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Explore the World Through a Geologist's Eyes

Svalbard, at ~77.8 N, is an island archipelago north of Europe. This archipelago has grasped the media’s attention with stunning images of calving glaciers, rugged conditions and wandering polar bears. The island is primarily under Norwegian occupation; however, Russia also lays claim to certain sections of the archipelago. Little do most people know, in Longyearbyen, the largest town in the region, there is a university center that focuses on research in the high Arctic (i.e. UNIS). I had the privilege of going to Svalbard twice: once to take a class in Glaciology and another time to join a geoscientific cruise just north of Svalbard.

I had a fantastic time, although life on this remote remote archipelago was a bit different than I expected. Keep reading to hear about my experiences, impression of Longyearbyen and about some of the more unique aspects of life in the High Arctic!

Do note that I plan on writing some more scientific posts to accompany this article. It'll just take a little bit of time to get them written.

An image of a glacier in northern Svalbard during a AMGG cruise aboard the Helmer Hanssen research vessel.

Prepare, Prepare and Prepare Some More

I do come from the US, where it’s not incredibly uncommon to own a firearm. I, however, grew up in a suburb where I did not have access to any weapons and I honestly never had any interest in owning one. On Svalbard, gun ownership is not a preference, but necessity. Polar bears are a very real threat and they often come close to town. Therefore, if you wanted to leave the town for any reason, you needed to have a rifle on hand as well as a flare gun. Even the tiny stretch between Longyearbyen and its airport is off limits for walking unless you have a firearm. Therefore, on my first full day in town, I took a firearms training course and needed to pass a marksmanship test to be allowed out in the wilderness.

Mandatory weapons training when you first arrive on the island.

As one might expect, there are not many roads on Svalbard. The ones that do exist are primarily there to connect towns to old coal mines or just inside of town for convenience. During my first visit, I arrived during the middle of winter, so the entire island was covered by snow. So… how to get around?

Solution: drive snow mobiles everywhere! So along with rifle training, I was also given snow mobile training, avalanche training and some other Arctic safety and survival training. Every time that we went across the landscape, sometimes hour and hours driving on snow mobiles, we had to go into an intense amount of detail about safety and logistics. Which was for a good reason too. This is an extremely remote and inhospitable place.

A photo taken from atop of a snow covered glacier during early March. We were all surprised to see the sun actually appearing above the mountains!

And as one might expect it is quite cold in the High Arctic. Especially during the winter. To conduct fieldwork everyone dressed in warm snowmobile suites with numerous layers. I was usually so heavily covered that as we would walked outside, I felt like I was departing into outer space or I was the younger brother from ‘A Christmas Story’. But, like it or not, these layers only did so much when you’re outside all day. Especially when you’re travelling by snowmobile for hours a day. Multiple students that I knew got frostbit after some long days of fieldwork (they all recovered). I was lucky enough not to get any, but I did need to constantly do little things to stay warm (like race people around their snowmobiles to stay warm. I'm sure you haven't given it much thought but it is impossible to run in a heavy snowmobile suit!).

An example of the clothing/snowmobile suit we were required to wear during the winter months.

When I returned in the summer it was quite a different story. Not exactly t-shirt weather, but temperatures were a lot more bearable then you would expect.

An image taken on a hike near Longyearbyen during the summer. Here you can see a glacier ( I think Larsbreen?) on top of the mountainous landscape.

Longyearbyen: A Small Town with a Strong Sense of Community

I found the town of Longyearbyen surprisingly cozy with plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars. Everyone in town seemed to know each other, as most of the people either lived there for a long duration or were visiting scientists who frequently found themselves in the town. As I mentioned in another article, Norwegians have truly mastered the art of “coziness”, therefore that this only added to the friendly communal atmosphere if the town.

A shot of downtown Longyearbyen.

I was quite surprised by the great sense of community within the university center as well. It was an environment that encouraged meeting new people and going on excursion. Every Friday students, and at times faculty, would gather in the cafeteria for drinks. And this wasn’t just a few people, this was what seemed like most of the students every week. There was also a lottery for free equipment (such as rifles, flare guns, snowshoes, avalanche equipment, etc) held every so often. These items were always in high demand, but in limited supply, so this would encourage students to share what they had and go on trips together. Students also lived in a shared living space and kitchen, so we frequently had movie nights together or had communal dinners. Norwegian students also seemed quite pleased that beer was cheaper here than it is on the mainland!

