North Norway Counties


Nordland is a county in the North Norway region, bordering Troms in the north, Nord-Trøndelag in the south, Norrbottens Län in Sweden to the east, Västerbottens Län to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean (Norwegian Sea) to the west. County administration is in Bodø. The remote Arctic island Jan Mayen has been administered from Nordland since 1995.

In the southern part is Vega, listed on the Unesco World Heritage list. The history of Nordland is a tale of gifts from the sea: One of the most productive seas in the world providing food year-round since ancient times, the same sea creates a climate more moderate than any other place in the Arctic.

Nordland has a rugged coastline, with many fjords. From south to north, the main fjords are; Bindalsfjord, Vefsnfjord, Ranfjord, Saltfjord-Skjerstadfjord, Folda, Tysfjord, Ofotfjord (the longest), and Andfjord, which is shared with Troms county. The best-known of these is perhaps Vestfjord, which is not really a fjord, but an open stretch of sea between the Lofoten islands and the mainland. The Raftsundet strait, with its famous branch Trollfjord, is the shortest waterway connecting Lofoten and Vesterålen. The continental shelf is very narrow west of Andenes, nowhere else in Norway is the deep ocean only a few miles from shore. Saltstraumen whirlpool is just southeast of Bodø, and Moskstraumen is located in southern Lofoten.

Steep mountains near the sea and an almost flat lowland area in between the mountains and the sea (Strandflaten, coastal brim) is very typical of the long coastline in Nordland, and Strandflaten often continues out from the shore, resulting in numerous islets and skerries, of which Helgeland have thousands; these islands are usually mountainous, but with smaller or larger strandflate areas. The southern part of Norway’s largest island (apart from Svalbard), Hinnøya is in Nordland, as is the third largest island, Langøya. In the fjords, the coastal brim is much less developed: There might be a more gradual slope, with hills towards the mountains, or no lowland at all. There are often valleys at the head of fjords, usually with a river at the center of the valley.

Mo i Rana, Mosjøen, and Rognan are situated in such valleys. Norway’s second largest glacier, Svartisen, the second largest lake, Røssvatnet, and the second deepest fjord, Tysfjord (897 meters) are all located in Nordland. The largest river (by waterflow) is Vefsna which forms the Laksforsen waterfall.

The Saltfjellet mountain range forms a natural border between Helgeland and Salten, and is where the Arctic Circle cuts through the county. The western part of this mountain range is dominated by steep mountains and fjord inlets, with glaciers stretching towards the sea, while the eastern part of the mountains is more gentle and rounded, with some forested valleys, well suited for hiking. The interior of Nordland, towards the border with Sweden, is dominated by the Kjølen Mountains (Scandinavian Mountains). The highest mountain in Nordland is Oksskolten (1,915 meters /6,300 ft.) in Okstindan range, the second highest is Suliskongen (1,907 meters) in Fauske, and the third is Storsteinfjellet (1,894 meters) in Narvik. Stetind in Tysfjord has been voted Norway’s national mountain.

There are many glaciers in the mountains, such as Blåmannsisen, Okstindbreen, Sulitjelmaisen, and Frostisen. Seven of the 15 largest glaciers in continental Norway are located in Nordland.

Click here to find lighthouses in Nordland county.



Troms or Romsa (Sami language) is a county in North Norway, bordering Finnmark to the northeast and Nordland to the southwest. To the south is Norrbotten Län in Sweden and further southeast is a shorter border with Lapland Province in Finland. To the west is the Norwegian Sea (Atlantic Ocean). The entire county, which was established in 1866, is located north of the Arctic Circle.

Troms has a very rugged and indented coastline facing the Norwegian Sea. However, the large and mountainous islands along the coast provide a sheltered waterway on the inside. Starting in the south, the largest islands are; northeastern part of Hinnøya (the southern part is in Nordland), Grytøya, Senja, Kvaløya, Ringvassøya, Reinøy, Vannøy, and Arnøy. Some of these islands, most notably Senja, have a rugged outer coast with steep mountains and a more calm eastern shore. There are several large fjords that stretch quite far inland. Starting in the south, the largest fjords are; Vågsfjord, Andfjord (shared with Nordland), Malangen, Balsfjord, Ullsfjord, Lyngen (the municipality takes its name from the fjord), and Kvænangen (fjord). The largest lake is Altevatnet in the interior of the county.

