best places to see in Northern Norway
Last Updated: July 30, 2021

Northern Norway – Best Places To See

Traveling to Northern Norway? You’re definitely in the right place then! This detailed guide features ten of the best places to see in Northern Norway, including some hidden gems you might not know about!

From spectacular Aurora Borealis views in Tromso to the daring landscape of the Norwegian Lapland, there are so many wonderful things to see and do in Northern Norway. This guide covers the best museums, architecture, birdwatching, hiking trails, ski slopes, and so much more!

Read on to learn more about the spectacular towns of Northern Norway and figure out which one is your next stop.

Tromso

Tromso Harbour

Tromso is one of the most popular places in all of Norway so it’s no surprise that it’s first on our list. People flock there from all over the world for spectacular Aurora Borealis views, which are almost impossible to beat. The popularity of this charming city in northern Norway means that there are direct flights to Tromso from major European cities, so it’s an easy place to reach.

Chasing the Northern Lights is just one of the many exciting things you can do in Tromso. The city is very picturesque with modern wooden homes, classic Scandinavian architecture, and some of Norway’s most interesting museums.

Tromso Cathedral

The Arctic Cathedral is an iconic Tromso sight and one of the first stops on any tour of the city. It was built in the 1960s, so it’s a fairly new building popular for the long church style and a mixture of concrete and metal. Although it’s commonly known as the Arctic Cathedral, the religious dwelling is actually a parish church and not a cathedral. 

Tromso is situated at the foot of an imposing mountain range that offers some of the best panoramic views of this city. Ride the Fjellheisen cable car to Storsteinen for an incredibly scenic view of Tromso – if you do it at night, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights!

Northern Lights Tromso

In addition to that, Tromso is also home to some great museums that are very fun to visit. The Polarmuseum features an extensive exhibit on regional nature and history, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum has a great collection of Nordic art, and the University Museum of Tromso is the oldest scientific institution in Northern Norway. It’s also worth stopping by the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, the Polaria aquarium, the Tromso Cathedral, and the Perspective Museum. 

Alta

Alta Norway

Image courtesy of James Stringer

Alta is a town in Northern Norway situated at the head of the Alta Fjord. It’s a great place to view the Northern Lights thanks to the superb location, but that’s certainly not the only interesting thing to do in the area. Alta is best known for prehistoric rock carvings that can be found in Hjemmeluft Bay.

Head to Alta Museum – World Heritage Center for Rock Carvings to see thousands of engravings and paintings that date from 4200 to 500 B.C. They’re truly an astonishing sight that sheds some light on the lives of prehistoric humans.

Another must-see in Alta is the iconic Cathedral of the Northern Lights. The modern church was built in 2013 and has since become one of the most popular sights in the area. It features a circular design that’s certainly a peculiar choice for a parish church, but it looks spectacular. It’s no Gothic Cathedral though, so if you’re into older architecture you might be a bit disappointed.

Alta Cathedral

Image courtesy of Andrew Arch

Alta is a great place for adventurous travelers. With rivers, canyons, and incredible nature, there’s a lot of exploring to be done in the area. Hike to the Alta Canyon to see why this place is one of Norway’s best-kept secrets despite being one of the largest canyons in all of Europe. It’s a long(ish) hike, but the terrain is flat for the most part so it’s suitable even for hiking newbies.

Other popular ways of exploring Alta include a sleigh (horse or dog) tour coupled with a farm visit, a snowmobile ride in the mountain plateau, and ice fishing in the lakes outside the town. There’s truly a lot of amazing things to see and fun stuff to do in this area, which is why it’s one of the best places to visit in Northern Norway.

Lapland

Finnmark

Lapland is one of the best places in the world for a fairytale winter vacation. It’s also one of the best places on the planet for viewing the Northern Lights, but only if you’re fine with a quick trip across the border.

Although proper Lapland is predominantly situated in Finland, parts of it extend to both Sweden and Norway. The area in Norway is commonly known as Finnmark and it’s home to quite a few exciting sights. Perhaps the most interesting place in all of former Finnmark county is the North Cape, which happens to be the northernmost point in Europe you can access by car. The North Cape is also a popular spot for Midnight Sun viewing, and it’s certainly one of the best places to visit in Northern Norway.

Vardo Norway

Head to Vardø to see the Steilneset Memorial that commemorates the 1621 persecution and execution of 91 people for witchcraft. The interesting monument is coupled with a museum and a trip here is bound to be educating. Scary, dark, and creepy for sure, but you’ll also learn a few things.

Norway’s Lapland is also home to Øvre Pasvik National Park. If you enjoy beautiful nature, spectacular lake views, and observing wildlife, a trip to this national park is certainly something you should consider.

Another place worth visiting in Finnmark is the Varanger Peninsula. With Tanafjorden in the west, Varangerfjorden in the south, and the Barents Sea in the northeast, there’s no lack of spectacular views in the area. The peninsula is most popular for Aurora Borealis viewings, but many people also come for unique birdwatching opportunities.  