An image of UNIS (from the back). their main building has some really nice architecture.

Wildlife: Don't Forget Where You Are

Due to the cozy nature of the town it is easy to forget that you’re in the High Arctic. Polar bears are spotted just outside of town more frequently then you would hope they would. Luckily, I only spotted them from a safe distance away on an snowmobile excursion over sea ice to a glacier. Reindeers can also be found all over the landscape and seal and walruses appear near town occasionally.

One of the two polar bear signs on the outskirts of Longyearbyen.

A (blurry) photo of a baby reindeer! Ok, probably not the best example of fearsome wildlife, but still... look at the baby reindeer!

Fieldwork: Science-ing North of the Wall

For those of you interested in Arctic geology, geophysics biology, engineering, etc. I would HIGHLY recommend taking some classes at UNIS. It was probably one of the best decisions of my life. Honestly, nothing could beat snowmobiling and hiking across glaciers all day.

During our Glaciology course we mapped glacial caves, collected water samples from icings near the terminus of cold-based and poly-thermal glaciers and obtained ground penetrating radar (GPR) data, ice cores and snow depth/profile data from the surface of glaciers. Later we returned to the university center to perform geochemical and geophysical analyzes. The course I took had a large field work component, which I personally loved.

Taking a break in a glacial cave as we were on our way to collect water samples from some icings.*

Exploring another glacial cave. This time the cave was much closer to Longyearbyen and a quite a bit deeper.*

An image of us digging away snow that is covering a glacier so we can make a profile of the snow and collect an ice core.

An image of snowmobiles parked on top of a glacier just before we are about to descend to the other side. Taken on a trip to travel to the Russian settlement of Barentsburg.

The scientific cruise that I also joined in the summer, which was not through UNIS but rather the University of Tromsø, went north of Svalbard to collect geologic and geophysical data to better understand past glacial movement over the continental margin, ocean current variability and sedimentation. I plan to write more about this in another article so stay tuned!

An image of a glacier with the back side ov the r/v Helmer Hanssen in the shot.

Endless sea ice.

A remote cabin on northern Svalbard. We reached it by ship. As the name suggests the cabin contains a decent amount of alcohol in it.

Sound appealing? Well, the world always needs more scientists and engineers who have an interest in the Arctic, so I would highly recommend getting up to UNIS if you are a student. Tourism exists up there, and as much as I’m sure they would appreciate your business, it is also quite nice that it isn’t a tourist “hot spot” (or… cold spot?) right now. Hopefully the special atmosphere of the place can be maintained without too many tourists making an appearance.


*I tried to exclusively use my own photos for this post but I may have accidently grabbed someone else's from the 2019 Glaciology course or 2019 UiT AMGG cruise. If you notice that I accidently posted your photo please let me know so I can give you credit!

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Yes, you can travel to a portion of Tibet without a guided tour! Tibet, in southwest China, is a large geographical region that has restricted access to foreigners. You typically need to buy an expensive travel permit to enter the region and are required to go on a guided tour.

Tours are generally not my style, mostly due to their high cost, so this wasn’t the best option for me. Plus, I had a limited timeframe before I needed to go home, so I didn’t have the luxury of sticking around forever.

How did I do this?

Well the key is not to head to the modern province of Tibet (or the Tibet Autonomous Region) but to head to the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan.

But if it’s in Sichuan, is this region still Tibetan? I won’t go into the history behind it, but the answer is yes.

You can commonly see the Tibetan language written all over the towns. Most people are ethnically Tibetan, identify themselves as Tibetan and speak the Tibetan language. Tibetan food, culture and religion is present throughout the region. I needed to stop at a Chinese “check point” when I entered the region in which they inspected my passport and looked at my information. And to top it off, all throughout my visit strangers would walk up to me as say: “welcome to Tibet!”.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture

The region covers 153,002 km2 and 78.4% of the population is Tibetan. It contains a wide range of terrains, including snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests and large grassland expanses. The elevation is substantially higher than the city of Chengdu (Tibet is sometimes known as “the roof of the world”), so it’s recommended to try to adjust to the elevation incrementally.

Below I’ll give you an idea of where I travelled, my travel experiences, additional places you can go and my impression of the region.

Where did I go?

I had limited time to travel in the area, so I restricted myself two three regions: Kangding, Tagong and Danba.


A view of the city of Kangding as I was hiking up the mountain.

