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Overview: Norway

Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. Famous for its Viking history and culture, colourful wooden houses, cruises along the fjords, fishing, hiking and skiing to name a few, Norway is a country for everyone.

From the capital of Oslo to as far North as the Arctic, Norway has a focus on cleaner conscience, sustainable destinations, delicious local food and green travel. Greener, cleaner – and more authentic is their motto.

Discover unforgettable cultural experiences, travel to super cosy small towns filled with traditions, such as Røros, Lærdal or the villages in Setesdal. Visit the sporty arts and literature city of Lillehammer or experience the combination of culture and farming along The Golden Road at Inderøy in Trøndelag. Or explore the world heritage archipelago Vega at the Helgeland coast, where you can kayak, fish, bike, and see how feathers from the eider duck’s nesting boxes are collected and turned into some of the world’s most exclusive duvets.

Whether it is summer or winter, Norway has a diverse range of things to explore, discover and experience.

As the country offers so much diversity, it is a destination for every type of traveller. Solo travellers will enjoy the friendly locals who are happy to help, while feeling safe to roam freely. Couples can find romantic getaways all over the country and groups can enjoy a range of tours, self-drive itineraries or cruises to keep everyone happy. Families can take advantage of the many family friendly activities and some that are specifically great from kids – like Santa’s workshop in the Snow Hotel. Adventure travellers will be blown away by all the outdoor activities and places to explore in both the summer and winter months.

How to get to Norway

Travelling to Norway has never been easier. No matter the time of year, there are several travel options for you to choose from, with both international and domestic services available. The capital city of Oslo is the main gateway for flights, at Oslo Gardermoen Airport, however you can also fly into many other cities internationally. The national carrier is Norwegian Air.

Many cruise lines call at Norwegian ports, mostly by the fjords and in pretty coastal cities such as Bergen, Stavanger, Ålesund, Trondheim, and Oslo. Others offer trips to The Svalbard Islands, Honningsvåg, Tromsø, Hammerfest, and Bodø in the northern parts of Norway.

An extensive rail network links Norway to the other Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe. There are regular train connections to Oslo from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg. Most train journeys from the continent are overnight, and you will find sleeping compartments on all of them. A variety of discount passes are available for train travel in Europe and Norway. Not all trains offer first-class services, but second-class is of a high standard as well. Having arrived in Norway, it is easy to explore the country further by train on some of the world’s most beautiful railways.

You can arrive by car through Sweden, Russia and Finland but be prepared as customs checks are in place. Full passport control checks are found in the Norwegian-Russian border crossing between Borisoglebsky and Storskog. Alternatively, you can reach Norway by bus from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Russia.

Top things to do in Norway

Cruise the fjords

The image of spectacularly steep mountainsides meeting sparkling blue water in the summer or snow-capped mountains in winter is best experienced with Hurtigruten. Cruising the many fjords and along narrow inlets is the quintessential Norway experience. Norway is home to thousands of these breathtaking geological formations. With many featuring on the UNESCO World Heritage list, these natural attractions will take your breath away. Exploring the fjords at water-level is the best way to appreciate the astonishing scale of this iconic landscape. While summer is the best time to cruise the fjords with lovely weather, winter serves up dramatically different views of snow but with a side of Northern Lights if you are lucky. Hurtigruten’s Classic 12-day round trip voyage calls on 34 ports, sailing past more than 100 fjords and 1,000 mountains and offers 90 exciting optional excursions. Cross the Arctic Circle and hunt the Northern Lights in winter, or enjoy 24 hours of daylight under the Midnight Sun in summer.

Ride the Flåm railway

The Flåm Railway is one of Norway’s unmissable highlights and possibly one of the most scenic rail journeys in Norway. The journey takes 50 minutes from the remote railway junction of Myrdal to the town of Flåm, along the way, showcasing some of the country’s best landscapes, following a route through a steep and narrow valley. Views from the window are extraordinary as you pass mighty waterfalls, dramatic mountain peaks and colourful farming villages. Even in winter, this scenic pass serves up an adventure and plenty to see. The breathtaking trip is one of the steepest anywhere in the world and has 20 twisting tunnels that the line passes through and the elevation difference is over 850 metres. The Flåm railway is open year-round so can be enjoyed throughout the seasons and with the changing landscapes.

Explore UNESCO-listed Bergen

Located in the west of the country, Bergen serves as the ideal gateway to the western fjords. Norway’s second largest city, Bergen is infamous for its overall small-town charm combined with the UNESCO-listed old wharf known as Bryggen. It is here you will find the well photographed colourful wooden houses that line the harbour, dating back to the early 1700s. Looking back over the city from the harbour, you will find forested hills, green and full of life in summer and snow covered in parts during the winter. Historically, Bergen originated in the 12th century and is one of North Europe’s oldest port cities. For a bird’s eye view of the city, take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen. The funicular railway is one of Norway’s most famous attractions. The trip starts from the city centre, just 150 metres from the Fish Market and Bryggen. The exiting trip up to the mountain is a magnificent experience in itself.

Dogsledding in Tromsø

The city of Tromsø serves as the cultural and social capital of Norway’s remote north and is known as the capital of the Arctic Circle. Over the years Tromsø has grown from a little-used harbour to thriving fishing port and now a thriving and colourful city. From here you can get close to nature on a dog sledding trip and travel at high speed across the Norwegian wilderness. Prepare to be a musher and steer your own pack of dogs or enjoy the view as a passenger on a sledding trip. The Huskies, the breed commonly used for dog sledding, are strong dogs. On a typical trip, they will pull you at high speed through the white wilderness so you get a taste of what life was like in the old days, when dog sledding was a much more common mode of transportation.

