Norway: To the top of the world

This was published by Traveloscopy in June 2018

June 11, 2018

Norway: To the top of the world

Len Rutledge heads about as far North as you can go.

Norway is a big country. Oslo, the capital is in the south. Alta, where we are heading is over 1700 kilometres to the north. Fortunately, there is a direct flight. At the airport, we rent a car and head out to explore an area that is radically different to anything in Australia.


People have lived here for more than 10,000 years. The major site of interest is the Alta Museum. There is an excellent indoor exhibition explaining the local rock art and giving a broader introduction to Finnmark’s prehistory. The exhibition also teaches us that in the Sámi (Laplander) religion, nature was regarded as possessing a soul and being alive.

Alta Museum is linked by a boardwalk to a UNESCO World Heritage Rock Carving site where there is a series of carvings from up to 7,000 years ago. These are extensive and took an hour to enjoy. Approximately 3,000 figures have been found here making it one of the largest collections in Europe.

The modern Northern Lights Cathedral is both a church and a northern lights attraction. The nearby central square is traffic-free and good for a short wander. There are tours to the 300-metre-deep Sautso-Alta Canyon, and to mountain bike paths near the Alta River.

Experience the Sámi culture

The bleak country south and east of Alta is the home of the indigenous Nordic people, Sámireindeer-herders. Frankly, it is only the Sámi culture that is of great interest here and this can be depressingly difficult to see in the middle of summer when many Sámi have moved to the coastal pastures. The best time to visit is during the Easter festival when there are concerts, church services, and traditional sports.

Kautokeino is a permanent town and the principal winter camp of the Sámi people but it is a somewhat desolate place strung out along the highway. A couple of kilometres south of town is Juhis Silver Gallery, an amazing attraction with a workshop and a wonderful display area. In the centre of a major city, this would be a sensation, here in the wilderness it is mind-blowing. The items being produced here are mainly sold in the exclusive boutiques of Europe and North America.

Karasjok is the capital of the Sámi and is more organized than Kautokeino. It is only 18 km from the Finnish border and here we find the Sámi parliament and several museums and attractions. The Sami Artists Centre is an art gallery devoted to Sami painters. Don’t miss it.


We travel further north through the treeless and barren landscape to Hammerfest on the shore of rugged Kvaloya Island. This is the world’s northern-most substantial town and amazingly, it was the first place in Europe with electric street lighting.

The town was totally leveled during World War II and the interesting Reconstruction Museum details the dramatic events including the forced evacuation of the population, the town burning to the ground, and the subsequent reconstruction.

You don’t have to go far to see roaming reindeer herds. We encountered one at the entrance to a substantial tunnel on the main road not far from town. If boating is your thing, there are trips to several little fishing villages along the rugged coast.

North Cape

North Cape/Nordkapp is touted as the most northern point of continental Europe. Near North Cape, there are several alternatives. Skarsvag, the nearest fishing village, has boat trips, fishing, bird-watching, and whale safaris. Cycle and kayak rental are also available. In the same area, the Church Gate rock formation offers excellent views of North Cape, the Horn, and the midnight sun.

North Cape has been a visitor attraction for several hundred years. You can only enter this area after paying a fairly hefty fee but we found it worthwhile. Outside you can see the King Oscar Monument which was built in 1873 to mark the outermost limit of the Norway-Sweden union. The Globe monument erected in 1977 has become the symbol of the North Cape and is a popular photographic spot.

North Cape Hall is a large tourist center with a host of facilities including a film on a wrap-around screen about the four seasons. The Tunnel has exhibitions about the North Cape’s long history as a tourist destination and this leads to St Johannes Chapel which is the world’s northernmost ecumenical chapel.

Nearby is a Thailand Museum because this spot was visited by King Chulalongkorn more than 100 years ago. Finally, we reach the Cave of Light which is a new attraction providing a journey through the seasons by way of sound and light.

