county of Norway

Nordland is a county in Northern Norway. Nordland has an endless and very rugged coastline with thousands of islands. Further inland there are high mountains, glaciers and plateaus. Nordland is a long, narrow strip of the mainland, while wide archipelagos stretches far into the Atlantic. Because of fjords cutting deep into the bedrock Nordland is only a few kilometers wide from the border to the sea at the most narrow points.

Summers have non-stop daylight (including midnight sun), while during the darker season there is frequent display of northern lights (aurora borealis).


Map of Nordland

0°0′0″N 0°0′0″E

Træna island, Helgeland (Southern Nordland coast)
Stockfish production
  • 1 Bodø pop 42,000, the county capital with the main airport; 2 Fauske pop 7,000, is at the junction of E6 to Bodø
  • 3 Brønnøysund pop 6,000. Features Torghatten, a mountain that has a large hole that goes all the way through it.
  • 4 Leknes pop 3,000
  • 5 Mo i Rana pop 20,000
  • 6 Narvik pop 15,000
  • 7 Stokmarknes, pop 3,400
  • 8 Svolvær pop 5,000

Other destinationsEdit

Lofoten at Svolvær
  • 1 Helgeland, Nordland's southern district with enchanting coastline and wild interior, halfway from south to north in Norway.
  • 2 Tysfjord, villages scattered along the fjord with steep fell sides
  • 3 Vega village and archipelago, UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape area, realm of the eider.
  • 4 Lofoten, postcard looking small fishing villages nestled in fjords, dotting a very rugged coast with abrupt peaks rising directly from the ocean – one of the most scenic parts of Norway.
  • 5 Vesterålen, archipelago north of Lofoten, with much wilderness to explore. The small town Stokmarknes hosts the headquarters of the Hurtigruten and the Coastal Express Museum.
Other places
  • 6 Sulitjelma, village and former mining town in the fells, trailhead for hiking, skiing and glacier treks.
  • 7 Tonnes, small coastal village in Helgeland area, hiking trails in beautiful mountains.
  • 8 Ørnes is the municipality centre in Meløy. Bus from Bodø on Kystriksveien road. Hurtigruten calls at Ørnes. An express catamaran passenger service from Bodø to Sandnessjøen calls. Local ferry from Vassdalsvik, if arriving by bike this is recommended as Svartistunnellen further south has restrictions against pedestrians and cyclists.


Nordland occupies the relatively narrow strip of land between the border with Sweden and the Atlantic Ocean, in addition to a myriad of islands. At the most narrow point there is only a few kilometers of Norwegian land from the sea to the border. At the same time the county is 700 km from south to north, like London to Glasgow or Naples to Milan. Nordland mainland has a coastline of about 5,000 km – more than most countries in Europe. If islands are included Nordland has about one third of Norway's coastline, and Nordland's coastline is longer than the coastline of USA or China. Nordland has some 18,000 islands and almost 30 % of Norway's island area is in Nordland.

Norway's mainland is largely protected by a belt of countless islands and skerries. The waters between these are often navigable and create a sheltered sea lane. This belt is particularly wide on the Helgeland coast (southern Nordland) where the belt stretches some 50 kilometers into the ocean. Nordland is characterised by a brim of lowland and islands from where mountains rise steeply. This landscape is typical for Norway and has entered the international geological terminology as the strandflat (literally "beach flats"). Residual mountains surrounded by the strandflat are frequent particularly on Helgeland coast giving the area a distinct character. Mountains mostly rise steeply from the ocean and culminate in alpine summits or wide barren plateaus. The mainland is highly fragmented by many fjords cutting deep into the bedrock. Svartisen is a notable ice cap (or plateau glacier), the second biggest in Norway behind Jostedalsbreen, and there are several smaller glaciers around alpin summits.

On the islands and coast of Helgeland there are countless sea birds. The eider is particularly valued for its delicate down and the eiders of Helgeland have been semi-domesticated for centuries. The eiders and their nests are watched by locals and should not be disturbed. On Vega island there is even an eider museum, presumably the only one in the world.