Hunting the Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights as they are more commonly referred to, can be seen in the far north of Norway and sometimes even further south. This natural phenomenon occurs in the magnetic polar regions where electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with one another. The best time to catch these luminous dances are in winter, between mid-November and February. When it comes to ways in which to go searching for these fabled lights, you’re spoilt for choice with snow-mobile expeditions, boat cruises and comfortable cabin stays just some of the options available. Back in the days of the Vikings, they viewed them as a bridge between heaven and earth while in Norse mythology they were seen as the reflections of Valkyrie armour. The skies of Arctic Norway provide the perfect canvas for these striking displays of celestial light, due to the latitude of the region and the deep, dark winters it experiences.

Experience the Midnight Sun

On the flip side of winter, if you visit between May and July you’ll be treated to endless days of sunshine for the summer. During this time of year the sun barely sets in the Arctic Circle. Consequently, this phenomenon is known as the midnight sun. How much sun you get depends on where you are in relation to that imaginary line. It might just be one night without darkness. Or if you’re in the far north it could be up to five months without a sunset. This is a popular time to visit Norway as the long days make for extra time to explore and outdoor adventures.

Overnight stay in the Snowhotel

Stay in a hotel completely made of snow and ice. Enter a real-life winter wonderland, at any time of the year and experience the frozen wonder of the Snowhotel in Kirkenes. Not only will you sleep on beds made of ice, in a room with walls of ice, but you will also eat, and live exclusively in this snowy world. There are a number of themed rooms to choose from, ranging from couples rooms to rooms that fit the whole family. Apart from the incredible accommodation experience in the Snowhotel, you can enjoy the camp where there is lots of fun to do, including sled rides, visits to the reindeer, husky and puppy farm.

Travel along the famous ‘Road of Trolls’

Trolls feature heavily in Norwegian folklore as spirits of the underground that run the gamut between playful helpers to fearsome trouble-makers. While you may find it hard to spot a troll, you can do the next best thing and travel along the Trollstigen (“The Trolls’ Road”). It’s one of the country’s best-known roads, tracing a spectacular 55km-long route through deep valleys hemmed in by colossal mountains and crossing a bridge over the Stigfossen waterfall. The road reaches an icy plateau-pass that clocks in at 850 metres in height, and gets the adrenaline pumping with its jaw-dropping incline and eleven hairpin bends. There are a handful of viewing platform where you can take in the full extent of this incredible landscape.

Kayak on the river in Trondheim

Trondheimkajakk takes you on an amazing trip by kayak down the Nidelven river in Trondheim. You will experience Trondheim from a unique perspective. It doesn’t require much experience as you paddling past the colourful old warehouses, medieval Nidaros Cathedral and the formidable Kristiansten Fortress. Delve deeper into the city and explore the river´s smaller channels near the harbour and see sights that you can only discover by kayak. The River Nid is also a good place to fish for trout and even salmon. Every year salmon weighing more than 20 kg are caught in the river´s lower reaches. This expedition is not about action-packed adventure, it´s about sightseeing and contemplation.

Dive into Norwegian culture in Oslo

The cosmopolitan capital of Norway leaves many visitors thoroughly charmed by its offering of world-class museums, innovative architecture and thriving culinary scene. In recent years the city has transformed itself to compete with Stockholm and Copenhagen as Scandinavia’s most likeable capital. As the commercial hub of the country, Oslo is the best place to get to grips with contemporary Norway and its cultural offerings. Whether that’s in the form of fine art, food or furniture design, there’s definitely enough to keep you going for a long-weekend.

When to visit Norway

The best time to visit Norway all depends on what you want to do. If you’re not a fan of the cold and want to maximise your sightseeing time, plan your trip around the summer months. This is from the months of June to August, where the days will be long thanks to Midnight Sun. Head to the Arctic in the North and you’ll have sunshine around the clock. With all the attractions open and so much to do, you’ll be thankful for the extra time to explore. This the peak season for Norway, so you can expect crowds, higher prices and limited availability.

May, or September to October in Norway is the two shoulder seasons and are a great alternative to the summer months, with the weather warm enough for outdoor activities. You’ll also find better deals on tours, hotel rooms and flights.

While Norway’s winters are extremely cold, with temperatures dropping to an average of −25 °C, it is most certainly the best time of year to see the Northern Lights. If you avoid the Christmas rush, you’ll also find low hotel rates and cheaper airfares.

What travellers to Norway should know

Norway is an expensive country to visit. Compared to some of the other European countries, you’ll find that prices for food, accommodation and transport are much higher. Give yourself a much bigger budget to work with, so you don’t come up short. Alternatively, try and travel on a tour that is all inclusive, so you are not putting your hand in your pocket all the time.

Norway doesn’t use the Euro. The country has its own currency called the Norwegian Krone. But don’t worry about carrying cash with you; you can buy almost anything with your credit card.

Most Norwegians speak English. You shouldn’t have much of a communication barrier to overcome, and locals will be able to help you with any questions you may have.

Tipping is not compulsory. However, it is common courtesy to round up your bill to the nearest ten. But if you’re happy with the service you received and want to leave a tip, 10% to 20% is more than enough.

Don’t try to haggle. In Norway, everything has a fixed price tag that is not negotiable. The only time it would be acceptable is if the item is damaged.

For more on Norway visit  www.visitnorway.com 

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