Northern Norway is the geographical region of Norway, consisting of the three northernmost counties Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, in total about 35% of the Norwegian mainland. Some of the largest towns in Northern Norway (from south to north) are Mo i Rana, Bodø, Narvik, Harstad, Tromsø and Alta. Northern Norway is often described as the land of the midnight sun and the land of the northern lights. Further north, halfway to the North Pole, is the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, traditionally not regarded as part of Northern Norway.
The region is multi-cultural, housing not just Norwegians but also the indigenous Sami people, Norwegian Finns (known as Kvens, distinct from the "Forest Finns" of Southern Norway) and Russian populations (mostly in Kirkenes). The Norwegian language dominates in most of the area; Sami speakers are mainly found inland and in some of the fjord areas of Nordland, Troms and particularly Finnmark – though ethnic Sámi who do not speak the language are found more or less everywhere in the region. Finnish is spoken in only a few communities in the east of Finnmark.
Northern Norway covers about a third of Norway. The southernmost part, roughly the part south of the Arctic Circle, is called Helgeland. Here there is a multitude of islands and skerries on the outside of the coastal range, some flat, some with impressive shapes, like Mount Torghatten, which has a hole through it, and the Seven Sisters near Sandnessjøen. The inland is covered with dense spruce forests and mountains near the Swedish border; some of the biggest rivers in the region are the Vefsna and the Ranelva. The highest mountain in Northern Norway is found here in the Okstindan range south of Mo i Rana with Oksskolten reaching 1,915 metres (6,283 ft) above sea level, and with the glacier Okstindbreen.
The Saltfjellet range, with its Svartisen glacier and intersecting Arctic Circle, divides Helgeland from the next region, called Salten. Notable peaks in Salten are the Børvasstindan south of Bodø, Suliskongen near Fauske (1,907 metres or 6,257 feet, highest mountain north of the Arctic Circle), the Steigartindan and the phallic Hamarøytinden. Between Saltfjellet and eastern Finnmark, Norway spruce trees have originally been planted and are mostly privately owned. The older plantations are now producing lumber, 80 years after planted.
Lofoten is a chain of peaks that jut out of the ocean. From the mainland side it looks very barren, but behind the violet-black peaks there are also flatlands with good grazing for sheep, partially on soil made from seaweed. The Vesterålen islands consist of smaller and bigger islands with a huge variation in landscape. Ofoten, further inland, is a fjord landscape with high mountains, the highest is Storsteinfjellet in Narvik, 1,894 m above sea level, but the most well-known is Stetind, the national mountain of Norway. There are also glaciers, like Frostisen and Blåisen.
Troms county has surprising greenery for the latitude, and the inner waterways and fjords are lined with birch forests, and further inland there are extensive pine forests and highlands around the rivers Målselva and Reisaelva. Big islands like Senja, Kvaløya and Ringvassøya have green, forested interiors and a barren, mountainous coastline, with smaller islands offshore. The Lyngen Alps are the highest mountains of the area, rising to 1,833 metres (6,014 ft), an area of glaciers and waterfalls. The 269 metres (883 ft) Mollisfossen waterfall in Nordreisa is the highest waterfall in the north, while Målselvfossen is Norway's national waterfall.