This mountainous city sits at an elevation so 2600m (8,530 ft) and is substantially larger than any other city in the region. It sits in a valley between the Tibetan Plateau and has historically been a border town between Tibetan’s and Chinese.

Upon entering the city, I was pretty surprised by how modernized the town was becoming. This might be due to a push from the Chinese government to increase tourism in the region. At night the town lights up and I saw quite a few Chinese tourists roaming the streets (few to zero none Chinese tourists).

Downtown Kangding at night.

Everyone that I met in this town were some of the friendliest people that I met on my entire trip. When I first got on a bus, a Tibetan man about my age who couldn’t speak any English took out his phone, used a translator app to tell me that if I needed any help all I would have to do is ask him. And I ran into the same type kindness during my entire stay in Tibet. Everyone was curious about what I was doing there, but ultimately incredibly friendly and hospitable. I could give a bunch of examples, but then this article would double or triple in length.

The city itself is quite nice! It has a perfect blend of old and new. Although I am not a Buddhist, I was quite impressed by the temples around town. And the landscape is stunning. If you enjoy mountainous hikes, some incredible places are just a short drive away. Sadly, I was there during the rainy season, so I had to cancel some trips to mountains and a glacier (I’m always heading towards ice!) but I took a nice hike up the mountains adjacent to the city. The city also has a museum which I found to be worth the visit on a rainy day.

A temple in the city of Kangding.

A path that I took to a monastery that was near the top of a mountain, next to Kangding.

One evening I decided to go to a few bars with a travel friend. I found it quite odd that they had a 12-drink minimum (you can’t just drink one beer) since I guess most establishments are meant to cater to larger groups. Luckily one place was able to make an exception for us. Another sold single “specialty” beers from the Europe and the US, so it all worked out. One bar actually tried to kick out a group of 6 to 8 locals so the two of us could sit down. We didn’t feel right about it, so we gave them their table back and left. But at the bars, we had some “phone translated” conversations with some locals, and once again, I was blown away by everyone’s curiosity and friendliness.

One thing I will mention though is the police presence was certainly heightened compared to other cities that I’ve been to in China (e.g. Chengdu, Beijing, Taiyuan). There were a lot more cameras on street corners and police stationed around the city. I experienced this throughout my time in the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. I’ve read a travel blog that mentioned that they were harassed by police multiple times while traveling in the area, so I generally kept my distance from the police if I saw them off in the distance. I personally experienced no problems whatsoever on this trip though.

I stayed at the Zhilam Hostel for 3 nights which was my absolute favorite hostel in all of China. The staff is a mix of Tibetans and westerners, the interior is very cozy, food quite excellent, atmosphere is social (which, in my experience, isn’t that common in eastern Asia) and they have organized tours/travel guides. It seriously had everything I needed and more! I, without a question, plan on heading back there when I’m visiting the region again.


Tagong is a small town in the grasslands, sitting at an elevation of 3700 m. It has numerous Buddhist temples are quite spectacular (I heard that one was the second most important in Tibet, but I’m not entirely certain how accurate that is).

I took a shared car with two other travelers to Tagong, although buses run regularly between these towns. I stayed at Khampa Nomad Eco Lodge for 2 nights which is a ~20 minute drive outside of town. I read online that the owner of this place (Angela) is known around town so I was excited to meet her. As luck would have it, she was not there for some reason, so we largely interacted with the other friendly staff. My general impression of this place: incredibly cozy. It felt a lot more like a family gathering than a hotel or hostel, often having one meal shared between everyone. And the meals are quite good. A lot of the ingredients are grown right at the eco lodge. Local tours and homestays with semi-nomadic Tibetans can be arranged and this lodge even has a sauna! But there is no denying that this accommodation is a bit more expensive than other nearby options. So, is it worth the price? Honestly, I really enjoyed my time here and didn’t mind paying a little more (despite being a budget traveler) but it might turn some travelers away. Regardless, the view from just outside of her place is quite nice:

A view of the grasslands and mountains from outside of Khampa Nomad Eco Lodge.

Well… they are even nicer when the clouds aren’t blocking the mountain tops!

There really isn’t too much to do in the town itself. It’s pretty small and can be experienced in a day. There are plenty of Buddhist monasteries inside the town if that is of interest. The regions outside of town deserve a bit more attention. I was lucky enough to show up when an important Tibetan festival was happening. So, on my first day I traveled to a small remote village and watched some Tibetan performances. I still feel incredibly privileged to have been present for this. On the following day we traveled to a nunnery outside of town and then back into the town to witness a special performance that was occurring at the town’s main monastery. I guess the following day there were horse races too, but we didn’t have time to see them.