Nordland county consists of several traditional districts

  • Helgeland (south of the glacier and Saltfjellet mt pass), including the Vega UNESCO site
  • Salten including Bodø (north of the glacier)
  • Ofoten including Narvik (around Ofotfjorden and Tysfjorden)
  • Lofoten (archipelago)
  • Vesterålen (archipelago)

Lofoten and Vesterålen together constitutes a wide archipelago including some of Norway's largest islands. Part of this group is in Troms county.

The arctic circle cuts right across Nordland. Even if there is no proper midnight sun south of the circle there is no darkness during summer, there is 24 hour daylight. The coast of Nordland has an unusual mild climate for its latitude. The climate is fairly temperate thanks to the Gulf Stream. Along the coast and on islands summers are mild or cool, in winter temperatures hover just above or below freezing. The coast is most affected by western winds. There are great differences in rainfall. The outer islands have modest rainfall while the mountainous areas near the coast receives 3 times as much rain, notably in autumn. The sheltered inner valleys like Saltdal have modest rainfall and a dry, continental climate. Inner valleys have relatively warmer and pleasant summers and cold winters.

The mountains of northern Nordland (Lofoten and Narvik area) are basement rock and among the world's oldest rock, presumably some 3 billion years old. The pointed summits and polished rock faces are often made from granit or gabbro. Norway's bedrock is generally very old and hard, with only limited occurrence of karst landscape. The Rana area (around Mo i Rana) in Helgeland is an exception with some very long and deep caves in the marble or limeston bedrock, the largest and most numerous in Norway. The longest known cave is 25 km, the deepest about 600 meters. There are more than 100 caves in Rana. These caves are mostly for skilled cavers with appropriate equipment, but some are more easily accessible. Caves er generally protected and visitors are not allowed to take anything or leave anything behind. Helgeland also has caves dug by ocean waves in harder rock.

Get inEdit

Narvik-Kiruna train on the Iron Ore Railway, near the border
Hurtigruten detour to Trollfjorden

By boatEdit

Hurtigruten connects Nordland to Tromsø and Finnmark in the north, and Bergen, Trondheim and Ålesund in the south.

By planeEdit

Several smaller airports served by small aircraft offers many accesspoints to Nordland.
  • 1 Bodø airport (BOO IATA). Norway's 6th busiest and serves primarily domestic routes from Oslo and Trondheim, as well as the regional airports in towns such as Leknes, Brønnøysund, Svolvær, Mo i Rana and Mosjøen. The central location of the airport makes even a short stopover an opportunity to go sightseeing.    
  • 2 Evenes (EVE IATA Narvik/Harstad airport) (Road E10). Evenes serves both Narvik and Harstad, and offers several daily direct flights from Oslo by SAS and Norwegian. Except some charter flights there are no international connections (as of 2017). About 45 minutes by car from either town.  

Because of long distances and fragmented landscape there are numerous smaller airports in Nordland:

  • 3 Brønnøysund airport (BNN IATA). Small airport that takes smaller aircraft. Connections from Oslo, Bodø and Trondheim, flights often include nearby airports too. Relatively frequent flights as the airport also serves the offshore oil fields. Only 5 minutes by car from Brønnøysund.
  • Røssvoll airport (MQN IATA) in Mo i Rana

In Southern Nordland there are airports in Mosjøen, Mo i Rana and Sandnessjøen, with flights from Trondheim and Bodø. In Northern Nordland there are airports at Leknes, Røst, Stokmarknes (SKN IATA) and Svolvær, with flights from Bodø. All these are operated by Widerøe. Furthermore there is a helicopter from Bodø to Værøy, operated by Lufttransport.

Narvik city airport was closed in 2017.

By trainEdit

  • The Nordland railway (Nordlandsbanen) of NSB has a connection from Trondheim to Fauske and Bodø.
  • 4 Ofotbanen (Iron Ore Railway). The railway between Kiruna in Sweden and Narvik, with SJ trains from Stockholm. This rail was built primarily to transport iron ore from the mining towns in Northern Sweden to the port of Narvik. As part of the line runs through the very steep and inhospitable Narvik mountains, the construction was an engineering achievement. Control of this railway and the Narvik port was one aim of the German invasion of Norway in 1940.  

By busEdit

Express buses, often the cheapest alternative, go further north to Narvik and Lofoten from Fauske and Bodø.

