How to experience Norway in the winter
Norway is a true winter wonderland
From October to March, the Scandinavian country’s impressive landscapes are covered by a white blanket of snow, juxtaposing the everblue waters of the fjords and reflecting the otherworldly purples of the Northern Lights. Norwegians relish being outdoors in the winter; taking advantage of the endless ski terrains and the absence of the summer crowds.
But even if you’re not an avid skier yourself, there’s a wealth of activities you can experience if you travel to Norway during the winter!
Experience the Northern Lights
The elusive Aurora Borealis, the world’s most spectacular light show, is a winter bucket list item for every traveler! Created when energized sun particles collide into the Earth’s upper atmosphere and get redirected toward the North Pole (due to our planet’s magnetic field), these dancing waves of green and purple lights, only visible in certain parts of the world in wintertime, have fascinated people for thousands of years.
Of course, the natural phenomena are unpredictable. Arctic Norway however, aka the part of the country that lies above the Arctic Circle, is your best bet to witness the Northern Lights — since the sun doesn’t rise high above the horizon for months. The Tromsø region in particular offers some of the best Aurora Borealis views, especially if you have a local guide with you.
Fish like a true Norwegian
Winter fishing has been a part of Norwegian culture for millennia; a process the locals have had to finetune into an art, as their survival depended on it during harsh winters. Today, Norway remains a fishing nation, with cod, trout and char being plentiful particularly in northern waters. Even if you’ve never fished before, there’s something about the Arctic landscape that makes this a truly meditative experience!
There are many different ways you can experience authentic Norwegian winter fishing. One of them is to go on a guided fishing trip off the Lofoten coast. The Lofoten islands have a rich cod fishing tradition — in fact, the World cod fishing championship takes place in Svolvær. Aboard a traditional fishing vessel from Svolvær, you’ll have a great time trying to catch some of that cod!
Another way to fish like a true Norwegian is ice fishing. Ice fishing is an ancient technique that makes an opening in the ice of a frozen river or lake and uses fishing lines or spears to catch fish through that opening. This technique has been used a lot in the Sami heartland and you could book a tour to experience it. With the proper gear and expert guidance, the frozen lakes of the Arctic wilderness can surprise you with their abundance!
Meet the Arctic Ocean whales
Because fjord waters are so rich in fish, Arctic Norway is a favorite spot for whales all year long. There’s the black and white orcas, who migrate into the waters around Tromsø in the winter time and the distinctive humpback whales who usually visit in the summer, but can be spotted during wintertime as well. If you go on a whale safari, in the waters around Tromsø you may have a chance to spot both!
Credit: Brim Explorer
Explore the iconic Lofoten mountains
The mountains that frame the Lofoten islands look like something out of a postcard all year long. But in the winter, with the swarm of tourists gone, you can traverse them at your own pace and get exclusive views to the majestic, snowy terrain. And if the idea of hiking a snowy or icy mountain sounds like too much work, don’t worry: you could also go on a snowshoe hike, which is much easier and suitable for the whole family. That’s how the Vikings of old used to move around after all!
Drive to the end of the Earth
Did you know that Norway is home to Europe’s northernmost point? The North Cape, located in Nordkapp Municipality in Finnmark, feels a bit like the end of the Earth: a plateau over the Barents sea, where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean meet with those of the Arctic Ocean. And did you know you can actually drive all the way to the North Cape with an ATV — and enjoy amazing views along the way?
Credit: 71° Nord
Hang out with reindeer during a polar night
Yes, like Rudolph... minus the shiny nose! Reindeer herding is a big part of the indigenous Sami culture, so if you visit a traditional Sami village during wintertime, you’ll have the chance to interact with these beautiful animals. How about hand-feeding them a carrot or an apple? Or go on a sleigh-ride with them? It’s the perfect way to spend a polar night — and perhaps even catch some Northern Lights while you’re out there!
Credit: Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
Let huskies guide you home
Speaking of sleigh-rides, winter in Norway is a great opportunity to try another old tradition: dog sledding! Historically, the people who lived in the Arctic regions had to rely a lot on dogs for transportation of goods and humans. And perhaps you’ve heard of the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who used god sleds when he became the first person to reach the south pole.
Nowadays dog sledding in Arctic Norway is more of a leisure activity, but you can totally feel like an explorer amidst the white landscape, as friendly huskies carry you on the trip of a lifetime… Just one more proof that winter in Norway is full of amazing activities for all types of travelers!
Credit: Beito Husky Tours