An important Tibetan festival. Here we were invited into yurts for food and drink (a lot of which was from yaks). Such hospitable people!


A mountain village just outside of Danba.

Danba is a city that sits on the edge of the Tibetan plateau but is at a lower elevation than Tagong. Although the city itself seemed pretty nice (not a tourist friendly city though) people mostly travel here to go to the mountain villages surrounding the region that contain unique architecture and towers. The most well-known are Jiaju, Zhonglu and Suopo.

I ended up taking a shared car with another traveler to one of the villages for one night and then I spent a second night down in the city of Danba. Buses can take you from Tagong to Danba and Danba to Chengdu. We ran into a little bit of a snag, as our driver only knew how to get us to Danba, but not to our hotel in the mountain village. As soon as we pulled up into down, he tried to drop us off with other taxi drivers who were arguing with us and amongst each other about giving us the best price. This was a bit stressful, but the hotel ended up sending a driver to pick us up, so it all worked out. Which I do not regret but the views were spectacular from the hotel!

The view from immediately outside of my bedroom door at my hotel.

And let me just say that I’m very thankful to have had the travel companion that I had (a British woman who was fluent in Mandarin Chinese). Along this entire journey, life would have been sooo much harder if I didn’t have a Mandarin speaking person with me. By the stroke of luck, I always seemed to be with someone who spoke Mandarin when I needed help with it. So, word of advice: learn a little bit before you travel here or around China. It can help you in a pinch! Anyways, the village ended up being absolutely stunning and worth the trip!

Another shot taken from a mountain village just outside of Danba.

The following day and night I spent in the actual town of Danba so I could catch the morning bus to Chengdu the following morning. Danba was nice, but the heavy police presence made me feel like I shouldn’t be out in public alone too much, so I kept my exploration very minimal. I saw only one or two foreigners in Kangding and Tagong, but in Danba I saw zero. Nonetheless, everyone seemed quite friendly.

Downtown Danba.

Useful information

When to go? I was there in June, which apparently isn’t the best time to go because it’s the rainy season. I’ve heard it is quite nice in spring (April to May) when Rhododendron are blooming and in autumn (September-October) when the forest begins to change colors.

Minivans- I’ve heard tales of locals in these minivans trying to rip you off. You can take them from one town to the next, but they only go if they are completely full. I’ve dealt with something similar traveling in Morocco but decided to avoid it altogether here. Feel free to use it, but I’d advise that you make sure that you are getting a decent price.

Traveling further west- While you cannot go all the way to Llasha without a permit, you can travel further west in this province. Travelers that I spoke to frequently include Litang in their travels. If you have more time you can move even further east and southward and make it to “Shangrila” in Yunnan province and circle down to a major city in Yunnan.

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Updated: Jan 3, 2021

A photograph of Tromsøya (the island that contains the city of Tromsø).

When I told people that I was moving to northern Norway I would get two reactions:

Wait… what? That’s incredible!

Really? Are you insane?

Now that I’ve lived in the “northern light’s capital” of Tromsø for over two years I can understand these polarizing perspectives. On one hand northern Scandinavia is easily one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Yet, on the other hand, winters are long and dark. Not to mention that the area is covered with snow almost all year round (excluding a few months).

It has always been a dream of mine to live in Tromsø. It honestly began for an irrational reason when I was younger. I was just looking at a map and something about the town’s position so far north and the sound of the name drew me in. I took a trip to Iceland at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013 and something about the culture, climate and geology just captured me. Ever since then I was drawn to the northernmost (and southernmost) regions of the world. So, on some level, as I physically prepared myself to move up north, I knew what I was getting myself into.

However, living somewhere vs travelling somewhere is entirely different. Below are some of the things I experienced and learned about this region while I lived there:

1. Cultural Hub of the North

I think stereotypically when most people think of towns in the Arctic they think of small, isolated villages, primarily subsisting on hunting and fishing to survive. Although hunting and fishing are important industries in Tromsø, and tied to the city’s historical roots, the city has bloomed into much more than that. It is a fully modernized western style city with everything that anyone could want (including two malls).

One thing that I didn’t expect was that it is sort of a university town. The Arctic University of Norway UiT focuses on many scientific endeavors related to the Arctic and has particularly large research groups. Between this, and the hordes of Erasmus students who venture up here for a taste of life in the Arctic, the island of Tromsøya is full of young people.

