Experience the real Arctic: Visit Norway, not Iceland

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Be it Iceland or Norway, traveling to the northern most part of the world could be the most rewarding journey. For a true comparison account of the Nordic region, we’ll have to consider the Swedish Lapland as well, but for the scope of this article, let’s put the most popular Arctic country Iceland against some of the best the region has to offer.

Iceland is an amazing country which has so much to offer. Ever since we’ve used Instagram and kept tabs on the amazing lives of other travellers, Iceland has always popped up from time to time. Such is the beauty. From the blue lagoons to the geysers, from Silfra to the ice caves; the country is blessed with natural beauty. Add northern lights to it, it’s a priceless experience.

Having said that, there’s another side to this story which often goes untold. While planning for a trip to the Nordic region, I did a lot of reading and talking to other travellers to pick between Iceland and other Nordic countries and based on the collated information, I chose not to go to Iceland for the following reasons:

1. Iceland is very touristy. It’s a small country with a population of 300,000 but the country sees over 6 million tourists per year. So, you’ll see way more Americans and other tourists than the locals. It’s gotten so much adverse that the Icelandic government is rolling out reforms to restrict the wave of tourists pouring into Iceland

2. The important sights of interest like Gulfuss, blue lagoon etc. get crowded even in the winters

3. You’ll have to travel a lot within the country to cover the top recommended things to do, which means a lot of time in the cab or van. Most common trip is the 300 km golden circle which covers the basic Icelandic points of interest

4. Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is a major party town. So if you make it there, you’ll definitely will be hopping between Reykjavik’s famous pubs for a day or two

5. Norway offers much better chances of experiencing Northern lights

For the above reasons, I felt, although Iceland would be a great place to travel, it fell short of promising a real arctic experience. So, I began looking into the neighbouring countries and I found a complete Arctic adventure in Norway. Let me take you through some amazing Norwegian experiences that is sure to make you reconsider your trip to Iceland.

Norway, on the other hand, is a relatively bigger country with exceptional picturesque landscapes. Start your journey from Oslo, experience the city life and travel to Trondheim. You could also stop at Bergen first, and then move to Trondheim proceeding your journey all the way to northern Norway. But in the interest of time and similar landscapes up north, I skipped Bergen.

Photo of Trondheim, Norway by Subramanian Ramvijji

Trondheim is a unique city with great architecture to marvel at. From the iconic colored houses to the diverse local food market, Trondheim welcomes travelers of all appetite. When here, don’t forget to take a bicycle tour around the city, it is an amazing way to explore this beautiful town. The Bakklandet area of this town is famous for its old wooden homes, cobbled streets and café culture.

Photo of Lofoten, Norway by Subramanian Ramvijji
Photo of Lofoten, Norway by Subramanian Ramvijji

Next up is the famous Lofoten islands which lies within the Arctic circle zone. Lofoten is hand down the best place to experience the Fjords. The majestic mountains, the open seas, beaches and open land make up this out of this world archipelago. Although July is recommended as the best time to be here, the Lofoten winters bring out a charm of its own. When here, do plan to hop between the famous islands like Reine, Hamnoy to mention a few. A cruise ride can add to the expense but for a first time visit, it is a definite yes! Give yourself enough time to slow down, hike, camp and relax in Lofoten.

Photo of Tromsø, Norway by Subramanian Ramvijji
Photo of Tromsø, Norway by Subramanian Ramvijji

The last part is to travel further north to Tromso, the largest city in northern Norway. Tromso is a perfect setting for your Arctic adventure. From taking sledge dogs tours to living in ice hotels, from an almost sure northern lights show to the vast spread wilderness; Tromso has got you covered. Tromso is one of the most popular places to experience the northern lights. Not only does it promise a sighting, if you’re lucky, be prepared for a long 30 mins to 2 hour shows.

Author’s notes:

This post is purely my personal opinion on skipping Iceland and visiting Norway for a holistic Arctic experience. If you would like to visit Norway for an all sponsored wild Arctic adventure, check out Fjallraven Polar – a 300km dog sledged journey across the Acrtic. I’m participating in the same and would really like to be chosen. If you can, please vote for me in the competition and send me to Fjallraven Polar: http://polar.fjallraven.com/contestant/?id=1876

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