When you travel to Northern Norway in summer, you're in for just over 75 days of pure, unending sunlight. And keep in mind that while we are talking about the latitude of Siberia, the Gulf Stream keeps this area far milder than you would think (and sunnier, too). These are the essential ingredients to hours and hours of adventure — you just have to take your pick.
#1 Take Part in Sami Culture
The only indigenous group recognized in all of Europe are the Sami, and their culture is going strong in Northern Norway and Lapland. They speak a variety of Sami dialects and traditionally they've been reindeer herders, living simply and in harmony with the land. There are only 80,000 or so left, but their culture is experiencing a boom - foresight preserving the way of generations past.
And you're more than welcome to take part in the fun. The Sápmi Culture Park is a totally hands-on experience — think sampling Sami cuisine, listening to music around the fire, or taking a break in a traditional Sami tent, or lavvu. If time allows, check out the Sami Centre for Contemporary Art in Karasjok or take a boat to Ukko Island, a sacred village that sits across the waters of Inari, Lapland's largest lake.
#2 Hike Morning, Noon, and Night
You're not in one of the prettiest countries in the world to stay indoors the whole time. The hiking opportunities in Northern Norway (especially in summer!) would take weeks just to write down, much less complete. It really depends on where you are and what kind of scenery you're looking for.
A solid start — for anyone — is hiking along the Finnmark Coast. It's doable for most able hikers and yet still offers absolutely incredible views. That being said, for a truly easy hike, check out one of the ancient trails that leads to the Slettnes Lighthouse or get your feet on the Hetta-Pallas Trail, a pretty hike through Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. For moderate treks, look to the Nordlandsruta from Bjørnfjell to Børgefjell National Park (it's over 300 miles with plenty of huts dotting the way); one of the mountains on the coast, like Torghatten or Møysalen Mountain; or the Queen’s Route in Vesterålen.
And if you're made of nothing but steel, try your hand at the Nordkalottruta, or the Arctic Trail. It's 500 miles long, straddles Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and you'll need your own tent. Otherwise, Stetind Mountain, the national mountain of Norway, may also be calling your name.
#3 Take to the Water
Dive in the world’s strongest tidal current, the Saltstraumen. Go on a whale safari out of Andenes. Search for puffins on the island of Bleiksøya. Take a charter boat out of Svolvær around the Lofoten Islands and to the Trollfjord. Fish the North Cape for cod, halibut, haddock, and more. Kayak out to Svartisen, the second largest glacier in Norway (keep an eye out for porpoises), or paddle around Svalbard and the Islands of Meløy.
Or if you just want to chill on the beach at Mjelle (near Bodø), that's valid, too.
#4 Go for your Midnight Workout
When's the last time you decided to break a sweat after everyone else went to sleep?
Practice your late-night swing at Bodø Golf Course, the northernmost golf course in the world. Climb Russelfjell, a peak in the Lyngen Alps that peers over the Lyngenfjord and Ullsfjord and out to the open sea. Go for a midnight walk on a glacier in Svalbard. Bike your way through fishing hamlets and towns in the Lofoten Islands, cycling from Svolvær to Å. Bungee jump into the Kåfjord Valley. Hike any of the treks mentioned above. It's up to you, and time is never an issue.
#5 Travel with Your Tastebuds
You may know that Norway has some amazing fruit come summertime — you can hike the hillsides picking cloudberries and bilberries (similar to blueberries) at your leisure. And up north? It doesn't get more amazing than the strawberries. It has to do with the cool summer climate and plenty of sunlight, so, yes, they'll likely be better than what you're used to back home!
And then there's the seafood. Up north, hit up just about anywhere on the coast (don't forget to scour the markets!) and look for king crab or arctic char, two of the region's specialties. Or better yet, head to Kirkenes (in Finnmark) and hop on a boat to catch your own. Norwegian king crab with garlic mayonnaise on fresh-baked bread...you'll never go back.
Pro tip: Lapland's capital is Rovaniemi, and the best restaurants there will specialize in all of the above.
#6 Catch an Arctic Summer Festival
Northern Norway isn't all reindeer. You'll find bustling towns and cities basking in the daylight and celebrating the same way all of us celebrate: with lots of food, culture, and music - and as often as possible.
The list is long, but we'll keep it short: The Lofotr (a Viking festival with markets and duels), Riddu Riddu (a huge culture and music festival celebrating indigenous groups), the Træna Festival (a music festival in the country's oldest fishing village), the Festival of Northern Norway (a celebration of music and theatre), and the Nordland Music Festival (practically every genre you can imagine) are just a few.
#7 Chase the Sun via Cable Car
If you've gotten this far, you know that Northern Norway has sunlight in spades during the summer. You should view the Midnight Sun from the water and from the hills, sure, but you've also got to view it lighting up entire cities — there's something about the combination of city lights and sunny glow that is absolutely magical.
In Tromsø, ride the funicular up Storsteinen on Mount Fløya, sitting around 1,000 feet above sea level. You'll get a fantastic panorama of the city harbor all the way up until 1 AM, with rides departing every half hour. A full restaurant, Fjellstua, is up there too, should you be hankering for a great meal with some of the best views in the city. Try to time your excursion with one of the midnight concerts at Tromsø's Arctic Cathedral. The nearly 3,000-pipe organ is quite the draw, though the building itself — concert or not — is also worth a stop for its impeccable Scandinavian design.