And there is not a scarcity of things for locals and internationals to do. Not to mention the almost endless amount of outdoor activities (see below), there are plenty of really cool events happening all year. A few of these include:

· Nattevandring: the entire town hiked up a local mountain at night, guided by headlampsS, and watched a concert at the top (the band Aurora played that night!).

· Bukta Tromsø Open Air Festival

· Insomnia Festival

· Tromsø International Film Festival

· Sami Week

· Midnight Sun Marathon

· Northern Lights Festival

· RakettNatt (RockNight)

· Kulturnatta

My expectations where kind of flipped on its head. There was always so much to do I didn’t think I could pack it all into my weekly routines.

2. Nature: Endless Opportunities for Fun

In the past 5 year I’ve noticed images from northern Norway dominating Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. And surprisingly, even the auto-generated background of my laptop. These primarily consist of photos from the Lofoten Islands, south of Tromsø, however the regions around Tromsø have their own beauty:

Everywhere you hike you get views like this!

This region encompasses numerous fjords and sounds that wind around tall mountain and numerous islands. Norwegians spend much of their free time hiking during the summer and skiing during the winter. To be honest, in my travels I have not met a more active group of people. And one thing I could always count on was people passing me (even children!) when I was hiking. Norwegians are also frequently kayaking, sailing, biking, rock climbing (indoor and outdoor), etc. Given that the weather here isn’t always ideal for outdoor activities, it seems that Norwegians take any excuse to be outside, even if it is raining or snowing heavily. And skiing is a particularly important pastime up here. There are plenty of jokes about how Norwegian’s were put into ski’s as soon as they were born.

Sunset as I'm about to jump in the ocean for a little kayaking.

3. Midnight Sun & Polar Nights

Due to Tromsø’s extreme position in northern Europe the city experiences 24 hrs of daylight during the summer and nearly 24 hrs of darkness during the winter (although there are a few hours that are not completely dark). This can either be viewed as a positive or negative thing depending on how pessimistic or optimistic you want to be. Given Tromsø’s position, it is one of the best regions in the world to view the northern lights. Therefore, long periods of darkness really aid in you seeing this beautiful phenomenon. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen it and it never seems to get old. Also, with continuous sun during the summer, the outdoor possibilities are endless! On my second night in northern Norway I went on a hike starting at 9 pm (21:00) and ending at 4 am (4:00).

But on the downside, it is pretty hard to sleep during both of these extremes. During the summer I need to completely cover up all my windows as if I’m some crazy hermit. Winter have been known to cause seasonal depression, which I’ve experienced. Luckily the university has set a “polar café” that allows you to sit in front of lights that mimic sunlight for a short period while you enjoy a coffee. And these long winters bring A LOT of snow.

Northern lights are a regular occurrence in this part of the world. I just wish I had a better camera to capture it without any blur!

The snow is no joke up north.

4. Blend of Sami and Norwegian Culture (Brief History Lesson)

Along with Norwegian culture, Sami cultural roots run deep in this region. And this is for a good reason too, since Sami are believed to have occupied northern Fennoscandia for the past ~3500 yrs. The Sami are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people who occupy modern northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and northeast Russia. They are most stereotypically associated with semi-nomadic reindeer herding, but different groups were also involved in coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. I found it to be a beautiful, deeply rich culture which I hope to discuss in more detail on this website in the future.

Historically, modern Scandinavians largely resided in southern sections of the Scandinavian peninsula while Sami’s occupied the north. In northern Norway, Viking sagas suggest that Scandinavians occupied a region south of Tromsø referred to as Hålogaland. A bit closer to the city, however, on the island of Kvaløya (immediately west of Tromsø) both medieval Norse and Sami artifacts and graves have been identified, at times with influences from both cultures (Kulturminneåret, 2009).

Scandinavians built their first church in Tromsø around 1252 AD where the region was viewed as a frontier town. Over the years more and more Scandinavians occupied the region and it officially gained a city charter by 1794. Norwegianization swept through northern Norway in the 1700, 1800 and 1900’s, which began as missionary program, but evolved into the passing of laws that prohibited education in Sami language, history and culture in schools.

