Northern Norway

Counties: Svalbard, Finnmark, Troms, Nordland
Size of area: 112 918 km2
Population: 480 740
Major cities: Tromsø, Bodø, Kirkenes
Major attractions: Arctic Circle, Lofoten Islands, North Cape, Sami culture
Tourist routes: Varanger, Havøysund, Senja, Andøya, Lofoten, Helgelandskysten north, Helgelandskysten south

Whatever the weather or the time of year, the visitor to any of northern Norway’s three counties − Finnmark, Troms and Nordland − cannot escape a sense of the extraordinary.

In the round-the-clock daylight of high summer, people simply forget to go to bed; in the star-spangled winter darkness, the pale light of dawn shades imperceptibly into dusk, and the aurora borealis sends cascades of flame across the heavens for up to 20 hours at a time.

The landscape of the northern Norwegian mainland is as diverse as it is vast. The coast of Finnmark is stark, with mountain plateaux tipping down towards the sea; but there are also forested valleys, lush river banks and small but thriving farms.The coastlines of Troms and Nordland are livelier and more heavily vegetated,but the mountains seem less approachable. From the Arctic Circle to east Finnmark, enormous numbers of birds of all species colonize the cliff faces and mountain slopes. No doubt about it: northern Norway is the true Arctic, the land of the midnight sun and the northern lights.

Natural wizardry

Offshore, the island archipelagos of Lofoten and Vesterålen offer some of the mostbreath-taking scenery in the country. Here the towering, pointed mountain peaks rise majestically from the sea to a height of almost 1000 metres; the mountains are separated by swathes of emerald greenand the shorelines are fringed with white sandy beaches. The magical land- and seascapes often resemble a film set, the product of some obscure technological wizardry.

Finnmark was the site of one of the oldest settlements in Norway, the Komsa culture, which is thought to date back to 8000 BC; today the province is the home of the Sami, or native Laplanders − some of whose settlements, however, extend further south into Mid-Norway. At Sápmi, Finnmark’s largest Samitheme park, visitors can explore authentic Sami buildings and experience a multimedia presentation of Sami culture,history and landscape. Few children can resist a few minutes in a reindeeren closure, or a lesson in using a lasso.

The North Cape, mainland Europe’s most northerly point, is a major tourist destination, attracting thousands every year. Local fishing stations make a point of welcoming foreign visitors, who are offered an unusual insight into a unique way of life.

The great outdoors

The region as a whole proffers any number of exciting challenges to lovers of the great outdoors: summer or winter, land or sea, from ocean or inland fishing to whale safaris and scuba diving. Mountain climbing is popular; but there are also plenty of hiking opportunities in more gentle terrain. Accommodation ranges from first-class hotels to youth hostels. Many prefer the unique experience of staying in a fisherman’s cabin, or rorbu, with a rowboat moored right outside the door.

The Coastal Express (Hurtigruten) offers a sea voyage considered by many travel writers to be the world’s most beautiful. You can cruise the entire coast in comfort from Bergento Kirkenes; the truly adventurous can extend their journey, by air or sea, to take in Svalbard, only 800 miles (1300 km) from the North Pole.

Fishing and farming, the region’s principle industries, have shaped the Northerners’ personality and lifestyle. They are typically open, direct and hospitable with a lusty sense of humour. Generations of struggle against the elements has made them resolute and perhaps a little reckless.

These qualitie swill serve them well as the Norwegian government implements its “High North policy”, which aims to promote “sustainable growth and development in the northern regions.... so that the inhabitants in the north can develop vital local communities”.

This involves an emphasis on regional and international cooperation and the development of natural resources, including offshore oil and gas. It is likely to trigger some positive demographic and economic changes in the North, not least in the cities and towns, many of which bear the mark of hasty post-war reconstruction − although Tromsø, the region’s capital,has retained much of its charm.

Counties: Svalbard, Finnmark, Troms, Nordland
Size of area: 112 918 km2
Population: 480 740
Major cities: Tromsø, Bodø, Kirkenes
Major attractions: Arctic Circle, Lofoten Islands, North Cape, Sami culture
Tourist routes: Varanger, Havøysund, Senja, Andøya, Lofoten, Helgelandskysten north, Helgelandskysten south

Whatever the weather or the time of year, the visitor to any of northern Norway’s three counties − Finnmark, Troms and Nordland − cannot escape a sense of the extraordinary.

In the round-the-clock daylight of high summer, people simply forget to go to bed; in the star-spangled winter darkness, the pale light of dawn shades imperceptibly into dusk, and the aurora borealis sends cascades of flame across the heavens for up to 20 hours at a time.

The landscape of the northern Norwegian mainland is as diverse as it is vast. The coast of Finnmark is stark, with mountain plateaux tipping down towards the sea; but there are also forested valleys, lush river banks and small but thriving farms.The coastlines of Troms and Nordland are livelier and more heavily vegetated,but the mountains seem less approachable. From the Arctic Circle to east Finnmark, enormous numbers of birds of all species colonize the cliff faces and mountain slopes. No doubt about it: northern Norway is the true Arctic, the land of the midnight sun and the northern lights.

Natural wizardry

Offshore, the island archipelagos of Lofoten and Vesterålen offer some of the mostbreath-taking scenery in the country. Here the towering, pointed mountain peaks rise majestically from the sea to a height of almost 1000 metres; the mountains are separated by swathes of emerald greenand the shorelines are fringed with white sandy beaches. The magical land- and seascapes often resemble a film set, the product of some obscure technological wizardry.

Finnmark was the site of one of the oldest settlements in Norway, the Komsa culture, which is thought to date back to 8000 BC; today the province is the home of the Sami, or native Laplanders − some of whose settlements, however, extend further south into Mid-Norway. At Sápmi, Finnmark’s largest Samitheme park, visitors can explore authentic Sami buildings and experience a multimedia presentation of Sami culture,history and landscape. Few children can resist a few minutes in a reindeeren closure, or a lesson in using a lasso.

The North Cape, mainland Europe’s most northerly point, is a major tourist destination, attracting thousands every year. Local fishing stations make a point of welcoming foreign visitors, who are offered an unusual insight into a unique way of life.

The great outdoors

The region as a whole proffers any number of exciting challenges to lovers of the great outdoors: summer or winter, land or sea, from ocean or inland fishing to whale safaris and scuba diving. Mountain climbing is popular; but there are also plenty of hiking opportunities in more gentle terrain. Accommodation ranges from first-class hotels to youth hostels. Many prefer the unique experience of staying in a fisherman’s cabin, or rorbu, with a rowboat moored right outside the door.

The Coastal Express (Hurtigruten) offers a sea voyage considered by many travel writers to be the world’s most beautiful. You can cruise the entire coast in comfort from Bergento Kirkenes; the truly adventurous can extend their journey, by air or sea, to take in Svalbard, only 800 miles (1300 km) from the North Pole.

Fishing and farming, the region’s principle industries, have shaped the Northerners’ personality and lifestyle. They are typically open, direct and hospitable with a lusty sense of humour. Generations of struggle against the elements has made them resolute and perhaps a little reckless.

These qualitie swill serve them well as the Norwegian government implements its “High North policy”, which aims to promote “sustainable growth and development in the northern regions.... so that the inhabitants in the north can develop vital local communities”.

This involves an emphasis on regional and international cooperation and the development of natural resources, including offshore oil and gas. It is likely to trigger some positive demographic and economic changes in the North, not least in the cities and towns, many of which bear the mark of hasty post-war reconstruction − although Tromsø, the region’s capital,has retained much of its charm.

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