The island world
To the very west lie the islands. Some are only visible at low tide, others tower more than a thousand meters above the water. At Helgeland, there are thousands of tiny islands tens of kilometres from the shore. Most are flat, but some rise up in strange mountain formations. In Lofoten, Vesterålen and Troms, the large islands lie like miniature continents with their mountains, forests and agricultural land, surrounded by the waters of the archipelago. People live all over this region, on islets, in sheltered coves and in fishing villages.
A naked coast
The islands in Finnmark feature steep, unwooded sides, along with flat, tree-less plains with ponds and cloudberry moors on top. In the north and east of Finnmark, the sea batters the coast which has no archipelago to protect it, revealing layers of different stone in steep slopes, sculptural cliffs, stony shores and sandy beaches. Here and there, you will come across sheltered harbours where people have established communities in compact fishing villages.
The fjords and inlets cut deeply into the landscape in Northern Norway. Protected by the mountains, the forests grow richly: deciduous forests and rare orchids in warm pockets on Helgeland, birch, rowan and pine farther north. As it is warmer here, this is also where most people live, so the fjords are lined with farms, arable land and pasture.
The dark violet, ancient craggy peaks in Lofoten, the sculptural formations on Helgeland, the sharp, wild profile of the Lyng Alps, the tall, pointed peaks that rise like pyramids above the plains in the north. The mountains form the backbone and shape the horizon in Northern Norway. High mountains in areas of heavy precipitation provide the perfect location for glaciers to form, and the largest are Svartisen and Øksfjordjøkelen. The coastal mountains are covered in snow in the winter, but provide lush green pasture for reindeer in the summer.
Plateaus and plains
Gently undulating plains interspersed with moors, inland lakes and rivers, clad in lichen, heather and slender birch trees. The Finnmark plains cover much of the Finnmark region. On the Varanger Peninsula, you will find little knolls of permafrost known as “palser”, while pine trees grow in low depressions. Plains, high, rounded mountain formations, inland lakes and dales form the border with Finland and Sweden all the way south. This land is winter pasture for reindeer and is home to very few people.
High Arctic islands
Svalbard, midway between Northern Norway and the North Pole, is an island realm of giant glaciers, pyramid-like mountains that clearly show their layers of geological history, fjords and a host of large and small islands. Only in the warmer dales can plants and flowers grow a few centimetres up from the gravel; otherwise the landscape is completely bare. The islands have no indigenous population, but there are a few settlements here.