Because of this Norwegian culture dominates the area. However, in recent decades there has been a resurgence of Sami culture. In mainstream media, this can be seen in the Disney film Frozen as well as Norway’s Eurovision contestants from 2019 (although I’m in no way claiming that I follow Eurovision!). In Tromsø, I can see that they are attempting to integrate the language more and more into society and generally around the area I can see small traces of the culture popping up (like the appearance of modernized Lavvu, similar to a Native American tipi’s, around the region). Additionally, there are festivals, musicians, museum exhibits, tourist excursions and more that can allow you to explore and learn out this fascinating culture. I’m really happy that this unique and fascinating culture that has experienced so much prejudice is getting more attention, although it is quite clear that there is still work to be done to improve this!

5. Cultural Norms

(DISCLAIMER: What I say below is just a generalization based on my own experiences and does not reflect every single person living in the country. Like everywhere in the world, personalities are diverse).

Prior to moving to Tromsø, I saw that Norway was ranked as one of the hardest countries to make friends. Kind of baffled by this initially, I can now understand why outsiders have this impression (which is partially true). Most Norwegians I meet are extremely friendly and speak English extraordinarily well. However, my general impression is that the culture is very focused on oneself and quite a few people appear to be introverts and quiet (so more or less the opposite of the US!). But it wouldn’t be fair to call everyone an introvert, because that is not exactly true. The general rule is: you stick to yourself and your close friends, and you rarely stray outside of that (unless drinking). You’ll probably startle a stranger if you start talking to them. In fact, if you go on the bus during the day, you’ll likely hear dead silence (unless you go on at night, which is a completely different story). It also feels like you need to apply more effort to have Norwegian friends. It takes a while to break that social barrier, but once you do it is very much worth it.

However, Norwegian’s personalities generally flip upside-down while they are drinking. Give them a few drinks, and most people become very chatty extroverts. That quiet bus in the day turns into a wall-to-wall packed bus with drunk people piled on top of each other during the evening on the weekend.

Despite so many people being introverts, I found that most Norwegian’s are very friendly people.

6. Reindeers and Huskies!

Reindeer can be found roaming around the countryside (and sometimes the towns) of the outer Tromsø area.

Some reindeer spotted on a mountain hike.

Additionally, a lot of people own huskies! Which is partially due to the husky café right outside of town that also provides dog sledding tours (which is a popular pastime in these parts).

Some huskies at the villmarkssenter. These dogs are trained to go dog sledding during the winter months.

I’ll let the pictures do all the talking here!

Other large mammals include bears, moose, wolves, muskox, wolverines and otters. If you do not have a chance to see any of these animals in the wild, you can catch them at "Polar Park", a few hours drive south of Tromsø.

The above picture are three Muskox taken at the Polar Park. There are plenty of other cool animals there as well!

7. Coziness is Life

In Norwegian they have a word called “koselig or kose” which roughly translates to cozy in English. Although, to be honest, “cozy” doesn’t exactly describe the word as it has a much deeper meaning here. Nonetheless, embracing this feeling is really important culturally and I think fits extraordinarily well with the generally atmosphere of the country, especially during the winter. This could be from sitting in front of a fire on a cold winter’s day, being inside a cozy coffee shop, etc. It’s a feeling and aesthetic that doesn’t translate well to English but is very special in Norway.

Hot chocolate, cozy atmosphere, candles. Hard to beat that.

8. Food Trends

I haven’t really decided how I feel about food in northern Norway. In a lot of ways, it mirrors that of the US, where you can get most things that you want with ease. It may come as a surprise, but tacos and waffles are incredibly popular here. Norwegian’s also eat an insane amount of frozen pizzas.

There are some special things to Norway though (and some instances, just northern Norway).

Brunost (brown cheese) is… well, not for everyone. It tastes almost caramelly and sweet but is ultimately very hard to describe. You either love it or you hate it. I love it. I also found lefse (a soft, thin bread-like pastry) pretty addicting. There are also a wide variety of berries (like cloudberries, lingonberries and blueberries) that are available outside.

An image of a cloud berry. Something that is not easy to find in the wild.

There are plenty of other interesting traditional Norwegian dishes that I won’t get into here. Most of which you should try for yourself went you travel up here.


Although my time in Norway hasn’t concluded, I do not regret moving up above the Arctic Circle. Sure, it is very expensive, and the weather can be quite bad, but all of the positive charming features of the region outshine the negative. Northern Norway is a truly beautiful and unique place, and I hope you have the chance to experience it!


Kulturminneåret (2009). Sør-Kvaløya – fornminner. Kulturminneløypa

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