- Ride Tromsø's gondolas, called Seal and Polar Bear, for panoramic views
- Try the local bidos stew with reindeer meat, veggies, and broth
- Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site for centuries-old rock carvings
- Learn about the region's indigenous Sami people
- Drive to the Finnish/Russian border to see a WWII bunker
Winter lovers seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations in Northern Norway will be drawn this road trip through a portion of the Arctic Circle, allowing you the freedom to drive at your own pace and stop as you please. And with overnights in four memorable spots, this itinerary is ideal for those who want to make the most of their week with a mix of jaw-dropping rural landscapes and small city culture (Tromsø).
A major portion of this itinerary focuses on the country's wild and untamed Northern coast, which offers a surprising amount of history and culture, in addition to outdoor opportunities. Your self-drive tour begins in Tromsø (Northern Norway's largest city) before you head east to Alta to visit some of the oldest rock art in existence today (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). From here, drive to Karasjok and learn about the indigenous Sami people, and then keep driving to the Finnish/Russian border.
Stop and take part in a range of winter activities, or simply take photos and explore the villages by foot. You'll also have the chance to join a range of unique excursions with an English-speaking local guide — one that shouldn't be missed is the Northern Lights chase where you'll end the night with a campfire and hot chocolate.
|Arrive in Tromsø
|Tromsø City Tour
|Tromsø - Drive to Alta
|Alta - Drive to Karasjok
|Karasjok - Drive to Kirkenes
Day 1: Arrive in Tromsø
Welcome to Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway!
Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, Tromsø is a lively place with 65,000 inhabitants. In addition to its lovely scenery and rich history, the city has a large student population and is famous for its robust music and film culture, so get out and explore this self-proclaimed "Gateway to the Arctic".
A good place to start is taking a ride on the cable car, which runs up to a mountain ledge in just four minutes. The two gondolas, known as Seal and Polar Bear, each have a capacity of 28 passengers. From the viewing platform at the upper station, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Tromsø and the surrounding islands, mountains, and fjords.
If you want to stay for dinner, Fjellstua restaurant on top offers dinner with views. Otherwise, head back down to Tromsø for a variety of pubs and restaurants.
Day 2: Tromsø City Tour
After breakfast, you will have the whole day to explore Tromsø. Here are a few suggested tours and activities that can be arranged with local guides:
- Walk Through History: Meet your local guide and set off on a three-hour walking tour of Tromsø. Visit the largest city in the north — street by street — and take in its rich culture and beautiful architecture, including historic wooden houses dating as far back as 1789. View relics and buildings dating back to medieval times, and learn about the city’s extensive fishing culture, which was established when trade in Norway was at its peak. You will also tour the stunning Arctic Cathedral.
- Northern Lights Chase: In the evening, get ready to chase the Northern Lights! Your guide will pick you up in Tromsø and take you on this fun after-dark excursion as they find the best locations away from the city lights for viewing and photographing this spectacular natural occurrence. Throughout the evening, your guide will offer interesting information about the Northern Lights, including why and how they occur, as well as legends and folklore of the indigenous Sami people. Your guide will even be able to assist you in adjusting your camera settings for the best photographs. If the weather allows, there will be a campfire with hot chocolate and marshmallows to end your night.
If you remain in the city in the evening, great restaurants and lively nightlife await.
Day 3: Tromsø - Drive to Alta
After breakfast in Tromsø, you'll hit the open road and drive six hours (397 km) to the small town of Alta, which stands at the head of Altafjord.
This gorgeous area offers forests, mountain plateaus, and dramatic coastal landscapes. While traveling with your own car, you'll have numerous opportunities to stop for photos or short hikes along the route, but be sure to wear warm layers and plan accordingly based on the type of activity you'd like to enjoy during the winter months.
On arrival, visit the Alta Museum, featuring Northern Europe’s largest concentration of rock art made by hunter-gatherers. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of rock carvings and rock paintings made from 7,000 to 2,000 years ago and depicts rituals, symbolism and religious beliefs from the pre-Christian ages. If there is snow on the ground, you will not be able to view the rock art itself, but the museum still makes a worthwhile stop on your way into Alta.
The northernmost hotel in the world made entirely of ice and snow is located just outside of Alta, which also makes a memorable stop. For the adventurous, it is possible to spend the night!
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Alta - Drive to Karasjok
After breakfast in Alta, you'll get back on the road and drive 2.5 to 3.5 hours (200 km) to Karasjok, depending on which route you take.
This area of Northern Norway is inland from the coast and is part of the vast Finnmark Plateau. In Karasjok, you will get to experience Sami culture -- the indigenous people of Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. While here, visit the Sami National Museum, where you can learn about the ancient art of knife making. If there's time, view the oldest church in Finnmark (dating back to 1807), and learn about the rituals and beliefs of the Sami shamans before Christianity came to Norway.
Day 5: Karasjok - Drive to Kirkenes
After breakfast in Karasjok, you will drive 3.5 hours (265 km) to Kirkenes.
This small town is located close to the Russian/Finnish border and has a rich and dramatic history. Be sure to visit the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, which is made from scratch out of ice and snow each year, and the memorial for the 91 women burned at the stake during the witch hunts in the 17th century. You can also tour WWII bunkers originally created to protect the citizens of Kirkenes from German attacks.
Once the sun sets, you'll have the chance to view the Northern Lights on your own. To experience traditional Norwegian cuisine, head to Gapahuken for dinner.
Day 6: Explore Kirkenes
After breakfast, spend your day exploring Kirkenes. You can choose from a number of activities, including:
- Dog Sledding: You'll get to sled along the 2.4 mile (4km) trail and have a meet and greet with over 300 huskies and their puppies. This is a truly intimate and authentic experience where you will enjoy hot coffee, tea, and biscuits along the trail and have time to hear more about the history of dog sledding from the experienced guides.
- Snowmobile Tours: Explore the Arctic and get your adrenaline pumping on a fast-paced ride on a snowmobile.
- Ice Fishing: Try your luck with an ice-fishing guide as you head out to the frozen tundra and drop a line through the ice.
- King Crab Safari: Head out with a guide and experience an authentic king crab hunt and harvest on the unforgiving Barents Sea.
You can also visit the Grenselandmuseet (Borderland Museum focused on World War II history) and shop at the Russian market for authentic, handmade goods.
Be sure to take in the landscape of this Arctic paradise and soak up the history of one of the only places in the region that was not burned to the ground during the German retreat in WWII.
Day 7: Depart Norway
After breakfast, head to the airport and catch your departing flight. Although it's time to say goodbye to Norway, the memories from your trip will surely stay with you forever!