Ancient and modern
Sami culture is indigenous across most of Northern Norway and has been with us for at least two thousand years. A few decades ago, “a ten-minute visit to a Sami camp” was part of the tourist route in the north, and today, the Sami themselves are in charge of these experiences. The profits help to boost the Sami economy. If you are seeking an intimate encounter with Sami culture, we recommend the following:
Visit a lavvu:
Nothing is quite as original in Northern Norway as sitting in a lavvu, gazing at the fire and listening to a joik (traditional Sami song). Reindeer broth and bidos, a stew made from slow-cooked reindeer meat, and cloudberry cream are firm favourites, and strong coffee brewed over the fire is served from a large kettle. Good stories and an evening meal in a lavvu are offered both in the Sami heartlands and by Sami across the whole of Northern Norway. The lavvu is so practical that it is now used by many non-Sami for activities, but if the excursion is marked “Sami” you can be sure that it will be a Sami experience.
Driving a reindeer sled:
The traditional way of crossing the Cap of the North in winter has long since been replaced by the car and snow scooter, but it lives on both as a Sami racing discipline and as a fun activity for tourists. Reindeer and sledges travel at a fairly leisurely pace and are suitable for everyone who is looking to take in the winter landscape at a gentle pace in peace.
- In Kautokeino, Sokki Adventure will gladly take guests reindeer sledding
- Sami Siida in Alta runs short introductory trips with reindeer
- In Tromsø, a number of Sami families offer reindeer sledding
Take in the plateau:
Life is not all cosy gatherings around the fire and Sunday trips for the Sami; they spend most of their time working. The fearless visitor can join them out in the wilderness and gain an insight into what everyday life for the Sami is, and was, like.
- Turgleder in Karasjok will take you to the nearest reindeer herding family and out onto the plateau to look after the reindeer.
- Albmi in Beiarn will teach you how to set up a lavvu and cook bidos.
- Tromsø Lapland, a company with its roots in Kautokeino, will take you on the spring migration tour right at the end of winter.
Take part in a Sami festival:
If you manage to take in a Sami festival, we can promise you brightly-coloured Sami cardigans and both modern and traditional Sami music; you may even be able to watch reindeer racing.
- Skabmamannu is a blue period festival for the local Sami community in Lebesby
- Sami Week in Tromsø celebrates everything Sami in connection with National Day celebrations on 6 February, which culminate in the Norwegian Reindeer Racing Championships in Storgata
- Sami Music Week in Alta celebrates the Sami National Day with concerts that feature new and traditional Sami music
- Tana Winter Festival is a town festival and celebration which is held when the Finnmarksløpet race passes through the town in March.
- The Sami Easter Festivals at the end of the winter have become focal points of Sami culture, and are some of the most enjoyable festivals across the whole country at Easter.
Sami culture explained
For insight and context, you should visit some of the wonderful museums. Many small communities can only be visited in the summer, but these museums are open all year round.
- The Sami gatherings in Karasjok are ideal for delving into duoddji (Sami craftwork and traditional ways of life).
- The community of Kautokeino demonstrates traditional life in perhaps the country’s most remote municipality.
- Tromsø Museum's two exhibitions on Sami culture are perfect for art lovers.
- The Sami Centre for Contemporary Art presents the latest developments in the world of Sami contemporary art