The drive from Trondheim to the North Cape, along a narrow and very long strip of land, is one of the most scenic and dramatic in northern Europe. This itinerary should be undertaken only in summer, when the Midnight Sun will light your way.
That said, the weather along this coast has been called "wild and unpredictable," even in summer. Except for the long drive between Trondheim and Mo i Rana, we've paced the stopovers between towns so that you won't have long treks every day. Many motorists begin this drive in Oslo, but that makes for a 552km (342-mile) jaunt to Trondheim. To eliminate that long trek, many visitors take a train or else fly to Trondheim, where they rent a car before setting out to points north.
Day 1: Trondheim: Norway's Most Historic City
Arriving in Trondheim for Day 1, reserve your hotel room for the night, and then set out to see the city. Begin at Scandinavia's grandest cathedral, Nidaros Domkirke, dating from the 11th century, and follow that up with a visit to the nearby Archbishop's Palace. These two sights alone will fill your morning schedule. In the afternoon, you can explore the eclectic collections of the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum and wander the grounds of one of Norway's finest folk-culture museums, the Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum.
Day 2: Mo i Rana: Arctic Circle City
Leave Trondheim on the morning of Day 2 and head north for 450km (279 miles). Obviously, most of the day will be spent on the highway, taking in the scenery as you motor along the express highway E6. Mo i Rana, the third-largest city in the cold north of Norway, is your gateway to the Arctic Circle, which slices the city's boundaries from east to west. The city itself is no beauty, but its setting offers high drama in its towering mountains, stark glaciers, and coastline, as rugged as anything a Maine fisherman has ever seen. Overnight at Mo i Rana before setting out the next morning on your northward journey.
Day 3: Bodø: Gateway to the North
Leave Mo i Rana on the morning of Day 3 and head for the major stopover and refueling stop of Polarsirkelsenteret, which lies along the E6, just 80km (51 miles) north of Mo i Rana. In this bleak countryside, stop at the Polarsirkelsenteret, or Arctic Circle Center, in the Saltfjellet mountains. It's a bit corny, but many motorists pick up a certificate showing that they've crossed the Arctic Circle, in case the folks back home need proof of that.
From Polarsirkelsenteret, it is still a drive of 174km (108 miles) north to Bodø. After leaving Polarsirkelsenteret, follow the route north to Fauske and cut onto Rte. 80 west, which will take you along the Skjerstadfjord into Bodø, where you can check into a hotel for the night.
The major attraction here is the famous Maelstrom. This is one of the most powerful maelstroms in the world and is one of the most dramatic natural sights in the north of Europe. If time remains in your day, you can also explore the Norwegian Aviation Museum, perhaps the best flight-related museum in Norway.
Day 4: Narvik: World War II Battleground
On the morning of Day 4, leave Bodø and travel for 301km (187 miles) northeast to Narvik, an ice-free seaport on the Ofotfjord, which was the scene of one of the infamous sea battles of World War II on April 9 and 10 in 1940 when the British attacked the Nazis there. A rebuilt Narvik awaits you today.
To reach Narvik from Bodø, drive east once again along Rte. 80 until you reach Fauske, at which point you head north along E6 to Bognes. Here you transfer to a car ferry taking you to the opposite bank and the beginning of the E10, which will carry you northeast into Narvik, where you can check into a hotel for the night.
You should still have time to take a ride on the Gondolbanen cable car, transporting you to the top of Fagernesfjell mountain, at 640m (2,100 ft.), for a panoramic view. If you still have some energy, you can go on to also visit the War Museum.
Day 5: Tromsø: North Sea Boomtown
On the morning of Day 5, leave Narvik heading north to Tromsø, a distance of 421km (262 miles). Take the E6 from Narvik, cutting northwest at the junction with E8 leading directly into Tromsø.
Book your room, stow your bags, and set out to explore Norway's gateway to the Arctic, the port from which famous explorers have set forth, often to their deaths. Take the cable car to Fjellheisen for one of the most panoramic views in all of Norway. Later you can knock off the major attractions of Tromsø, including the Arctic Cathedral, the northernmost Mack's Brewery, and the Disney-esque Polaria. If time remains, visit the Polarmuseet.
Day 6: Alta: City of Northern Lights
On the morning of Day 6, leave Tromsø and set out for a long drive of 329km (204 miles) to the far northern outpost of Alta. From Tromsø, follow E8 southeast to the junction with E6, heading northeast along the rugged coast into Alta, where you can check in to a hotel for the night. Spend a day taking in its sights, which include prehistoric rock carvings at Hjemmeluft and a riverboat excursion up the Alta River to Sautso-Alta Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Scandinavia.
Day 7: Honningsvåg & the North Cape
On the morning of Day 7, leave Alta and drive northeast along the E6 to the junction with E69, which leads north into Honningsvåg, the world's northernmost village, a distance of 210km (130 miles) from Alta.
Once your lodging is secured, set out to explore the North Cape. In addition to the cape itself, you can visit such satellite attractions as the visitor center at Nordkapphallen and the Nordkappmuseet.
If you made arrangements in Trondheim to return your car in Tromsø, you can fly back to Oslo for your transportation connection to destinations worldwide. Otherwise, prepare for a long drive back from the North Cape.