There are mountains in all parts of Troms. The most alpine and striking ones are the Lyngen Alps, with several small glaciers and the highest mountain in the county. Jiekkevarre mountains have a height of 1,833 meters (6,014 ft.). Several glaciers are located in Kvænangen, including parts of the Øksfjordjøkelen, the last glacier in mainland Norway to drop icebergs directly into the sea (in Jøkelfjord). The largest river in Troms (by waterflow) is Målselva (in Målselv), and the largest (not the highest) waterfall is Målselvfossen at 600 meters (2,000 ft.) long and 20 m (66 ft.) high. Marble is present in parts of Troms, and thus numerous caves, as in Salangen and Skånland.

Click here to find lighthouses in Troms county.



Finnmark or Finnmárku (Northern Sami language) is a county in the extreme northeast. It borders Troms county to the west, Finland (Lapland) to the south, Russia (Murmansk Oblast) to the east, the Norwegian Sea (Atlantic Ocean) to the northwest, and the Barents Sea (Arctic Ocean) to the north and northeast.

Finnmark is part of the Sápmi region, which spans four countries, as well as the Barents Region, and is the largest and least populated county of Norway.

Situated at the northernmost part of continental Europe, where Norway swings eastward, Finnmark has always been an area where east meets west, in cultural terms as well as by nature and geography. Vardø, the easternmost municipality in the country, is located farther east than St. Petersburg and Istanbul.

Finnmark is the northern- and easternmost county of Norway (Svalbard is not considered a county). In area, Finnmark is Norway’s largest county, and is larger than Denmark. However, with a population of only 72,000, it is also the least populated.

Knivskjellodden in Nordkapp municipality (on Magerøya) is the northernmost point of Europe; Kinnarodden on Nordkinn Peninsula is the northernmost point on the European mainland. Honningsvåg in Finnmark lays claims to being the northernmost city of the world, while Vardø is the easternmost town in Norway and Western Europe.

The coast is indented by large fjords, which in a strict sense are false fjords, as they are not carved out by glaciers. Some of Norway’s largest sea bird colonies can be seen on the northern coast, the largest being Hjelmsřystauran in Måsøy and Gjesvćrstappan in Nordkapp. The highest point is located on the top of the glacier Øksfjordjøkelen, which has an area of 45 km2 (17 sq miles). Both Øksfjordjøkelen and Seilandsjøkelen (Seiland glacier) are located in the western part of Finnmark.

The Øksfjord plateau glacier calved directly into the sea (Jřkelfjorden) until 1900. The central and eastern part of Finnmark is generally less mountainous, and have no glaciers.

Nature varies from barren coastal areas facing the Barents Sea, to more sheltered fjord areas and river valleys with gullies and tree vegetation. About half of the county is above the tree line, and large parts of the other half are covered with small Downy birch.

The most lush areas are the Alta area and the Tana valleys. In the east lies lowland area in the Pasvik valley in Sør-Varanger, where the pine and Siberian spruce forest is considered part of the Russian taiga vegetation. This valley has the highest density of Brown bears in Norway, and is the only location in the country with a population of musk-rats. Lynx and elk are common in large parts of Finnmark, but rare on the coast.

In the interior is the Finnmarksvidda plateau, with an elevation of 300–400 meters (980–1,300 ft.), with numerous lakes and river valleys. It is famous for its tens of thousands of reindeer, owned by the Sami, and, is also famous for the swarms of mosquitos in mid-summer. Stabbursdalen National Park ensures protection for the world’s northernmost pine forest.

The Tanaelva, which partly defines the border with Finland, yields the largest catch of salmon of all rivers in Europe, and also holds the world record for Atlantic salmon, 36 kg (79 lb). In the east, the Pasvikelva defines the border with Russia.

Click here to find lighthouses in Finnmark county.