Lofoten Islands

Lofoten

Lofoten Islands feature some of the best campsites in Norway, so they’re definitely a great destination for campers. The archipelago is known for sandy beaches, excellent hiking trails, and some of the best wildlife viewing in the country.

Lofoten Islands are best explored by boat, but it is possible to drive to most of the interesting places in the area. King Olav’s Road is the main road in Lofoten, and it happens to be the starting point of the E10 route that connects Norway and Sweden.

Start in Å, a fishing village in the southwest of the Lofoten Islands, and follow the main road northeast. Visit the Norweigan Fishing Village Museum, hike the Reinebringen in Reine, and don’t miss a trip to the Lofotr Viking Museum. It’s situated in a reconstructed longhouse and it features a fascinating exhibit on Vikings, including reconstructed ships. History buffs will also enjoy a trip to the Lofoten War Memorial Museum in Svolvær, with extensive exhibits on WWII.

Svolvaer

Svolvær is also home to one of the most exciting hikes (and climbs) in Northern Norway. Svolvaergeita, also known as „The Goat“, is a 150-meter tall granite rock that attracts the most daring climbers. Neither the hike to the rock nor the actual climb is technically demanding, so this unique experience is suitable even for inexperienced hikers. It’s best to have some climbing experience though – at the very least, you need to know how to use the equipment.

Svolvaergeita offers amazing scenic views of Svolvær, which only get better if you continue hiking to Fløya. In any case, whether you’re into exciting adventures or historic tours, there’s certainly no shortage of fun and interesting things to do in the Lofoten Islands.

Bodø

Bodo Norway

Bodø is a charming town with an incredibly rich history worth exploring. Situated just north of the Arctic Circle, the place is popular for both the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun, as well as excellent hiking trails. With tall mountain peaks, fjords, and plenty of lakes, hikers will have a hard time deciding which trails to explore first.

Lurfjelltind is the tallest mountain in the Bodø municipality and the most difficult hike in the area. There are a few different trails that will take you to the top of the mountain, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it’s easier to find a trail that’s best suited for your skill level, but a curse because they’re not that well marked and it’s challenging to follow a single trail the entire time. The hike to the top of Lurfjelltind can be completed in a day or two, depending on your experience and trail conditions.

Bodo Northern Lights

Another exciting hike takes you to the top of Per Karlsatind, just south of the town of Bodø. This is one of the most popular hikes in the area so don’t be surprised to encounter others on the trail. It’s a steep trail over exposed terrain with some scramble, so it’s not the best option for newbie hikers. But the views along the way make all the effort worth it!

Other than hiking, there’s really not much else to do in the area. Naturally, you can explore the charming town of Bodø, but that will only take a couple of days at the most. Be sure to visit the Norweigan Aviation Museum to see all sorts of vintage and military aircrafts and visit the control tower. The Nordland Museum is also worth a quick visit if you want to learn more about the history of the area and see some really cool vintage stuff.

In addition to all that, I would highly recommend a quick visit to the Bodø Salmon Center. It’s a great place to kill an hour or two, and you can learn a lot about Salmon farming and its importance for the region.  

Senja

Senja Norway

Senja is Norway’s second-largest island situated above the Arctic Circle. Apart from being one of the best locations in Norway to see the Northern Lights, Senja is also very popular with adventurous travelers. It’s known for tobogganing, ski touring, winter fishing, and dog sledding, among other things.

There are countless hiking trails on the island worth exploring, each taking you to a different hidden gem of Senja. Sukkertoppen is one of the most famous hikes on the island that happens to be beginner-friendly, and it rewards the hikers with stunning views. But if you want to do the best hike in Senja, you’ll want to climb to the top of Segla. The short hike to the top of the mountain is steep, challenging, frightening, and rewards you with some of the best views of your life.

Segla

Senja is also home to Ånderdalen National Park that features some of the most beautiful scenery you can see anywhere in Norway. With wetlands, pines, and coastal landscapes, the nature in the national park will make your heart skip a beat. In addition to some of Norway’s best views, the NP also offers Stone Age remains and plenty of birdwatching opportunities.

In case you’re planning to travel to Norway in the summer, you’ll be glad to know that Senja has its fair share of beautiful beaches. It’s possible to swim in the sea on warm summer days, so don’t hesitate to go to the Ersfjord beach or Bøstranda. Beaches in Norway are incredibly picturesque with soft sand and spectacular views of fjords and mountains.

Narvik

Narvik Norway

Narvik is the perfect Northern Norway getaway for skiers. It’s a small town and administrative center of the Narvik municipality. There are a few interesting spots in the town worth checking out, but it wouldn’t take you more than two days to see everything worth your time in Narvik. But if you enjoy rushing down steep slopes while admiring scenic views, you could easily spend a month in this town without getting bored.

