Northern Norway is a vast and remote corner of Europe. Famous for its picturesque landscapes and harsh climatic conditions, it is a mecca for those in search of the Northern Lights. The rugged, weather-beaten and seemingly endless coastline remains ice-free all year, providing homes and livelihoods for the half-million Norwegians who make this land their home.
- Where I went, and for how long
I wanted to see the Northern Lights so in March last year I decided to visit the land of moose and fish. My whistle-stop tour of Northern Norway lasted 7 days.
- The Journey
I imagined travelling to the Arctic to be full of difficulties and logistical nightmares but in fact it is very easy. One arrives in Oslo after a depressingly uneventful flight from London and simply takes a cheap and quick connecting flight to Tromsø, Norway's largest city above the Arctic Circle. Total cost: £92. Duration: 5 hours
The intrepid adventurer in me rebuffed at the idea of entering Europe's last great wilderness on Scandinavia's answer to Ryanair so I decided to travel over land (and sea) into the north. I took a train from Oslo to Norway's medieval capital, Trondheim before continuing my journey north to Bodø, a small city just above the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately this small and rather charmless city is the end of the line for Norwegian trains. To travel northwards from here one must take the Hurtigruten, a ferry service and artery of coastal Norway which connects the hanseatic city of Bergen in the south to Kirkenes on the Russian border in the extreme North-East. Arriving in Tromsø by sea with the majestic Northern Lights encircling the harbour was well worth the extra time and expense. Total cost: £242. Duration: 43 hours.
Northern Lights – I was lucky enough to see them, many tourists do not, so make sure you have other worthwhile and interesting things to do in case you're disappointed.
Lofoten Islands – These beautiful islands rise from the sea to form a chain of island mountains which are home to huge bird colonies and hundreds of small fishing villages. There are many whale safaris and crab fishing excursions here.
Nidaros Cathedral – Completed 1300ad this is one of the oldest and largest medieval churches in Norway. It is the burial place for Norway’s patron saint, St Olaf and well worth a visit to hear the beautiful choir.
The Sami – The Sami people are the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, most now live modern lives but some still practise traditions like reindeer herding and joiking. The Sami cultural centres of Kautokaino and Karasjok are great places to learn about the Sami way of life.
The Food – I didn't like the food much, fish and frozen pizza seemed to be the staple diet of the locals. The restaurants looked nice but they were too expensive for me.
The accommodation – I stayed in a hostel and it was very expensive and not very comfortable. It was warm though, perhaps in the arctic one must be satisfied with that.
- Everything will cost more than you think it will so take more money even than you think is necessary. Budget at least £100 per day after travel costs and you should be okay.
- The weather changes in a matter of minutes up there so take advantage of every cloudless night you have - you might not get another one.
- Try to talk to locals in their own language, even if you only know a few words. They will be much friendlier and open to conversation.
- For more information on Norway and what to do there, visit the Visit Norway website .