By carEdit

The E6 road is the main road, running along the entire county. From Oslo to the southern border of Nordland it is around 800 kilometers (10 hours plus stops), and from Copenhagen around 1400 kilometers (16 hours plus stops). E6 through Nordland is 650 km.

Get aroundEdit

Nordlandsbanen railway crossing Saltfjellet plateau in March
Road E6 north of Bodø
New tunnel through the great Junkerdalen valley and gorge; the old road is left as an alternative for pedestrians and bicycles.

By trainEdit

  • Nordlandsbanen runs between Southern Nordland and Bodø north of Saltfjellet. Diesel powered locomotives. For transfer between train from the south and coach to the north, Fauske is usually the more convenient station.
  • Ofotbanen (Iron Ore Railway) connects Narvik port to the Swedish border in the Narvik mountains. Electric.

By planeEdit

Time can be saved by air travel inside Nordland. See the Get in section for more.

By bus or boatEdit

The easiest way to get around is by bus or boat if you don't have a car. Search on

By carEdit

A drive through Nordland from the southern county line to the far end of Lofoten will be more than 1000 km, similar to a drive through the length of Italy's mainland. Traffic is generally light, but landscape is complicated and roads are of varying quality. There are no motorways. The E6 is mostly two-lane undivided. Driving is a fine way to experience Nordland's grand and ever changing landscape.

In the north-south direction there are basically only two roads:

  • The E6 is the backbone road of the county. Distances are long, 650 km including one ferry crossing, between the northern and southern county borders (takes around 10 hours plus stops). North of Bodø the E6 is the only real option on the mainland.
  • The road 17 (Helgeland coast road) is a partly spectacular tourist road, connecting the coastal settlements. The coastal road runs through very fragmented landscape. It is much more time consuming than E6 and has several ferry crossings. Road 17 has been named national tourist route because of its scenery and natural beauty.

In the northern part the E10 runs east-west from the border with Sweden to the end of Lofoten. There are an additional 3 main roads east-west crossing the border: E10, 77 and 73.


Bridge across Saltstraumen, the world's strongest tidal current
  • Old fishing cabins in Lofoten.
  • 1 Saltstraumen (Road 17, Saltstraumen bridge). Strong tide current in Saltstraumen by Bodø. The world's strongest maelstrom (tidal whirlpool), with some of the best fishing in the world. International fishing competitions are often held there, and there are possibilities of renting fishing gear or staying at the camping place. A must-see if you are in the region. free.  
  • * 2 Torghatten, Brønnøysund, Helgeland. Cave or hole right through Torghatten summit on an island near Brønnøysund, Helgeland coast. The hole was created by waves and ice. Free.  
  • Ørnes trading post (museum) (by the docks). Old trade centre.
  • 3 Svarthamarhola, Near Bodø. This is the largest natural cave in Scandinavia (30 m from floor to ceiling) and the only cave with a glacier inside. A full day, partly strenuous hike. Guide is needed. Fee for the guide.


In Lofoten, and along the entire county, you can go fishing, diving and mountain climbing.

A whale (orca) safari with snorkeling is also an option in the Tysfjord area. Whale watching tours to the nearby continental shelf, where sightings of sperm whales are common, are arranged from Andenes and also Nyksund in Vesterålen.

Near Halsa south of Bodø you can attend guided glacier climbing and glacier walks.

Backcountry skiing is popular in the winter and spring. Be aware of avalanche hazard.




Beer can be purchased in the supermarket. Supermarkets stop selling beer after 8pm each day, 6pm on Saturdays, and 3pm on holiday weekends. It is not possible to buy beer in a shop on a Sunday. Hard liquor or wine can only be bought at state-owned shops called Vinmonopolet.

Stay safeEdit

If you stay on land you ought to be safe most of the time. If you go out on the sea for fishing or diving, check the local weather forecasts as rapid weather changes can occur, as if you go trekking. The North Atlantic weather can be rough and waves can be treacherous particularly beyond the protective islands and skerries. If you go in the winter or up in the mountains, you should have some knowledge about when you need special skills.

Go nextEdit

Routes through Nordland
OsloTrondheim  S   N  NarvikKirkenes
Mo i Rana  W   E  Umeå

This region travel guide to Nordland is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!