North Norway according to our Arctic expedition guides
Out of all the Arctic areas we explore, Northern Norway is probably the most underrated.
Falling just inside the Arctic Circle, North Norway is a wildlife-rich span of majestic fjords, enchanting islands, and deep-forested Nordic coastline comprising roughly 35% of the mainland and encompassing its three northernmost counties: Finnmark, Troms, and Nordland.
We run our Northern Norway cruises on our two historic schooners, Rembrandt van Rijn and Noorderlicht, and our emphasis is hands-on sailing, wilderness skiing, whale watching, and of course, views of the magical northern lights (aurora borealis).
Recently we asked our expedition leaders their opinions on and experiences in this scenic Norwegian area. We received these illuminating answers.
Edward Bekker’s Northern Norway skiing story
So here we are, ski-touring above the Langfjorden in the province of Finnmark, our base the comfortable 100-year-old ship Rembrandt van Rijn, and it’s mid-April.
With the Zodiacs we have gone ashore at the very end of this deep fjord, and we are the only people around. It’s a beautiful, sunny, cold day, and there is no rush.
We’ve got nearly 24 hours of daylight now, after all.
We go up on the southwest side of Langfjordjøkelen Glacier to the highest point at 1,084 meters (3,556 feet), and it is a long but easy ski in quiet alpine terrain. Up on the summit, we enjoy great views of the deep blue fjords around us and the hanging glaciers of Øksfjordjøkelen nearby.
What else can you wish for?
We ski a great, powdery, steep north-facing run followed by soft and springy snow all the way down to the ocean in the Trolldalen. Then we’re picked up by the Zodiacs, enjoying a hot coffee (or cold beer) back on the ship while sailing to the next fjord.
Jan Belgers and the fairy tale experience of North Norway
North Norway during winter is for me, even after more than 25 years of guiding, still a magical experience.
The short daylight hours can be like a fairy tale, when the fjords and dramatic mountains are wrapped in the yellow and orange colors of a long-lasting sunrise merging into sunset.
And then at night, the vivid green veil of the northern lights illuminates the northern skies.
Tobias Brehm’s tips on Northern Norway clothing
Sailing the fjords of Northern Norway during the winter on Rembrandt van Rijn is a magnificent experience, a true highlight in itself.
The ship and surrounding mountains are covered in snow, and the winter air is fresh and crisp.
Enjoying the scenery from the white outside decks and exploring the mountains, often covered in meter-deep snow, is a key experience and requires warm layered clothing and sturdy footwear to maximize safety and enjoyment.
Massimo Candolini remembers a special journey
No one can steal this special journey!
I am standing on the dock, watching Rembrandt sail to her next destination, and I’m in my thoughts and memories of the last experience of Northern Norway…
The fog on the first day, the shining sun of yesterday, the sharp curves of the untouched snow, the lonely sensation on the Langfjordjokelen Glacier and the high, flat, windy, wide summits of Finnmark.
And what’s more, the effort to climb the steep slope, the short break to take pictures, the emotion of gazing at the fjord on the opposite side of the mountain, the summit lost in the fog, and the summit blown by the wind.
A car can be scratched and jewels can be lost, but no one can steal my special journey!
Still, there are a few skiing tips you should know. The quality of the snow in Northern Norway is usually good, but the best skis to use there are somewhere between wide and narrow.
Go for a width of 95 – 105mm under the foot and a weight of 2,500 – 2,800g per pair, front rocker, light rocker tail, classic camber. Combine these with light pin bindings and ski stop. And remember, it’s better to put a few round, beautiful lines in the snow than a hundred mediocre, shapeless curves!
And don’t forget your helmet to be safe, warm, and above all, trendy.
Christian Engelke and his highlight hike in North Norway
It’s hard to name only one highlight of this season, but certainly one snowshoe hike on the island of Skorpa stands out.
This North Norway island is abandoned, but the remains of the former settlement and the old church graveyard give the place a special feel.
During that hike we had about one meter of fresh, untouched, powdery snow, as we zig-zagged between several viewpoints to the summit of the island. It was pure pleasure to lead the hike and find the best route in these demanding but beautiful conditions.
Christoph Gnieser on the northern lights and more
The word is finally out: Northern Norway isn’t just a fab destination for a summer vacation, but also offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities in the throes of winter.
Whether it’s wildlife, history, or adrenaline you’re after, the coastline north of the Arctic Circle delivers time and again!
Be it on skis, snowshoes, or just winter boots with a good tread, the crisp winter days in the Arctic terrain of North Norway lend themselves to all sorts of exciting shore landings.
Don’t be turned off by seemingly short days, either. What you may miss in daylight hours, occasional aurora sightings more than make up for – provided you get to enjoy clear skies.
Birgit Lutz’s love of the Northern Norway darkness
Personal highlight: darkness.
Before leading the first tours during the North Norwegian winter, I wondered, “What shall I do with my guests, if it is dark so many hours?”
You may think the most amazing adventure during a trip to Northern Norway is to be surrounded by 50 to 100 orcas around the vessel. But for me and many guests, despite the fantastic experience with whales, it is indeed the darkness.
Arriving at unknown places in the last light of the short day, snowshoeing into the birch forests, and enjoying silent times in a dark forest was a very, very special experience for us.
“When asked what my guests heard during a silent moment on the uninhabited island of Skorpa, I think the best answer so far was given by a British gentleman…
“I heard wilderness.”
Insider tip: Bring your own thermos cup with lid so you can drink tea peacefully on deck.
Beau Pruneau on the importance of binoculars in North Norway
A personal highlight for me in Northern Norway is the ability to do some proper hikes and reach decent vertical peaks.
While Northern Norway hikes are more strenuous than some of the hikes in Svalbard and Antarctica, leading a faster group there is a pleasure for someone like me, who loves to exercise and push myself to the limit.
Places like Vannvag and Nord Lenangen allow our passengers to really stretch their legs and hike some proper small mountains.
Vannvag is a mostly overlooked North Norway village where almost everyone onboard can reach some low alpine-style hills. The landscape is vastly different, with a very open feel to it. Feeling like you are over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) high, while really being under 300 meters, is an amazing feeling.
Also, there is abundant mountain hare, ptarmigan, and river otters near the pier, and sometimes there are white-tailed eagles around the harbor.
As for a tip, bring binoculars!
Too many people overlook this essential item of expedition gear. Even when the wildlife is close, the ability to study Northern Norway’s incredible animals in detail is truly fascinating.