • Early February: Celebrate the Sámi people’s culture, businesses, and competitions during a week-long Sámi Festival in Tromsø.
  • Late January – early February: The Northern Lights Festival brings together performers from all the arts, including music and dance, for ten days in Tromsø.

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who's been there
Audley Travel specialist Aislyn

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Northern Norway by contacting one of our Norway specialists

Suggested itinerary featuring Northern Norway

This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Northern Norway, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Northern Norway

Places & hotels on the map

    Places in and around Northern Norway

    Accommodation choices for Northern Norway

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Northern Norway. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Northern Norway

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Northern Norway, and which use the best local guides.

    • Snowmobiling across Finnmarksvidda plateau
      Finnmarksvidda, Alta Region

      Snowmobiling across Finnmarksvidda plateau

      Snowmobiling across Finnmarksvidda plateau

      Home to Arctic hares, moose, and herds of reindeer, the Finnmarksvidda plateau is a landscape few ever glimpse. This snowmobiling trip across the snowy plains gives you a chance to explore the wilderness first-hand.

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