There is a lot what has surprised us when we arrived there. Our first way from Finland went to Nordkapp and then south and west.
Housing an living
North Norway seems even more remote and “lost” than north of the Finland. Villages are smaller and sometimes it is just few houses along the road. It has very interesting “problems”. To most of those houses just a small gravel/rock/mud path leads which means no road in a winter. I was surprised, that in Finland, they were plowing nearly every tiny road, but not here. Yes, quite a lot of Finnish people in Lapland has their own small plow or other way how to keep their road clean.
Is your house 10 km far from the main road? Meh, your problem, get a snowmobile or skis. In Finland it seems that snowmobile is mostly used just for fun, here it will be more for “work”.
Because Norway has a lot of mountains, it means, that some places are cut form all civilization sometimes even for a whole winter and then a snowmobile can be a lifesaver. It is not uncommon not to be able to use a road for days or even weeks. If you are travelling in a winter, be prepared!
The architecture is basically the same as in Finland. From south it starts to have that red (originally) wooden look somewhere from Latvia. In southern Norway is also quite a lot of central European style houses.
They are everywhere and it looks like everyone has them. And they are borrowing them. Caravan shops are even in smaller cities.
Free parking places for (not only) caravans are nearly everywhere below the arctic circle and above the circle it seems no one cares where they park (unless it is a private place).
Some camping places actually have nearly no space for actual camping or someone else’s van. They are completely made from caravans, some are even connected to small houses or are making housing units which look like they are suited for living on a Mars.
This country is very welcoming to the caravanism – or at least well prepared.
Roads and speed
They say, Norway has a great roads and Norwegians are nearly obsessed with speed measuring. It may be true, but above the arctic circle it looks like no one cares, as in northern Finland. Well yeah, if someone will call a police or they will see you, then you may have a huge problem.
But, according to a locals it doesn’t seems as it happens very often. Finns drive fast (in north at least), Norwegians too (also in north). More south you go, more “cultivated” on roads they become.
What is the risk in north anyway? You may guessed it right: reindeer and in winter it is snow and ice…technically even in summer. Sometimes you can meet also a moose. You can injure only yourself, as you won’t meet many cars or people on the road. And of course, if you will hit a reindeer, you must tell the owner or police, that you have hit them, because all reindeer in a Lapland have their owner. There are no wild reindeer, just semi-wild.
And the road condition? Well, they are not in excellent condition. Main road looks more like a small side road between villages. Surface is not even, sometimes it has holes and the road isn’t very wide. Also, it does not lead straight, so realistically, you can’t drive very fast, but locals don’t care.
If you are driving in a north in winter time, be really careful even if you have some experience with snow driving. It is hazardous to drive with all-year tyres as they are useful only if there is 1 cm of a road slush. It can also be dangerous with normal winter tyres, because roads are often with a lot of ice and snow. Use studded tyres. They are not foolproof, but they are most safe and can help you a lot. If you drive badly, even studded tyres won’t save you.
Amazingly stupid thing is, Norwegians don’t know how to overtake. They expect you to stop at nearest rest place even though it means you will be braking as crazy. If you will try to avoid this dangerous maneuver they will be driving behind you very long time and ignoring all those straight wide road sections where they can just go. Even if you slow down, get on a side of the road as much as you can, they will slow down too and will be just following you. If they will lost their patience and will try to overtake, it will be at dangerous place, usually in the curve, where they have no chance to see what is behind and most probably it will be uphill. They simply have no idea how to do it.
Tunnels and hills
You will have two very common things while driving. Hills and tunnels. Even Norwegians are obviously tired of driving in mountains so they are building tunnels. In south, they are very common, nice and tidy. In north…it is different story. It is just a hole in the ground with road and lights (if you are lucky enough).
You may find a lot of water, ice and fog in the tunnel. Also, some of those tunnels are very narrow and two trucks will barely fit, or not fit at all. If you are driving bigger car as we do, be prepared to meet a truck in tunnels. It is not nice and you may not fit especially at the entrances, which are often made just for one car.
Hills are the other thing. Snow, wind, rain, low clouds (leads to “fog”), crazy curves, slippery surface, steep uphills and downhills. I guess you have the idea. Nothing for unskilled driver or even a beginner. It can be snowing even in July, so be prepared.
Obviously, Norwegians have the idea, that regular Finnish sauna is some kind of torturing device made for killing people at the end. They don’t do saunas and if they do, it will be just mild, quite cold sauna with about 70°C inside and most probably no “löyly” – well, no steam inside. I guess I’ve spent a bit too much time in Finland.
I think, they just don’t know how to do this whole sauna process, as it requires getting used to the heat – especially if you have low blood pressure and overheating issues as I do.
If you are into climbing, this will be place for you. I know there is lot of good climbing places thorough Europe, but this one has a great potential. You can find rocks or climbable wall nearly everywhere.
If you don’t find any, you can always make some, if you know how. With boulders it is especially easy, as you don’t need much equipment and you don’t risk much.
If you are a very good climber, you most probably know about nice “cave” in Flatanger, where Adam Ondra made 3.9. 2017 a record, 9c. Technically it is not a boulder, but you heavily need boulder technique and be very devoted to be able to climb something like that. That road is nicely named Silence, and they made nice video about it. And there is also plenty of easy routes.
You can go to swim in the at any time in the summer. It is awesome. Only thing is, that even in south you need to be okay with water (sometimes) deeply below +20°C. Mostly people just go and dip in the sea to cool in a hot summer days.
Lakes are usually better for the fun, as they warm up more quickly and you actually can have better swimming experience.
For those, who thinks that even a lake is too cold, try a shallow river. They can be warmest as it is relatively small amount of water to be heated. In a hot summer day any body of water can be welcome.
Good point is to avoid swamps, because there you can be eaten by mosquitoes if you will stop. When you are still moving, it is okay.
If you want to go to swim in a winter, try any rare sauna you can find, or borrow a drysuit and you can even go diving.
As people might think how cold, harsh unwelcoming nature above the polar circle can be, it also can be pretty and green. Only you can’t be in a mountains, as plants there are much smaller and rarer.
Then any natural depression is filled either with water or with a lush green and it is not necessary a swamp. So you really can be laying in a t-shirt and skirt on an arctic meadow and be looking at clouds or grazing reindeer or read a book next to the waterfall…it is up to you and it is awesome.
One thing to remember – hottest days can even be up to 30°C, but you will be happy if there will be one like that in a whole year. Summer temperature above polar circle is about usually +10°C to +25°C, but it depends on a place and altitude a lot!