Explore Northern Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights

Northern Norway is a region that enchants visitors with its unique natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Offering exciting experiences, Arctic wildlife, and warm hospitality, it’s no wonder people yearn to return year after year. Are you ready for an adventure in Northern Norway?

The Bright Months: The Midnight Sun

Even though snow often lasts until summer in parts of Northern Norway, there’s something that warms everyone’s hearts: the midnight sun. From late May to late July, it’s time to do whatever you want, whenever you want. The midnight sun creates a special light and a wonderful energy that encourages social gatherings and thrilling activities at any hour.

It’s not uncommon for locals to paint their houses at midnight or take a refreshing swim at three in the morning. With the sun never setting, the possibilities are endless. Whatever you can do during the day can also be experienced at night under the same magical light.

The reason for the midnight sun’s reign in Northern Norway during the summer months is thanks to our planet. Earth rotates on a tilted axis relative to the sun, which explains why the sun’s rays hit the northern regions in summer. This also causes the disappearance of light during the winter months.

However, each summer is followed by a winter in the north. But don’t think that this stops the vibrant life and authentic experiences. Winter in Northern Norway has something many other places don’t: the northern lights.

The Colored Time: Winter and the Northern Lights

Winter and the Northern Lights

After a summer of midnight sun, where the northern population revels in light around the clock, winter always arrives. From the end of July to the end of November, the dark hours gradually increase, and by the end of November, the polar night begins.

The polar night in Northern Norway lasts until mid-January, with no natural sunlight. Locals often refer to this period as ‘the colored time’ because the magical blue hour creates a unique light. But the adventure doesn’t stop there: the northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, dance across the sky, illuminating the night.

This phenomenon has put Northern Norway on the map for both national and international tourism. Witnessing the northern lights up close is truly magical and unique, and it has helped build a strong and welcoming tourism sector for all who wish to join the adventure. For those seeking to experience the Northern Lights in a unique and cozy way, WonderInn in Norway offers a variety of glamping accommodations.

Close to the Elements: Vast Plains and High Mountains

Whether you visit Northern Norway in summer or winter, there’s more than just the midnight sun and northern lights that draw tourists across the Arctic Circle. We’re talking about the impressive nature, which has its own charm in every season. The Finnmarksvidda is not known for mountains, but rather for breathtaking views as far as the eye can see.

Near Porsanger Fjord, you can hike along the coast or rent a kayak to get close to nature. At the very end of Porsanger Fjord lies Europe’s northernmost mainland point, North Cape. Further west in Troms and Finnmark, you’ll find the famous Lyngenfjord, offering dramatic mountains and adrenaline-pumping activities. The mountains, known as the Lyngen Alps, are ideal for cross-country and downhill skiing. In summer, they provide fantastic hiking terrain with unparalleled views.

Sami Culture: Norway’s Indigenous People

Norway's Indigenous People

In Northern Norway, Sami culture is best preserved, thanks in large part to tourism. Despite long periods of oppression, traditional Sami activities and ways of life are still visible. Reindeer herding is their primary occupation, and a visit to Northern Norway offers unique insights into this practice. Reindeer herding is much more than just Joikakaker, the famous reindeer meatballs in brown sauce in a tin can.

These days, the iconic Sami boy and the name Joika have been removed from the cans, now called VILTi. Regardless of your stance on tinned cakes, you can find various reindeer dishes in Northern Norway, as it has been a staple food for the Sami for centuries.

But for the Sami, reindeer are more than just food: it’s a relationship that must be experienced to understand the harmony between the Sami and the reindeer.

Under the dancing northern lights, few things are as magical as listening to genuine joik inside a lavvu, accompanied by shamanic instruments. It should be essential for every Norwegian to experience the roots of Sami culture up close. Sami art is also central to their culture.

Anything artistically crafted is called duodji, whether it’s clothing, tools, or other creatively made items. In other words, the kofta, the Sami national costume, is also a form of duodji. If you visit Northern Norway in summer, consider attending the Riddu Riđđu Festivàla in Kåfjord, an international indigenous festival where you can learn more about Sami culture and other indigenous peoples.

Arctic Wildlife: Reindeer and Whale Safaris

Norway’s fauna is influenced by the elongated shape of the country, but in the far north, the wildlife is distinctly Arctic. Wild reindeer are unique to Norway in Europe, although domestic reindeer are also found in other Scandinavian countries and Russia.

There are about 250,000 reindeer in Norway, and it’s almost impossible not to see them wandering the plains, mountains, or coast during a stay in Northern Norway. Sometimes, reindeer even venture into city centers, so be prepared to encounter these charming cervids.

Whale safaris are also available in Northern Norway, offering perfect conditions to observe these majestic sea creatures. During a whale safari, you might also see other Arctic animals, such as sea eagles and walruses. If you venture further north to Svalbard, you could even see polar bears.

It’s best to observe polar bears from the sea, where you can safely appreciate these magnificent animals. Many companies organize trips from Tromsø or Hammerfest to Longyearbyen by ship, allowing you to explore Arctic wildlife both at sea and on land without compromising comfort.

Coastal Culture: Fisheries and Everything Fish-Related

Fisheries and Everything Fish-Related

In Northern Norway, the tundra dominates the landscape year-round, which historically limited food sources. The northern population depended on either reindeer herding or fishing, a legacy that still remains.

A hundred years ago, one of the most important sources of nutrition was the uniquely Norwegian fish liver oil, better known as cod liver oil. These days, you can visit cod liver oil factories or modern bars serving cod liver oil shots for a unique experience.

You can also participate in cod fishing in Lofoten for an authentic insight into contemporary fishing practices and visit the Sund Fisheries Museum to learn about the evolution of the fishing industry.

Visiting a stockfish drying facility will give you a glimpse into a traditional method of preserving fish. Stockfish, dating back to the Viking era, remains a central part of North Norwegian cuisine.

Adventure and Activities: Thrills in the North

While Northern Norway is an experience in itself, there are countless activities to keep the adrenaline pumping and create lifelong memories. Dog sledding is as popular in summer as in winter, and winter activities like ice fishing and ice climbing have become popular for visitors.

Exploring nature, whether on foot, with snowshoes, or skis, is of course a must. Along the coast or in lakes, you can also try canoeing, kayaking, or paddleboarding to experience Northern Norway from a different perspective.

There’s always plenty to do, and under the midnight sun, organizers offer activities around the clock: it’s even possible to play golf or paddle a canoe at four in the morning!

The Magic of the North: Memories for a Lifetime

Teacher and pupils on field trip

Northern Norway is a unique gem that must be experienced. It’s magical all year round, thanks to the beautiful colors in the sky, stunning untouched nature, diverse wildlife, and welcoming locals. Get ready to taste karsk (a traditional Norwegian spirit) and create memories that will last a lifetime!