The history of this town dates back to the Bronze Age when it used to be a Viking settlement. It was later developed as an ice-free port that operated year-round, which proved to be incredibly valuable during WWII. You can learn a lot more about the incredibly rich history of this charming town in the Narvik War Museum and the Narvik (heritage) Museum.

Narvik Mountains

And if you’re heading to Narvik for the slopes, you should know that there are quite a few different ski resorts in the area. The Narvikfjellet Ski Resort is the most popular one, with 20 kilometers of slopes and five different lifts. Nedre fjellheisstasjon Narvik is also a very popular option, with individual pistes that are up to five kilometers long. There are also options for off-piste and cross-country skiing in the area.

The Narvik municipality is also home to Fjellheisstasjonen mountain, which is often dubbed a hiking paradise. You can ride the cable car to the top of the mountain for some incredible panoramic views, or you can hike to the top if you’re up for an adventure. There are dozens of different hiking trails on the mountain, ranging from easy ones that are suitable for children, to challenging ascents that can scare even the most experienced hikers.

Røst

Rost Norway

Image courtesy of Kent Wang

Røst is a small island municipality south of the Lofoten Islands. It’s quite far away from continental Norway, so getting there is an adventure in itself. You can either fly there and see one of the smallest airports in the world, or you can take a ferry from Å fishing village in the Lofoten Islands.

The island municipality is very small and the entire place is pretty much just one huge fishing village. The main reason why it’s popular with visitors is the cultural life, which is surprisingly rich for such a small place. Every summer, Røst is home to the Lundefestivalen, which draws families from all over Norway for a weekend filled with music and fun.

The fishing village is also home to Querinifest – a festival with a focus on music, food, and stockfish. It’s named after the Querini Opera, which tells the tragic story of Pietro Querini who was shipwrecked in Røst in the 15th century. The opera was performed in 2012 for the first time and it was such a huge success that it gave birth to an annual festival.

Rost Landscape

Image courtesy of jbdodane

In addition to that, there’s one other thing that attracts people from all over the world to this tiny fishing village. Røst is internationally known as an amazing birdwatching locality, so definitely plan a trip here if that’s your thing. There are a lot of seabird colonies on the island, but the diverse habitats in the area attract many different species of birds.

Birdwatching is especially exciting in autumn when certain species start to migrate further north, using the diverse habitats of Røst islands as a stop-over. It’s also worth noting that Røst has one of the largest nesting cliffs in the North Atlantic, with colonies of puffins, kittiwake, cormorants, and shag.

Hammerfest

Hammerfest

Hammerfest is one of the oldest towns in Northern Norway and it boasts a surprisingly rich history that begins with the Stone Age. The municipality was an important hunting and fishing settlement way before it received any market town rights in the 18th century. The town was targeted by the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, and it played a big role during WWII. The destruction and reconstruction of Hammerfest by the Nazis are chronicled in the town’s Reconstruction Museum, which should be one of your first stops when you arrive.

Hammerfest Polar Bear Society

You should also plan to visit The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society. The small museum is free to enter, and it boasts a detailed exhibit on various arctic animals. You can even become a member of the society and get a polar bear pin and a certificate to show for it.

If you’re up for an adventure, it’s highly recommended to explore some of Hammerfest’s hiking trails. The varied landscape is a meeting point for highlands, mountains, and the Arctic Ocean, and the views in the area are magnificent. Best of all, the trails are mostly easy and suitable for everyone willing to hike them. At the very least you can hike up to Mount Salen – it takes just some 10 minutes on a zig-zag path to get there from the town center, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Hammerfest.

Kirkenes

Kirkenes

Kirkenes is located in Finnmark, so technically it’s included if you just visit the Norwegian Lapland. But, the town is so charming and special that it’s possible to visit it without exploring the rest of Finnmark. Kirkenes is located on the border with Russia and Finland, so it’s quite a melting pot of different cultures.

The quaint town has recently become more popular with tourists, mostly because it’s a turning point for the Hurtigruten cruise line. The increased influx of tourists resulted in an improvement of the overall tourist architecture, which is why this tiny town on the edge of the country has more things to do and see than anyone expects.

Kirkenes Snowhotel

Perhaps the most interesting tourist attraction in the town is the Kirkenes Snowhotel. It’s rebuilt every year from fresh snow and it remains open from December to April. You can spend a night at this unique hotel – although it’s always below zero inside, the beds are warm enough that you can get a good night’s sleep.  

Another interesting spot in town is the Andersgrotta WWII Bomb Shelter. The bunker tour is so popular that you need to reserve a spot in advance if you want to see the place. Also, there are quite a few monuments nearby that you can stop and visit on the way to the bomb shelter.

Kirkenes also boasts spectacular nature outside the main town area. You can go on safari tours, hunt king crab, and even ride around in a sleigh dragged by fluffy huskies. If you’re up for it, you can even go across the border to visit the Pasvik Nature Reserve in Russia. With beautiful nature, great hiking trails, and exciting wildlife, it’s certainly an interesting day trip.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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