It is still 530 kilometres to Kirkenes near the border with Russia. This was bombed more often than any place in Europe except Malta during World War II. This area is so remote from Oslo that Finland and Russia have had more influence on the area than Norway at various times. You see this in the church architecture and even in some of the language.
Len is the author of Experience Norway 2018 available as an ebook or paperback from

Words: Len Rutledge  Images: Phensri Rutledge

Feature supplied by:

1.     Alta Rock Art
2.     Juhis Siver Gallery at Kautokeiro
3.     North Cape Globe Monument
4.     Sami Turf House at Karasjock
5.     Wandering reindeer by road tunnel Hammerfest

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New Norway Guide

The 2017 edition of Experience Norway is now available as an ebook or paperback. This is consistently one of the best sellers in the Experience Guide series so check it out on You can read the first section on this site without buying anything.Norway Book cover-2017

All books now available

This is just a reminder that the eight 2016 editions of Experience Guides are available as e‑books and paperbacks. Probably the easiest way to find them is to go to then type Len Rutledge into the search bar. All the books in both formats should then appear. Amazon allows about 10% of the book to be read free for those who are interested.

Experience Guides books pics

New listings on Amazon

Amazon has changed its way of identifying books. This is how to find these four Experience Guides.

Experience Thailand e‑book;

Experience Norway e‑book;

Experience Norway paperback;

Experience Northern Italy e‑book;

Experience Northern Italy paperback;

Experience Myanmar (Burma) e‑book;

Experience Myanmar (Burma) paperback;

Collage 2016-02-19 14_27_55

Experience Norway 2015

Experience Norway has consistently been one of the best sellers in the Experience Guide series and now we have a much expanded and improved 2015 edition. With the addition of nearly 10,000 words, a number of additional images and all new maps this is the perfect book for those thinking of visiting Norway or for those just interested in the country.

Experience Norway 2015 is available now at


Frozen boosts Norway tourism

Frozen, the Disney animated movie that has been a children’s hit in many countries has caused a rise in visitations to Norway.

Norway was the principal setting for the movie, and many of the cultural influences in the film come from Norwegian culture. Several major landmarks in Norway appear in the film, including three of my favourites the Akweshus Fortress in Oslo, the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, and Bryggen in Bergen. Numerous other Norwegian attractions are also included in the film, such as stave churches, trolls, Viking ships, clothes, and food.

There has also been a spin-off for my book Experience Norway which is now the most popular in the Experience book series. Sales have increased by more than 25% in the past few months due no doubt in part to the movie. Thank you Disney Films!

Copies can be purchased for US$3.99 at

Vigeland Sculpture Park


Brilliant Bergen

Nearly forty years ago I fell in love. Not with another person but with a city. I was wandering around Europe and had arrived in Bergen. Something captivated me and since then I have been saying that Bergen is my favourite small city in the world.

We humans are strange creatures and I resisted returning to Bergen for many years. I guess I was frightened that my memories would be shattered and that Bergen would no longer be special. I should not have worried. When I finally returned I still loved the place and each subsequent visit has reinforced that. Then last year my wife and I spent some wonderful days in Bergen being tourists again. Yes, it has changed but it has not lost its magic. The city with ‘its feet in the sea and its head in the sky’ still has its heart and soul in the right places and its beauty is happily shared with visitors.

Ever since Viking King Olav Kyrre sailed into the harbour and founded the city in 1070, Bergen has attracted people from all parts of the world. So important was Bergen by the 13th century that the Hansas – the German Medieval guild of merchants – opened one of their four European offices on a wharf called Bryggen. Much from that time has gone but reminders of past centuries remain today. The area has become a symbol of Bergen’s cultural heritage and has gained a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Bergen grew up around its colourful harbour. It is still the heart and soul of the city. Forty years ago it was filled with fishing boats and the fish market on the quay was an exciting, thriving, smelly place just bursting with atmosphere. Now the harbour is thronged with expensive pleasure craft from around the world and the market has a few stalls selling seafood but many more with fruit, vegetables, handicrafts, clothing and souvenirs. It’s different but still spectacular.

Bergen’s setting – amidst seven hills and sheltered by a series of straggling islands – is brilliant. You see it best from the top of the Floibanen funicular railway. The modern glass funicular goes to the top of Mount Floyen in about seven minutes. At the top you have wonderful views, a fine restaurant, a cafe, souvenir shop, children’s play area and numerous footpaths into the surrounding mountains. If you walk back down the hill you will see some of the charming small wooden houses that are so much part of the city.

Extract from Experience Norway.

1From Mount Floyen